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The Red Dog

 

This is a Red Dog, but not The Red Dog (and this is not my picture of a Norfolk Terrier)

This is a Red Dog, but not The Red Dog (and this is not my picture of a Norfolk Terrier)

            The first time I saw Red Dog, about three years ago, Cricket and I were walking up the hill on our regular route around the neighborhood. We rounded the corner and there was a dog in the leaves at the side of the road. She looked like some kind of terrier and she was the same color as the autumn leaves around her, that orangey, reddish brown, and hard to see. But then Cricket noticed her and started to leap frog towards her. She does this. Instead of her pull-like-ox move, she hops forward in hopes of outsmarting the leash.

            The little red dog crossed the street, so we did too. She wandered around on the side street, sniffing all of the hot spots, letting Cricket know where they were. I couldn’t leave, knowing she was in the street with no leash and cars on the way, so we stayed with her. Eventually, she climbed up a lawn and stood on a small concrete slab at the front door, like she owned it. Cricket and I walked up to the lawn and knocked on the door. A sleepy face eventually came to the door and I asked if this little dog lived here. The woman stepped back, and the little red dog ran inside. And then the door shut.

            The next time we saw the little red dog, it was about a month later and getting chilly. She was missing a lot of hair down her back, and from a distance, I could see black dots on her skin. It was only when I got up close that I could see that the black dots were moving.

            My immediate reaction was revulsion, and I pulled Cricket away from her. Cricket had fleas once when she was a puppy. She was two months old and I was giving her a bath and found these things that looked like black sesame seeds stuck in her hair. I freaked out and obsessively cleaned and medicated her and combed and combed and combed.

This is not Red Dog either, but, ouch! (also not my picture)

This is not Red Dog either, but, ouch! (also not my picture)

            But Red Dog had been colonized. She had cities of fleas. I couldn’t understand how a human could live in a house with a dog that thoroughly inhabited by fleas. Fleas jump.

            I wanted to take her home and dunk her in a flea bath and wrap her in a soft towel and comb and soothe and ice and do whatever necessary to make her feel better.

            But more pressing was the fact that she was standing in the middle of the street and not following Cricket to safety at the side of the road, and there was a car coming straight at her. I screamed. It was one of those out of body screams where you look around to see where the noise came from. Finally the scream brought someone out of the house.

            Red Dog’s mom was disheveled and wearing pajamas and she asked why I’d screamed. I pointed to Red Dog, who was now safely on the side of the street, sniffing at Cricket. And, when I got my words back, I told her about the car.

            No real reaction. It was as if her emotions were blunted. She came down the lawn and picked up Red Dog, fleas and all, and watched as her other dog ran out of the house, without a leash, or even a collar. He was a black haired, medium sized dog, maybe fifty or sixty pounds. And the woman called him Jack, yelling at him to stay out of the street. Jack was missing hair too. I realized I’d seen him around the neighborhood, even further away from the house than Red Dog.

I mentioned the fleas and the woman smiled and said, “I know,” and shrugged. She eventually got both dogs back in the house and Cricket and I went along on our walk, but I couldn’t stop obsessing. The woman had cuddled Red Dog. She didn’t seem abusive or mean, but her dogs were sick with flea juice. I wanted to go home and get a box of Frontline and leave it in her mailbox, but I was afraid she wouldn’t use it or she’d be insulted and firebomb my house.

            I called my mother at work and asked for advice, because I couldn’t sit still and I was fantasizing about running back and stealing Red Dog. Mom asked her coworkers and they suggested I call the ASPCA which led me to the local no kill animal shelter in my town. The woman I spoke to from the shelter was just as upset as I was when I described Red Dog’s hair loss and standing in the street. She said they’d had previous complaints at that address and they would look into it again. She didn’t make me feel like I was interfering or making too much of it, but she also didn’t give me much reason to hope that they could help Red Dog.

            I wanted to be a super hero but I didn’t know how to do it.

            I didn’t see Red Dog for a long time after I made the call for help. I hoped, but did not believe, that they had been able to make a difference. Eventually, I did see her again, at least a year later. She had most of her hair back, but she was still outside by herself with out a collar or a leash, running into the street. As we got closer, her person came out of the house to get her, so that was progress, at least.

            I walk by her house regularly but rarely see her. I hope that means she’s doing well and her fence is working.

            The Red Dog situation, and the deep pull to save her, is what, eventually, led to adopting Butterfly. I learned, from Red Dog and others along the way, that I really didn’t need to know a dog from puppyhood to love her. In fact, my ability to love a dog seems to blossom in the first few seconds and is very hard to shake.

My Butterfly, with her Duckie

My Butterfly, with her Duckie

Butterfly, with her own adoptive family

Butterfly, with her own adoptive family

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

64 responses »

  1. During my years as a groomer, it was very difficult when clients would bring in their dogs infested with fleas…I would spend hours on these dogs removing the fleas, flea “dirt” which is dried blood and spiffing them up only to have them return to a flea-infested house. I would try in vain to talk to the owners about their home situation…finally I had to come to peace with the fact that at least once every few weeks, the owners cared enough to bring these little dogs to me and they had a few hours reprieve from those awful fleas. I honestly don’t know how people can tolerate their home being infested, as fleas bite humans as well!

    Reply
    • That blows my mind! People can be such contradictions, to bring the dog to a professional groomer, and yet not spring for the flea meds? Sometimes I wonder if people just think fleas are a normal part of dog life, and it doesn’t occur to them that it can be fixed. Humans, the eternal mystery.

      Reply
  2. I feel your pain,i have stopped and put dogs in my car more times than i can count,then rung the shelter and had them picked up,i dread dogs off lead roaming the street,most have been well loved but somehow got out,some were flea riddled which broke my heart,i voluntered at this shelter so i knew they would be safe and sound and re homed if owners never showed up.The only time w have had fleas was on foster kittens i have had and thy got them from their mums,we treated them and that would be it apart from those times we have never had fleas…ever on any of the cats or dogs.And yes i fall in love with the personality behind the pet which has no time or age factor.

    Reply
    • Cricket and I have found a lot of loose dogs on our travels over the years, but most of them had tags and were just out for a joy run. Just yesterday, a dog jumped over the back fence to visit. He was a sweetheart with amber eyes and not a flea in sight. That’s why Red Dog was such a shock for me. I’d gotten used to all of the lucky dogs, and forgot about the ones who weren’t so lucky.

      Reply
      • Really breaks your spirit sometimes,people just don;t get it ….i feel for the ones we don’t know about but thats why i adore my dogs and cats and sheep…i know they are loved and safe and i treasure the time we have together as it ends too soon 😦

  3. lovely post I was in tears but glad red dog got the help it need

    Reply
  4. I feel with you, it’s so sad to see dogs who haven’t a good home. I makes me angry if I see people who do nothing for her dogs or cats. The flea thingy is very annoying too. Easy became a “flea-hotel” once as he played with sheeps… what a mess :o)

    Reply
  5. lisatenzindolma

    Poor Red Dog! It’s so sad to see dogs who are deprived of the most basic care and consideration. I hope she’s doing okay now. Lucky Butterfly to have you!

    Reply
  6. I know how you feel. As a home care nurse I see living environments not fit for animals much less humans. Maybe Red Dog will follow your scent back to your home.

    Reply
  7. Here, in the desert Southwest, there are no fleas or ticks!

    Reply
  8. I love this story. I hope for the best for Red Dog.

    Reply
  9. A very sad tale being repeated throughout the world 😦 Our latest kitten arrived with an infestation – and they do bite humans! Sorted pronto.

    Reply
  10. It’s a sad story but well-written and I’m glad I read it…Thank you for sharing this personal memory

    Reply
  11. I hope Red Dog’s owner shaped up and figured out how to do the right thing for her dogs. Or, if she was struggling with issues in her own life, that she got the help she needed so that she could then care for those precious lives that depend on her.

    At least you cared enough to try and help. So many people would have walked away and done nothing at all. You did the most you could do in this particular situation. Plus, it led to your beautiful Butterfly coming home to you and Cricket! You might not know if Red Dog or Jack got a happy ending out of things, but at least you know Butterfly did. 🙂

    Reply
    • I love happy endings, and Butterfly and Cricket are thriving together, and I love that. But I wish I could have helped Red Dog and her brother. Hopefully they did get the hep they needed, from somewhere.

      Reply
  12. I hate fleas. It’s a constant battle here in Florida. If the animal is neglected and the fleas become bad enough, the animal can suffer from flea anemia. It can be especially bad in kittens.

    Reply
  13. Pingback: Day 21 OF April blog Love Challenge | Linda's New Garden & Wildlife Journey

  14. That story made me ill too…the worry…the reality of helplessness…That poor little angel…hope, it’s what brings us peace about Red Dog…we have to have hope!!!! Thank you for caring about that little red tater!!!! Butterfly, you are truly one adorable pup!!!!

    Reply
  15. I live in a rural area where sadly some folks believe that dogs are meant to live outsde at all times. In winter, when the overnight temperatures fall well below zero and the wind chill makes it even more frigid, I have been known to call the spca and police in order to have dogs taken inside before ears or other extremities are frozen. It`s a small thing but at least I can make sure the pups I see are taken care of for one night.

    Reply
  16. Good for you, for saying something! It’s takes courage to speak up and say one’s mind like that! It’s so important that we stick up for the ones who cannot speak – hopefully, it helped that woman gain a little more empathy her pets. Maybe we’ll never know, but who are we if we don’t try?

    Reply
  17. Hi Rachel

    I was faced with a similar issue a few years back. Neighbors were keeping a pittie in a crate that was too small. I just called a pitt bull rescue organization and after a few days, I never saw the dog again. I don’t know exactly what happened, and when I called the rescue organization again I couldn’t get any information about that specific dog. It’s a hard call to make. I have a hard time with stories like this, I can’t stand the thought of an animal suffering needlessly.

    Reply
    • But you have to make the call, right? It would be nice to believe that someone else will fix it, and it would be wonderful to find out that my call was unnecessary because so many other calls were made. But we’re not quite there yet. Wouldn’t it be great if we were?

      Reply
      • Yes, we have to make the call. Like you, I wish so many people would make the call where people mistreating their pets would just start doing the right thing by their pets so they wouldn’t have to deal with the calls. It was one of the more difficult blogs to read and unfortunately, necessary. Good job.

  18. Thanks for checking out my blog! Cricket and Butterfly look like lovely dogs and they are so lucky to have a caring mom like you! I wish all pets could have such a loving home.

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  19. On too many of our walks we have come upon loose dogs. Fortunately, they have all been well-cared for and have had ID tags that have allowed us to return them to their owners. What really gets to my human mommy, though, is that not a single owner has seemed genuinely appreciative about having their dog brought home to them. They’re just sort of like, “Oh, yeh, he got out.” No thanks or anything. I know for a fact that a) my mommy would be hysterical if she lost me for even a minute and b) she would literally hug the person returning me so hard that it would take their breath away. It’s just hard to understand how all dog parents can’t feel the same way you and my mommy feel about your pups.

    Reply
    • I’ve had some really good experiences returning dogs to grateful owners, thank God. Just this weekend a dog named Finnegan jumped over the back fence into our yard and when his owner was called, she came right over, crying and hugging her baby. I love being able to help someone like that. i especially love that Finnegan trusted me to hold his collar until mommy came.

      Reply
  20. One of the hardest things I have experienced being a fur mom was wanting to save all of the kids. All we can do is try…good for you for giving it a shot. Poor red dog 😦

    Reply
  21. Um. I almost started crying. If you ever get any updates on Red Dog, I think you need to share them with us. Like, immediately.

    Does it make it happier or sadder to think, “At least Red Dog knows you care about him”?

    Reply
    • I’m not sure. I think, if I were Red Dog, I’d want the flea meds AND the devotion, and daily walks and chicken treats and play time. But I’m a glutton. Cricket thinks she’s being neglected when she doesn’t get to eat directly from the human plates for dinner, and actually has to wait until the food is put in her bowl. She can’t relate to red Dog’s problems. Thank God.

      Reply
  22. Chancy and Mumsy

    It breaks my heart when I see dogs that are flea infested or has mange. There is only so much we can do though and you did very well doing what you could to help that dog. I hope Red Dog is getting better care now.. Hugs and nose kisses

    Reply
  23. Your compassion and love came through this story. It’s one of warmth and true caring for animals. You are so right in that we don’t have to adopt our animals as puppies. They need our love at all ages.

    Reply
  24. Hi, I’ve nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award. If time allows, please find your link and the rules at http://livingwithmyancestors.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/my-very-first-blog-award/

    Reply
  25. I cringe at the very thought of a dog suffering. I have reported people for not taking care of their dogs. I know one person that left their dog outside all day with no shelter. I called the Animal Control office, and they were fined because of it. A few days later that dog had a doghouse in the yard.

    I wish people that don’t want to properly care for a dog would just not get dogs.

    Reply
    • That’s great, though! That animal control was able to make a difference! I watch the animal cops shows on animal planet, sometimes, and it’s such a relief to see them following through and saving dogs who need their help. the awful episodes are when they get there too late.

      Reply
  26. Just wanted to say hello … I enjoyed the above story.

    huckfinn76.com

    Reply
  27. Thank you for liking my poem “Give me the Dogs”. I shared this on facebook (I don’t have any friends that don’t like dogs) In fact, most of my friends belong to the group on facebook that is called Australian Terrier International. Terriers are our favorites and even though I don’t have an Aussie at the moment a terrier is a terrier is a terrier….

    Reply
  28. Poor Red Dog and Jack. I really hope their living situation improves. I’m such a softy when it comes to animals. All of my pets, except for one have been rescues. My husband and I have decided if we ever win the lottery we are setting up a foundation so that the shelters in our area can remain no-kill and the animals will always be taken care of properly.

    Reply
    • That would be a great thing to do. I used to watch a show called “Dogtown” about a huge no kill shelter in Utah and I kept wishing I could just go and live there and walk the dogs every day.

      Reply
  29. You make a furtastic difference in the world. Good on you.

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  30. It is rather evident that you possess a kind and loving soul. Butterfly looks absolutely content amongst her ‘friends.’ : )

    Take care,
    Paul

    Reply
  31. You are brave to write about this topic. We should all love and care for our pets in every way.

    Reply

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