Before I go into the story of why I have an angel unchaining a dog on a cat blog, I want to explain that this image is featured on the 2009 Christmas card for the group Dogs Deserve Better. Dogs Deserve Better is an organization I support whole-heartedly because of their work to get dogs off of chains and into homes. If you’d like to purchase the cards and find out about the group, please visit their site: http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/2009cards.html
I was trying to do exactly what Dogs Deserve Better advocates–help a chained dog find a better life. And while I did not succeed, someone else higher than me stepped in to do what I could not.
This story begins about two weeks ago with an email. An email that came to me via a contact at Columbus Dog Connection. A lady who lives in my area had written Columbus Dog Connection because she was upset at seeing a dog constantly chained. She wrote:
“There is a dog that I think is being neglected. I contacted the dog wardon and he stopped by. Then he (the dog warden) remembered this guy asked him months ago to take his dog. The dog wardon said because the guy has a dog house for the dog and water, (I hope he’s feeding it), the dog warden can do nothing. So I drive by that house almost every day to go anywhere and that dog is outside, sun, rain, sleet, snow, wind. He is always chained up. And most of the time he is just laying there. It makes me sad. Last week I drove by and he had a ‘free kittens’ sign out. So now there are a bunch of animals being neglected.”
The contact at Columbus Dog Connection emailed me to see if Black and Orange could do anything about the “Free Kittens” being advertised. So I drove by the house, which is quite close to where my parents live, to check on the situation. The dog, as the lady had written, was chained to a a large stake near the barn with a small dog house next to him. He had worn a large semi-circle of grass to bare dirt. His chain was heavy and I thought appeared too short. I also thought, isn’t that the same dog that used to be there when I lived at home with mom and dad?
Now I haven’t lived with Mom and Dad for quite a while, but I remembered driving down this little back road and seeing a dog chained in the yard years ago. It made me sad then. It made me even sadder now to think it was the same dog and he had been there all those years.
I decided that not only would I do what I could about the “free kittens,” I would also try to get the dog out of that situation.
Since I am more used to cats than dogs, I asked my friend, Monica, to help with the situation. We gathered a leash and treats and set off with the plan of taking the dog home with Monica until we could find a more permanent place for him or taking him to our local shelter where he would be safe and out of the weather.
When we got to the house, the husband was out in the yard and we quickly asked him about the dog (who we learned from other sources was named Squanto).
“What do you want with an old dog like that?” he asked us.
We discovered that the dog was 13 years old (so it probably was the same dog I remembered from my college years at home), a purebred Siberian Husky male, extremely gentle and friendly, and completely deaf.
What a miserable life. Chained and deaf.
The dog was also microchipped, dashing my hopes of taking him to the local shelter as a “stray”, because they would have scanned the chip and tried to reunite the dog with the owner.
The man warmed up to us after discovering who I was and told us he would need to talk to his wife (who knew me) about the dog. She was out of town for the week and would be back the following Sunday. I made arrangements with him to take the female cats, including the mother of the “free litter” in to be fixed once his wife returned home. I also tried to get the “free kittens,” but, he informed me, they already had homes.
We left without the dog.
Monica and I had a week to find a place for the dog to go. We contacted rescues and sanctuaries. Husky rescues didn’t want him because he was too old. So we tried rescues for old dogs and handicapped dogs and everything else in between. But with no luck.
On Monday, I called to confirm the appointments for the cats with the wife, who was now home. She was thrilled at the prospect of no more kittens and told me I could stop by to get them later in the day. She would be home by 4:30.
When I got to the house, promptly at 4:30, hoping they would let me have the dog even though I really had no place to put him yet, I noticed in passing that Squanto was lying on the ground in his semi-circle of paced dirt.
There were two large grain semis parked by the barn close to where Squanto was lying.
When the lady came out of the house to give me the cats for the clinic, she said, “One of the semis backed over the dog earlier today.”
She shook her head. “The dog was deaf, so he didn’t hear the truck and didn’t know to get out of the way. Well, that’s what happens.”
There were still granary people out at the barn, moving past the semis and the dog, as if he didn’t exist. I was horrified.
The lady continued, “We just talked about the dog last night. We were going to let you have him. But now he’s dead. Could you tell your friend?”
I had to run for my truck before I burst into tears.
Who would leave a chained, deaf dog in a space where a semi was backing up? Who wouldn’t tell the semi driver to be extremely careful because a deaf dog was behind them? Poor Squanto, deaf and on the chain, could not hear or even get away from the semi that killed him.
Just as upsetting to me, was the fact that this happened earlier in the day, but the dog’s body was still there, chained to the stake. No one had moved him. No one had covered him over with a sheet or blanket.
I did find out later that the husband had not been home when the semis arrived and thus, no one had warned the semi drivers about the deaf dog. That also accounted for the dog lying where he died for so long. As soon as the husband got home, he did remove Squanto’s body.
These details made me feel slightly better about the situation. And I also want to state that these are not bad people. They just do not have the same beliefs as we do about animals. The wife did tell me how sad she felt and I truly believe, in their way, they loved the dog and did all they could for him.
But this is the reason there is a need for education about chained dogs and the fact that animals are sentient, feeling creatures.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, when I was a child, our dogs were always chained or penned. It horrifies me now, but everyone can change.
I feel so sad that this dog lived 13 years on a chain and then died in such a gruesome way. I feel sad that Monica and I could not help him.
But someone else did help him. And that is why the picture of the angel unchaining the dog started this article. Because that is exactly what I think happened to Squanto.