From My WindowIssue Date: December 14, 2017
From Oklahoma, With Love
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
The law of supply and demand drives prices, and that's the simplest way to understand why homeless and unwanted dogs and cats are such a huge problem. They simply have no value. There are way too many of both; and the results are all around us " overflowing rescue and shelter organizations, and stray/homeless animals by the millions euthanized in the United States. "Free puppies/kittens" signs are posted everywhere on web pages and street corners; and for many people, those efforts don't work. And for some people, the efforts to find safe places for litters are simply too much work. So boxes of puppies, adult dogs, cats and kittens by the hundreds of thousands are dumped and abandoned; a failure of humans, not of the animals.
On a hot day this summer, I was driving along a highway by my home and noticed a dog angling up the embankment of the four-lane. It didn't look good, so I turned around as soon as I could and went back.
The dog was just standing along the busy highway, looking around. It was clear she was not on a routine amble. I pulled over, and opened my trunk where I always carry a plastic bag of dog food. The dog looked at me with hesitation, but when I knelt down and started pouring dog food on the ground, she came to me at once. She was a good sized-dog, with a swollen udder and bone-thin. She had large sores and cuts on her sides, and I could see the fleas scuttling across her muzzle.
This was one of the hardest decisions I'd ever made. She was panting and hot, and clearly needed water. But I had none with me, and we were in the midst of a long dry spell, so she was not likely to find water along the highway. I didn't want to remove a mother from her puppies, but it was apparent she had not nursed in quite some time. She didn't make any attempt to leave me after she ate what I had, instead, she looked confused. I tried to walk with her in the direction she'd been heading when I first saw her. She willingly followed me, but when I stopped, so did she.
I am always deeply touched when an animal like her, in such a sad situation, is so willing to trust me. This is the gift they give us, even though it seems like their trust in humans has been sadly misplaced before.
I made a tough call. Leaving her along the highway at risk from traffic and thirsty, was just not acceptable. I put her in my car, and went door to door in the area, stopping at each house. None of the neighbors recognized the dog. So she came home with me for an hour, where I took her picture, printed up posters, gave her more food and water, and let her rest for a short time.
Then we went back to where I picked her up. I let her out of the car and urged her to walk. She looked around and sniffed, then sat. If I walked, she came with, but she showed no sign of wanting to lead me anywhere, or to go anywhere. We posted the signs at all the nearby intersections, and then, with a heavy heart, I took her home with me.
It was the devil's choice. If there were puppies, in taking her, I may have caused their death. But I didn't think the mother would live long, scrounging along the busy highway, either. She clearly had not nursed in a while, and it seemed the most likely scenario is that she had been dropped off where I found her. I let my decision torment me for a day, and took her back to the area one more time the next morning, trying the trick I saw on TV of playing a video of whining puppies on my cell phone. But despite the fact she had to be uncomfortable with her milk, she showed no signs of having a way or knowledge to return to her litter. And if I had left her, I might have returned to find her a victim of the highway, a crumpled heap of fur on the shoulder.
As my outreach efforts on local community facebooks; Craig's list; signage in the area I picked her up, and flyers in the local vet, feed store and grocery store went without response, my sense of peace returned " I had done all I could, and the best I could do now was find the dog a good home. She had no collar or microchip " if you let your pet roam, these are the tools to get your cat or dog home.
The vet helped me with her sores and cuts, we treated the fleas, got her rabies shot and started the work of leash and crate training. From the beginning, the dog was amazing. She had a calm and gentle disposition " a good thing for such a big dog and surprising for such a young animal. The vet said she was less than a year old, and basically healthy. In fact, the only thing we ever did that freaked her out was the time my husband had a gate open and tried to tie her up for just a few minutes until he could close it. She was completely panicked - a small hint, perhaps, of what she'd left behind her.
Once she put on a few pounds, she looked like a completely new animal. Quick to learn and eager to please, she did her best to understand what I was asking of her. So I started looking for someone who would appreciate such a calm, sweet soul and to my surprise, my brother and sister-in-law, who had never had a dog, took her on trial.
After her delivery to Wisconsin, Brandi settled in quickly. She was accepted right away by their special needs cat, and has a life any dog, much less a stray dog, would envy. She visits the dog park daily; has her own bed and toys; and has now experienced her first snowfall. This dog has been given a wonderful new start, and she knows it. She charms all their friends, and loves all her canine pals at the dog park.
I will always wonder how she came to be where she was. I will always wish for the closure of knowing for sure what happened to her puppies. But I rejoice for her in beating the dismal odds of dogs in her situation, and celebrate the life she will enjoy now. For one hard-luck Oklahoma dog, Wisconsin has become her heaven on earth.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
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