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Tale of a sad life

BY SHERRON WESTERFIELD

Community columnist

He was, after all, just a dog. A mixed breed mutt. A cur. Not good for much besides keeping other animals and would-be prowlers out of the yard.

When you first saw him, he was a cute little bundle of fluff. Your friend’s dog had another litter of mongrel pups and once again he was looking for a home for the lot of them. Your kids had been begging you for a dog, and taking the puppy home seemed like the thing to do at the time.

Before long, the dog grew to fit those huge paws and was banned from the warmth of your house. Too many accidents on the carpet. The safety of personal belongings threatened one too many times by a vigorously wagging tail.

As the kids became more involved with school and their friends, they were no longer interested in playing with the dog. No matter how much he barked and begged someone to play with him, he was relegated to lonely days cooped up inside the house waiting for his family to come home. In his boredom he chewed things – shoes, magazines, the windowsill.

And so, out he went. You put a little doghouse out in the back corner of the yard. Sure, he could have used a bigger one, but you bought the first one you found and the price was right. First you drove a stake deep into the ground and then you tethered the dog to it with a six-foot chain attached to his tight collar. An old bed pillow for a mattress and a shallow water dish completed his new territory.

Every day your dog watched the house waiting for someone in his family to come out and play, to talk to him, to rub his ears, to touch him at all. He watched as the kids left for school. He saw you leave for work. He watched and paced all day waiting for someone to return. He waited. And he waited.

After dinner, one of the kids usually remembered to take the dog a dish of kibble and canned food mixed together and sometimes fresh water. An occasional puppy cookie or soup bone would have been nice. But the family was busy with their own lives and, after all, he was just a dog. He would be all right.

Days grew short and the temperature dropped. The dog paced ‘round and around the stake wearing away the dying grass and making a muddy mess of things when it rained. When he grew weary waiting for his family to acknowledge him, he huddled in his little shelter and slept.

At night he kept vigil. His instinct was to guard and protect his home and his people – his pack. And so he barked at the shadows. He barked at the moon. He barked in response to other dogs that were barking.

More often than not the neighbors, or sometimes his own family, would open a window and yell at him to shut up. The dog could not understand that the humans were trying to sleep and they did not appreciate his barking. He tucked his tail and hid when stones or other objects were thrown in exasperated attempts to quiet him.

He was just a dog. Damned nuisance dog. Look at the mess he made in the corner of the yard. See how big he had grown. He was too big to come into the house again. Besides, he had no training and for some reason he was no longer very good with children. He jumped on people and got their clothes dirty.

When your lease was up, you and your family decided to move. And the landlord at the new place did not allow pets, especially big dogs. No matter. The kids weren’t interested in the dog any longer. It had been a cute and playful puppy. But now, he was just a dog. A mixed breed at that. He was too big and not much good for anything.

What to do? You thought about just moving out and leaving the dog tied up out back. But no, that would have been too harsh.

A better idea was to put the dog in your truck and take him for a drive in the country. When you came to a place where you could see several houses, you coaxed him out, patted him on the head, and drove off leaving him sitting there at the side of the road. He was, after all, just a dog. He could fend for himself.

He watched your truck until it disappeared over the hill. You never gave the dog another thought. He had no idea what was happening and he waited for you to return.

Before long, a rabbit distracted him and he wandered along the road to check it out. He could not find it but he kept walking, following your truck, and perhaps thinking you were just up the road and waiting for him.

He found water to drink in a drainage ditch. It tasted of dirt and chemicals but it was cold and it slaked his thirst. He was hungry. He never had filled out to his full weight. Sparse meals had kept him thin. And you hadn’t realized he had worms because he had never been to a vet.

Now he was lonely, too. Where were his people? Why was he out there in a strange place? He wanted to go home.

He kept walking and eventually the road led him to a busy highway with a double yellow line painted down the middle. At first he shrank back in fear of the roar of the giant trucks as they sped by. Some honked their horns and startled him. He’d never seen so many cars and trucks. He had no way of knowing they could hurt him.

He was black and as night settled his form faded into the darkness. It was over in an instant.

A tractor-trailer with a full load could not brake for the dog as he stepped into the roadway to avoid the gravel that bit into his tender paws. The trucker felt the bump upon impact and heard a brief yelp. In his side mirror he saw the dog’s lifeless form fall to the side of the road and he knew there was no use going back. The dog was dead.

He was just a dog. A discarded creature that had lived a brief and sad life. He would have given his life to protect his family. Instead, he lost his life trying to return to people who never understood that all he wanted was warmth, sustenance, and love.

The Humane Society routinely receives adult dogs that are discarded by their owners. Some find new homes. Others are euthanized.

Whichever is their fate, it is far better than the slim chance for survival faced by a dog abandoned on the streets. If you can no long keep your pet, call the Humane Society and ask about your options.

If you are considering adopting a puppy, or any other animal, I hope you will do so with the attitude that you are making a commitment to your new pet to provide nurturing care for it as long as it lives. It is not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” It is a living creature who will entrust you with its life and will love you in return.

Pets are not meant to be disposable.

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