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.
“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.
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.