This guy didn’t have a name. Well… I’m sure he had a name but for the time I knew him, he went without one.
I caught him on a Thursday morning and while I walked him into the side yard we use as a holding zone for strays during their wait for animal control (We have a LOT of strays in the neighborhood) I was told I had caught the neighborhood street dog- with reports of seeing him for eight to nine years just roaming our area. There comes a certain pride with that knowledge, but also a certain amount of pressure as well- there was a lot of “He must live somewhere- you should let him loose and I’m sure he’ll go home.”
As a volunteer at my local animal shelter, I am a firm believer that if a home is not readily apparent and there is no ID on an animal, they are supposed to go to the facility to get scanned, seen, and (hopefully) either returned by an owner that saw it online or adopted by a new family that will love them as long as they live. That’s not how it always how it turns out though….
What happened in the case of this guy is he was unaccustomed to human contact. He also had a limp as a result of an old injury that didn’t seem to heal right. This gentleman was also sensitive when you tried to manipulate the shoulder that gave him the limp. He was smelly and always hungry. He had mattes- a LOT of them. He wasn’t thrilled about walking on a leash but would do it if you cheered enough.
Over the course of two days, I spent a few hours with him (all of my breaks from work) and I started to see more… Although he was weary of me at first, he let me throw him chicken and eventually came close enough for me to be able to pet him and get him to eat out of my hand. It got to the point where he allowed me to check his teeth and gums out, he sat patiently while I plucked loose mattes from his neck, and he eventually laid on his back to allow belly scratches.
Our shelter has a lot of things going for it- namely, the people are incredible and fight for as many of our furry friends as possible. Unfortunately, part of sheltering means that all the fight and the care in the world is greatly limited by the elements of time and sheer volume of animals that need our efforts and resources. Unfortunately, that means animals can slip between the cracks and don’t always get the chance they deserve. I knew when we called County Animal Care and Regulation that this guy’s chances of getting out alive were pretty small, but I also knew that the people in our shelter are amazing and if his days were to end, they’d end well fed, with vet care, safe, and warm. I’d be damned if I let him be another dog I see on the side of the road during my commute to work.
I visited him while he was in his stray period in the facility to make sure he had vet notes and the knowledge I had in his file. I sat with him and combed out dreads from all over his coat. I shared a little bit of extra kibble with him. We cuddled. When I returned today for my normal volunteer hours I had to check on him not out of overflowing hope, but out of a need for confirmation (and really, maybe with a small whisper of hope). Unfortunately, his story does not end in the way we all hope it could- he was humanely euthanized due to a poor behavior evaluation.
This is not an indictment of the humans that cared for him in the shelter. This is a story that needs to be told. It hurts to tell, and that’s why I know it matters so darn much. This guy could have been saved if he had a chip. If he had a tag with contact info I might have been able to get him home. If his home had more secure fences he might not have gotten out… I could go on and on with “what ifs” or “woulda coulda shouldas”. But at the end of the day, there is still an ocean of stray animals that we are trying to serve and care for, and there will be more like this guy. It is my duty to honor him by moving on and working just a bit harder to educate as many humans as possible in order for a better future for the animals in our area.
Tomorrow, I will wake up, put my shelter clothes on, and go put my hours of shelter time in again.
Tonight, I will remember “A679232”.
Sweet dreams, “Boo”.