To Feed A Dog: Part One

To trespass, or not to trespass?

Sugar used to deliver the mail on a rural route in little Hardlyville.  It’s hard to be a rural carrier.

It’s a stressful job.  There’s the stress associated with the job, then there’s the outside stress.  Cold, heat, dust, rain, bad roads, angry customers, crazy people, car trouble, flat tires, you name it.

Then there’s the animals.

Dead animals on the road, wounded wild animals, litters of kittens and puppies, dogs tied up as watchdogs, dogs penned up, starving strays, cat populations out of control.

And while he’s delivering the mail, his animals are at home on the furniture in a climate-controlled environment, waiting for their specialty dinners.

Once, a particular case was weighing heavy on his mind, and he told me about it.

There was a certain house, a ramshackle trailer set back under the trees, that had dogs tied in the yard. He hadn’t seen anyone at the house in several days, and he noted that the location of the overturned bowls had stayed the same.

So he made a plan.  We would go on a Sunday morning, when fewer people would be out and about, and feed and water these dogs.

*****

We pulled up mid-morning into the driveway.  I had never seen this place before, and I was disgusted and depressed at the appearance.  The house and grounds were surrounded by junk.  Not just trash, but junk. Old furniture, car parts, household items, wood and bits of lumber, boat parts, appliances, all ruined and decaying.  The smell of moldering metal, wood, and fabric hung in the air.

We were pretty nervous.  After all, we would be trespassing if we were caught, although it didn’t appear that anyone lived here.  But what if someone drove up?  We knew that animal control wouldn’t be out on the weekend, but could we still get in trouble for being good Samaritans?  Probably.  I said that I wouldn’t take any photos to document that we had been here.

There was a dog tied at each of the two front corners of the property.  A small, flimsy wood structure consisting of 4 thin posts and a little roof, lay overturned by one dog.  The 2nd dog had a 55 gallon barrel on its side.  The first dog was a sweet hound who let us pet her.  The second dog was an enthusiastic pit mix who leaped great bounds to try to get to us.  We had to be careful to put the food and water bowls just far enough for her to get to them; otherwise, she’d knock them about with all her leaping and dragging the chain.

There was a third dog at the back corner on the right.  He barked a bit, but was glad to get the food and water.

Sugar went on around the house to the far back left corner.  He hustled back to say that something was wrong with the dog, and I hurried back with him.

Imagine that you are tied by a heavy chain to an old boat anchor.  Now imagine that you have circled around and around that boat anchor until you have made a trench in the soft soil.  The chain has become twisted over and over, and so has shortened almost as short as it can go.  And imagine that you are having some kind of inexplicable neurological issue that causes you to lose control of your limbs in a loopy, slow-motion fashion, and you can begin to understand what was happening to this dog.

I’d never seen anything like it.  The dog would stand completely normally, and then slowly his eyes would widen in fear as he anticipated the next episode, and then he would begin another tumble, once even rolling backwards in a somersalt.

This was to only be the beginning.

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