Monday, March 7, 2016

Baby, Buddy, Animal Packs, Love, and Evan Almighty

Baby. Photo by D.S. Dollman.

When I lived in New Mexico I drove Buddy and Holly (my two chocolate labs) and my chihuahua, Chewy, out into the New Mexico desert so they could run free. There was a reason why we went to the desert, which I will explain in a moment. One day I kept seeing this image in my mind, the word "dog." I don't pretend to be a psychic. I have no idea why I saw this word, but I had run-ins with coyotes recently and my first thought was that this was a warning that my dogs were in danger.

When I pulled up to our usual spot the image in my mind was so strong that I panicked. I apologized to my dogs and started to turn the truck around. That's when Baby crawled out from beneath a sage brush. He was covered in sage. His ribs were showing, and he could barely stand.

I left the other dogs in the truck, grabbed their water dish and a water bottle and walked over to Baby. I poured water into the dish. He looked up at me as if he was afraid I was going to hit him, then he slowly approached the dish and began to drink. 

Baby

Baby dancing for his food. When he was young, Baby used to stand on his back leg and dance for at least five minutes before calming down and eating his food. Photo by D.S. Dollman.

There is a city ordinance in the town where I lived in New Mexico and people cannot have lawns due to constant drought, so they often take their dogs into the desert for walks. We watched out for each other, keeping our animals in separate territories, picking up strays and returning them to their owners. Another dog walker came by and asked if Baby belonged to me. He said he was watching from a nearby hill as Baby approached me and he wasn't sure if Baby was an abandoned animal because he appeared to be familiar with me. Abandonment is another problem in New Mexico. Most towns kill animals after two days in the shelter, but it is also against the law to surrender your pet. When pet owners decide for some reason to abandon their animals--this happens often when the economy goes down and people can't afford to feed their pets--they often take them out to the desert and leave them to the coyotes. 

The other dog walker told me he saw Baby the day before and was fairly certain Baby was abandoned. He thought, perhaps, Baby belonged to me and was separated from me. Of course he could see that Baby didn't know me, so we spent the next four hours together trying to find a way to help Baby. We stood in the desert debating our options. No one likes to make decisions about strays in New Mexico. There are so many illogical laws when it comes to animals. For instance, if a dog even looks at you in a strange way you have the right to shoot it in self defense. Compassion, caring, and random acts of kindness toward animals are all discouraged in New Mexico.

We decided to call the Humane Society and find out if Baby was reported missing, and if he wasn't, then one of us would take him home and try to find his owner to avoid having him killed. (By the way, I discussed this policy in depth with employees at the local humane society once and they disagree with it completely. They said it is heartbreaking for them to collect animals because they know that most of them will be dead within a few days, and the employees will be the ones doing the killing. Most humane society employees in New Mexico are actively fighting for more "humane" treatment of animals in shelters). 

Baby the day I found him in the New Mexico desert. So beautiful. Photo by D.S. Dollman.

The man in the desert tried to convince Baby to jump into the back of his truck and Baby refused. I had a spare collar and leash in my truck that I slipped around Baby and the man drove slowly to the road where the desert meets the city roads with his arm out the window leading Baby along as Baby ran beside his car. We finally reached the road where we were told to wait and we waited until 11 p.m. for the humane society to show up and take him. They never arrived. 

We called again. We had asked on the phone if they would check Baby's ear for a tag and explained that we planned to take him home until his owner was found. They said they were still coming, believe it or not, but they never showed up. I think they were hoping we would just take him home.

I finally opened the door to grab my phone and check in with my husband again and when I did Baby jumped into my truck and sat down on the back seat between Buddy and Holly, my chocolate labs. Buddy looked down at Baby and Baby looked up at him and I knew they would be instant friends, and they were to the day Buddy died. 

Holly and Buddy. Photo by D.S. Dollman.

Buddy

So, this is where Buddy enters this story. Baby saw Buddy as his protector. Every animal in the house considered Buddy their protector. All of the animals considered Buddy their protector. When he got into trouble, Baby would actually run for Buddy and try to hide behind him. 

I took Baby home that night and he climbed onto the dog beds. He slept between the chocolate labs. 

Buddy, Baby, and Holly. Photo by D.S. Dollman.

I went to my room and turned on the television confident that the dogs would be just fine until I found Baby's owner. Needless to say, I never did find his owner. He is still my fella. 

Evan Almighty

That night, Evan Almighty was on television. If you haven't seen the film, at the beginning, Morgan Freeman plays God and convinces Steve Carell, who plays a Congressman Evan Baxter, to build an ark. At the start of the show, Carrel moves his family into a new home and a stray dog walks onto the lawn and my thoughts moved to Baby sleeping in the living room. What would I do if I couldn't find his owner? I already had the two labs that we rescued from a farmer who had nearly a dozen in the back of a hot pickup truck, and a chihuahua that someone abandoned on our property in Texas. I don't rescue animals, they track me down! I was one animal away from my limit, and I walked each animal every day, paid the vet bills, licensing, vaccinations--it wouldn't be easy!  

Still watching the movie, Steve Carrel tells his children repeatedly to ignore the dog and refuses to even offer the dog a drink. Finally, Freeman, or God, appears and convinces Carrel that he is truly God and that Carrel must build an ark. Carrel refuses. Finally, God makes his point to Evan, then he pours water into a dish for the stray dog and the dog begins to drink.

I left the room to check on the animals. They were huddled up as if they'd spent years together. I stood and watched them for awhile. They were so comfortable together. Baby acted as if he hadn't slept for weeks, which may be true. 

Dog pile. Buddy, Holly and Baby snuggling up for the night. Photo by D.S. Dollman. 

The veterinarian told me later he was amazed that Baby survived the coyotes in the desert. I asked the vet why Baby insisted on relieving himself on my scented herbs. It didn't make sense--his stomach and the inside of his thighs were scratched and bleeding. The vet said Baby used the scented herbs, like sage brush, while he was abandoned in the desert to hide his scent from the coyotes.

A Bowl of Water as an Act of Random Kindness

I returned to the movie. I was in the living room much longer than I thought. The film was almost over. Toward the end of the film, God prepares to say goodbye to Evan, and of course he leaves Evan with a message. The entire conversation suddenly became a metaphor for my situation. 

God: How do we change the world?

Evan Baxter: One single act of random kindness at a time.

God: [spoken while writing A-R-K on ground with a stick] One Act, of, Random, Kindness.

At that moment, I knew Baby was mine for life. With a bowl of water and a simple act of random kindness I changed his world forever and he changed ours. He is sleeping at my feet now with Holly. They sleep together every night, cuddled up tight the way Buddy and Holly used to sleep as puppies. Holly lost her brother, and gained a friend.

Still too Painful to Explain, but I'll try... 

I am experiencing extreme, organized harassment, or what is also called "gang stalking" in my neighborhood. They will not win. Tyrants always lose. However, they have turned violent. The night Buddy died my granddaughter came home and a group of young men were parked in front of my house barking and shouting "How's your dog?" I wasn't sure what they meant, but my granddaughter was nervous so we checked all the animals. 

A few hours later, Buddy became sick. I was unable to convince a vet to come in to the emergency clinic to see him until around four in the morning. When she finally said she would see him my granddaughter and I ran to Buddy's side and held him in my arms. He had crawled onto his bed and finally fallen asleep, but I knew he was dying. All of the other animals, even the cat, stood around him, pacing, whining. I whispered his name and Buddy raised his head, looked into my eyes with so much love--17 years of love--and he said goodbye with a loud sigh, then died. 

There is so much more to this story, but it's stuck like a ball in my throat...

The "pack" waiting at the door for Dad. They were all surrounding Buddy when he died. 
Photo by D.S. Dollman.

The chihuahua howled and jumped on Buddy's chest. Holly lay down beside him and wrapped her paws around Buddy's, the cat curled up against his back, but Baby was in a panic, frantically butting Buddy on the head, trying to wake him up, crying, crying real tears. 

Buddy died in his bed surrounded by his family. He was the gentlest, kindest animal I have ever known. He lived a good life and for many years, but no animal deserves to die at the hands of sick, abusive bullies.

Buddy a few days before his death. Photo by D.S. Dollman.

Veterinarians will claim that dogs do not cry real tears. They will also admit that they learn they are wrong about one assumption or another every day. Dogs cry real tears. My dogs cried that night.

The Mental Illness of Bullies

Sadly, the person who poisoned Buddy will never shed a tear. People who kill animals are psychopathic or sociopathic. They are mentally ill and studies conducted at the University of Chicago have shown their brains are wired differently. They feel pleasure when others feel pain. I pity them. They will never know compassion or love and the people who pretend to be their friends do so out of fear--they know this person has already murdered a living creature. They know he is capable of doing anything to harm others.

Big-Nosed Kate, the Leader of the Bunny Pack

A few weeks later my rabbit, Katie, was also poisoned--and there is your proof of psychological illness in bullies. How can a bunny harm anyone? The dogs alerted me to her death by howling and scratching at my legs. She was paralyzed and there was a green, gooey substance in her cage. All of the animals adored Big-Nose Kate. She was the bunny version of Buddy. My rabbits, dogs and cat all get along and spend warm summer afternoons together in my yard.  I had moved the rabbits inside when I became aware that a neighbor was watching me through the slats in my fence. There was a mysterious fire in the garage and I took the rabbits in to the vet to make certain they were okay. The vet of course ran a series of very expensive tests, so we know she was fine when I took her home that night. All night long we heard banging sounds on the walls and doors of the garage--typical gang-stalking behavior. Katie died the next morning. 

Katie, my Flemish Giant, was also poisoned according to the vet. Photo by D.S. Dollman.

Recovering From the Loss of a Friend

Baby has recovered from the loss of his protector and taken on a new role in the pack. Now he sleeps snuggled up with Holly and Chewy every night. He still wiggles for his food, but he's grown a bit too big to do the Baby dance. I know he misses Buddy. We all do. 

Baby sunbathing. I know Baby misses Buddy, but he'll be okay. Photo by D.S. Dollman.

But Buddy would have wanted Baby, his sister, Chewy, the cat, me--everyone to feel safe and happy, and every day Baby finds some way to show me that he is, indeed, a happy dog. And it all started with one act of random kindness--a bowl of water offered on a hot summer day in the New Mexico desert. 

Baby always finds some way to let me know he is a happy boy. Photo by D.S. Dollman.

"The indifference, callousness and contempt that so many people exhibit toward animals is evil first because it results in great suffering in animals, and second because it results in an incalculably great impoverishment of the human spirit." --Ashley Montagu