We are in the middle of a record-breaking summer draught. The news from Weather Channel warns that pets and livestock need plenty of water and shade to make it through the day. I leave water out side in bowls for my multiple rescued wild cats and turn the air conditioner down a little cooler for my Cocker Spaniel. Assuring myself all is well, I hike to the store and see a German Sheppard pup tied to a shade tree beside a brilliant blue kids swimming pool. It seems like a perfect pet friendly scene. The neatly repaired ranch style house behind the dog seems to belong to a caring family. But as I get closer to the walk before the house, the pup seems stressed as he pulls against his chain. His shrill bark seems as if calling for help. The pool is empty and from the dry green mold stain on the bottom of it, as well as the upturned water bowl with no sign of moisture on the soil, this pup has been without a cool drink a long time. I listen for sounds within the house and it seems empty. After a quick hike to the store, I return home, fill a pail with water and drive it sloshing in the back seat to the German Sheppard pup. As I haul the pail to him, he looks at me with “YES!” in his eyes, and drinks. Here is where I am torn. Any family can have a bad day when waking up late is the priority of getting the children ready, dropped off at school, and making it on time to work. Pets can be unintentionally forgotten in times of human anxiety. I made it a point to keep track of the dog and his care through daily check ups. What I did not realize is so had half the town, who on seeing this stunning black German Sheppard lying in his own poop with out water or food, was beginning to send threatening notes to his owners.
During rain storms I can’t sleep thinking about the dog and wonder if he is howling in the storm to deaf ears. I begin to notice he is never in the house, his pool never filled, nor his bowl with water. I make up my mind to meet his owners and at least offer them a dog house. With a smile and goods intentions I walk up the sidewalk past the pup, scratch his ears, and approach the door. A young man opens cautiously to me, “Yes?”
“Hi, I’m your neighbor and in love with your beautiful dog. He really needs shelter and I have a spare dog house. Would you take it?” I see a young woman with a baby who looks back at me with daggers. I have over stepped my boundaries and my voice sounds scolding to me. The young man looks back at her, “Honey?” She shrugs her shoulders impatiently and its clear the answer is no in her body language. He obeys her silent communication.
“We bring our dog in on bad days and really don’t need a dog house.” he says. At this point I lose my calm.
“No you don’t. I have been bringing water because he never has any, and he is always outside.” The young man’s face turns crimson and he turns nervously towards his wife. Had she been telling him a different story? And now I know that she is inside the house watching me as I bring water to the dog.
“Yeah, well thanks.” he says, and closes the door. After that day the dog disappears. I pray that he is safe and happy inside the house now, but on a walk a month later I see the Sheppard tied to an old back yard shed, so thin his hip bones and spine can be seen. He doesn’t bark as he has a shock collar on, and now when he sees me walk towards him he is afraid and growling. I throw a giant bone to him from the alley. Nervously, head down, ears back and fur bristled he nervously grabs the bone and runs to the shed. The next day he is chained in front of the house like the old days.
I have learned a lesson from all of this. My way of speaking to this couple had been unacceptable. I had treated them, unconsciously, as if they were bad people and to punish me, they had acted out through the very dog I tried to help. I make attempts to speak softer, and listen to the couple. In the process we have grown to use the dog as our conversation focus, who looks happily between our faces as we speak, and now trusts me. Why is it we can be patient for the bad behaviour of animals, and train them, but not treat the people in our lives who need our reinforcement? From civil and caring communication I have become like a visiting aunt and their dog is an active family member more often. Everyone wins. I found out the young man had served in armed forces. I told his wife how much their magnificent dog represented Sheppards that risked their lives in battle fields and the police force. I am allowed to walk the dog now. Most of all I have learned the valuable lesson that communication makes in negative pet situations. Though this does not always happen, and there are genuine cases of neglect that can’t be fixed, try kind communication first before angry self riotous words..