Bella’s Tale

I know when Dale calls me on his way home from work and says, “I have something for you,” that the local grocery store’s bakery is selling carrot cake by the piece, or he’s found another dog.

When he called with that message on Tuesday evening, I knew he hadn’t been to the store.

Last week, on a trip into town for an appointment during my medical drama, I was on my way home when I spotted a big black dog lying in the grass.

Knowing this is a place near a boat ramp where people inexplicably like to dump dogs; I stopped and called the dog over.

Wary, but friendly, she came over to me, it was a hot day and she was soaking wet from a dip in the lake.

I could tell that she was most likely left there; she was skinny, but not too bad. I tried to coax her into the Baby Blazer. I almost had her once, but scared her when I tried to shut the back tailgate.

Even with bones starting to show, she was too big and heavy for me to lift and with groceries – including frozen goods in the car – I finally had to leave her.

I called Dale when I got home and told him to pick her up if he saw her on his way home.

He sighed. “She will probably be alright,” he said.

We had promised ourselves and each other that we were at our limit; that the 6-pack we currently have is more than enough for us, financially and emotionally.

For a year, we’ve resisted any sad stories about homeless pets. We planned cutting back as they naturally left us in old age, in part planning for the day when our pet nanny, a young woman we’ve entrusted with our fur kids when I’ve had to travel for work or we travel to go back home, tells us that she’s moving on in her life and can no longer watch them.

Dale didn’t see her when he came home that day, and I hoped that some kind-hearted person had found her and taken her home.

I had all but forgotten about the encounter when he called on Tuesday. The truth of the matter is that neither of us can leave a starving dog on the side of the road.

It was another hot day and she didn’t have the stick burs she had when I saw her, but she was at least 10 lbs. lighter and full of ticks. Her ribs and hip bones are protruding; we can count the vertebrae in her back.

She indeed looks like the photos of animals we see confiscated in neglect and abuse cases.

We theorized that she finally accepted the fact that whoever left her there was not coming back. She was ready to get into the truck. Dale put her front paws on the floorboard and lifted her hind legs in, when he got her home, she was so weak that she had trouble getting up and staying on her feet on our slick laminate flooring.

She is better now. She went on a short walk with us yesterday. We fed her a little on Tuesday night and more on Wednesday.

I started calling her “Bella.” I posted her on Facebook and asked everyone I could think of to help us find her a home.

I called the one and only rescue in this area that will take strays. They have not called me back. The last time I contacted the elderly owner of this rescue, he told me he had 100 dogs and said if I would keep the dog (Dexter), he would pay for shots and neutering.

Strays are a real problem in the country; we have no animal control, no large humane societies with deep endowments. If anything, we have rural rescues such as the one I described above, with limited resources and volunteers, outside runs and too many homeless pets.

People here I would consider good people admit they shoot strays to keep them from either dying a horrible death of starvation, becoming diseased or wild and dangerous.

Maybe to our own ultimate ruin, we cannot do it.

For the time being, our 6-pack is a 7-pack and Our Little House is even fuller. Bella – lab mix maybe with Great Dane – has taken a spot on the rug in front of the stove in the kitchen.

“I wish we could keep her,” Dale said as he said goodbye to all of the dogs before he left this morning, “She’s a cool dog.”

“She is and we probably will,” I said and Bella wagged her tail on cue.

Do you have a pet overpopulation problem in your area? Do you have local humane societies?  



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22 Responses

  1. Oh I wish I could take Bella. I’ve noticed many shelter dogs have that same look in their eyes–submissive, sweet, but so loving. My own shelter dog has it and I can’t imagine what our family’s life would be without him. Bella sure looks like a wonderful dog.

  2. a says:

    I wouldn’t be able to leave a stray either. You never know if they are just lost vs left behind. What I don’t get are the people who strand their dogs on purpose. It takes a special kind of evil for someone to do that.

  3. Mat says:

    Pet rescue…
    That’s my mom’s life’s work. She’s rescued animals for longer than I’ve been alive, and I can remember we once had 62 cats in our house at once (with 23 litter boxes). As she’s gotten older, she’s taken much fewer in; I think she was down in the teens at one point, but is back up in the high 20s or low 30s now. She’s very active with the satellite adoptions at the local PetSmart, but she’s always spending hundreds and thousands on supplies and medical treatment.
    I did not inherit her need to fix broken things…I’m more of a build things kinda person. But as a result of her…um…hobby is the nicest word I can think of, we don’t have pets in our house. I have put in my time and energy with animals…I have no desire to put in more.
    I guess my point is that its good to know your limits and be realistic with what quality you can provide. We’re not having any more children in part because we agree that the quality of life we enjoy with our son would be drastically lower with another child…and the other part is because we honestly feel nothing lacking in our lives that another child would add. I know that people used to give you an earful all the time about having a child, Kerri…they don’t stop with one. All I hear is “oh, you have to have two–V is going to be so lonely”. What bunch of bunk.

    • kerri says:

      I agree, Mat. It is a bunch of bunk. All of my life, I’ve had people enter it who cannot live and let live. I just defriended someone on Facebook who works with teens transitioning out of the foster system. It is a very worthy cause and one she is passionate about. However, she felt the need, at least twice, to demean what I’m doing here and what I’m passionate about. Right after I posted something about saving Bella (which was to alert my friends in case someone wanted a black lab), she posted on her timeline, “I hate to sound harsh, but if I were choosing over helping people and rescuing animals, people would win every time.” Why does it have to be a competition? Why do people have to judge? I feel that we’re all connected, that if we *all* do something we’re passionate about, whether it be saving a person, helping the trees or wildlife, donating to orphanages in Bolivia (as a friend of mine does) or rescuing animals, it all is good. No cause is more worthy than the other. So, you should do your own thing, Mat, definitely, with regards to what you’re passionate about in helping the world and having, or not, anymore children.

  4. So hope that Bella can find a warm, loving home. Yes. We have an issue in our region, particularly in the rural areas (however, it’s not simply those areas alone). There was just an article in the paper, regarding two counties over, the Shelter having a 75% kill rate. And people were vicious in their remarks towards those that run it. Here’s reality (because we’ve been to that particular Shelter – twice – when we were seeking to adopt and lived for a few months in that area). It’s a rural community, the county has little funding but they do the best that they can with it. The animals that come to that shelter have not been neutered or spayed or well cared for. Some have injuries that appear they broke away from chains, ropes, or out of exterior cages. They are usually in such horrible condition, a deemed ‘vicious’ breed (even if mixed) by insurance companies genes were not in their favor and they look like the vicious breed that they are mixed with, or have disease or other issues that make it challenging to adopt (or even for the Shelter’s vet staff to cure/aid). Then there’s a lack of volunteer force in their community (something highlighted in the article), willing to pitch in to help get those animals to satellite adoption days on the weekend in the more dense communities (these are usually held at Pet stores or our more local county satellites will sponsor space for other county Shelter’s to bring some pets in, when they have less high risk cases that particular weekend). Our county even, has issues with this, though they are closer to more dense population and have stronger staff/finances/donations/volunteer help (even in the smallest ways of people that help blast on social network or Craigslist when one animal is high risk). There’s just so much that still needs to be done regarding getting a stronger % of our population to be responsible pet owners. Our beagle mix came to us fortunately, very healthy. However, she was found in an abandoned house with another dog, victim of the economy. Two people adopted her but returned, for different reasons (one being that the previous owner’s older/little dog did not like her). We adopted her in her last weeks, at a satelite adoption site, for reduced cost. They (at that point) had her for almost 90 days. And that was her 3rd time being up for adoption with our county’s shelter (due to the 2 give backs), but at least those previous two brought her back to the same place where they could track her history.. and the shelter workers really felt horrible. Bless those in that line of work. It makes me so frustrated for them, that a % of members of their own community has created this issue, and then they want to criticize the Shelter staff for the efforts that they do make rather than trying to resolve the problem within their community.

    • Sorry that is so lengthy (above). Got a little longwinded in my vent, thinking back to that news articles and the comments.

      • kerri says:

        No need to apologize. I love everyone commenting! It is a sad situation. While I support the No Kill Movement, I fully disagree with their assertion that there is not a pet overpopulation problem. There may not be in some areas, but in a lot of areas, including both of ours (from your description) there is.

  5. Sheryl says:

    Poor, poor dog. So sad. But you made me smile with your kindness.

  6. Ruth says:

    There are too many hunters who just let their dogs go after they are spent as breeders or no longer useful for pighunting on the Big Island of Hawaii. Someone abandoned a german shorthair dog who was used for breeding down and the beach – my son’s friend found her and brought her to our house and so what are you gonna do? A skinny and sick dog would be put down at a shelter so okay, here we go with medical restoration and kindness and she is the loveliest dog (and I have 5 others-motley crew of dogs that were inherited, found or not wanted. It’s okay. Do the right thing. Find another home or keep them. Your rewards will be received in your next life.

  7. Carol says:

    So excited Bella has a new home!! That’s the best ending to the story.

  8. Alexandra says:

    We have a problem with cats. People come on vacation with their cats, and leave without them, perhaps without intention. Once the cats learn to roam the woods, it is hard to get them home on time for departure. We took such a cat in several years ago, but my hubby is allergic, so I have to find her a home. Fortunately, the librarian was looking. Last year I became quite attached to a stray. I was ready to claim her, hubby be damned, when the owner’s mother showed up. It was another two months before the cat allowed herself to be caught. Knowing where she lived, I took her home with much regret. The owner was delighted.

    • kerri says:

      Ah, Alexandra, I don’t know if I’m more sad that your hubby is allergic and you cannot have a cat or that you had to let go of one that you grew fond of.

  9. It is wonderful that you do this. I wouldn’t be able to ignore an animal like this either.

  10. Carol says:

    We have humane societies, animal control, and rescues. All are overwhelmed by strays and owner surrenders. Our local animal control works very hard with rescues and the public to adopt out as many dogs as they can. I volunteer with Boxer Rescue Los Angeles and we get requests every day from people wishing to give up their dogs. We pull dogs from the animal shelters so they can get a second chance for a forever home. We, like all the rest of the rescues, are always full. If we adopt out 10 dogs there are 15 waiting to get in. Our medical bills are out of sight because we take all comers, cancer, broken bones, unusual diseases, and then there is the spay/neuter costs. I love working with the rescue and have a great relationship with animal control. We just rescued a boxer that was running loose on a golf course with a broken leg, being harassed by coyotes, in a rattlesnake infested area. In our area, the biggest problem are chiuhauas and pit bulls. The volunteers at animal control have partnered with a shelter in Conn. and have sent over 100 very much wanted chi’s to them. Once, at our little house out in the desert, I came across a litter of 3 rotweiler puppies that had been dumped. Of course, I took them home and was fortunate to find homes for them. Please spay and neuter your pets.

    • Kerri says:

      Good advice on the spay and neuter, Carol. It just makes me so mad when people have “oops” litters or do not neuter because they think their manhood is somehow tied to their dog having his balls. 🙂 I didn’t realize there was such a pet over population problem on the west coast until I hooked up with some shelters and rescues on Facebook. We’re led to believe here that the problem isn’t as bad on either coast. Maybe not *as* bad, but there is still obviously a problem, as you’ve pointed out. Good news this morning is that Bella found a home! It is a guy who works with my husband and his wife and I’m told she’s very excited! YAY! We love her to death, but I worry about our finances and my own sanity with any more dogs. 🙂