At the small patch of woods at the bend of the road, I slow my truck to a crawling stop, trying to decide if I’m in the right place as I pull off the slick pavement into the sloppy red mud. I open my door and step out, at once grateful for rubber boots. Through rain-specked glasses I take in the defeated expanse of broken furniture, discarded tires, and mounds of garbage: an unofficial dump at the edge of poisoned land. Along the pathway edging the woods, I whistle, dodging oily puddles as shattered glass crunches beneath my feet. The barking is far away at first, growing louder and sharper, fading to low close growls as the underbrush quakes. I see them, a small tan boxer mix leads, curious and anxious at my presence, and a large black lab, a white star on his chest, stays back, taking his cues from the boxer.
The text had given me a precise location where they might be, but the woods went back for miles and the dogs had also been sighted running along the pipeline right-of-way or even further down near the fast-moving highway so I was lucky to have found them. I head back to the truck and fill a large bowl with rich canned food and dry kibble; these guys need some weight to help them survive the cold nights coming. The boxer openly follows me at a distance, but the lab remains a shadow in the dank woods and I feel his eyes on me.
In a small clearing, I place the heavy bowl near an old tree stump and quickly leave as they rush the food, hunger overtaking caution, and before I can reach my truck, the boxer is at my heels. I turn and kneel in the mud, his eyes never leave me as I stretch out my hand, he sniffs my fingertips and takes a step forward until I’m touching the top of his head. He flinches at first, as I move to stroke his head and rough ears, but he doesn’t pull away; scores of ticks and cuts abrade his thin body, but for a moment he gives in and closes his eyes to the solace of affection. From the threshold of the thicket, a pale whimper drifts through the mist, the lab standing on a tire, watches and whines, too imprisoned by his past to come closer, knowing only pain from human hands. He calls to his friend, willing him to follow, and then slips back into the trees. It’s late and I need to let them go to wherever it is they go each night. I hope they have something to get under, out of the rain.
I know there is a plan in place to save them, and I know I cannot take one and leave the other alone in this hateful place, but it hurts to leave them. As I pull away, I glance in my mirror to see the boxer standing at the tree line watching me drive away; and then he is gone, back to the woods and trash where he was thrown away, as the rain falls harder.
Note: Both Theo and Vincent were rescued a day later by the volunteers of a local group with the kind help of Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward. Vincent was taken in by Lone Star Boxer Rescue and was adopted by a great family. Theo, the black lab was vetted and socialized and accepted into Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah (Dogtown) where he found a loving family. There are many more dogs like Vincent and Theo in Crosby and the surrounding Houston area. Please consider supporting Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward, Lone Star Boxer Rescue, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, or your favorite animal rescue.
©2011-2017 Rhonda Alford Owens. All Rights Reserved.