I had just gotten in from the streets when Belinda called. It was 6:15 in the morning, and when I heard Belinda’s voice I knew an animal must be in trouble. An actively compassionate person, Belinda lives in a neighborhood we go through on our west side alley route. Beside feeding hungry animals she sees during her daily morning walk, Belinda keeps a sharp eye out for those in dire need of assistance for whom she does all she can before calling us for help. This morning was no exception.
Belinda was breathless as she told me what happened. Earlier she heard barking from a block or two away; it wasn’t the usual nuisance barking from “owned” dogs in the area, this barking was loud and frantic. She followed the sound to a small street lined with several vacant houses. At a window on the third floor of one of the houses she saw a dog pacing restlessly; he was barking and howling, and he seemed to be trying to jump onto the window sill.
Belinda called to the dog in the hope of letting him know she was there to
help and that this might calm him down but his panic persisted. How she hated
leaving him there by himself, but she had to get to a phone. As she turned to
hurry home, she saw something terrible. Below the third floor window lay a dog,
dead on the sidewalk. Desperately trying to get to safety, he had jumped to his
death, and the remaining dog looked as though he would soon follow.
Running home as fast as she could, Belinda knew she could count on us and
that help was a phone call away. I told her to take her mobile phone and return
to the site; stay there, I will get help. I called our friend John and told him
the situation; he agreed to meet Belinda, but because the neighborhood is known
for its drug-related activity, he asked if I could arrange for the police to stand
guard while he’s inside the house. John knows as well as the rest of us the danger
of going alone into a vacant building, particularly in an area of vigorous drug
I called a police officer who knows us and has supported our efforts in the past, and I asked him if he could send someone to watch over John while he works with the frightened dog. An exceptional advocate of animals in need, John is very good in rescue emergencies using only his ingenuity and strength, but securing a panicky dog is far from easy. So I stayed by the phone in case John needed me to bring additional equipment; one thing was certain -- we wanted to make sure this was a successful effort.
As they waited (what seemed like forever) for the police to arrive, John and Belinda spoke to some nearby residents who told them that drug dealers had locked up the dogs in the house to guard their stash, but the dogs had been barking and trying to escape from the house for two or three days. With each passing day the dogs’ clamor grew louder and more frantic. No one in the area dared to approach the house to help the dogs for fear of what the drug dealers would do. Someone anonymously called Animal Control, but the dogs remained stranded.
Finally, Belinda called me to say the police had come and John went in the house to get the dog. Over the phone I could hear barking in the background as Belinda filled me in; suddenly the dog stopped barking, Belinda stopped talking, all was silent. I thought we might have been cut off until, with a loud cry Belinda shouted, “He’s got the dog! John’s carrying the dog out of the house!”
Without fanfare, John put the starving dog on a blanket on the seat next to him; before leaving, he thanked the police for showing up and Belinda for caring. I still had Belinda on the telephone when everyone was driving away and I heard her voice start to crack -- she was trying not to cry. When I asked what was wrong, she said people told her the one dog had jumped out the window only that morning, probably not long before she got there. I knew the sorrow she was feeling but I had no way to comfort her. The only thing I could think to do was to offer her high praise for stepping in to act in a situation where everyone else was too afraid to do anything. “You’re a real friend to the animals, Belinda; because of you, we were in time for one.”