There is a running joke in my family that I am the underground railroad for stray animals. From dogs and cats to baby squirrels, they just seem to find me. It’s as if some signal goes out that I’m a sucker. I have rescued, fostered, adopted and loved more pets than most people I know.
Every day on my way to school I’m bombarded with the visual reality of San Antonio’s animal crisis. I count no less than 6 dogs roaming the streets from the minute I exit the highway to the time I walk through the campus gates.
There are just so many dogs.
Yesterday started like every other day. I exit the highway and make my way towards campus. I spot the first dog of my morning; a cute little black and tan weenie dog. He was walking behind a man and I was concerned that he was too close to heavy traffic to be walking without a leash. Silly me figured the dog had a person. Suddenly the man turned and kicked the dog so hard I gasped. Instantly my heart was racing and I was enraged. Everything inside me was screaming to go back. But I had a midterm and had to keep going. By the time I got to school I was a consumed with guilt. I should have gone back. I choked it down, went on with my day, failed my midterm and went home resigned to being just a little more disappointed in myself and humanity as a whole.
This morning started the same. I exited the highway and started mentally preparing for all the dogs I was about to see. Traffic hit a sudden slow spot and I figured it was a car stalled in the turning lane. When I got closer I saw that it was a dog. He had been hit by a car in the turning lane and all the other cars were trying to get around him.
My heart stopped.
I was trapped in my lane watching as he would lift his head and one paw when another car came close to hitting him again. It was almost human. As if it was a reflex to avoid being hit, or some attempt to beg for help. And no one was stopping. They all just drove around him like he wasn’t even there.
As I fought my way through traffic to get back to him, it felt almost like redemption for not going back for the dog that got kicked yesterday. When I finally got to him I saw his back was broken. He was a big white and tan pit bull mix. He was wearing a red collar with faded grey paw prints. He was too big for me to pick up and I couldn’t bring myself to drag him across three lanes of traffic. I went inside a staffing office and asked them to call someone. I asked if someone could help me and no one would. I asked a man walking buy if he could help me and he refused. Why were they all looking at me like I was crazy? How could all these people see this suffering dog and not do anything?
Finally a lady pulled up behind my car and came towards me. She said she had seen it happen and that she had to come back. She helped me pick him up and carry him across the street to the sidewalk. She talked about how she saw him trying to cross and saw the truck in front of her hit him and take off. I suppressed the urge to verbally flog her for not stopping immediately. I was too focused on the dog to pay much attention to her.
I sat on the sidewalk with him. His breathing was becoming more laboured. I put his head on my lap and stroked his big boxy head and held his paw. I kept talking to him; telling him how pretty he was, how he was such a good boy, but mostly apologizing for his circumstances. I was apologizing for the over-breeding of pit bulls, for the red collar that had wanted him when he was a puppy and lost interest when he grew up, for the person that hit him, for all the people that drove past him and refused to help. I begged him to let go. I told him everything was going to be ok. I called him Buddy. He looked like a Buddy. He looked like a dog that loved to chase balls, and wanted nothing more than a boy to faithfully follow around. He looked like the kind of giant dog that would forever be in puppy mode. He may have lived like a stray, but for five long minutes he was able to die like a pet.
He died with his head in my lap and his paw in my hand. I just sat there. I hadn’t even noticed that the lady that had helped me had already left. As I was sitting there I felt something on my other hand. I looked down and a little chiuaua mix was sitting next to me licking my hand.
They just seem to find me.