My wife and I are suckers for dogs. We have two, and although they are suffering the confusion and neglect that goes along with watching two human children grow up in their house, we love our dogs to pieces. This love extends to all dogs, really. As long as they aren’t complete assholes, which happens from time to time.
It’s a good thing we are such suckers for dogs, because the lost and needy ones tend to find us. Our oldest and admittedly most beloved dog, Maizie, found us, as I’ve written about before. Molly, our smaller and much more…shall we say…special dog, we found at a rescue and were drawn to her playfulness, even though she was prone to eating all of the cat food in sight. These are our dogs, and we rescued them both. We know that two is our limit. We couldn’t handle more than that.
And it’s a good thing we’ve defined this limit for ourselves, because over the past decade or so, my wife and I have rescued a lot of dogs. Probably twenty-five or so. And they all made it back to their original homes.
We are the types of people who will see a dog wandering around and get automatically concerned. If one is roaming our neighborhood, I will try to coax it over so I can figure out if it has a tag or not. Usually, the coaxing involves some sort of treat, and my process is perhaps too good, as I’ve rescued a dog that lives the next street over three times now. It’s gotten to the point where I believe the dog runs away just to get a Beggin’ Strip from me, knowing I will return him safe and sound right afterward.
My wife and I have stopped what we were doing just to get stray dogs back to their homes. If a stray dog with a collar had shown up next to the limo on our wedding day, we probably would have made the driver stop and let the dog inside before taking the long route to the reception, making everyone wait until we got the poor lost soul back home.
It’s not as though we have anything against cats, mind you. I love cats. Some of my favorite people have been cats (cat people know that that statement makes sense). But, my wife is not a great fan of cats, as one might have had a direct hand in the breaking up of our first engagement (another story for another time, RIP Miles the cat), and she also is allergic (though I’m suspicious that she willed herself the allergy, somehow). But even if we were absolute cat people, I doubt we’d do much to rescue them. That’s not to be cruel, it’s just the difference between cats and dogs. When I look out the front window of my house and see a dog crossing the street without anyone nearby, I think “Oh no, a lost dog!” But if I look out my front window and see a cat crossing the street, I just think “Oh, there’s a cat.” I don’t even look for an owner, because who in the hell walks a cat? People just “own” cats but let them run around outside. When there’s an outdoor cat, it’s more of a sponsorship than ownership. The “owner” feeds the cat and hopefully gets them to the vet when needed. Technically, I could “own” as many cats as I wanted, as long as I let them all run around freely. In fact, come to think of it, the fact that there are so many cats stuck in animal rescues is particularly tragic. I could go there right now, adopt fifteen cats, bring them home, let them out of the car, and then feel proud that I rescued so many. It would help with our mole problem…I must ponder this. Hmm…
But back to dogs. My wife and I are the rescue king and queen, as far as anyone we know goes. You know, aside from the people we know who actually foster dogs and volunteer at shelters. Alright, we’re the king and queen of random rescues. If your dog is lost and we find it, your dog is coming back home. Guaranteed. Unless my wife uses her mind control powers to convince you to bring the dog back and give it to us (Seriously, my wife is scary).
Which brings us to the reason for writing this entry. The one rescue that didn’t go so well. My wife and I were living in a duplex in Fairlawn, Ohio, and we got in the car to go shopping or something. About a half mile from our house, we see a dog step into the road. Naturally, we stop what we’re doing and get out of the car.
The first thing we noticed was that the dog didn’t seem well. It’s head was tilted to one side. At first, it seemed like the dog was just questioning everything I was saying to it with that natural, judgmental head tilt that dogs do.
But upon closer inspection, we realized that the dog’s head just wasn’t on straight. We checked out the dog, concerned that it had been injured by another car or something that would make its head all wonky, but the dog seemed perfectly healthy. So, we walked it around door to door for a few minutes, but no one seemed to be home. As those first few minutes passed, it seemed that the dog had no home nearby, and the dog’s behavior seemed to support the fact that this was a dog with special needs. It wasn’t walking straight, and it just kept looking strangely and blankly at us with its wonky head. So, we put the dog in the back seat of the car and took off for the vet.
The dog had a collar on, but the only thing on that collar was a license number. As this was a year or two before we had smartphones, we called the animal control center and asked them to look up the number. It was a registered dog, but the license had expired. However, there was still an address attached to the number. That address was across town, at least six or seven miles away. How did this dog get that far?
We drove to the address, and my wife tried to offer the dog food and water, but it wasn’t taking any. It wasn’t panting, nor did it seem to be in any distress. There was no way this dog had walked this far, was there? With its blank stare and wonky head, the task seemed impossible. Nevertheless, we trudged on, calling the dog “Tilt” the entire way (we name every dog we find if it doesn’t have a name on the collar. The names are usually based off of the dog’s worst trait, such as “Slobbers” or “Boner.” Hence, this one was named “Tilt.”).
We pulled into the home we hoped was Tilt’s and rang the bell. The owner was home, but had no idea whose dog that was. We asked about the previous owners, and the woman said she’d lived in that house for nearly five years, so she really didn’t know where they went, and she didn’t remember them having a dog.
Crap. This was going to be tough.
We packed Tilt back into the back seat and made our way directly to the vet. We tried petting him and feeding him some more, but he just kept staring at us, judging. Or thinking of nothing at all. We weren’t sure at all if there were too many burnt out bulbs in Tilt’s brain at this point. It was a great concern, because if we didn’t find his owner, we considered keeping him around until we found who he belonged to. That was how committed we were to finding homes for our rescues.
Finally, we made it to the vet, waited with the blank-headed dog, and got him scanned for a microchip. Bingo. He had one. We would solve this mystery in no time and be on our way to chalking up another fantastic, wonderful rescue. The vet had an address, but no phone number. That was fine for us, as we had already tooled around town once based on a single address. The vet handed over the the address and wished us luck. We walked out of the vet with Tilt, happy to be getting him home.
Back in the car, we checked out the address. The vet was also able to get a name for the dog. His real name was Hunter, and he lived…
At the townhouse right where we found the dog. Literally right in front. If there were a single house to guess at first when trying to find the dog’s home, it would’ve been this address, because it was the closest.
I looked at my wife with a little bit of horror.
“Did…did we just steal a dog?”
“I…uh, we just kinda borrowed him for the afternoon.”
“So…we stole this dog, then?”
“Yup. We just stole a dog.”
Of course, we went right to Tilt’s real home and returned him. It was on that trip that I realized that the look Tilt had been giving us the entire time was of pure, victimized confusion. To our credit, I swear we had rang that doorbell. Maybe it didn’t work the first time. It worked this time, though, and Tilt (or Hunter, if you wish) got to go back home.
And of course, we told the owner that we found him. But perhaps we told the owner that where we found him was a little farther away than the dog’s own front yard.
Then we ran away.
We have been a little bit more thorough in our rescues ever since.