For over a year, a neighborhood cat had been climbing into my van and chewing through various bags of pet food that I store in the back. I once actually caught him in the act of pilfering from my van but when I opened the side door, he came right at me and I’ve worked with cats long enough to know that without leather gloves, the safest thing to do was to just duck! This cat was fat enough to have a home but just enjoyed ripping into my supplies with the end result being that the bags were no longer suitable for resale. This cat had cost me hundreds of dollars. I tried to cage him but he was too smart for that. Had he been a stray, I would have been more sympathetic but there was plenty of fat on the meat on his bones.
It had gotten to the point where every time I had to leave my van open, I had to bring all of the edibles into my house so that this elusive nibbler would not tear into my inventory. I struggled to find a non-violent way to stop the losses, while in my heart I waited for an opportunity to negotiate with this cat.
That day came when my wife accidently baited him by leaving too much food out for our cat, Wallace, who likes to eat his meals on a covered pile of logs on the driveway pad. After Wallace had finished munching that darned cat arrived, had a kibble feast and got so relaxed that he took a nap on top of the woodpile…. I just happened to be watering the plants along the driveway pad, with Romeo lagging close behind me in shady zones, when I spotted him asleep and took the opportunity. Pointing to that cat I said softly, “Go get him.” Romeo is a herding dog and knew just what to do. He ran to block the only exit that the cat had while I quickly closed in from the other side. The cat crouched low with both ears flat and was considering retreat but quickly realized that it was time to face the music.
Romeo stood his ground almost nose to nose with this troublesome feline bad boy. I stopped when I had cornered him enough to get his full attention without making him push his fight or flight button. There was a poignant moment of truth that ended when I said, “You need to take this stop off of your daily feeding circuit.” I waited a moment and finished, “because if you ever come back here again, I may not be able to protect you from that big mean dog in front of you.” The cat quickly shot a glance between me and Romeo who bared his big teeth for effect. That’s when I said, “Let him go.”
The cat ran low and fast past him when he stepped to the side. I let a moment pass and told Romeo to, “Go get him!” for full measure. Romeo returned in less than a minute with his lips pulled back and cheeks scrunched into a smile. I said to him, “I think we got the message across this time. I could not have done it without you.” He offered me his paw that I shook and my partnership with this gentle dog was refreshed, as he laid his head on my lap and we both relaxed into the evening lights of a beautiful sunset.
A lot can be discovered in a family photo. You can always tell who doesn’t want to be there, who is bored, who wants to send an alternative message that contradicts the happy family status quo…but you won’t find any of that in this picture sent to me by one of my longtime clients.
This gang of four is led by Kristin who is one of those rare folks who is unfailingly generous with her heart. Keva is a diabetic with a collapsing trachea and liver problems. Kaitu wants to let me pet him but he is way too nervous. Khulee commands my attention with his mischievous smile and his wild youthful spirit.
This is a wonderful family portrait and a perfect expression of the love that bonds them. I do though wonder how she ever got this picture taken because I have never seen these dogs sit still for even a single moment!
Is that what your face looked like after you recieved your last bill from a veterinary hospital? Then maybe you should give us a try. Your furry friends will have a lot more fun and you will have some cash left in your pocket!
I am torn between rage and pain. You called me to an emergency concerning a dog whose “legs had given out” but you did not warn me of the horror that was about to befall me. I arrived at your address and noticed a brand new polished pickup truck in the driveway when you met me in your front yard. A feeling of dread began to seep in when I asked where your dog was and you said, “He’s just through the gate right next to the house. He is mostly for protection. I tried to move him but he bit me.”
I followed you through the six foot tall wooden gate into a cement paved alley that was about twenty feet long and about eight feet wide. Your dog was in the middle of this limited space, panting and leaning hard against the living room sliding glass door that he was never allowed to pass through, with his swollen hind limbs stuck out in front of him, along his belly. This paralyzed chow mix was sunk in a disgusting mud of weeks of urine and feces. He picked his head up off the muck and gave me a look that was incredibly sad, stoic and begging for mercy. If this was summer, I knew that there would be maggots.
There are times in my job when I want to set things straight but I know from experience that the ice I skate on as a liable professional gets thinner when I am not politically correct with the humans. I injected this poor tortured dog with a shot of a dissociative anesthetic and commented on the filth that your dog was laying in. You told me that it’s usually not this bad but that it had been raining. You obviously did not consider that I lived here too and knew that although the weather had been recently inclement, there had been plenty of sunny days in the mix. That was right about when you pointed out the pallets that you said you had to lean against the fence because he kept eating through the wood. I got real hot and knew that something had to be said when you got all emotional when I had to give your dog an additional injection, this time a narcotic, through its crusty, matted fur to get him to relax enough to be ultimately set free because he was in so much pain. It was then that I asked you, “Did you ever consider that he was chewing through your wooden fence to escape from the inhumane conditions that you had imprisoned him in?”
While waiting for the last injection to sink in, I had the time to scan the physical space and consider the life as your dog had known for more than a decade. It just about broke my heart. Looking into the interior of your home through the glass living room slider, I saw that it looked so cozy, clean and full of expensive items. Yet you kept this social animal in a filthy cement zone of isolation furnished only by pallet walls, weeks of melting piles of excrement and a hopeless sense of loneliness. How could anyone be so completely unaware of the feelings of another animal who shared his life? No matter how hard I tried, I could not make sense of it.
After I had bagged your dog and cleaned the filth off my equipment; you came out to my van, gave me a hug which I did not return and thanked me for my service. When you pulled back, I looked hard into your weepy eyes and hoped that you got a reality check when I said, “Dogs are social animals just like you. They thrive on touch, visual experience, exercise, love and joy. Until you come to grips with how inhumanely you have treated this poor animal,” I said pointing to the smelly contents of the black bag in my van, “You should never get another pet. . . not even for protection.”