An Urban Intervention to Make the Invisible Visible

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Ollie & Spuds – Chapter 1

There is a lane I recall, somewhere deep in dim memory.  I see it snow covered and winding and edged by black trees.  It is the way home.  I never returned there.
© 2014 Carolyn Cott

He lifts his nose to the wind and sniffs.  Something new.  With his head still resting on his paws, he opens his eyes and sees a flash of a ginger-colored cat, skinny and in pursuit of something, at the far end of the alley. red cat from free digital

Ollie climbs out from under a pile of rags and cardboard and stretches, keeping an eye on the cat.  The cat pounces and misses as the mouse leaps into a small hole in the brick wall and disappears.  The cat saunters into the one ray of sunlight angling between the tall buildings, sits down and begins washing herself.  The sun sparks on her ginger-colored fur.  Her movements are measured and deliberate.  Her eyes are slits, but she sees, she knows he is there.  She is watching.

It’s been three days now that the cat has appeared in his alley.  He thinks of it as his alley because he’s been there how long now?  Maybe two months, maybe four.  He remembers coming there.  There was snow.

The man had hunched over the steering wheel, his jaw set.  Ollie wanted to enjoy the car ride, but something was very wrong.  The kids weren’t there, although the back seat smelled vaguely of peanut butter.  The woman wasn’t there.  She had cried and stroked his fur before the man unchained him and yanked him toward the car.  The woman had whispered something to the man, who swung around toward her, his teeth clenched, saying, “No.  No.”

The man stopped the car on a deserted street.  He looked both ways before opening the back seat door, pulled Ollie out by the scruff of the neck, and sped off.

Ollie ran after the car as it moved farther and farther away, turned, and was gone.  He memorized the place where the car had turned.  It might be important.  Panting, he sat down, only then noticing the coldness of the snow.  He looked around.  The sun had just risen, casting chilly light on the faces of the buildings.  There were no people.  A tattered awning blew in the wind. A spear of an icicle crashed onto the sidewalk.

For two days Ollie ate only snow to quench his thirst, but it made him shiver.  He wandered the streets, looking for a familiar landmark and searching for food.  Then he found the alley.  It smelled of garbage and food.

Ollie tucked himself behind a stack of wooden palettes and waited.  A man in a stained apron pushed his way out a door and heaved a luscious-smelling bag into a dumpster.  When the door clanged shut behind the man, Ollie scampered up a pile of cinder blocks and bricks, dropped down into the dumpster, tore at the bag with his teeth, and ate.

He fell into a routine, wandering the streets in the night and returning to his alley in the early morning when cars and people came into the streets.  He had learned it was not good to be out when people were on the streets.  There was an afternoon when the boys chased him: chubby-cheeked, dressed in blue uniforms, with book bags dragging behind them, they ran after him pitching stones at him.  Most whistled past, but one hit.  He yelped and slowed down, and the boys laughed.  They were almost upon him when he ran again, cutting across a busy road and turning a corner to lose them.  Returning to his alley exhausted and thirsty, he went to the low depression in the concrete at the base of a downspout looking for water, where a small puddle remained.  Then he curled up into the tightest ball he could, and slept.

Ollie & Spuds…to be continued

Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/

photo by Dan courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Wink

as told by Kim Kemple Cott

winkWink came into our lives one day when my mom, Helen, was attempting to adopt a different dog than Wink.  Six months after her rescue dog, Zac the Vizsla, passed on, my mom starting looking with very specific criteria: the dog had to be a small, manageable size and had to be a rescue.

I’d been helping her search for a month by contacting local SPCAs and humane societies and by checking on www.petfinder.com (as of this writing, petfinder.com is featuring 332,076 adoptable pets from 13,476 adoption groups nationwide).  The right dog hadn’t shown up yet.

A friend suggested we try a particular rescue organization in the next county over.  I called my mom, picked her up, and we headed out there.  We got lost en route, stopped to ask for directions, were given directions to a different rescue, and got lost again.  After getting lost a third, time, we asked a police officer.  He wasn’t sure where the rescue was but said that he’d find out.  He pointed us the right way and we arrived after having wandered through much of the county.

We walked up and down the aisles, drawn by so many sweet animals.  We settled on a little brown dog and went to the front desk to provide them with the kennel cage number.  While we were waiting in line, my mom noticed a small black dog sitting in the office of one of the shelter workers.  My mom and I looked at each other, both somehow knowing: this was the dog.  My mom asked about him and was told he was up for adoption; he’d just had his eye removed the day before (kids had beaten him  and he was found lying under a front porch).  One of the shelter workers had taken a particular interest in this Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix, named him Eduardo, and cared for him personally.

As part of the shelter’s adoption process, my mom’s landlord had to be called to verify that he allowed pets.  He was unreachable.  This was a problem, because we really, really wanted to take the dog home that day.  We explained to the shelter worker that the landlord had already given verbal permission, that my mom had a previous rescue dog living there, etc.  The worker looked into my mom’s eyes, then into mine and said she’d be back shortly.  We waited anxiously.wink black and white

She came back, stacking the adoption papers into a tidy pile, saying, “Everything is in order,” and winking at us.  We smiled conspiratorially, signed the papers, picked up the pup, and headed home.

He was tentative and scared at first, but well behaved, and he bonded quickly with my mom and me.  Mom named this sweet creature Wink.  She took him everywhere to help him socialize with people and dogs.  So many people were kind to him.

One day my mom took him into a consignment shop.  The shopkeeper said, “We don’t allow animals in our store.”  Mom smiled warmly, leaned in, and said, “I know, and isn’t it so nice that you let me bring him in here.”

•   With so many good, adoptable pets available—and with an average of 1 in 4 pets in humane societies nationwide being purebreds—why not consider adoption rather than supporting the supply-demand cycle of pet breeding.

•   From the American Humane Society: It is a common myth that pet overpopulation means there are “not enough” homes for all the shelter animals. In reality, there are more than enough homes, but not enough people are choosing to adopt from a shelter. Seventeen million Americans acquire a new pet each year—more than double the number of shelter animals. Only 3.5 million people, or about 20 percent, choose to adopt their new pet. The rest choose to buy their pets from pet stores or breeders, or they choose a variety of other cheap or free sources. 

Despite increased public awareness over the past 40 years about the need to spay and neuter pets, 35 percent of pet owners in the U.S. still choose not to do so. Many among this group intentionally choose to breed their pets, either for profit or for what they mistakenly believe to be a “fun” experience. Others choose not to spay or neuter out of ignorance, believing that their pets won’t breed accidentally.

Letter from a Dog to His Person

face of a labrador ... ID-100186636Dear Dad,

I asked Mrs. P to write this note for me.

I am getting bigger and I’m wanting an elevated food and water bowl. I like to gulp down water but when I am hunched over, my stomach hurts.  I am a bigger boy now, so may I please have a “big boy” food and water station?

Also when Mrs. P walks me, she uses a leash that goes long and short (retractable).  I have so much fun with this kind of walk.  I can walk bouncy bouncy just a little bit ahead of her, and I always look back and know that she’s still there behind me.  This brings joy to my life.  Would it be possible for you to get this kind of leash?

I love my crate.  It’s my safe spot, but I’m confused about the crate pad I lie on.  I chewed on the material that covers the foam because at first I was curious about what was underneath the material, and then later because I prefer the foam by itself.  Mrs. P told me that Home Depot sells foam by itself, which can be easily replaced when it gets dirty.  I am sorry about chewing the crate pad material, again.

Last but not least, can we discuss my bathroom?  I love my bathroom but I don’t know how to clean up after myself and I sometimes step in the mess.  Would it be possible to clean it up more often?  I wish I could use the potty like you, but I prefer to drink out of it.  Mrs. P and I cleaned my bathroom today.  I really enjoyed spending time outside and helping her.  I can tell she really loves me, just like you do.

I want to thank you for all you do for me.  You are the best dad ever.  I can feel when you’re happy, troubled, sad or just plain tired.  I don’t know how I do this…it’s just “inside” me, and I know things.

I missed you and am glad you are back.  I know you would never abandon me, so when Mrs. P and I spend time together, I am comforted that I will see you soon.

Loving you unconditionally,
Charlie

Who is Mrs. P?  See www.friendsofmrsp.org
Labrador Retriever, freedigitalphotos.net, by Photokanok

It Only Takes a Moment to Feel

It only takes a moment to feel.  Just drop inside your body, and from there, perceive.  This cuts through the clutter and diversion of mind chatter and justifications, and for just those few moments, you can perceive what is without much of a filter.

What if everyone practiced this heart-based seeing to a greater or lesser extent?   Probably the world—and our treatment of people and animals—would be much kinder.  ID-100222200

Here’s one example.  The man waited in line at his favorite lunch stand on a busy city street in Philadelphia.  He noticed the stray dog, again.  He’d seen him on other days but hadn’t given the dog much thought beyond: oh well, survival of the fittest.  The rumpled-looking dog sidled up to the lunch cart, sniffing the fragrant food and looking up at the people in line, hopeful.  Like all the other passersby and people in line, the man ignored the dog.  It’s easier not to pay heed.

On this particular day, however, the man looked into the eyes of this creature and recognized something.  He broke off a corner of his sandwich and held it out for the dog, who took it gingerly from his hand.  Then he pulled out his cell phone, called directory service, and dialed the number of the local humane society.

The man sat on a nearby bench, the dog following a few respectful steps behind.  He held out another piece of his sandwich to the dog, who swallowed it without chewing then looked up at the man, expectantly.  Over the next half-hour the man gave the dog the rest of his sandwich in small pieces while checking his phone for the time and peering up and down the street.  Finally, a small white truck pulled up and parked, and a uniformed woman climbed out.  She glanced at the man, nodded to him, then crouched down and extended a treat to the dog.  As the dog took the food, the woman spoke softly to him and slipped a leash over his head.  The dog sat down at her side and looked up at her as if to say, what’s next?  The woman asked the man if he’d seen the dog there before, and thanked him for caring enough to make the phone call.  She opened the back of the truck, and the dog jumped in, happily.  Off they drove.

The man bought another sandwich, this one for himself, and as he walked away, chewing thoughtfully, he felt good.

To find the phone number of your local shelter, add in your zipcode:  http://theshelterpetproject.org/shelters

Brown stray dog courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net – tiverylucky.

Angela Bassett Hound

by Cherie Damron (co-founder of Untold Animal Stories)

718848917_c1ad164ee0A few years ago I moved back to the small town in rural NC where I grew up.  I started volunteering at the local animal shelter, photographing adoptable dogs and cats for the shelter’s Petfinder.com site and the “Pet of the Week” feature in the local paper.  I’ve always had a soft spot for seniors and animals with special needs, shy pets, and animals needing assistance.  I started a small rescue service, taking as many of the dogs as I could that weren’t likely to be put up for adoption, finding foster homes for them or working with other rescues outside of the area (usually in the northeast).

One day in May 2007, Animal Control was called to come and pick up Angela, a 6-year old female basset hound, and take her to be put down.  Her back legs had become paralyzed and she was unable to walk or urinate on her own.  Had Angela gone to the shelter, she would have been immediately euthanized (there is no “hold period” for owner surrenders of high-needs/unadoptable pets).

The Animal Control officer knew I loved hounds and called me as she was leaving Angela’s house to see if I were willing to take her.  I met the truck before it arrived at the shelter and took Angela directly to our veterinarian.  He explained the surgery that was needed, which had to be done at a specialty hospital, and left it up to me and my partner, John, to make our decision.  There was no decision to make for me, and when John looked into those big, sad basset eyes as Angela sat crumpled in the corner of the exam room, he knew we were about to embark on a very expensive, difficult mission.

Off we went to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Cary, NC.  Doc called ahead to schedule surgery to correct the two ruptured disk in her spine.  The surgery had to take place within 24 hours of injury or the likelihood of her walking again would be slim.  Angela was taken in to surgery that night.

Angela came through the surgery very well, although bloodwork revealed that she is Heartworm Positive and has antibodies for both Erlichiosis and Rocky Mtn. Spotted Fever, 2 tick-borne diseases.  I brought her home from the hospital two days later.  Angela was still unable to walk or urinate on her own at that time; however, she had no problem wagging her tail!

By Day 4 Angela was going to the bathroom on her own and there was very slight movement in each of her back legs. By Day 9 she was still unable to support her weight or walk without a sling, but there was a great deal of movement in her legs and she “pedalled” in the air as if she were walking.567079651_8e08b6735f

Exactly three weeks after surgery, Angela took a few steps on her own without the assistance of the sling.  Five days later, she was walking completely unassisted by a sling, and although slightly wobbly, she was able to stand still and support herself without swaying from side to side.

A week later Angela had a setback—she became depressed, lethargic, and stopped eating entirely.  She had a temperature of 105.5, and a full-blown case of Erlichiosis.  Four days of hospitalization, IV fluids, and antibiotics later, she was on the mend but fragile.

567089635_de0fba56ecShe came through that, completed her Heartworm treatment, and just prior to her spay surgery, Angela’s teats started growing and she began “nesting” type behavior. There was no possibility of pregnancy, as she hadn’t been in contact with any except my pets, and mine were all neutered.  Our vet suspected a “pseudo-pregnancy,” which I had never even heard of.  We went ahead with the spay surgery and the pseudo-pregnancy was confirmed.

Finally the medical procedures were done and Angela could start being a dog.  Throughout her recovery her personality blossomed.  Angela Bassett Hound has become a fun, happy lady with a huge voice and a very, very big heart.  She loves everyone she meets.  Now, 6 1/2 years after her surgery, at almost 13 years old, Angela has moved across country twice, attended Basset Tea Parties” with founders, and although she is slowing down a bit, she now loves to run and play on the beaches of Cape Cod.  I am so very grateful that I’ve had the chance to have this wonderful being in my life.2011 11 26_0270

2011 11 26_0257

The Starry Night Was My Blanket

My path here was roundabout, here being a place with space to roam and explore within a context of belonging.  Here I’ve come to know something I’d not known before: trust.  Sometimes it feels foreign, and I retreat back to my native high alertness.

I had lived on a ranch where I had a job to do: tending the livestock.  I took my job seriously and performed it with singular focus, but the time came when the cattle were moved and the people left.  I ran after their truck, sure there had been some mistake, until I could run no longer.  I returned to the empty place; knowing no other place else since puppyhood, I stayed.

There was a trickle of water at the edge of the property from which I drank.  I passed my days foraging for food.  The starry night was my blanket, the warm sun my companion, the rain my welcome, thirst-quenching friend.  And so I passed my time.

One day I saw a car coming from a distance, a cloud of dust trailing behind it.  People I didn’t know emerged from the car.  It was the woman who saw me first, pointing me out to the others then calling to me.  I approached her cautiously.

She stooped down, holding her hand out to me.  I looked into her eyes then walked to her.  She touched my forehead, my ears, my neck and spoke to me quietly.  I didn’t understand her words, but I understood her.  She placed her hand on my spiny back, each finger resting in an indent between my ribs.

They took me to their house.  I hung behind as we walked in, as I’d never before been inside a house.  A cat at the far side of the room arched his back and widened his eyes.  I looked toward the woman for reassurance, who nodded.  I moved slowly toward the cat, my head hung low to show respect.  I reached my neck forward and touched his nose with my nose.  The cat sat down and began bathing his paw.  I went back and stood beside the woman, glancing up to her to make sure I’d done the right thing.  She placed her hand gently on my head.  I closed my eyes.

These days, there is a cedar-smelling bed near the woodstove and bowls of fresh food and water for me, always.  Sometimes I walk to the far edge of the property and sit on the bluff.  From there I gaze out toward the place I used to live and back toward the place I now call home.  I almost always lay my head on my paws and, under the big sky, doze.  Later, I rise, shake myself off, and follow the familiar path home.  There, I am greeted with love, always.

•photo by untoldanimalstories.org co-founder Cherie Damron, http://cdamron.exposuremanager.com/