This morning a woman and her alleged daughter showed up to return the dog I had found on my dirt road as an abandoned pet. I had gotten her a few shots to boost her image with possible takers and this person had replied to my ad with enthusiasm. The agreement was, just in case this dog got to its trial home and turned out to be defective (despite the vet having examined it beforehand), she could return it rather than pay to have it put down. And if she decided not to claim it anyway, I would accept it back to handle matters from there.
I received several e-mails about how Lucky had been renamed (to Birdie – ew), was loving her new home and by the end of the month, her new owner went to the court house and got the dog licensed. In other words, she decided to keep the dog – meanwhile, my family confronted me and explained that I could never again disrupt their lives by allowing a stray dog onto the property. It had traumatized our house pets and upset my family members with mental disabilities who are hard enough to handle under normal circumstances, to put it shortly.
A few weeks later, however, Lucky’s owner turned around and said that the dog wasn’t making her happy anymore and that she needed directions to my house again. The dog had urinated indoors several times which would not be tolerated.
“They won’t accept it from me because I’m the owner,” she reasoned.
Her shelter wasn’t accepting animals, either, due to an outbreak of parvo. So, with a heavy heart I accepted some papers from the little girl on my doorstep. The woman offered very few words and promptly returned to her vehicle. I would have to take the animal in to the shelter myself. I didn’t realize at the time that she was talking about the same shelter I was about to visit, nor did I know yet that it would turn out to be one rough afternoon.
Refused by the shelter, we made the sad drive to animal control where I told the lady that I had found the dog the day before – a lie even though I knew she had actually been licensed. I didn’t want to bother with any more technicalities and having invested well over a hundred dollars on a dog that came right back to square one, I wanted to get it over with. I was no hero and would probably not save the world one life at a time, after all.
The woman behind the desk said, “That lady said that you might try to pull this. So when did you really find the dog?” and whipped out copies of my vet bill for Lucky’s rabies shot. I was stunned.
“She really said that?” I asked.
“Yep. And that’s about all she said, too.”
“The way I see it, you’ve taken the dog to the vet before. You’re the owner. In fact, you might have been the one who dropped her off to begin with,” the working officer accused. “Our policy does not allow us to accept an animal that has an owner.” He and the woman continued to refer to the vet’s receipt where I had written that someone had been reviewed and that Lucky had found an owner.
“This isn’t my dog, Sir! I never got it licensed and the photocopied paper you’re looking at says that I let this woman take her in hopes of adoption. This paper was to have her rabies vaccination info transferred without any hassles. It was also so I wouldn’t be badgered by them to finish up her shots because I would no longer be fostering her – a fact that they said was understood. Look – I did everything I could to improve her chance of adoption and it did no good. I’m not in a situation where I have permission to bring this dog home. If you don’t take her, I may as well put her back where I found her.”
“If you do that, we’ll charge you with abuse,” he reasoned. He went on and on about policy and how I was now the owner due to an agreement with the woman who filed for Lucky’s license. But I challenged this fact because the entire reason for agreeing to take her back was in the case of her deciding not to accept responsibility – which she went and legally claimed.
You can’t just decide to get a license and then decide, however far down the road you are, that you want to bring the dog back…. can you? This was the question I continued to ask the pair behind the desk, which went ignored. All they cared about was their lovely policies and not having to deal with the loud-mouthed redhead before them.
“Miss, if you don’t lower your voice I’ll have you escorted out,” he said, having taken a phone call in front of me, in the middle of our conversation.
“Can’t you see that I’ve done more than any average person would have done for a stray? I went out and bought food, accepted it into our home, and paid for some shots that weren’t cheap!” I tried one more time, repeating myself to no success.
“Exactly. That’s what its owner does,” he snapped.
He went on to talk about how some parents can’t afford to keep their children and how it’s not his problem. Apparently, yelling back with “I’m not saying anything having to do with people or trying to relate matters to any other affair” upset him and he repeated that he wanted me out of his building.
With no idea where to go, I kept asking them what the next legal step was. They could not understand that their answer “admit your ownership and take care of your dog” was bonkers.
“I understand your policy, Sir, that’s fine and good. But I have a situation and I need to know where to go from here. I don’t believe that I’m forced to take care of this dog and I don’t appreciate getting talked to like a degenerate. That woman claimed custody, so am I supposed to tell her that she either finds a home for this dog or faces legal charges? Not that I would go that route but I need to know the facts before I know what can be done and who is allowed to do it.”
He quizzed me on why, if I wasn’t the owner, had I taken the dog to the vet. He asked me why, if I believed the dog didn’t belong to me, had I not stopped the lady from driving away.
“Because I was trying to be the better person! I figured she couldn’t bring herself to go to animal control but apparently she came here, anyway!” was responded to by the officer, who answered that a police car would be on its way to get me out of his sight. It felt like an interrogation when all I wanted to know was what the state of Michigan would have to say on official ownership and where I could take the dog that it would be accepted and not instantly put down.
“I tried to save you guys from having another animal on your hands and this is how you address me? Our last stray was hit by a car and I wanted to help this one,” I offered in one last attempt to break through their shield of rock. “It’s a terrible thing to have abandoned the animal and I wish its owner would have taken care of things.”
“It looks like no one has done the right thing, have they?” she asked me, angrily photocopying the dog’s license info upon a nearly rejected request to do so. The sigh she had let loose when she realized she might have to do something for me didn’t bother me as much as the fact that she had just insulted my efforts. I didn’t know whether to hate her for being cruel or to sympathize with her for having such a terrible job. Perhaps putting so many animals to sleep had robbed her of certain emotions.
I’d gone and screened a few people to get the ideal living situation for Lucky while a woman several streets up from me had put her daughter’s dog in a cage and displayed it at a yard sale – free to anybody, like a used microwave – and had better luck than I did.
“All we can do is put her down,” Desk Lady explained. “You sign that you agreed to it as the owner and I’ll do it.”
I thought… Yeah. Sign a dog named “Lucky”’s death certificate. I don’t think so.
“If you sign this as permission to have her put down immediately, I’ll take her,” the woman concluded. Clearly it was the only fact I would be getting out of this pair (well, that and the fact that they wanted me to take my problem and disappear). I needed advice from someone besides the disgruntled woman or the man in brown with badges, so I asked if it would be possible to bring a matter like this to the sheriff.
“He’s not in.” *silence*
“Then who would be next?”
“The man under the sheriff. He’s not available, either.” *silence*
“You keep asking questions – you come in here with all these questions – what exactly do you want to know? I’ll answer one more question and then you need to leave” was the last thing the officer would say to me before I let them know that I was going to the police for help.
The woman happily gave me directions to the middle of my hometown. Such amazing people at our animal control office – really. Someone give them a certificate for being the meanest, most miserly couple I’ve ever had to talk to in my entire life. That’s pretty impressive.
The building behind the courthouse was full of people with their own problems but everyone listened as I tried to sum up the matter from behind a see-through wall. Having been unable to find a parking spot in the shade, I brought Lucky into the waiting room as she was greeted with compliments from everyone and even given a water dish. It felt good to hear other adults’ understanding of the ordeal and I received the kind words I needed in order to remain calm and continue. Certainly this cute, loving pup had another option besides death. Within minutes a man greeted me and was willing to hear Lucky’s story from the beginning – or at least from after the first year or so of her life when she found herself kicked to our ditches.
Rather than a lecture for being in the wrong, I got nods from someone who agreed that I’d become stuck in the middle. I let him know that I was deeply hurt and insulted by the tone that was used at animal control, to which he closed his eyes and smiled, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
And instead of telling me what couldn’t be done or what charges I would be faced with if I did this or that, he simply collected some numbers to different shelters and let me know that they’d accept her without a problem.
“Now why couldn’t I have gotten that info back there?” I asked. He didn’t really know – in fact he’d had to phone where I’d previously been just to get the contact information for me.
Just then, a woman walked around the corner and admitted to having fallen in love with the pup from the moment she’d trotted in. She said she would be happy to save Lucky from shelter life and that her husband would be happy with a beagle/foxhound mix. We exchanged numbers and someone else mentioned that she was almost about to suggest something similar! Having Lucky present had allowed her to steal a few hearts and she came through after I couldn’t. The day’s events ended on a very hopeful note.
This ordeal has been quite stressful. My dad asked if I understood, now, why he has always taken the abandoned animals to the shelter as soon as possible. And I had to agree that I could no longer be upset at him for those years growing up when a puppy would wander into the front yard and have to leave. I tried to help and got told that I would be fined and possibly jailed for being unsuccessful.
I wanted to be able to wrap this up with some kind of optimistic lesson that it is, indeed, possible to right wrongs and save puppies from doom. But in reality we know that usually isn’t true – there will always be people dumping off animals like trash and those who will threaten and shame you after you’ve done everything in your power to correct that.
Many people in important positions are complete and total assholes. This was not a new lesson to me, but a good refresher course. I did learn that the right person can be found where you least expected them to be…
And that Lucky is very, very lucky.
Also – Reverend, I got your package. It means a lot to me, to have a good comic to sit down to after the day I just had. Thank you.