She was living in the thick underbrush near the riverbank, skinny and scrounging for food among the garbage left by weekday fishermen and many others. A frayed and faded collar betrayed her last owner, proof of abandonment, possibly discarded for lack of puppies or a soft disposition, making her unsuitable for crueler purposes. It happens a lot in this city.
You never know what to expect when you go to rescue a dog. I’ve had them run up to me and jump in my truck; others I’ve watch in heartbreak as they collapse on the ground at my feet, belly up, crying and waiting, expecting my human hands to hurt them. Some have been out too long and cannot be caught without a trap, their feral nature having taken over, but they all have the same empty pleading look in their eyes, fear and hope sown together. We call this the dance, you wait to see what works and each dog is different.
The dog was wary, not willing to leave the tall grass, but we were patient and soon she let us come to her and within minutes we were scratching behind her ears as we clipped the leash on her collar and walked her away. We called her Marigold.
The plea went out and a group in Austin stepped up to foster her if we could get her there. I agreed to take her home and drive her the next morning. After a short walk and investigation of her new surroundings, I settled her in for the night on a bed in a crate with fresh water and good food and sat down next to her. Apparently, that was her cue to edge closer, and then a little closer until finally she was in my lap, all 40 pittie pounds of her. We sat like that until my legs were numb and the hour was late, and I told her it was time to sleep and that I would see her in the morning. She cocked her head at me, got up from my lap, entered the crate, turned around twice and then curled on her bed. I left some treats by her crate, turned out the light and as I left her, she whined just once and then she was silent.
The next morning after a walk and breakfast, I go to load her crate and I find my husband with her, his big hands cradling her face, telling her she’s going to be okay and to be a good girl. She seems to understand. I would have liked to leave her loose in the truck, but I’ve learned from experience that you never know how a dog is going to respond in transport, some sleep the entire way and others are jumpy and active, so for their safety, I use a crate. The night before I had left the crate door open in her room so she would be used to it and feel safe for the trip and sure enough, she didn’t mind at all when I put her back in the crate in the truck. As I closed the crate door, I asked if she was ready and she replied with that odd little sound pitties make when they answer you. She was ready.
The drive from Houston to Austin is a nice one once you get out of the city, it’s mostly rural highway as the roads are quiet and traffic is light and you have time to think as you pass the small farms and towns with names like Giddings, Elgin and Manor. As I drove I wondered about Marigold, where she came from and where she was going, I didn’t know the young woman named Kate that was meeting me, but others that I trusted knew her and had worked with her rescue group before, so I felt certain she would be in good hands, but even so I worried, we always worry. She was going straight to the vet as soon as I dropped her off and then to her new foster home. I was glad she had a place to go, she was lucky, many like her are killed in shelters for being born a pit bull.
We arrived in Austin a little early so I backed the truck into a spot and sat with her while we waited. She wasn’t afraid, she trusted me completely and I felt the bond of her trust knot inside of me. It’s hard to let them go and I told her so as we sat there together in the back of the truck with the door up, watching it rain. I told her that she was going to be happy and that she would learn about couches, toys and dog parks. I said that she wouldn’t remember me, that it was okay, she wouldn’t need to, but I promised to remember her. When I was done, she put her paw on my leg and licked my chin with her eyes closed, this big sweet girl I’d known for less than 24 hours.
Before long, I was loading her into another car and being assured that she would be fine, that her foster mom was good and kind and couldn’t wait to see her. I gathered her bed and the red blanket from the crate and handed it to Kate who smiled as I explained that it was bought for Marigold and I wanted her to take something of her own into her new life, she understood and took them from me. I reached inside the car and gave Marigold one last pat on the head, closed the door and they were gone, my part in her life was done.
I walked back to my truck and as I was closing the back door I noticed something in bottom corner of the crate, I opened it, moved the other blanket and saw the treats I had given her the night before, uneaten, but tucked carefully and intentionally for safekeeping beneath her bed. She had buried her treasures. Had I known, I would have sent them with her, but she was gone, and I knew she wouldn’t miss them, she had many treats in her future. It was enough to know that she had felt love in a handful of treats.
Standing in that parking lot in the rain, 3 hours from home, I recognized grace in the guise of a 40-pound pittie. I released my fears and let her go. I left her treasures where they were, climbed in my truck and headed east; it would be dark when I crossed over the river, dark on the road leading me home.
Copyright 2020, itsa5doglife.com Rhonda Alford Owens