Anyone who knows me well would tell you my life went to the dogs years ago, and I cannot disagree. This week, though, it’s really been all about the dogs, and a few of my readers love the dog stories, so here’s what’s been happening at our house.
Dog Story 1: Max
On Monday afternoon, I saw a little black Chihuahua playing in the street I was driving down, a one-block connector between the two main roads going through my town. I stopped and got out to see if he would come to me. Instead, he laid down and rolled over for a belly rub. I put my emergency car leash on him, picked him up, and knocked on the door of the nearest house. The woman who answered the door said yes, she knew the dog. His name is Max, he lives next door, “he gets out all the time” and bothers her dogs, and the owners “are not very nice to him.” I suggested he might be happier in a new home, and she agreed. “Then you never saw me here, okay?” I said. She smiled and nodded without another word.
Even with this tacit permission, I was not willing to just outright steal the dog. I went over to Max’s house and knocked on the door, but nobody answered. Seeing that the house sat on an unfenced lot so close to the traffic, I felt I had no choice but to take him home with me for safekeeping, after stopping by my vet to have him scanned for a microchip that I knew he wouldn’t have (he didn’t). They examined his teeth and testicles and said he appeared to be about 8 months old.
I introduced him to my dogs out in the backyard and, despite his youthful exuberance and intense sexual interest in both of them, they all seemed to get along reasonably well. Within a matter of hours, I was completely attached to the little guy. I’ve only ever loved three dogs in my life, but he could have been the fourth. For about 24 hours, in fact, he was.
Even knowing that he has no ID, is not neutered long past the point when he needed to be, and lives in a ramshackle dump of a house with no yard in the care of people who don’t seem to have any interest in keeping him safe, I still couldn’t steal him even though I wanted to, badly. But I dutifully called the local shelter to report a found dog, and the receptionist told me someone had called about two minutes earlier to report a lost black Chihuahua. I promptly called the guy, who told me every single detail about this dog before I even asked, so I knew he was, in fact, the owner. He made a convincing case that he and his family loved Max and that he hadn’t slept a wink overnight for worry. After at least three minutes of non-stop talking about this dog, he finally paused and said in a ragged voice, “please tell me you have him.”
“I do,” I said after a pause that was probably a beat too long, and told him how I’d found Max in the street in front of his house and had picked him up to keep him safe. Feeling tears rise in spite of myself, I asked the guy if he would consider letting Max stay with me, since I have a fenced yard and other dogs he can play with and all. Absolutely not, he said; he just loved Max, and so did his kids. He said he’d bought the dog for his daughter “so they could grow up together.” I told him I’d bring Max back to him later in the day, and he thanked me profusely. He even offered to give me a reward, but I asked him instead to promise me he would get Max chipped and fixed right away and take really good care of him, which of course he said he would do.
When I took Max back, the owner was not at home. Instead, I was met at the door by an unkempt young woman who showed no interest in Max whatsoever and he showed none in her, either. I had to push him into the house and make her take the leash. When I said I was concerned that the yard was not fenced, she said, “yeah, I know but I don’t care. I’m just the babysitter.” Her charge was an infant on her hip, still in diapers and not even walking—this was the child for whom Max was purchased. Looking at the indifferent babysitter, the dilapidated house, the wide-open yard, and Max straining toward me at the end of his leash and whining, I deeply regretted my decision to return him. He clearly was neither safe nor well cared for in that environment, and I expect he’ll meet his sorry end in the middle of one of those busy streets one of these days. I sometimes wish my scruples did not so strongly compel me to try to do the “right” thing.
Dog Story 2: The Wolf Dog
My backyard shares common fences with three other yards. One of them, which I’ll call North Neighbor, contains at least one and possibly more dogs (I never see it/them because the fence is so high, but I hear it/them barking all day most days). Occasionally my dogs and the North dog(s) will get into a barking match at the fence, which can get pretty loud.
While Max was with us and all the dogs were outside, I heard an uproar that sounded louder and much fiercer than what I usually hear from the North dogs. Again, I can’t see anything through the fences, but it sounded like there was a large and apparently aggressive dog in the yard on the other side, which I’ll call East Neighbor. Things calmed down quickly and I didn’t think much about it until later in the evening, when I took all three dogs for a walk and ran into East Neighbor out in front of his house. As we chatted, he mentioned that his son had just gotten a wolf hybrid dog, and my blood ran cold because I just don’t think that any good can come of crossing dogs with wolves and keeping the offspring as pets. He has three sons, two of whom live with him and one of whom is grown and gone, and he didn’t specify which one had the dog. I didn’t want to over-react and start peppering him with questions right then, but I got it in my head that a full-grown wolf dog was living right next door to me and that it had been the instigator of the kerfuffle at the fence earlier. I had visions of an enormous snarling beast coming right through that suddenly flimsy-looking fence and killing my dogs with a single snap. Okay, so maybe I did over-react a bit.
The next day, I caught the neighbor outside again and asked all my questions, adding that it’s actually illegal to own a wolf hybrid in our state. I said I was really concerned about my dogs’ safety, which he completely dismissed with, “but it’s just a puppy!” Yeah, but puppies grow into dogs, I said, and I don’t want any trouble for either of us because if the dog hurt another dog or a person, he would be liable for it. He would not take anything I said seriously, and I was appalled that a man my own age could not look just a little way down the road of life, imagine even a few possible scenarios that could be bad for him, and maybe consider taking precautions accordingly.
As we were talking, a car pulled up in front of his house and a young couple got out. A small fuzzy black dog ran toward us and East Neighbor greeted it affectionately. She was all soft paws and puppy breath and cute as she could be, all 10 or 12 pounds of her. “This is the wolf dog,” he said, and I felt my ears turn pink. “THIS?! This is the one?” He smirked knowingly and said, “told ya she was just a puppy.” And in fact, she did not appear to be any kind of a threat at all, let alone any kind of wolf. I felt foolish for a moment, but my point still stands: Any dog can bite. Any dog can be dangerous Any dog that runs loose can cause harm to people and other dogs, and is itself in danger. Which is why every dog should be kept under control, and “voice control” is never fail-safe.
I asked East to keep the dog restrained in his front yard when she visits (she won’t be living there), and to work with me to keep our shared fence in good repair, as much for my sake and that of my dogs as for his own. “You wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to her,” I reminded him, and told him that I am only concerned because I love dogs, all dogs. He kept trying to brush off my concerns right to the end of our conversation, but he said he would consider not letting the dog run loose (I will believe that when I see it). He closed by thanking me for being a good neighbor, and I hope he meant that sincerely. I try to be.
Dog Story 3: The Floof
Last night I heard my dogs going absolutely nuts barking in the front room, and came out to see what was going on. I saw a guy across the street walking four large dogs together, which seemed to be almost too much for him to handle. On the other side of the street from him was a lady holding a small floofy dog, and I couldn’t tell by looking whether there was a confrontation among them or exactly what was going on. In a few minutes, the dog walker turned and went back the way he came, and I realized the lady was going door to door with the little dog, so I stepped outside to talk to her. She said she’d found him loose on the next street over and that she couldn’t keep him because she lives with all those big dogs the guy was walking. I said I’d take him in for the night, so we put him into my backyard and introduced him to my dogs with no problems.
I got him scanned at my vet’s this morning and he has no chip and no collar but he does have his nads, again, which I think is just unconscionable and tantamount to neglect. Fortunately, he is not nearly so disrespectful of personal space with my dogs as Max was, but he has already motivated Rudy to mark in the house for the first time in years and I am not sure I want to keep him because even though he’s just a perfect little sweetheart, I am so done cleaning up dog effluent.
I’ve put an ad on Craigslist and knocked on several doors in my neighborhood but haven’t gotten any response yet. He appears to be a purebred and well-groomed Lhasa Apso, so I’m hopeful his owners are looking for him and he will be home with them by tonight.
He went out to do his business early this morning and got soaked when the sprinklers came on.
And there you have it, all the Doggy Times in La Casita Bonita! I hope things calm down pretty soon because these comings and goings are more than a little hard on my heart.
Update, April 25: The floofy one, whose name is Cocoa, was picked up by his owner late last night, so I didn’t have to put up with another night of his whining in his crate. A happy ending for all!