O.K, I admit it. I am not a dog person.
Still, a canine experience last weekend left me wondering how someone could be so heartless.
A week ago Saturday morning, my son Nicky and I were hauling some brush out to the alley behind our Old West Side home when I saw a Pamper’s diaper box set against the big trash receptacle.
That’s odd, I thought, fearing someone had disposed of used diapers there. But then I saw something back and white and furry moving through an opening in the lid.
I opened the box carefully and came upon one of the saddest sights I’d seen in a long time. It was a small dog. It was emaciated, soiled in its own feces, and trembling. When I went to pat its head, it growled, but it was a feeble objection.
It appeared to a spaniel mix about the size of a large pumpkin. It stared up at me with longing and panic-stricken eyes. It obviously had been abandoned, and its reaction to my approach made me think it had likely been beaten.
I called 911, and when the police dispatcher heard the story she said the story saddened her, too, and so she dispatched the Humane Society. Animal control officer Tim McCuin called within minutes to get my location and arrived shortly afterward to investigate.
His big pickup startled the pooch, who managed to get out of the box and hide between my laurel hedge and a fence. But Tim’s gentle manner soon won the dog over and Tim was able to get a tether around its neck. He wrapped him in a blanket, continued to speak calmly and lovingly, and finally brought the struggling little canine to the truck.
I was impressed by Tim’s gentleness, which was such a stark contrast to the insensitivity of whomever dumped the dog out in the alley.
Why would someone just abandon a poor animal like this? Who would do such a thing? I asked Tim.
“You’d be surprised,” he said.
This past Wednesday, I checked up on how the pooch was doing at the Humane Society shelter on Fibre Way.
The good news: He didn’t have parvovirus, a highly contagious disease spread dog-to-dog by contact with their feces. Vaccines can prevent the infection, but mortality can reach 91 percent in untreated cases.
He weighs 15 pounds, which is about double what I thought he weighed.
“He’s doing a little bit better. But we’re still testing him. He still has issues with diarrhea and he has a long road ahead of him,” Humane Society Director Charmaine Nawrocki said by phone.
The society scanned for a microchip but did not find any. Shelter personnel have concluded that the dog simply was abandoned for reasons that remain unclear.
What is clear is that it is illegal under state law to abandon a pet, though such cases are often hard to prove, Nawrocki said.
And there’s no reason for it. The Humane Society is an “open admissions” shelter and takes all unwanted animals, she said.
If someone needs to unburden themselves of a pet, they should first look to adopt it out to friends or neighbors, Nawrocki said. If that doesn’t work, the Humane Society will take the animal for a $20 “relinquishment” fee, which pays for injections, neutering and other care (the cost is $30 if the pet is just dropped off without an advanced phone call).
Unfortunately, Nawrocki said, abandonments “happen more frequently than than you would know,” as often as a few times a month, she estimated.
People abandon pets for many reasons, she said. They can’t afford them. Their animals get sick. The owner can’t afford veterinary care. They move away and leave the pets behind.
“A lot of people don’t have the resources and don’t know who to call,” Nawrocki said.
And, at least as of Wednesday, no one had a name to call the rescued pooch.
Nawrocki asked me if I had a suggestion. I didn’t at that moment, but Narwocki later accepted my suggestion: Tuxedo. He’s black and white, and the name connotes a lifestyle far removed from living quarters near a garbage can, where Nicky and I found him.
I hope that Tuxedo, the sad and malnourished little pooch who touched my heart, recovers and finds a loving home.
Either way, I hope he becomes a poster pooch against pet abandonment.