Today's Stray - and why my blood is still boiling

Roo and I were on a track in the woods when I saw a dog standing stock still way up ahead watching us. When we got closer to this handsome young coon hound, he was curious about Roo, but, though he wasn’t exactly skittish, he stepped off the trail to gave me a wide berth. Now that he had gotten past us, he looked like he wanted to keep going, but having just come that way I knew his person wasn’t there. He gravitated back in our direction when I called him, though he wouldn’t come, and after a couple of minutes he warmed up enough to get close and let me pat him on the back and put a leash on him. His fur was soft to the touch and once he made the decision to trust me, his mood changed and he was glad to make a friend. It might have been better if I never got ahold of him.

Thinking that he must just have gotten ahead of someone on the trail, it seemed like the best thing would be to stay put. He didn't have tags or a phone number, just a blaze orange harness. After about 10 minutes, another dog came down the trail, followed by a flustered young woman in running gear and an earful of piercings.

"Thank you so much," she said. "I've gone two miles on this trail looking for that dog." It was only in the 70s, but humidity was at 99 percent, and I was already sticky after five minutes. She was dripping.

I unclipped the leash, assuming he would go to her (some of you might cock an eyebrow at the injudiciousness of that, and you would be right). I told her that I knew how she felt. “This one," meaning you-know-who, “likes to go a little AWOL out here and it gives me palpitations every time."

“My boyfriend would kill me if I lost his dog. Thank you. You have no idea," she said. Then she called the dog. "Come here," and she used his name [edited to remove dog's name]/ He went in the opposite direction, the one he was heading in when I found him. She kept trying to call him, but he ignored her.

"Could you call him for me? He just got in trouble and I guess he's avoiding me."

That should have been the red flag, but I didn't think anything of it. And this is where my betrayal of that dog began, and one of the reasons why my blood is still boiling hours later.

As soon as I called him, he trotted right over to me and did that thing friendly dogs do where they lean their flank against your leg and wag and smile at you. I patted him on his back and rubbed his side and he put his ears back and his head down in the way of all dogs. I really liked that guy. I held his harness for the woman and she came over and clipped his leash on.

"Coon hound," she said. “They like to wander.”

“Maybe you ought to put a phone number on him.”

She said, “He doesn’t need it. He’s chipped. We rescued him.”

“Well, a person can’t read a chip, but they could call you.”

You know how people don’t want to hear it, and she didn’t, and she took the dog, said thanks again, and they headed down the trail. 

Roo and I went in the opposite direction, but after a few minutes, I could see that Roo was hot and bored, and water was back the other way, so we turned around.

After a minute, we started to come up on them. The coon hound was on the ground. From a distance, it looked like she gave the leash a hard yank. A mean yank.

He didn’t want to walk with her, and every time she turned to him, it looked like she was yelling at him, and he rolled over on his side in submission.

Then he got up and the woman gave him a hard kick in the ribs. She turned around to see if anyone had seen her abuse the dog, and there I was. 

I yelled, “Hey!” but somehow, my voice is wispy lately. It seems to have started to lose the strength to carry. She might have heard me.

My arm is still in bad shape. I can not run. I’m still in a sling. That’s just how it is. All I could do was pick up my pace as much as possible.

She tried to get him to move, but he was back on the ground, and she would have had to unclip his leash and risk upsetting her boyfriend if he took another powder, so I was able to catch up.

“That’s why that dog’s running away from you, I saw you kick him!” I was disgusted.

“I didn’t kick him,” she said.

“How the hell can you treat a dog like that? He’s a good dog - “

“He is not a good dog,” she said, “you don’t know that dog.”

“The hell he isn’t - no wonder that dog wants to get away from you.”

She turned away. The dog looked at me. He didn’t seem to blame me, but he was looking pretty dejected. As if the views he had been developing about humans were confirmed anew every time he gave another one a chance.

“You ought to give that dog back to the rescue if you’re just going to treat him so badly,” I said.

She turned back to me and said, “He’s not mine to give.”

I don’t know what else I could have done. I was angry, but powerless. A temporary cripple without so much as a voice. The only thing I could think of to say to her was, “You haven’t heard the last of this.” 

But - what else was I supposed to do? I couldn’t try to grab the dog, get in a scuffle. In the United States of America, you can bring all sorts of hell down on a dog if you feel like it, and no one will ever do anything about it. According to the law, a dog is just property, and it seems deep in the blood of a disproportionate number of Americans - more so here in the South than anywhere else I’ve been in America, and I have traveled 47 of the lower 48 in detail - to be mean as hell to animals. There is more junkyarding of dogs here than anywhere else in the country. Sorry, but that’s the way I see it here, and the main reason that the second we have two nickels to rub together we’re going to get the hell away from this godforsaken place. There are plenty of people who take great care of their dogs around here, but the quantity of abused and neglected dogs is staggering. This place recently passed an ordnance codifying the legality of chaining dogs. What more do you need to know?

I didn’t want to turn and see anything else, but I did. The woman was waiting for the hound to get up. 

“You have not heard the last of this,” I repeated. 

So, I’ll send this blog post to the rescue. They are known to be devoted, with the best reputation in the area. I meet people with their dogs all the time, and every one of the people has been loving and gentle with their dogs, glad to be with them and filled with praise and gratitude for them. I doubt they’ll be able to do anything about this freak, but at least they’ll know never to let the bonehead who got that beautiful, sweet coon hound to ever be allowed anywhere near another one of their dogs again. I'll probably get shot for it, cause that's how we roll, isn't it?

I feel like I betrayed him. Just more proof to him that you can’t trust any of ‘em. A dog decides to trust you and what does he get - screwed. 

This thing has made me feel like hell.

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