My older brother Tom was always bringing home stray dogs, but they were never around for long. I’m not sure how proactive my family was in finding their owners; I want to give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming that there was a correlation between a dog’s short stay in our home to perhaps its owner being located. I was quite young, and there were already so many secrets in my family, and questions never asked.
I do remember when I was around thirteen, a miniature collie showed up at our house, and we kept her for a while before she ran off again. I named her Michelle. A neighbor kid later told me that Michelle and another dog had been found tied to the railroad tracks, their remains hardly recognizable; I chose to not subscribe 100% to that grizzly story because the kid was a notorious liar and brat. Regardless, I was still left wondering somewhat, albeit not tearfully.
I know that animal cruelty didn’t run in my family, but I heard about it now and then from others, and sometimes in the news. Stray dogs were usually the most convenient victims, but knowing what a fine line it was between a stray dog and one that just happened to slip out of its home or yard for a few hours — not to mention the already-ingrained mindset of the disposability of animals — I believe I had built up sort of a callus around my young heart during that time It’s probably a good thing, as I was quite shy and powerless.
It’s a happy story where a dog breaks away from an abusive home and finds its way to a loving, respectful family. Finders keepers, with the “losers” less apt to weep, as they didn’t appear to care much for the animal, anyway. They never even bother to check the Lost and Found section of the classifieds, which the finders — considering their integrity — may have very well posted an ad.
But it is the sad story that entails a beloved dog getting out and getting “adopted” by a dysfunctional and/or abusive family. The scenario could play out many different ways, but in the end, it’s doubtful the found dog will fare very well.
I take solace in knowing that the attitude toward pets has changed dramatically for the better since I was a child; I’ve fallen in step with those changes. Microchipping has been a godsend for many, and the fact that most pets these days are seen as family members ensures we naturally take extra precaution and care in their livelihood and safety.
Also, cruelty toward animals is met with stiffer sentences. Animal advocates aren’t afraid to get involved. An abused animal that can’t find the exit may eventually be fortunate enough to be rescued from its situation and placed in loving environment. That is what we all can hope for, anyway.
Anyone finding a dog and taking the “Finders keepers” stance may find themselves challenged by well-meaning folks who insist they do the right thing and attempt to find the original owners before claiming the found dog. “How would you feel if you lost this dog and no-one bothered to return him or her? If you don’t try to find the owner, I will!” Yes, that person would be me. (Next-door.com can be an excellent source for getting the word out.)
I have lost dogs and thankfully, miraculously gotten them back (I’ll write about that another time). I know the anguish; it is multitudes more heartbreaking than what I used to feel as a child whose cat or dog ran away and didn’t return. Therefore, I take extra precaution, even raising my voice at a guest who might obliviously leave the front gate open one time.
As I write this, all four of my dogs are within view. Boston Olive snores loudly at the head of the bed, while Schnauzer Maggie lounges at the opposite end. Wrigley “Big-Rig,” our older, robust Schnauzer, cools his body on the hardwood flooring. Griffin, our Brussels-Griffon/Schnauzer mix, is on the window seat in the next room, in and out of sleep. When his eyes are open, they follow my every move; not unusual for a rescue dog who has experienced the feelings of uncertainty and confusion so common within the chilling and noisy surroundings of an animal shelter.
4th of July was yesterday, and I can’t help but ache for anyone whose pet may have gotten loose all due to fireworks-induced panic. It happens a lot; people just aren’t careful or considerate enough. I would rather be home, avoiding the crowds and providing my dogs with comfort and reassurance as the popping of distant fireworks plays out around different parts of the city.
We actually could see part of the finale from the Big Bay Boom show from our upstairs window last night. No panic from our dogs, no incessant barking at the noise; just comfort. All of us secluded, comfortable and safe.
Of the numerous uncertainties my future may hold, there is one area where I will not deviate: my love, care and gratitude for the 4-legged kids that come in and out of my life, and hold me in the highest esteem.