The streets were quiet. I thought it strange for a summer Saturday night in the city.
“I’m really hoping this is an easy call. Somehow I doubt it though; usually any calls this side of the subway turn out bad,” Jim said to me as he navigated the SUV through skinny streets filled with garbage.
I grimaced. Last call of the day. The sun was setting, making triangles of orange light through the buildings. We pulled up in front of a run-down strip of row-homes. Two women sat on a stoop; Old Milwaukee’s in hand, cigarettes dangling from their lips. They watched our approach. Jim checked his call-log before getting out of the truck.
“Starving dog,” he said to me. “Let’s go see.” We crossed the street to one of the homes and Jim knocked on the door with the end of his nightstick. No one answered. I looked around and saw one of the women from the stoop approach us with wobbly steps.
“You the animal people?” She peered at us through glassy eyes and I could smell the alcohol on her breath. “The dog’s really nice. Sweet girl,” She said. I wondered how she knew our purpose; was she the one who reported the dog?
“Are you the owner?” Jim asked her. She shook her head.
“No. You gonna take the dog?” She dug a key on a tattered string out of her pocket and stumbled towards the door of the house where we had just knocked.
“Wait, ma’am? You’re not the homeowner?” Jim called after her. “I need to speak with the homeowner.”
“Oh no, I dun live here… but she my frien…,” The woman mumbled. “Dog’s really skinny. She’s not here much,” She said, referring to her friend and the dog’s owner. “Dog just had puppies. I don’ know wha’ happen to ‘em.” I noticed she had very pretty eyes – would probably be a lot prettier without the droopy-lidded effect of the alcohol. She’s going to let us just walk into someone else’s house? I thought.
Jim called the number the woman gave us for the homeowner. His conversation with her was brief, but she admitted that she hadn’t been able to care for the dog and didn’t have money for the vet.
“Listen, we can take the dog with us and get her some care and a good home if you sign her over to us, but if you don’t and if I see that the condition of the dog is bad enough, I will have to issue you a citation and you could be fined,” I heard him explain.
There was no resistance. The woman on the phone gave permission for her neighbor to sign for the dog, and she became ours, just like that.
“I’ll go git ‘er,” the woman said, and unlocked the door. Jim went to prepare the truck for the arrival of a dog whose condition we hadn’t even observed yet, but whom we feared was flea-infested at best. I retrieved a leash from the truck, and when the woman opened the door a small crack, I handed it through to her and she slipped it around the dog’s neck. “Now you just wait!” She shouted to the dog.
“Is she friendly?” I asked. Better find out before she explodes through the door in a rage, I thought.
“Oh yeah,” said the woman, and out came Daisy.
Emaciated and panting, and an obvious new mom, the small pit bull Daisy still had amazing strength. She pulled me across the street to the curb and sniffed the ground as if relishing the freedom of being outside. Sweet and curious, she patiently tolerated my attention. People suddenly appeared from out of the woodwork to say goodbye.
“Bye Daisy! You be good now, maybe I’ll even see you on TV!” the woman who signed her over said, responding to Jim’s assurance that Daisy would find a home, and may even be featured on the SPCA’s adoption segment on the news. She patted her head.
I lifted her into the car; she weighed next to nothing and every rib was visible. Her hip bones dug into my stomach. But she seemed happy. She peered out the half-open window as if to say goodbye.
Jim looked at me and smiled as we drove back to the shelter. “You helped save your first dog tonight!” I felt an amazing sense of satisfaction. There had been no resistance from the owner; she seemed to really want a better life for her dog. I wondered about the woman who most likely could barely afford to feed herself let alone a dog. I never found out who reported Daisy to the SPCA.
Back at the shelter we set up a cage and showed Daisy her temporary new home where she would stay until healthy and ready for adoption. I wished so many good things for her. I wished a loving home and nothing but fun and dog treats for her future.
Since that night I’ve been visiting Daisy and I’m happy to say she is putting on weight and settling in. I wish she didn’t have to stay in a cage. I wish none of them had to stay in cages while they wait for their second chances.