Monday, December 7, 2009

The responsibilities of an animal owner

My morning got off to an emotional start, after I left my apartment I went to Head Start to get my hours sheet signed. As I was driving down Front St. on the way to Burlington, I saw a dog loose with a broken coated wire dragging beside her. As I watched several cars inch past the dog, trying not to hit her but also not try and do anything about the situation, I decided to pull over.

 As I pulled over I put my window down and said, "Puppppppy" in that voice you can only talk to an animal with. Immediately the dog's ears perked up and she came right over to my car, though she was still shy and nervous - head down, tail between her legs etc - her hind end was shaking like she was wagging her tail in excitement. She came all the way over and I pet her for a solid two minutes while talking to her, and clearly she was starving for attention. I picked up the end of the broken wire line, and began to walk towards the neighbors house whose property she was on when I first saw her.

I have only ever found a dog once before, and it was in Westfield, so the dog was in perfect health, was relaxed and friendly, and the first person I talked to was the owner. I hoped for the same luck for my new found friend. Instead, when the neighbor whose doorbell I rang opened the door, a grumpy man in his sixties stuck his head out through the door. He told me that he didn't recognize the dog, but it didn't belong to any of the neighbors he knew.

He pointed to a run down house on a small hill across the street and said she might belong to them. He mentioned that he nor any of his neighbors will associate with them in any way, and that he doesn't blame the dog for chewing through its wire leash to get away. I joked about taking the adorable pup home, but thats just unrealistic. While she was skinny and I could feel her ribs, she didn't seem like she was in that terrible of a situation.

As I began walking across the street and up the driveway I was met by a large skinny white dog that started barking his head off at my presence. Since I couldn't walk onto the porch as the dog looked mildly dangerous, I assumed the dog would alert the woman to my presence, as he did seem to be a guard dog. The woman who came off the porch didn't touch the white dog. But asked about the dog I had. I asked if she was hers, she confirmed, and took the dog off my hands. We spoke for a few minutes, and I was talking about what a sweet dog she had.

 After all the dog had stolen my heart when while talking to the other neighbor, sat on her back legs and put both paws on my legs looking up into my eyes with a look that said "I just want to be loved on". It was a look I saw hundreds of times from my chocolate lab Maggie who passed away the summer before my senior year of high school. Maggie used to do that trick for a treat, but later in life simply did it to be loved on.

As I walked away from the house, and down the hill towards my car, I turned to see the woman I had just handed this beautiful creature off to, begin scolding the dog with low harsh words and short swift knocks to the head with her hand. In this part of the country though, there seems to be nothing you can say to a person in this situation. As I have learned from my month with Sticky, owners will treat their animals how they choose to treat their animals, and there is really no changing it. My heart broke as I realized that I just put the dog back in an abusive home, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to change that. While I realize you can't just take someone's dog, it almost seems like it would have been a better decision. Even the neighbor thought so before I went to the owner's house. Never before this gorgeous creature, have I ever felt like I have done so wrong by an animal. Its like after all these things that I have been preaching through my trials and tribulations with Sticky, I have failed one of these poor creatures too dependent to care for themselves.

Though I spent the car ride to the barn in tears, the yellow pony had no sympathy for me. Being the small crazy she is, it took me 30 minutes to catch her. Despite all her success yesterday, we were off to a rough start. Once Grayson came out to help me catch her, I was able to bring her inside and get her tacked up.

Our riding routine was same as yesterday, but I put the cross rail up two holes on either side. There is no reason why she should learn to drag her feet through a jump rather than making an effort to get over it.

I decided that on Thursday I'm going to have Jim Bob come out so that he can see her improvement before taking her home for the winter (if thats what he chooses to do). I think that in the next seven days I will be able to solidify the two most important things enough for there to be some remembrance of them if I get her back in the spring. I want her to w/t/c quietly, and I'd like her to jump a bit more as well.

On emotional days like today, I think about the fact that despite my passionate love of animals, my heart feels empty with no beast to call my own. And on days like today, when I have to realize that I can't hold myself responsible to all the creatures in the world, I think of my old mare Vanna. In the eight short months I had her she taught me more about life and responsibility that I could previously comprehend. We epitomized teamwork, and were so perfect for each other that it got to an extent that made her unsalable. Looking back, I know I failed her too, as I wasn't able to hold out to find the best possible home with four years of boarding school looming ahead of me. By nothing more than dumb luck, I found her after an excruciating four years, and she is sitting in a field that I can drive by when I get a chance. Not all creatures are so lucky, but then again, not all people are lucky enough to have a bond like the one I had with that gorgeous mare - the only horse I have ever be privileged enough to call my own.

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