You Won’t Remember Me

She was living in the thick underbrush near the riverbank, skinny and scrounging for food among the garbage left by weekday fishermen and many others.  A frayed and faded collar betrayed her last owner, proof of abandonment, possibly discarded for lack of puppies or a soft disposition, making her unsuitable for crueler purposes.  It happens a lot in this city.

You never know what to expect when you go to rescue a dog. I’ve had them run up to me and jump in my truck; others I’ve watch in heartbreak as they collapse on the ground at my feet, belly up, crying and waiting, expecting my human hands to hurt them.  Some have been out too long and cannot be caught without a trap, their feral nature having taken over, but they all have the same empty pleading look in their eyes, fear and hope sown together.  We call this the dance, you wait to see what works and each dog is different.

The dog was wary, not willing to leave the tall grass, but we were patient and soon she let us come to her and within minutes we were scratching behind her ears as we clipped the leash on her collar and walked her away.  We called her Marigold.

The plea went out and a group in Austin stepped up to foster her if we could get her there. I agreed to take her home and drive her the next morning. After a short walk and investigation of her new surroundings, I settled her in for the night on a bed in a crate with fresh water and good food and sat down next to her. Apparently, that was her cue to edge closer, and then a little closer until finally she was in my lap, all 40 pittie pounds of her. We sat like that until my legs were numb and the hour was late, and I told her it was time to sleep and that I would see her in the morning.  She cocked her head at me, got up from my lap, entered the crate, turned around twice and then curled on her bed.  I left some treats by her crate, turned out the light and as I left her, she whined just once and then she was silent.

The next morning after a walk and breakfast, I go to load her crate and I find my husband with her, his big hands cradling her face, telling her she’s going to be okay and to be a good girl.  She seems to understand. I would have liked to leave her loose in the truck, but I’ve learned from experience that you never know how a dog is going to respond in transport, some sleep the entire way and others are jumpy and active, so for their safety, I use a crate.  The night before I had left the crate door open in her room so she would be used to it and feel safe for the trip and sure enough, she didn’t mind at all when I put her back in the crate in the truck. As I closed the crate door, I asked if she was ready and she replied with that odd little sound pitties make when they answer you.  She was ready.

The drive from Houston to Austin is a nice one once you get out of the city, it’s mostly rural highway as the roads are quiet and traffic is light and you have time to think as you pass the small farms and towns with names like Giddings, Elgin and Manor. As I drove I wondered about Marigold, where she came from and where she was going, I didn’t know the young woman named Kate that was meeting me, but others that I trusted knew her and had worked with her rescue group before, so I felt certain she would be in good hands, but even so I worried, we always worry. She was going straight to the vet as soon as I dropped her off and then to her new foster home.  I was glad she had a place to go, she was lucky, many like her are killed in shelters for being born a pit bull.

We arrived in Austin a little early so I backed the truck into a spot and sat with her while we waited. She wasn’t afraid, she trusted me completely and I felt the bond of her trust knot inside of me. It’s hard to let them go and I told her so as we sat there together in the back of the truck with the door up, watching it rain. I told her that she was going to be happy and that she would learn about couches, toys and dog parks. I said that she wouldn’t remember me, that it was okay, she wouldn’t need to, but I promised to remember her. When I was done, she put her paw on my leg and licked my chin with her eyes closed, this big sweet girl I’d known for less than 24 hours.

Before long, I was loading her into another car and being assured that she would be fine, that her foster mom was good and kind and couldn’t wait to see her. I gathered her bed and the red blanket from the crate and handed it to Kate who smiled as I explained that it was bought for Marigold and I wanted her to take something of her own into her new life, she understood and took them from me. I reached inside the car and gave Marigold one last pat on the head, closed the door and they were gone, my part in her life was done.

I walked back to my truck and as I was closing the back door I noticed something in bottom corner of the crate, I opened it, moved the other blanket and saw the treats I had given her the night before, uneaten, but tucked carefully and intentionally for safekeeping beneath her bed. She had buried her treasures.  Had I known, I would have sent them with her, but she was gone, and I knew she wouldn’t miss them, she had many treats in her future. It was enough to know that she had felt love in a handful of treats.  

Standing in that parking lot in the rain, 3 hours from home, I recognized grace in the guise of a 40-pound pittie. I released my fears and let her go.  I left her treasures where they were, climbed in my truck and headed east; it would be dark when I crossed over the river, dark on the road leading me home.

Copyright 2020, itsa5doglife.com Rhonda Alford Owens

THIS ALTERING, THIS LEARNING TO WALK AGAIN

The warm light inches up her body, drawing the dew from her coat.  She closes her eyes to the frequent rush of stale air and grit, there in the gravel and blood at the edge of the highway.

For a while she had lingered unseen, dozing in the deep grass where they left her, paws and muzzle facing the concrete ramp, watching for their return, waking occasionally to forage the air for familiar scents. Memories come to her in senses, smells of soiled dirt and puppies, the rough bottom of a bowl against her tongue, a metal weight tying her to earth.  As day falls away to shadow, a stirring mingles with the emptiness in her belly, urging her to leave the open space before the dark catches up.

Morning brings reprieve from the lonely night, her first without the curled-up comfort of pups and other dogs. She creeps out of hiding and makes her way back to the ramp, raising her brown nose to the wind searching for the smell of them.  Buried instincts tap at her brain: eat when you can, conserve energy, mask your scent, stay hidden; she obeys and follows her stomach to the rotting bags of garbage.

Camouflaged in the foliage of the tree line, she watches the truck leave before lumbering toward the food mounded on the dimpled concrete. She eats quickly and returns to the dugout hole beneath the hull of an old fishing boat.  Drowsy and full she naps, curled around herself in the soft dirt, sleeping away the restless daylight hours.  The sun ebbs, brackish drafts carry sounds of fishermen calling out to one another as they prepare to leave and she is tempted to follow their voices to the smell of fresh fish, but predators are stirring; she burrows deeper in the makeshift den.

The night air along the river is thick and sweet with decay and danger, roiling in waves off the swamp. Faint faraway rustling catches her ears and she freezes as the excited stench and musk drifts closer.  The hair on her back stands up.  In terror she flees the boat, bounding across the turnaround road over broken glass and debris, adrenaline spurring her up the ramp to the noise and blinding lights.  Disoriented, she pauses at the entrance to the roadway, turns left to the oncoming traffic; the world goes dark.

The sun is higher now as she tries to raise her head, pain rebuking the movement. She shivers, willing the benevolent blackness’ return.

A shadow falls across her and unseen hands caress her head and thin broken body.  She feels herself lift from the pavement, crushed and exposed bones grinding and screaming as she’s laid in the truck.

Through the fog she sees nothing, the pain has taken her senses.  She presses closer to the blood-soaked comfort embracing her and her body goes slack and cold, veiling itself in shock.

Nausea scolds her awakening, a haze of white and silver, murmured voices and acrid odors assault her. Through slit eyes she considers a face, but her eyelids are too heavy; she
sleeps.

An unnatural numbness and imbalance confound her efforts to stand.  Dizzy and shaking, she sinks to the cold floor.

This bed is soft and deep, she smells a faintly familiar human.  Someone sits beside her, rubbing her head and offering cheese. She likes the cheese.

It is difficult, this altering, this learning to walk again. She hops, once, twice, and goes down.
Looking back to the woman for encouragement, she wags her tail and wrenches forward again, slow and awkward towards the patch of sunlight she covets a few steps away.  Exhausted, she finally makes it and slumps to the soft sweet grass, rolling to her side, the warmth blankets her body.  She sighs, closes her golden eyes and bathes in the healing light.

UPDATE:  Sandy was a small pittie left to fend for herself beneath a freeway next to the San Jacinto River.  She was spotted by a local rescuer who was providing food until a rescue could be arranged.  Unfortunately, Sandy was hit by a car and discovered the next day with a compound fracture and many cuts and bruises. The vet was unable to save her leg and Sandy lost one of her back legs, but after she healed, she learned to walk and then run again with the help of her fosters.  This sweet girl was adopted by a loving family in Michigan and is living a wonderful life and has left all her pain and tragedy in the past. 

Copyright 2020 Rhonda Alford Owens