The cool morning promised a beautiful day and I had plans to spend it metal detecting with my father. We dream of finding gold coins and diamond rings, but the only things we find are pennies, old nails and pull tabs, but it gives us something to do together and you never know when you might find treasure. First however, I needed to run up the road and feed the three remaining dumped dogs our little rescue group is trying to catch down at the river. I loaded the bags of dog food, tossed in my old tennis shoes and headed down there.
I’ve described this place before, an area full of old sofas, broken glass, and other things, where the freeway rises up over the river and people go to do things unseen. Unfortunately, because it’s Sunday, the gate to the private land where the dogs are living is locked so that means I will have to park and walk down to the hidden den we’ve created where the dogs can eat and sleep in safety. During the week I can drive up to the den and I always feel much safer out of site. I don’t see the dogs, but paw prints in the dust leading to the den tell me they’ve been there already this morning, but come dusk they’ll return. As a Sunday treat I pour two cans of wet food on top of the dry, picking up the empty cans as I go, and then I crawl back out of the den, through the vines and low branches, trying to avoid the poison ivy this time. I look around once more, hoping to see one or more of them laying in the early sunlight further down the road, but no luck this time. I hope they won’t be here much longer, but so far all of our trapping efforts have failed – these are smart dogs, not even fried chicken or hot dogs will entice them into the trap.
As I walk up the dry road to my truck I can hear the Sunday fishermen working their way to the river, I hear the crunch of their tires as they drive over broken bottles and cans where the pavement gives way to rutted trails, I hear them call to one another over the sounds of traffic above and the faint breeze smells of fish and decay. The sun is much higher in the sky now and I notice that the cool morning has warmed to a stale stickiness as I change out of my dusty shoes for the ride home. I’m in the truck, about to back up when I notice a faded red truck pulling slowly into the driveway behind me, it stops for a minute as if considering my presence and then makes a sharp right into a grassy beaten down area that leads down to the river. As the truck turns I watch and see a rusty dog crate in the back and the top of a small white head and I know another dog is about to be abandoned.
I sit there for a minute, not sure what to do because maybe it’s someone spending the day fishing or swimming with their dog, but my gut tells me otherwise, so I wait. I don’t have to wait long and soon I see it, a poodle-looking dog zigzagging down the path, confused, not sure where to go, so I get out and walk around the back of my truck. The dog is not skinny, but obviously neglected, its fur matted and skin raw and I kneel and call out to her, willing her to come to me and she does, she runs and jumps in my arms. As I stand up, I see the red truck making its way back. I’m nervous, so I load the dog in the passenger seat, get in, lock the doors and get out of there. The local authorities have asked us to let them know if we witness anyone dumping animals and as much as I wish I could have gotten close enough to get his license plate, I just want to get away. As I drive around the bend that leads to the highway I look in my mirror and see him pull his truck under the freeway and stop. I call one of my fellow rescuers and ask her to call the sheriff. The deputies get there very quickly and are very cooperative and willing to help, but the man and his truck are gone.
I live close so our trip home is short, but the dog is panting and hot and jumping from seat to seat with her dusty feet – it soon looks like I’ve had 4 or 5 dogs in there. The first thing I do is give her water, and then offer her food, but she doesn’t seem hungry, what she really wants to be held and to go inside. The garage floor is cool as I sit down beside her and rub her head and inspect her body. The matting is unbelievable and there are flea nests in the mats against her I skin. Some of the skin is bleeding and judging from the smell, it’s been in bad shape for a while. While I do what I can for her, another rescuer is calling around, trying to find a place for her with a rescue group who has the facilities or fosters to take care of her while she heals and will find her the right home.
Our little group of 5 women do all we can, but like most rescuers, our homes are already full of animals we’ve taken in and fosters are almost impossible to find, not to mention how hard it is to come by funds for medical and boarding for the animals we find. It was just the weekend before that three more dumped dogs were found down there, and that’s in addition to the 3 dogs already out there we are still trying to trap. Different government agencies are trying to help, but the red tape is slowing things down. There are already signs made, cameras and lights ready to be installed, but control of this small filthy piece of land overlaps and any “improvements” to the area must be approved by all of the governmental agencies involved, which is ironic since the area has long been ignored and a haven for crime and illegal dumping of all kinds. I guess even with three groups in charge, everyone thinks someone else is watching and doing.
Now that I’ve had a chance to look her over, I pick this sweet girl up and carry her through the house to the back bathroom where I can bathe her and try to make her a little more comfortable. She lays her smelly little head on my shoulder and I feel her body relax. I draw water into the bath and softly set her down and she turns to look at me and I wonder what she’s thinking as she gives herself up to my care. With a cup I pour the warm clean water over her matted fur and apply blue Dawn to kill the fleas, a trick I learned from washing puppies at the shelter. It’s gentle, doesn’t burn or harm the skin, but it kills the fleas instantly – it’s the same thing they use to clean birds and other animals after an oil spill. I rub the soap in gently, avoiding her raw skin, and she doesn’t move, but dips her head down and closes her eyes, trusting me not to hurt her.
Finishing her bath, I rinse her body and the water runs off dark with dirt, dead fleas and old blood, but her tail wags when I talk to her. Although she’s not completely clean because of the mats and my reluctance to scrub her sore skin, she seems refreshed and grateful and shakes the water from her body as I release her from the towel. I show her the soft blanket I’ve made into a bed, but she chooses the cool tile instead and soon she sighs and collapses into the deep sleep of rescued dogs who feel safe for the first time in a long while. As I watch her sleep, once again I am touched by the grace of a discarded and neglected creature, simply hoping for attention, for hands that don’t hurt and to be home, finally and forever.
I leave her sleeping and check my phone and see that I have a message that Poodle Rescue of Houston will take her and I can bring her over anytime. This is the hard part for me. I always have mixed feeling about turning an animal over to someone else, I get too attached too fast, but I have 8 dogs, I can’t keep her and she needs special care to recover so together we drive across town. She sleeps all the way, not concerned about our destination, still trusting me to know what’s best. I pull up to the rescue and immediately I feel better, it’s a beautiful place, almost a spa for dogs with a pool, beautiful kennels and grassy areas, but still I hold my breath as gather her little body in my arms and go inside. We wait in the quiet lobby as the owner makes her way over to meet this sweet girl and take her from me, but I’m not yet convinced I’m leaving her.
A door opens and Guinnette walks in, the first thing she does is take the pup’s face in her hands and tells her she’s pretty and that everything is going to be just fine and then that matted dirty little girl licks her face. Guinnette tells me about the facility and their rescue work, shows me around and it’s everything I hoped for, no hidden places here, everything is open and clean and wonderful and all the animals obviously know and love her. I breathe a prayer of relief and thanks. Together Guinnette and I take her to the grooming room where a volunteer will groom her right away so she will be comfortable and then she will be fed and given her own roomy kennel with a soft bed for the night and she will see a vet the next morning. Satisfied, I bend down and rub her small head one last time, knowing I will never see her again and as Guinnette walks me out she asks if I would like to name her and I say yes, her name is Treasure.
©2012-2013 itsa5doglife, All Rights Reserved
If you would like to learn more about our group, please visit http://crosbypuppymassacre.wordpress.com/. To learn more about Poodle Rescue of Houston, please visit http://poodlerescueofhouston.com/ Many thanks to Poole Rescue of Houston for loving Treasure.