Hoarders R’ Us

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The worst form of animal abuse is when you are abusing an animal and in your demented mind, you think you are helping them.

Inflicting cruelty while being ignorant to it and then claiming a moral high-ground is the worst.

I got called out to a call today and the signs of beginnings of a hoarder situation were clear as day.

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-Inability to discard items that have nothing more than sentimental value.

– Inability to keep living conditions clean and hazard free.

And this was just in the backyard.

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As me and the Police officers entered the house, we smelled the Ammonia smell generated by cat feces and urine. Most hoarders are so used it that they cannot smell it in their house.

There were litter-boxes by the dozens, with dry feces in them. There were cat feces on the floor, under the bed, in the closet, on the mattresses, on furniture.

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Scores of old collectible items from the 60’s and the 70’s littered the house. Open cans of cat-food were scattered on the floor.

Among all this ciaos were 32 cats; hard to even count as some hid under the furniture and some frittered from one room to another. 2 separate litters of kittens were in the mix of animals.

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The owners were on vacation in Spain and in their mind they had RESCUED these cats; even the 4 kittens those lay dead amongst the mayhem or the cats with infected eyes and severe upper respiratory infections.

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One of the dead kittens had been almost completely eaten up by some of the biggest maggots I’ve seen.

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While investigating cruelty it is IMPERATIVE to get into the mind of the perpetrator. It is absolutely essential to be able to interview him/her so that you can understand their mindset and educate others.

I didn’t get a chance to interview them because they were overseas but I can see that they were novice hoarders. They had started recently (maybe within a year) and were getting there quickly. One can tell from the items in their house and the way they have been strewn. If the collectibles follow a theme (and their theme was old music LP’s and jukeboxes and sports trophies) then they can be helped with adequate and consistent counseling.

However, if they have been collecting items just for the sake of collecting (and in this case I saw that with the empty bottles of 66 in the yard those were buried halfway to form a path- in somewhat creative way) and the range is so wide that there is no theme; then you are in trouble.

In Houston we had pulled 72 cats and 23 dogs in a house half the size of the house I went in today. That was a point of no recovery for the humans.

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Prosecution and punishment are tools to dissuade in our fight against cruelty to animals. Real change however, will only be affected by education and to educate we need to understand people AND be empathetic; even to the perpetrators we all in animal activism are so ready to kill.

It’s a difficult task. Clearly it is.

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It’s harder to be empathetic and non-judgemental when someone has clearly hurt an animal so badly. When I see this human I will have the image of the kitten almost liquefied by maggots clear in my head- but when I interview him, I will be empathetic.

So help me, god.

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The verdict of -GUILTY.

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Innocent until proven guilty; That is what human law is based on.

It’s different for animals.

Why?; Because we said so.

I went to a woman house today that has been built on a lot in the woods. She has peach trees those are frequented by skunks.

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Skunks eat, grasshoppers, beetles, frogs etc during spring and summer and fruits and vegetables in the winter. So this woman traps them in traps to save her peach tree and cats (from being sprayed).

Thats where I come in and enforce THE LAW.

All skunks must be euthanized anywhere they are seen or caught; be it babies or adults- that is it for them.

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The reason? Skunks are rabies SUSPECTS. They can transmit Rabies so we can’t let them live.

So explain this to me again? We move in on their land, then we trap them in their natural habitat and then we kill them?

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So I put my tranquilizer needle through the cage and the skunk uses the only defense mechanism it has.

It sprays.

Yes we all know its an offensive smell and it’s a skunk, but have you seen the fear in it’s eyes when it sees the syringe coming? When I introduce the syringe in the second time, it knows it’s out of the spray so it cowers into a corner and lets the syringe poke it.

It’s anal glands desperately eject the final drops of spray those aren’t even enough to make me recede.

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The woman is carrying her grandson and telling him that the “Skunk has to go see Jesus”.

It stops me in my tracks. Really, woman? You’e going to cutify killing a skunk to your grandchild?

As I walk away I ask her not to trap animals in 100 degree weather and leave them out in the sun because if they die, I will write her a citation for cruelty to animals.

She is angry now and says that the law doesn’t make sense.

Really, woman. How would you like to be caught in a cage without food or water and bake in the sun till you die or survive long enough to be executed?

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Then she speaks the most commonly spoken lie in the world. “I am an animal lover” she says.

At worst, It’s a dating line to attract the opposite sex. At best, it means that I love my pets. The rest of the animals can go take a hike.

That skunk and all other skunks and raccoons those are going to be trapped in the US today will all be presumed guilty.

There will be no trial, no defense; Just a verdict and an immediate punishment. DEATH BY LETHAL INJECTION.

Justice will die a slow death, though.

The Roles of Our Lives

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The Bhagvad Gita claims that ‘The Savior is bigger than the killer.’

We, at the Chuck Silcox center at FWACC play our roles in saving each soul. It’s a tale of sweat and tears for animals we feel responsible towards.

It all starts with the most important ingredient; one compassionate citizen who has witnessed an act of cruelty decides to be the voice of the hapless animal. So we get a call. The ladies at the call center are experts in assigning priority to calls based on urgency they hear in a citizen’s voice.

“These two dogs are tied in the backyard,” The citizen gulps for air. “They don’t have any food or water they are very very…” His voice starts to break. “Please help them.”

The Animal Control officer who responds knows the law backwards. We can’t enter someone’s yard without a warrant unless we perceive that an animal’s life is in danger. Minutes later, he dials the cruelty officer’s phone, “You’ve got to see this.” His voice is hurried. “Please drop everything and get here.”

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The cruelty officer has seen hundreds of emaciated animals with open, maggot infested wounds. Even he cringes at a puppy so emaciated that his pointed hipbone has broken through the skin from being unable to get up. The mother dog has a 25 pound bar-belle plate tied to her collar. The grass in the backyard so tall, that we heard the two pit bulls before we saw them. Flies swarm their ears and maggots crawl in their open wounds. The puppy is so weak that he falls every time he tries to get up. His furless white skinned body has created a small pit from repeatedly trying.

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The cruelty officer flips his phone. “I’m getting these dogs out of here, right now.” He dials the Vet at the shelter and calls for the emergency code.

As the truck pulls in to the shelter the dogs are transported to the waiting arms of the vet-techs. They name the puppy Duke and the mama Duchess. Naming animals makes their survival personal and half the battle is won. They hope that these two are not too far-gone to be helped.

Next day the Shelter manager and the Vet are sitting with the puppy in the yard when I walk out.

“I think we’ll have to put Duke down if he doesn’t eat.” The Vet helps the puppy to its feet but it collapses in a lump of skin and bones.

“Can we try a blood transfusion as a last resort?” The shelter manager draws back her auburn hair into a ponytail as she cups the puppy’s face with her palms.

“We don’t have a donor.” The Vet pinches his nose under his spectacles.

The shelter manager splays her arms. “What about the dog that got into a fight yesterday and is in recovery. The white and black pittie- Woodrow.”

“Well, I suppose we can try.” The Vet smiles.

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*****************

The shelter techs those clean Duke and Duchesses kennels everyday have bonded with them in the next 4 weeks. Slowly but surely they gain strength and their wounds heal.

The rescue coordinators at the shelter work overtime in finding these two dogs a rescue. They try to have mama and the puppy stay together while they learn social skills at a foster.

Finally after nearly dropping dead in hundred-degree weather, 5 weeks ago, Ms. Alix at Believe-A-Bull rescue steps up to take on the toughest task yet; Train them and then find them a loving home. She takes upon her young shoulders the task of reversing the cruelty these poor animals have faced at the hands of some humans.

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After getting a lot of care and tenderness at the shelter; Duke and Duchess now get love at Alix’s home. The grooming and cleaning; the training and playtime; the kissing and the cuddling transform them into lovable pets in two short months.

Then a family sees them for who they really are; sweet gentle souls. They get adopted and as luck would have them they are still together in the same home. Together they bring joy into a family that has been bereft of happiness due to circumstances out of their control.

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The shame that some perpetrators had put humanity through has been reversed a bit.

But this is just one story. We live these stories everyday. We get a new Duke and a new Duchess often. We do not let compassion fatigue get the better of us; we stand united as a voice for the voiceless at the Fort Worth Animal Care and Control center.

We as a society need to play our role too; one to prevent cruelty rather than fix the symptoms of it. One to teach our children compassion and love.

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And then there is my role.

I just observe and report.

You’re AXED

I got a cruelty case today that made me question my belief in humanity. It made me question my constitution as someone who witnesses cruelty to animals every single day.

It made me want to ask all humans these basic questions;

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If someone came at you with an axe, what would you do?

If someone did this to your face? What would you do?

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If you were a dog, would you love humans still?

Would you respond kindly to their touch?

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…and give kisses to the human cleaning your wounds?

What will it take for us humans to be more like animals?

To love completely?

To trust completely?

Will we always remain like this guy?

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Or will we become….their voice?

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So that the bad guy doesn’t win…

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Bad to the Bone?

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Neglect?- Of property? Of Animal?

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Abandonment?

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Was this puppy in a dangerous situation?

That is a skull and pelvic bone of another dog

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A Puppy?

-It looks fat because its belly is bloated with round-worms.

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Thirsty?

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Hungry?

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Brought to shelter?

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Did it get its first bath?

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Did it get Spayed?

Is it ready for the BIG Adoption event?

Will it find a loving home?

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Compassion fatigue??-  NOT YET.

Ignorance is Impotence- Part2- RIGHTING THE WRONGS

The abused dogs have new names-

Mama dog is called -Athena

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Puppy is called – Foo Foo Fighter (because he’s twice the fighter)

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The following day, the Vet told me he was toying with the idea of humanely euthanizing the puppy, when I saw him sitting with the two dogs in the sun. His labored breathing and lack of energy caused the Vet to crease his fore head.

I couldn’t tell him what to do directly and challenge his medical opinion- but here’s what I could do; put a doubt in his mind. “We need him for the cruelty case and any evidence the court might need. Maybe he’ll be better in a day or after another blood transfusion.”

So next morning I approached his kennel gingerly; Hoping.

I closed my eyes and faced his kennel. Then I looked.

There he was- wrapped up in a blanket and an incubator light on him. I finally let out my breath.

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Then the next day- and the next. There he was- alive, and a bit stronger each morning.

He ate some solid food.

The incubator was turned off.

Then he survived the weekend.

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Today was the court hearing. I showed up in court with a thick folder of midnight oil burnt. Pictures, reports, expert opinion, sketches, layouts, interviews with neighbors. The whole nine yards.

It took the judge less than three minutes after going through my report to issue a warrant for the owners arrest.

The coward has sent his sister to the hearing. She stood in the witness box and claimed that she had found the the dogs as strays in emaciated condition.

“If I could draw your attention to exhibits 18, 23, 27 and 32.” I pointed with my laser pointer. “There is no sign of feces in the areas where these dogs were. For weeks they have been eating their own feces as the only means of nutrition. Exhibit 48 is an X-ray of their stomach.” I tried to force my bile down again pointing to an X-ray I’ve seen a thousand times in the past 4 days. “This dense grey mass is feces.”

The sister opened her mouth but no words came out. She slumped back into her chair.

Today when I came back to Foo Foo and Athena’s kennel I was smiling. “We got him Foo Foo. We got him. He will face justice.”

Foo Foo stood up and wagged his tail. I saw a new spark in his eye today. I took some pictures to prove it.

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Maybe – just maybe. One day they will heal and know life like both of them deserved . Love and tenderness- safety and LOVE.

Every time You Go Away – You Take a Piece of Me With You.

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It never fails.

This is the set up.

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You wake up one day and decide that the little puppy you got a few years ago is not so cute anymore. You don’t want it anymore. The barking bothers you, the Vet bills are too high, pet food is too expensive, you just got laid off from work, your new girlfriend is allergic to dogs, you are thinking about having children, you are moving, your dog just bit someone and its expensive to keep him.

(I’ve heard every reason in the book)

So you decide to give it up.

You bring him down to the city shelter.

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This is the bell you ring.

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This is where you tie your dog.

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Then you kiss it and shed a tear or two (trust me you always do- because your tears wash away your guilt).

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Then you leave. You return to your life.

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THAT IS WHERE I COME IN. AND THIS IS WHAT I SEE.

The dog keeps wagging his tail and watching the door like a hawk.

He sits down and tries to do what he did when you called him a good boy.

Then he gets up and charges the door only to be yanked back by his leash.

Then he looks the other side by moves as far closer to the door as he can.

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Then he sits down and stands up a few times.

Then his tail stops wagging.

Then his shoulders slump and he lowers his head.

Then he starts trembling- uncontrollably.

Then he gets evaluated and led to a kennel.

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There he lies cowering in a corner afraid of a new place.

Then he goes to another dark kennel where other dogs bark incessantly.

Then in 72 hours, this is where he ends up- just when he was getting used to his new life and realizing that he’s been abandoned.

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Then he ends up in a garbage bag here.

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Meanwhile you are enjoying your next weekend, assuming your dog is living with a new family.

Please stop breeding/ Please stop surrendering. All shelters are full. The city requires us to take in all animals- but more surrenders lead to more Eutahnized animals.

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Ignorance is not bliss; Ignorance IS Impotence.

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“PIC to animal control.”

I bite my lip. Don’t answer it, Inder. Let some other officer take this call. Don’t fucking answer—

“Go ahead, PIC.” I withdraw my errant thumb from the radio button. –Darnit, Inder.

“Abandoned house on map-score 76X has two pit bulls in the backyard. Seems like they haven’t been fed for a very very–” He sighs. “—Just hurry, Please.”

I pull over to the side of the road. 76X is not my map-patrol area but suddenly I feel like the only one who can respond to the Public Interest Call (Police call).”

“As I pull up to a yellow house with knee high weeds in the yard and knock on the door trying to avoid the splinters, the police officer peeks around the corner.

“Oh it’s you, Inder.” He adjusts his cap. “This is bad.” He walks me around the house.

I look into the backyard and immediately look away. I take three deep breaths and look again.

A brown and white pit bull is struggling to get up. He keeps falling back into a small pit his body has dug up from trying to wiggle around in an effort to get off the ground. His tail is wagging slowly at the sight of a human. There is so much pain in his eyes and just a glimmer of hope.

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As I open the gate and rush towards him a swarm of flies settled on his bleeding ears fly away. I pull out my canvas bowl and fill it with water. He drinks it as fast as he can. His gums and tongue are white as chalk. He gaaks and throws up the first water he’s had in weeks.

I do a quick capillary refill test. I’ve counted to 1009 and his gums haven’t regained any colour yet. I say my first prayer in the week.

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He struggles to get up again. I place my arm under him and help him up. 25-30 pounds, max. My hand easily encircles his non-existent waist. His pelvis is protruding and I can clearly see one side of his ball and socket joint. Then he stands up fully and I see it—

–A wound the size if a golf ball on the side he’s been sitting on. The sharpness of the hip bones have broken through the skin on that side and it is swarming with maggots.

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His front legs almost give way and I catch him on his way down. I want to take him in the truck and feed him and get him out of the suffocating heat. But I also need to make my cruelty case water-tight. I say my second prayer of the week and apologize to him. I’m sorry on behalf of humanity that someone did this to you. I must bring that person to justice. I must take pictures of you and these filthy surroundings to be able to prosecute the person.

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That brings me to the second dog. She has two 25-pound cast iron weights tied to her collar. She’s just marginally stronger than the first dog. She’s a mama who’s had puppies recently. I say a prayer for the puppies, knowing all to well that they must’ve been sold for drug money or bait-dogs.

A few more pictures later, I load both of them in the truck and call emergency code to the Vet-staff. The entire shelter is now in Code-red mode.

As soon as the truck is put in neutral and I pull the hand-break, a team of vet-techs descends on the truck. The dogs are unloaded and taken in. The Vet rushes past me as I am dusting my uniform ordering ice and water from a vet-tech and I.V fluids from another.

I sit down on the curb and curl into a ball, finally the tears come- but only behind the aviator sun-glasses.

After my shift was over later today, I walked into the emergency clinic fully expecting the empty gurneys. But there they were, sedated to lower their blood pressure and being given their third bottle of blood.

I remember my ACO cruelty training class. When a dog’s body fat is so low that even I.V fluids are rejected, the very last hope they have is blood-transfusions.

These two dogs are on their last chance and I am sitting on a desk writing this blog and praying that I see them again tomorrow.

My gentle touch on the dog’s head before loading him and promising him to bring the person who did this to him to justice is haunting me. Too many times and too-easily do the perpetrators of evil fall through the cracks. Too many times neighbours see cruelty and look the other way. This happened over several months or years and EVERYBODY looked the other way.

Too many times humans fail these dogs. I hope I don’t fail them. I can’t…I won’t…

ROAD-MAPS OF THE SOUL- August’s tale

A human’s journey is complete when there is someone at the door to greet them when they get home. What is an animal’s journey? Some unfortunate ones struggle through the ups and down of a horrific world that we’ve created for them.

Dinggg. The amber light glowed on my cellphone screen. New text message from the Mole. I pushed the green tab. “One male black puppy. 8-10 weeks old. Rail-yard.

I gulped and quickly checked my watch. 7:47 PM. The fading sunlight in the Texas sky stopped me in my tracks. I was planning to go to the scariest part of town for picking up the puppy. A neighborhood where drugs exchange hands and possessions of guns and knives was the norm. The brutal practice of dog-fighting and killing of the weak bait-dogs was an everyday practice and this remote rail-yard provided the ideal backdrop for it.

Yet the puppy tied to the railway tracks wouldn’t make it till the morning. He was deemed too weak by the dog-fighting gang so they had tied him to the railway tracks for the train to crush him. I must get him from there tonight. I wore dark clothes and armed myself with a flashlight, a bag and a knife for protection.

I crouched low to the railway tracks and whispered, “Here, puppy puppy.” I whistled and strained to hear a sound in the darkness. My fingertips rested on the tracks and the shiny metal felt warm on my fingertips Gosh, has a train gone over these tracks recently? Is it too late?

I crawled down the tracks as they curved by the bushes and vanished from the view of the road. The beam from my flashlight danced on the broad gauge sleepers hoping I wouldn’t be spotted by the gang-members. My eyes squinted to adjust to the all-encompassing darkness.

           Aooor.I strained to listen again. Aooor.

I sprinted towards the sound. There he was; a little black puppy tied so close to the tracks that he couldn’t move more than two inches away from them. Just as expected he was a Labrador-Pit bull mix. Blood still oozed from the scar across his face. His legs had scars and his fur was matted with crusted over blood.

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“Don’t worry, little guy, you’re safe now,” I cut the rope and lifted him in the air. He was cowering and trembling but the moment I held him close to my chest, he stopped wailing.

Next morning, back at the animal shelter where I volunteer the 8 week old puppy played with the Labrador Retriever, Chevvy. He had been fed, bathed, given medicine and a new name; St. Augustine A.K.A August.

August stood up to Chevvy and teased him into playing with him. Even when he was pushed to the ground, he never backed down from a scuffle. One day when he and Chevy were playing with a tug rope. August got a little too bossy and Chevvy lost his cool, grabbing one end of the rope he flung August about six feet away. August got up, shrugged himself off and was back bothering Chevvy to ‘do it again’……

St. Augustine had boundless amounts of energy and he ran around in his small cage at breakneck speeds, the centrifugal force propelling him higher in the cage like a motorcycle in the well of death. The motorcycle gets higher and higher, the faster it goes.  It made such a horrible mess in his cage, that everyone thought he was un-adoptable.

I knew he was just burning his energy and being a rambunctious puppy. One day I caught him trying to bite his way out of the cage to try and escape, so he could play with the rest of the dogs.    It’s sad to see such a live-wire spend his puppyhood in a kennel.  August’s journey wasn’t complete yet, he needed a new home.

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Week after week of taking him to adoption events, failing to find him a home and leaving him inside a small cage every night made my heart bleed. I spent several nights staring at the ceiling, imagining his sad empty eyes behind the cold stainless steel rods, wondering if the cost August was paying for being safe at the shelter with his puppyhood was a fair one.

My friend, Navnit met him on one of her trips to Texas, fell utterly and completely in love with him and decided to give him a new home and a new name; Augustus Maximus.

A month later when I visited Navnit, August ran to the door to greet me. His tail wagged merrily and his butt shook in glee when his tongue licked my cheek. ‘All dogs are adoptable’, I thought to myself. We just need to give them a chance to succeed.

Augusts journey spanned being a lone puppy minutes away from being crushed by a locomotive engine, to finding limited joy at the animal shelter and finally an overabundance of love from Navnit.

The warm Texas breeze tousled my hair when I drove back that evening, worried about when I’d receive the next text from the Mole; my informant within the dog-fighting gang. How many more puppies can I save among the sea of cruelty all around me? A new puppy would be starting his journey soon.

August’s journey is now complete – he has found his road-map; now I need to find mine.

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RAMBO- The Fighter

“Gosh, he’s the biggest Doberman I’ve ever seen,” I turned on my camera.

“And the most handsome one too,” Cindy tore a double-quilted paper towel from the roll.

The two-year-old 32 inch tall Doberman felt his way around the new house and stumbled towards me. His burnished-copper rust coat was dry and rough, his eye crusted over by mucus secretions. He turned his head to peep from behind the infectious growth in both his eyes.

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He bent his head in front of me, nudging his head in my hand. “This is the way he greets all strangers?” I caressed his head.

“Yep.” Cindy rushed at me with the paper towel held out, “Inder, mind the snot.”

My hand snapped to my nose but Cindy was gunning for the dog’s nose.

“I’m sorry, Inder. Rambo’s infection is terrible.”

“Rambo? Did I hear you right?” I held his face in my hands. “Nobody will use the word ‘Rambo’ and ‘snot’ in the same sentence, unless it is ‘Rambo punched the snot out of the bad guys.” I laughed.

I touched his nose. The sand-paper grit texture of his nose was crusted over by dried mucus. His eye-sores, his ears, even his penis has minor secretions of mucus.

“What is wrong with him?” my voice faltered.

Cindy sighed and slumped in her chair. “These are symptoms of Ligneous Conjunctivitis. He’s been abused badly and was kept tied to a tire for two years. He has been denied food and water…” Cindys lower lip quivered. “He’s never been a puppy. He’s never had human contact, he’s…” she choked on her words.

I followed Cindy and Rambo into the yard. Cindy tucked her coffee to her neck allowing the warmth to grow into her body. “The vet is trying his best to save Rambo’s eyesight but he might have a bigger problem.”

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I shivered in the hot summer Texas sun A two year old dog that’s fighting for his eyesight is not the biggest problem for the dog?

Cindy continued, “He might have Ligneous Conjunctivitis and need plasma replacement therapy. That can be very expensive and it will fix the problem but won’t cure it. He’ll need annual treatments.”

“Does that mean he’ll be put to–”

“–That’s the worst case.” She cut me off before I could use the dreaded word. “I hope it doesn’t come to that but it isn’t looking good” Cindy wiped the fresh lot of mucus Rambo had gladly rubbed against her blue shirt. “The woman who reported him will be devastated. She spoke to the owner, secretly fed him, thought about stealing him and finally called the SPCA.”

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“Why didn’t the SPCA take him away sooner?”

Cindy squinted her eyes. “There’s more cruel people out there than you can imagine, Inder. They are overworked and under-staffed, but thank god for them; they finally got Rambo. The abuser’s previous dog wasn’t so lucky.”

I splayed my arms, “What? He’s done this before?”

“Yes. His last dog was a boxer that died of thirst.” Cindy shook her head. “But now they have him black-listed. He won’t e able to abuse again. Let’s just hope we we’re in time for Rambo.” Her peridot-green eyes softened with love she has felt for Rambo in the one week she’s been fostering him.

Rambo walked around with a toy in his mouth. That was the first toy he’d known. As a puppy he’d never played. He wasn’t sure what he should do with the toy. Cindy’s other foster Doberman, showed him how to play but Rambo was just so excited about having a toy that he didn’t want to give it up.

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Rambo’s personality had just started shaping in the past week. He was not living before- he was breathing yes, alive yes—but he never lived. He is a two year old puppy. My heart bled imagining that he might be put to sleep in another week. A three week old, two-year-old Dobie. A life truly extinguished. I asked my own departed dog Speedy to put in a good word for Rambo to Speed’s good buddy; God.

Just then the bell rang and Rambo perked up. He dropped his precious toy and actually trotted to the gate. The woman who secretly fed him and showed him the only affection he’s ever known was at the gate. She dropped to her knees and Rambo dug his body into hers. She held his head and kissed his rheumy face. She apologized to Rambo profusely and he was stuck to her like he were velcroed to her.

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Tears stream down her face and she cried for Rambo openly. The tears she had shed for him secretly for two long years were unleashed. Cindy, after having fostered several abused dogs and the ones she’s been unable to save from euthanasia lists is hardened to pain. Even she couldn’t help shed tears for Rambo.

Rambo’s fight had become personal to her.

I pulled my face out from behind my camera and wiped the lens. The scene still looked hazy. Then I felt a big fat tear trickle down my cheek.

Rambo’s fight just became mine.

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