I'd just gotten in after finishing my
own alley route when Dee called. She was still in the streets
working her route but wanted to let me know that one of the dogs
we've been trying to approach looked very bad when she came to
the feeding place. The dog's condition deteriorated severely from
one sighting to the next, only a few nights apart. We'd been working
with this dog for months, trying to gain her trust; something
devastating happened to her in the alleys and Dee knew she couldn't
go on much longer on her own.
Dee followed the dog to an abandoned house where she disappeared inside. I got the address from Dee and called our good friend John who's always ready to lend a hand. It was 5:30 in the morning but John agreed to meet me at the location.
John was there when I arrived. He hadn't seen the dog, so I hoped
she was still in the vacant house. I took some canned food and
a blanket and we entered the house. It was a mess inside as most
abandoned buildings are, we looked through the first floor --
no dog. We climbed to the second floor and searched. "Are you
sure this is the right house?" John asked. I told him this is
We headed to the third floor, doing our best to stay as quiet
as possible while stepping over heaps of debris; we didn't want
to alarm an already frightened animal -- we were there to help
her, not to panic her. We were going through the front rooms when
a muffled sound came from down the hall at the back of the house.
John and I looked at each other.
In one of the back bedrooms behind a rickety closet door, she lay on the filthy floor. John blocked the stairs with an old board. Though her condition was poor she might still manage to get away from us; we couldn't risk the possibility that she might bolt down the stairs and back into the alley where we'd lose her for sure. With the exit blocked, we went back to the bedroom. The dog was struggling to get up; she knew she was cornered and I knew she was scared-to-death. She wet herself as John leaned down to drape the blanket over her, a sack of bones with skin bloody-raw from mange.
John tried to calm her as he carried her down the stairs and
made his way across the junk-filled hall. The dog was fitful in
his arms and, by the time they reached John's truck, this dear
frightened dog, soiled herself as well as the blanket and John's
clothing. John took it in stride, he knew this fragile soul was
deathly ill and needed our help no matter what. Maybe she finally
realized our intentions were good because when John laid her on
the seat of his truck, she stopped struggling and closed her eyes
as we stroked her head and spoke softly to comfort her.
It was Memorial Day and veterinary offices were closed. John took the dog home, fed her (though her appetite was slight), cleaned her and called an emergency animal hospital to say he was on his way there with a dog who urgently needed medical care. At the clinic the doctor who thoroughly examined our casualty from the streets gave John the worst possible news: this one could not be saved.
In the alleys we tried to gain her trust, we fed her and looked
out for her. Maybe if we'd had a little more time she might have
learned that we were not her adversaries, but rather her friends.
We'll never know what happened to her -- was she hit by a car,
did someone feed her poison? So many times we haven't been able
to approach animals until they are weak and the end is near. Even
though it breaks our hearts never to be able to make life good
for them we can't look away or shrug our shoulders in defeat.
John was with the dog when the vet injected the drug to stop
her heart; the procedure went quickly for our noble girl who had
endured far worse than the pin-prick of a needle. John said she
offered no signs of fear or struggle. In fact, he said she seemed
content in his arms listening to the sound of his voice as she
closed her eyes. We are the ones who picked her up, allowed the
vet to administer the euthanasia drug, but the alleys killed her.