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Thursday, November 15, 2012

On Rescuing Dogs: Part 1

One day when I was young, my father parked the family car outside a shopping center.  But before we could go inside, suddenly a cute little black puppy wandered up to us.  My father claimed that he had seen people pull up, open their car door, drop the dog onto the parking lot, and drive away.  All I remember is that we didn’t go shopping that day.  Instead, we brought the puppy inside the car with us, and returned home. 

I named this new addition to our family Sport.  He was a German Shepherd, or at least a mix with strong German Shepherd traits.  He was only a few weeks old, and I could easily hold him in my hands, but my father promised that Sport would grow with time. 

While my parents might have rescued Sport, that did not mean that they would allow him inside our house.  At that time, we lived next door to the church we attended.  On the other side of us lay the parsonage, which had replaced our small house as the pastor’s residence at some point in the past.  Behind us lay a trailer park, where retirees spent their waning years inside large metal canisters on wheels.  Bordering the rear of our property was a waist-level picket fence.  Between our house and the new parsonage extended a six-foot-high concrete wall.  But only a concrete walkway separated our house on the other side from the church, and no fence lined the front of our property.  So my father purchased a metal chain, anchored it in the ground, and built a little wooden house.  That became Sport’s home, and I would go outside and play with him, and throw the ball to him, and let him chase me (at least to the end of his chain). 

This addition to our family did not sit well with a retired couple in the trailer park.  My father fielded several conversations with the man who lived in the trailer directly behind us, a gleaming silver contraption that looked more like the rear end of a bus than a proper home.  The old man complained that Sport barked too much.  From what my father told my mother and I, the old man suggested that my father must find some way to silence our dog.  Or he would.

Sport grew with time, and he sprang up every time I entered the back yard.  We would play together in the afternoons, enjoying each other’s company.  But then, one afternoon, my father noticed that Sport was vomiting white foam.  As Sport barked and leapt toward me, at the length of his chain, my father held me back, and ordered me to keep away from him while he made a telephone call.  After awhile, men in uniforms arrived.  They unhooked Sport from his chain, and led him away.  I couldn’t help but notice, as they pulled him past, the confusion and pleading in Sport’s eyes.  But they wouldn’t let me to pet him, or hold him one last time.  Then they took him away, and I never saw him again.

I don’t know if the animal authorities ever discovered why Sport vomited white foam.  At the time, the disease Rabies was mentioned, but my father also quietly said that he suspected the old man living in the trailer behind us might have thrown some poisoned food over the fence.  Lacking evidence, it's impossible to blame him, or any other factor.  Modern science (or at least a quick internet search) suggests that Sport might have simply drank his water too fast, or eaten some grass or dirt.  So perhaps he didn't have Rabies.  But maybe the threat of Rabies was too strong back then for the authorities to take a chance.  

All I remember is that the old man complained, and later, that Sport inexplicably vomited white foam.  All I know is that a little boy never saw his dog again.

Dragon Dave

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