The two boys approached me with a glint in their eyes that told me they hoped my answer was "no." They were pleased when I heard their question and returned to them, "No, that's not my dog."
I didn't own the stray dog.
The youngest of the duo, I'm guessing 9 years old, had tears in his eyes, but was suddenly wiping them and smiling. He knelt to the ground in my driveway extending his hand as his brother, 12 or 13, bent over trying to hold a rambunctious little dog. "Good boy," he said, petting him behind the ears.
The stray was a male, probably 6 months old. He was black with white splotches on his chest, top of his head and paws. Big ole paws. The boys gave him the appropriate name, "Patches."
His eyes were so light blue they were nearly white and he looked blind. As rhythmically as he jumped around, twisting his head and pounding the ground with his paws, I would have called him "Ray Charles." He was obviously happy and in good health, which made me wonder how sorely he must be missed.
Ends up, he wasn't so missed.
Another family in my neighborhood kept the puppy with them for three days, each evening making efforts to find the owner in house-to-house search. Calls to the area's animal shelters and humane society never uncovered a missing pup, nor did the cute picture displayed in local convenient stores with a phone number to call.
The two boys took on the responsibility of finding the owner but quickly became more attached to the dog than the task at hand. The longer it took to find his home the more he became a part of their family. Unfortunately, but understandably, their parents said he couldn't stay. They weren't suited for a pet just yet, which isn't to say they couldn't have one in the future, just not now.
That afternoon my stomach ached watching the boys play with the puppy one last day before taking him to an animal shelter.
After dinner I stepped outside for a walk and ran into the boys. I told them that I'd be happy to take him off their hands if they didn't want to send him away. I told them I already had two dogs, but I'd take him to the local humane society where he'll be well looked after. I reassured them that the dog was so cute he'd surely get adopted right away, especially being a puppy.
I took in the puppy that night, despite having two older dogs of my own. With some strategic maneuvering I rotated my dogs to the bedroom as he came in to sniff around. I moved him to the spare bathroom as my dogs were let outside to go to the potty, then returned my dogs to the bedroom as the puppy was escorted outside for the night and introduced to an unfamiliar doghouse.
When I let my dogs out of the bedroom they went completely nuts over the strange new scents and ended up leaving snot and slobber marks all over my floor and furniture. After a good 10 minutes it looked like it had sleeted in my living room.
The next morning, after a good meal, I took the puppy to the humane society. I couldn't help but feel a bit sad turning him over, but it was only fair that he be given a chance for a home where he'd receive more attention and not have to vie for attention between two older dogs.
Everything went well. I provided the necessary information and staff reassured me that they'd search doubly hard for the owners. As long as he was missing I figured maybe finding new owners wouldn't be a bad idea.
Before leaving the shelter I noticed two more dogs brought in, although they weren't strays. The dogs brought in were dogs adopted from the shelter earlier but "didn't fit right with the owners."
One owner's ex-pet didn't like cats. Another's ex-pet was hyper. Both of these excuses were annotated in the adoption papers.
All of the preceding events made me think of how animals' lives pertain to the human race. The similarities are uncanny, though some of the treatment should be reevaluated.
First of all, the lost puppy and the pictures displayed on convenient store windows. Do people look at these? Even if you have no vested interest in finding a lost animal, especially when it isn't yours, don't you think it deserves a glance?
In human terms, it reminds me of the Missing Persons bulletin at the front entrance to big stores like Wal-Mart. Who stops to take a peek? I've stopped a few times and can't believe the missing people from places I've been or lived. Where did they go? Couldn't one person out of the thousand passing by maybe know something?
Secondly, my dogs making a fuss over a strange new dog reminded me of what humans do with change - freak. Granted, there isn't slobber and wet noses rubbing up and down upholstery, there are forms of confusion, anger, insecurity and jealousy. If you don't believe me, introduce your significant other to that friend of the opposite sex you never talk about because you know it will create questions. Hire another worker for the same position as a veteran employee and watch them squirm.
Lastly, adoption means taking in another life. It means accepting or working through change. Returning a dog because it doesn't like cats? Give it time. Invest some effort into training, or concern for that matter. When the dog returns to the shelter another negative mark is added to their chart and then chances of another adoption decrease further.
I know animals aren't people, but if people treated them as if they were perhaps there wouldn't be so many euthanized each year. Then again, how can I compare the two when we continue to fight in ludicrous wars?
The comparisons and contrasts are a reach, yes, I know. But there's something to be said about looking at the small things in life and setting them beside the big picture. I think if we fail to do so, then well, we're simply chasing our tails.