It was a happenstance. One Sunday, the weather was not particularly inviting, but I share Greta’s restlessness when we are too long cooped up inside. I decided to take her for a walk around the nearby environmental center. We happened to pull into the parking lot at a time when a lone dog was nosing around grass at the lot’s edge .
He was drawn to Greta, of course. He trotted over as soon as she jumped out of the car. They had something in common—they were both dogs. He sniffed. She sniffed. He peed on a nearby bush for her. She sniffed again. He seemed like a nice young fellow, mostly or perhaps purebred springer spaniel. But he was very lean, and his collar hung too large around his neck.
Uh-oh, I thought. He’s been out on his own for too long. What should I do? I considered letting him come along on our hike. But if I did, and he ran off, I had no way to hold him. I didn’t have an extra leash in the car, and didn’t trust Greta off her rope. Bow hunting season for deer was open. The deer had become skittish, and Greta hadn’t given up her dream of chasing one down. It didn’t seem like a good plan to end the hike with one found dog and one who was lost in the woods, chasing a deer.
The spaniel let me stroke him. He had a license, which meant he had a home somewhere. But how would I find it? The license lists only the Humane Society’s phone number. The society is closed Sundays.
The only thing I could think to do was to take him to the Humane Society weekend emergency dropoff. Not as good as returning him to his home, but better than leaving him in the open woods and fields to fend for himself. Dogs on their own usually don’t fare very well in our society.
To get him to the shelter would be a short drive. I wasn’t sure Greta would let another dog ride in her car. She can be jealous and possessive, and this puppy would be treading on her turf. What if the deep warning growl rumbled up out of her throat? Then what? I stopped to think, but no Plan B came to mind.
“All right, come on Greta. We’ve got to get back in the car.” She didn’t understand. She gave me the “I thought we were going for a walk. What is this?” look. But she got in and lay down on the back seat.
I took the puppy by the collar and coaxed him into the other rear passenger seat. He didn’t really want to come, but didn’t growl a warning to stop. He apparently knew something about cars, and thought going for a ride would be okay.
When the spaniel got in, Greta sat up sharply, but didn’t growl or snap at him. I pulled out of the parking lot and headed up the road. My two passengers hung out their tongues and looked out the windows. Absence of hostility in the back seat is a wonderful thing, any parent will tell you.
I drove around to the rear of the Humane Society shelter, put Greta’s rope on the puppy and left her in the car. He charged up the ramp toward the emergency dropoff door, nearly pulling me off my feet. Who knew a dog could pack that much strength into so few pounds?
I took him inside and paused to look around. The place was spartan. A few cages of varying sizes, cat litter and a litter pan, water bowls. No food, but there were newspapers I could put on the cage floor. He put full resistance into going into the cage, but I couldn’t just leave him there in the open area. The next person to open the door would be greeted by a flash of spaniel rushing by. With a combination of pushing, jiggling and holding the door open, I managed to get him into the cage.
He gave me the big spaniel eyes of betrayal, and I felt bad about leaving him there. But I had doubts about the feasibility of taking him home with me. Greta might have tolerated him in the car, but I was sure she wouldn’t let him spend the night at her house. Not without a fight.
I filled out the dropoff sheet as best I could, and left him there with the water and a Milk Bone, which was all I had in the car for dog snacks. He was probably scared, and the kitten crying in another cage didn’t help.
Back at the car, Greta waited. Now, I promised, we would go for our walk. We returned to the environmental center and started down the path.
We had gone no more than a mile when we heard women’s voices shouting. As we approached, two women appeared on the path and asked if we had seen a brown and white dog. I explained that I thought he was a stray, and what I had done.
“We’ll go right over and get him,” one said.
“I’m not sure you can, today,” I replied.
Fortunately, they were not angry at me for taking him to the shelter. They were just happy to know he wasn’t lost amid the acres of woodlands and fields that made up the environmental area.
Greta and I went on our walk. I held tight to her rope. All the way.
© 2011 by Donna Engle