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.

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STEREOtyping !!

Humans label things.

Aggressive, Pre-dosposed to fight, Dangerous-dog.

We take one look at an animal to deem its future. Even as the people responsible for educating people against stereotyping we become the first perpetrators of it.

If we aren’t their voices; what right do we have to take actions on their behalf?

Why do we assume the right of being judge, jury and executioner without being fair and biased?

This Rottweiler was marked aggressive because he went after an Animal Control Officer who had just entered it’s yard.

Imagine what goes through the head of a dog who has been kept to protect the owners territory when a person shows up in a yard dressed like this.

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Huge sunglasses to cover their eyes. A cap to cover their face. A big dog-pole in their hand. Wearing a uniform that some dogs recognize.

The dog attacks- and then backs off. All dogs do this; they always back off because they are COWARDS.

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So he gets put on the Euthanasia list but someone calls to adopt him last minute and he gets pulled off the list. Then they are told he is aggressive  (by us) and they back off, so he’s back on the E-list. Then by the weirdest stroke of luck we run out of blue juice to put him down because he’s a staggering 120 Lbs. and now is the last one on the list.

Lucky you would say; well then you can say it again.

So next morning he’s on the list again- but the rescue group has worked all night to find him a foster already, so he gets pulled off the list for a 3rd time in 24 hours.

Now you can call him a Lucky Bastard.

Because two days later- This is his new home and his new life. Filled with joy and love.

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Then we have Ryder. Abandoned at a house by the owner.

He’s been without food and water for a few weeks. So when the police show up to get him, he charges them. What do you expect from a very very high energy dog that hasn’t eaten for days and is still guarding his territory.

But the way our society works is this- Once the law enforcement labels him as aggressive – he is deemed aggressive and has lost his chance at life.

We all STEREOtype- It’s only when it happens to us that we get angry.

When we are called Black, Brown, Cheap, Flirts,Callous, Hardened, White-trash, Rednecks etc etc we get angry. Only when the shoe is on the other paw we stop caring.

So Ryder was on the E-list.

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So I found him a place and pulled him.

So everybody at the shelter called me crazy. Even my friends doubted Ryder.

But I had faith and a lot of hope.

So this is Ryder today.

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We need to be their voice. We need to allow for some of their screw ups; just like errant kids do sometimes.

We don’t send our children to the gallows every-time they fight or say something nasty.

Then why would we STEREOtype against these poor dogs who don’t even understand the implications of their actions.

Why can’t we just be more tolerant and FAIRER.

Dogs are Cowards.

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“What is your first name?” The motel owner pointed to my name tag while playing with her dark yellow gold ear-ring.

“Inder. How long have the dogs been in the room, madam?” I jotted the details on my note-pad.

“I recognised your Kada. You’re a sikh.” She pointed at my iron bangle representing one of the 5 symbols of my religion.

I raised my eyebrows.

“5 days- he abandoned them 5 days ago.”

“Have you given them any water? Food?” I took down information of the renter.

“No sir, I’ve always been very scared of dogs. They bite.”

I thought to myself- so do most of us humans. They bite when they are scared or hurt. We bite because we like to play games.

“Our workers are very scared to even open the door.” She did the indian nod.

Gosh. Not a drop of water for 5 days and no food. I slid the card in the slot and entered the room. The brindle pitiful charged at me and then stopped.

Dogs are cowards.

Yes. Dogs are the biggest cowards in the world. They will achieve their goal using the minimum required force. They fake you out with their aggression and test its effect and then they wait. If you don’t flinch- they back off.

Always.

It never fails.

He recedes back on the bed where he has shredded newspapers, peed and pooped and made a royal mess. But its we, the humans who messed up their lives.

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I sit on the chair and turn on the TV.

The dog stops barking. Thats when I see the other black dog cowering under a sink. He’s protecting her. He comes toward me, unsure but calm now.

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The motel owner and his wife are staring wide-eyed through the window of the room.

I put some water in front of the dog. His tail starts wagging but he is unsure of drinking. I put water in front of the dog under the sink and she drinks right away. I caress her face. The brindle male starts drinking too.

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In less than 5 minutes, I’m their new best friend. They are licking my face.

In the next ten minutes they are on my truck and when I take his picture he makes this absolutely angelic face which says. I didn’t do anything back there. It wasn’t me.

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They are now at the shelter- in the same kennel. That’s the least I could do for them- to ensure they don’t feel even more abandoned; separated from each other.

So starts another vigil to find them a home- and this time hopefully together. The dogs don’t stop coming. The cruelty and abandonment and callousness never ceases to hurt my heart.

We humans are cowards too.

I was a coward for the longest time. Shutting my eyes to the plight of these animals.

I’m just trying my best to face up to the cruelty this world has inflicted on these animals now.

Just trying to NOT be a coward anymore.

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Had a ball once- NOT HAVING A BALL NOW.

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“I love a tennis ball- There; I said it.”

The soft fluorescent fuzz on the ball helps me grip it as I snap in in the air. The dirt and grime from weeks and the nastiest smells are all trapped within the short wiry hair on the surface.

A joy- A total–

“–What the heck? I just got trapped inside these tennis courts. Someone locked the gate and now I can’t get out. The other dogs always told me that my love for the tennis ball will get me in trouble one day. Uggggghhhh.”

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The Animal Control Officer (ACO) in the blue uniform shows up and put me on the back of his truck. He pets my head and promises that I will be OK at the dog-pound. There’s my other fault- I am gullible. The animal control officer makes a verbal contract with me that I will be better off inside than as a stray.

I believe him. I always believe everybody- what can I say. I’m an animal.

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Humans invented time. From that time they allocated some time for me. 72 Hours is what I was given. I have no idea how much time that it and how many times will the sun come out before my time runs out.

All I know is that I am inside a kennel, I don’t see the sun come out. All I see is the inside of a dark kennel and hear other dogs barking, begging to be let go all day. Then they give up when the humans leave.

Then one day when they lifted the partition between my kennel and the next one as they do while the humans clean, I met Tiki Tiki.

She told me she was abandoned and had a million fleas on her. The same ACO had picked her up and promised her a good life in a real home. She was scared of everything. She’d never known affection so I shared my love with her. I told her stories about humans who care, about tennis balls those bounce, about families who take their dogs on vacations. I consoled her till she trusted me.

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Then one day they lifted the partition and there was another dog there.

Tiki was gone. My best friend.

My ONLY friend.

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The ACO was true to his word. He found Tiki a home- but I was left alone- all by myself.

Now he visits me everyday and takes me for a walk- he promises me while petting my head that one day I will find a real home too. He calls me Ol’ blue eyes and has named me ‘Sinatra’.

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As time goes on, I see other dogs come and go. I stay here and wait- I hold my end of the bargain I made with the ACO and be patient and a good boy.

He tells me he will post me on Facebook and somebody would wan’t me.

But I wait.

And I wait.

I’m holding my end of the contract I made with the ACO; will he hold his end up?

And maybe I can have a BALL OF A TIME too.

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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.

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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Deer Crossing ; Dweeb Uncrossing

Snip20150615_1“Madam, did you make a report about a deer hit by a car.”

An old woman peeks from behind the door. “Yes, Officer. There is a deer hit on this road every other day. This is the fifth one this week.”

“Well, after all we are building houses in the country and inhabiting their space.” I suppress a yawn.

“No, No officer. This is a busy county road intersection now. Maybe Animal Control should move that deer crossing sign to a less busy intersection.”

Did I hear her right? 

I tug on my earlobe. “Madam, did I hear you right? Did you ask me to move the sign?”

“Yes, if the deer cross where there aren’t too many cars, they won’t get hit.”

I spin on my heel and walk straight back to my truck. I really really really shouldn’t laugh at a citizens face- but just for this ONE TIME- can I?

Rabies Prevention- Homeless Style

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A homeless man was bitten by a dog today and was reported at a shelter. I had to rush to the hospital because once the man left the hospital it would be impossible to get a hold of him.

I was doing double the speed limit, worried that I might be late. When I showed up at the hospital the nurse pointed me to a man propped up against a wall

“Sir, can you show me where the dog bit you?” I asked.

“What?”

“The dog, Sir. Where did it bite you?”

“I…You…Who are you, maaen?” He tried to focus his gaze on me.

“Animal Control.” I flashed my badge in his face but his eyes stared behind my head.

“I thought I was in a human hospital, maaaaen. Why there be animals here?”

I took a deep breath. “Sir.Were you bit by a dog today? All bites are reported to Animal Control by state law. It’s Rabies prevention.”

“Babies prevention? I always wear protection when I do them Ho’s.”

“R…Rabies. We get them from a dog-bite.” I showed him by bent fingers in a claw.

“Yes, Yes. The dog- Yes. The sucker got me good.” He thrust his arm in my face.

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I stared at his red skin and squinted to find the hint of a puncture wound or a scratch.

“There is no wound here.”

“Don’t know. It must’ve healed.” He waved me off.

As I walked out the room, shaking my head over the 3 hours I’d never get back in my life, the nurse called me.

She pointed at a stash of about 6 coats on the rack. “He was wearing all those at one time. The dog did bit him- but it never got to his skin.”

Now that’s rabies prevention you can take to the bank.

Of Mice and Horsemen

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I press the button on the radio, “Six-O in pursuit of two horses.”

There is dead silence on the line while I put my truck into park and grab my lasso.

Some static on the line is followed by, “Did you say horses on the street? I thought your were 10-7 to pick up a trapped Opposum from the local prison”

“10-4. Just saw them running loose less than 1/2 a mile from the freeway.” I kick open the door and rush toward them.

“I’m sending another officer to your location.” My supervisors voice crackles on the airwaves.

I am joined by 3 citizens in two trucks in a  car in chasing these horses. We corner them- but as I draw near them twirling my lasso by my side I remind myself of what I learned in Animal Control classes all those years ago. A horse’s defense mechanism is -flight. They will run away when scared.

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So they escape and we chase them. Another officer shows up to help me but overtime I draw near they run away. I get on top of the platform behind his truck and we chase them around the block. The lasso I’m twirling over my head makes me feel like a cowboy.

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Our task is to keep them away from the freeway and tire them by making them run in circles. 20 minutes later they are sweating from every pore. They give up. The owner corals them back and I issue a citation to a VERY IRATE woman who reminds me of my race and how she pays my salary. At no point is she thankful for us saving her horses.

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Then I head to the state prison, where the guards escort me to the trap where an opossum has been baited by a rat.

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The stench of the decaying mouse competes with the molded cheese smell of the inmates. Prisoners remind me of my race again when I walk back holding up the trap like a trophy. The mafia movie references of rats and animals are not lost amongst the howls and whistles and occasional comments about my ass.

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For someone who has never seen a razor-wire, been reminded of their race, been hit-upon by someone of the same sex or dealt with an irate horsewoman, I’ve had two unique experiences in less than an hour.

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Whatever else this job has in store for me– I think I’m ready for it.

All in a Day’s Work

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How often do you have a day where the first call you get in the morning is that of an injured goose.

You google How to catch a goose?

Why of-course; Grab it by the neck.

You take a Goose back and bandage it’s wing. Then you wait for a rescue group to pick it up.

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Just when you’re feeling good about yourself, you get a call of a Puppy that’s been beaten by young boys.

You get there and the puppy is bleeding from his anus. You wrap him in a towel and pick him up. Concerned citizens are judging the kids for being cruel- but you know in your deepest worries that this puppy has Parvo…and he just blew up today.

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You are carrying him in your arms in the shelter and he lets out a stream of vomit from his mouth and a stream of blood from his rectum. Before you know it you are covered in blood and drool.

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You are now CONTAMINATED. You can’t be in the shelter because Parvo is lethal and spreads quickly. So you are ready to dash out the door. But wait… A vet tech grabs you by the arm. “You have to euthanize the puppy first.”

You freeze. “What? Me? but… but… Its a…I’ve never–”

They thrust a bottle of Euthasol in your hand and a few syringes and tranquilizer in your shirt pocket. All without touching the blood or vomit.

If you’ve never smelled PARVOVIRUS… you are a lucky human. Nothing smelly more deathly than that.

So with blood and grime and drool and vomit and some tears on your body… You pet the puppy’s head to give it love and then plunge the needle to kill it.

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Your heart is detached from your body. Your senses are drowning your adrenaline.

Then you drive off– scared to tackle the next day… but hopeful of saving one more goose– or a raccoon or a puppy or a turtle or a horse.

Game-Set-Match.

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