The Saga of a Rescued Dog: Chapter Four

22 May




The Saga of a Rescued Dog

Chapter Four: The other inmates

by L. Stewart Marsden




And I awoke, startled, hungry and afraid. It was night, and I stood on wobbly legs and slowly stepped out into the yard.

The moon was waning — yet bright enough in the sky to illumine the tall oaks that bordered the compound. I lay down in the cooling dirt and shook my head to clear the cobwebs. The conversation resurfaced slowly.


Thirty days?

What day was it?




I remember lying on the livingroom floor and watching “The Shawshank Redemption” while Mister Master droned out on the couch, snoring loudly and letting a Budweiser slip from his hand. The beer poured out onto the wood floor, and when he awoke, I was blamed for the spill, naturally.

Anyway, the movie came back to me in the animal shelter, when I realized that at the end of thirty days, whatever euthanasia was, it was going to happen to me.

My cellmates explained to me that there were only two doors to the compound. The door I had come through days earlier, that led into the front waiting area of the shelter, and the door at the end of the hallway.

That door, my mates told me, was where dogs went and never returned.

Of course, I proposed immediately that perhaps those dogs were adopted, and that there was a loading area where the adopters drove to get their new family members.

The only response I got from that idea were low-slung looks and knowing slow shakes of the head.

The chihuahua in the next cage over clucked and said I was full of rice and beans, and that everyone knew what happened when a dog was taken through the door at the end of the hall. They just didn’t know how it happened.

My new friends filled me in quickly on the dos and the don’ts of the compound. How leg-lifting on the gates was frowned upon; how loud and incessant barking wasn’t the smartest thing to do; how any kind of snarling or gnashing of teeth marked you as a bad dog — which was the quickest way to get a one-way ticket through the door.

Mangum, a slow, fat southern bloodhound, had been there the longest. He had seen dogs adopted, and dogs by-passed by the excited misters and misses and little misters that crowded together at the various doors of the cages.

You don’t want to lung up on the cage doors. That’ll excite the misters and misses, who  will fear their little pups will be bitten or scratched by you.

What do you do? I asked.

Well, you smile — as best you can. And it helps to look real sad-eyed. That gets a lot of response from the misses. And wag your tail, too. Oh — make eye contact. Be sure to do that. If you continually look away, they think you’ve got something to hide.

Mangum was probably not going to get adopted, and had resolved himself to that fact. His mister, whom he had lived with and hunted with for years, had died when the old house they lived in burned down. Mangum made a valiant attempt to save him, but the dead man’s weight was too much for the aged Mangum to drag. Firefighters found Mangum, unconscious but alive, laying near his master’s side.

I’m too old to be adopted, he wheezed. And I guess I’ve had about the best life a dog could wish for.

It made me sad to think of Mangum going through that door. He deserved better. So did we all. Except maybe Damien. But even Damien was a victim of circumstance.

Damien was a muscular Doberman. Black with brown and white markings — he exuded warrior. He had the battle scars to prove it: one ear was half bitten off, and his back leg was horribly mangled.

Damien was a gladiator. He fought other dogs. As he puts it, he was a fighter the minute his foot hit the ground, and all of his training prepared him for the pit.

I ain’t good for nuthin’ else, he growled.

He broke all of Mangum’s suggestions. He leaped viciously at his door when adopters came through. He barked and slathered (he said that slathering was a particularly intimidating tactic in the pit, because the other dog thought you were crazy) for hours on end.

The mister and the little misters carefully slid Damien’s food and water through a small opening in his cage just big enough for the bowls. They never came in to clean his cage because he would charge in from his yard before they could close the door to the yard. So they hosed his area out with him standing there like a demon dog.

That’s what they called him, too.

Only one adopter expressed interest in Damien, but the rumor came back that the adopter was also involved in dog fighting.

Damien had been “rescued” when the sheriff’s department raided the pit he was fighting in.

He told us it was a shame he wouldn’t be going out fighting.

Muffy was a dainty Shitzu — which she pronounced “she-zoo,” and the rest of us said “shit-zoo.” Many a howl over Muffy. Her story was that one day she wandered away from her yard, and a mister drove up in a van and took her.

He ripped off all of her identification, and drove forever away from her home. She thought he was going to try to sell her, but she managed to get away when he stopped for gas and left the passenger side window down.

She took the chance and leaped out, running through four lanes of traffic to escape.

Someone found her days later, and brought her to the animal shelter.

Of us all, Muffy was the most refined and queenly in her deportment. But we put up with her anyway.

At the front end of the hallway, against the wall, were the cages for small animals other than dogs. A thick-furred manx, who claimed to be two generations removed from being a bobcat, hissed from her enclosure. Like Damien, the manx was reclusive and spiteful. Plus, she was a cat.

In case you didn’t know, I hate cats. I had a bad experience with a feral cat when I was a puppy, and there is no love lost where I’m concerned. There are not enough dogs, and too many cats in the world. I’m sorry — that’s just how I feel. Live with it.

Clarence was a possum (Oh-possum, he would say) and was just plain stupid. His tail was broken when he tried to cross the road at about the pace of a slug, I’d say. And at night! A car loomed out of the dark, and Clarence was mesmerized by the headlights.

He told us he thought they were twin meteors coming out of space . . . what a dip! But the idiot had the dumb luck of being an animal the mister would nurse back to health and turn over to a local zoo. He was not going down the long hall and through the euthanasia door.

Imagine that.

And there were others in the compound — mostly whom I never got to know. Newbies came in about every other day.

Oh, the mister came through and took pictures of all of us with a Polaroid camera, and taped the picture to a piece of white cardboard on which he wrote about us. He also put numbers one through thirty on the bottom in a line, and crossed them off, one by one, for each day we stayed. That card was fastened to the front of each cage.

When he brought in potential adopters, he would go over each animal’s history. If lucky, and adopted, the adopters took the photo and the card with them.

If not adopted, and all thirty numbers got crossed off, the mister would pin the picture and bio to a cork board fastened next to the door at the end of the hallway. It was a large cork board, and there were a lot of photos and bios pinned to it.

The saddest day in the compound was when the mister entered and walked slowly down to Mangum’s cage. It was no surprise to Mangum — he knew the day was coming. The day before he asked the dog in the cage opposite his what numbers were still left on his card that weren’t crossed off.

None, came the reply.

The mister was extremely sad, and he walked to Mangum’s cage with his head bowed. Mangum sat ready on the other side of the door, also with bowed head.

The mister didn’t even leash Mangum, but opened the cage door, and out Mangum stepped. Then the two slowly walked to the door at the end of the hall, Mangum’s picture and bio in the mister’s hand.

The two went through the door, and about an hour later, the mister emerged without our friend. The mister’s face was streaked with tears, and he turned and pinned Mangum’s picture and bio on the cork board, then quickly walked out of the compound and through the front door, letting it close by itself.

Hey, I said to the dog in the cage across the aisle from mine. What numbers are still left on my card that haven’t been crossed off?

He squinted and looked, then lowered his head and said something.

What? I can’t hear you, I said.

Six. Six days have not been marked off.


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