The second night at about 11pm I heard mournful, high-pitched, yipping and howling. The kids and I went down to the trap with a flashlight and found a tiny, black puppy huddled there. We opened the door and he was so scared he didn't move. Gracie crawled in and pulled him out and we brought him onto our porch. Ranin and Gracie curled up with him on the porch couch for an hour or so while I thought about what to do. He was such a little guy - about five pounds - so we decided to let him spend the night. We brought the large, plastic dog kennel in from the barn that we bought for Bogey when we first got him. All the vets and dog books say that dogs love their kennel -- it's their den. Frankly I think it's bull pucky. We put Bogey in that thing in our kitchen and endured two nights of barking and howling. We couldn't take losing any more sleep so we moved him into our bedroom, where he's slept happily every night for the last two years. The $50 crate has been relegated to the garage ever since.
Anyway, we brought the little fella into the kitchen. He seemed half starved so we shaved off little bits of canned dog food into a bowl which he bolted down ravenously. Upon more careful examination we found that he was crawling with vermin. Gracie bathed him in baby shampoo which removed about one tenth of the dirt and crawly things. But the kids were in love. They named him Milton. Ranin got a sleeping bag and readied himself to sleep on the kitchen floor. We said goodnight.
About two in the morning I got up and found Milton making a little poo under the kitchen table which I cleaned up, thinking, oh no, we have a new baby in the house.
In the morning, Ranin was fried with exhaustion. I called the vet to find out how much it would cost to clean the puppy up, deworm him and give him an initial shot. Meanwhile, Peter and I discussed him at length and decided we weren't ready to adopt another dog. After a few phone calls we actually found a friend who was looking for a dog for their family and they agreed to adopt him. By 2 pm that very day, Milton had his first doctor visit and a new home and a new name. (Can you believe they didn't like the name, Milton?)
The next day I looked out my front window and I saw an old hunting dog that looked like Pluto's grandmother, eating bird seed I had sprinkled on the ground. I went outside and she loped up to me humbly, crying forlornly, shivering and wheezing. No collar or identification on her anywhere. It was about 20 degrees outside. I invited her into the kitchen and fed her a can of dog food. We made a big fuss over her and she shivered and wheezed some more, stuck her head in the garbage can and tried to put her paws on the table. She was starved and ancient, with ground down teeth and her graying body covered with little cuts and scars. She looked like a war dog.
We invited her into the living room and she hoisted her old bones onto the couch and basically slept there for 2 days and nights straight. She got up two or three times to go outside and pee and then came back shivering and crying. Sometimes she woke up in the middle of the night howling and shaking. Peter and I concluded that she was too sick for us to take on, sweet though she was. I called the dog warden who by now is becoming a good family friend. When the old girl saw his truck she trotted up to him and put her paws on the bumper and whimpered. He said that she used to be a hunting dog and thought she was going hunting when she saw the truck with the cage on the back. There is something positively heartbreaking about the straight-ahead, innocent loyalty of dogs. Poor old thing probably lived her whole life trying to please her master. You could just sense it. As the warden drove away with her he said, "Ya'll better get used to this, stray dogs come through here all year long."
I don't know if I'll feed every dog that happens by, but I'll probably try. I'm lighting candles for extra help from St. Francis.
Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.