My wife encountered a homeless dog, living in the parking lot of a North area shopping center. A sweet and shy dog, who seems to thrive on human company and attention, but only at arms length.
While she has accumulated a host of concerned patrons upon which she depends for survival, she strictly evades direct contact.
The first thing I noticed was that there were dog bowls, water bottles, blankets and toys at multiple sites around the lot.
Clearly she had caught the attention of more than just my wife, and though no one could claim her, there are many who care for her.
One couple who arrive daily to fill her bowls with food and water and quickly depart. There’s Mr. J, a tenant in one of the center’s offices, who has, in many respects, adopted her.
Feeding her daily, as he hatches a plan to capture her, gradually transforming his office into what I imagine the inside of the Child Catcher’s wagon, in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, looks like, with ropes, nets and, of course, tempting treats.
There’s the construction workers, brothers from New England, who know exactly what she likes to eat.
“She ain’t gonna eat that Salisbury steak” they informed us. “She loves these wing-dings,” he says, as he feeds her from a bag he just purchased. And he’s right, she loves them.
She seems at ease around those two, and they seemed to feel a kinship or understanding with her. They sit a while, just enjoying the pleasure she derives from their treats. There’s a woman who is so moved by her that she cannot talk about her without crying.
There are two women who are close friends and their college-age daughters that we recognized from our children’s equestrian days. They also were bent upon a “rescue” operation.
An alliance formed, of those who could not stand the idea of this dog spending another night in the rain or cold. Who could not accept that this dog had no preventive care, would likely become pregnant, and worst of all, had no physical contact with people. This group was convinced that this dog, the recipient of more collective concern and support than any other dog in Charleston, needed to be rescued. .
The plan was simple. I would concoct a drug-laced snack. She would eat it, fall asleep, and into captivity.
Day 1, Saturday: The team assembled at 8 a.m. A tranquilizer combination was deployed in Salisbury steak. It was a large dose, but one major complication. The guy was right, she would not eat Salisbury steak.
Day 2, Sunday a.m.: Rearmed with tranquilizers and some fresh ground round, I gave it a stiff first dose. “How long will this take,” someone asked. About 15 minutes, I confidently replied. Fifteen minutes later nothing. Confidence shaken, I deployed a second fully loaded meatball. May as well have been espresso; she perkily darted around for two hours and departed into the woods.
Day 3, the following Saturday: Mr. J had a new plan; encircle in temporary fencing. She saw the fence, panicked and was gone. Immediate failure.
Day 4, Sunday: We assembled in Mr. J’s office for Dunkin doughnuts, coffee and planning. We mixed the drug meatballs, doubling our dosage. She ate readily but seemed agitated and wary, probably from the previous day’s attempt. The trust she had shown Mr. J and my wife was gone.
Then, disaster, in the form of a jogger, appeared. She could have run in any of 180 degrees but she went directly at the dog, who evaded, but the jogger changed course as if in pursuit.
The dog was fed up and dashed off into the woods. Disappointment was soon overtaken by concern. Was the drug dose too high? Will she stagger in front of a car, drift into a fatal anesthetic slumber, or turn into a drug fueled maniac terrorizing the neighborhood. I assured everyone she’d be fine, but I had concerns.
She did not return that day or the next, and Mr. J said that was the first time in 9 months. That evening, Mr. J and I fruitlessly walked the woods for hours. I could not have felt worse. All these caring people trusted me with a plan, which not only failed, but likely killed the dog.
We reasoned that we were saving her and that carried risks; but saving her from what?
Happily, she returned to the lot the following day, looking as fresh as ever, probably after sleeping for 48 hours.
Were we projecting concerns about our own lives. Do we worry about our health care and about what the future holds, require human contact, and assume that her requirements are as ours.
We can never be assured of these things in our own lives, but we can ease our anxiety by securing it for another.
As far as we know, dogs have no concept of mortality or the future. They live their entire lives unburdened by the knowledge that they will grow old, degenerate and die. That’s why they are masters of living in the moment. So, here’s a dog, with a constant flow of attention, company, food, toys and blankets.
She’s free to roam, sleep, play and eat whatever she pleases. We see this through our lens, dominated by concerns for the future, and determine it best to bring her into our world. But, we nearly killed her in the process. Our concerns were valid, and intentions were pure, but were things really so bad?
She hadn’t truly answered the call of the wild, nor had she embraced domestication but was enjoying the best of both worlds.
We still believe that her domestic side should and will prevail, but in this moment, she doesn’t see the need to be rescued, and who can blame her.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.