There I was, zipping along Central Avenue, annoyed that the blabbermouth at my last appointment had made me late for my next appointment, when I ran into a traffic jam at the intersection of Central and 7th Street. Figures.
Some kind of commotion in the intersection had traffic blocked. As I got closer, I saw what the problem was. There was a dog in the intersection, or what was left of one. He looked like one of those wild, half-dead scraps of an animal you sometimes glimpse in the background of a Third World documentary. To see something like that in a downtown intersection in the country's second-largest banking center was almost surreal.
He had a bad limp in the front and a limp in the back, too. He was emaciated and so weak and dehydrated he could only inch along one painstaking step at a time. The honking of horns frightened him, and he'd head one way with cars zooming around him, then, jolted by another horn or a car that barely missed him, turn back around again and head the other way.
I had to go another block before I could turn around. I figured he'd probably be run over before I could get back to the intersection. Given the number of drivers who had seen him, I also assumed that at least a few people would stop to try and help, but no one did. (Shame on every last one of you.)
The dog collapsed in the kudzu across from the Grady Cole Center, and as I approached, he crawled deeper into the vines, clearly afraid of me. I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach I always get when I know I'm going to have to make one of those decisions I dread. Those who do animal rescue work know the stakes. Our overwhelmed animal control bureau euthanized 13,421 unwanted animals last year, many of which would have made wonderful pets if someone wanted them.
An unsocialized animal with injuries doesn't stand a chance. Animal Control and the rescues have no choice but to put them down to make room for healthy, adoptable pets. If I couldn't get him to come to me -- and strays almost never do -- I'd have no choice but to call Animal Control and watch him until they picked him up and put him out of his misery, a fate much better than starving on the streets.
But first, I'd give him a chance. I put down some food and a tiny bit of Snapple in a bowl, just enough to make him want more, and backed off about 15 feet. He thought about it for a long time, straining his nose and his neck toward the bowl, and crawled out to drink it, then retreated. I did it again and again, each time backing off a foot or two less. His hunger and thirst got the better of him, but that wasn't good enough. He was a 40-pound German shepherd mix who should have weighed 55 pounds, and I'd have to get him into the car by myself. It just wasn't going to work. I was rummaging in my purse for my cell phone to call Animal Control when he took his first step toward me, then another, and another until he was standing right in front me, nuzzling my hand and licking it. It sent a chill up my spine.
Close up, I got another shock. The gnarled remains of what was once an ear flopped down into his face, and scabs and scaring from an untreated wound ran down part of the side of his head.
I named him Mac, after Dr. Leland McLauglin at Freedom Animal Hospital, who has gone beyond the call of duty to help us. Mac will never be pretty, but he's a joy to be with. He's a laid-back guy who doesn't like to leave a room without first doling out kisses to everyone, and he's made quite an impression on the staff at Freedom, all of whom, like me, are pulling for him.
What Mac really needs is a home. When I saw that ear, in a fit of fury I promised Mac that no one would ever hurt him again, and he'd have a great life. I know there's someone in our reading audience who can make that happen, someone who has experience with dogs, who understands they take work and that their real value has little to do with how they look beside you on a leash. If you are interested, contact Mac at the e-mail address below. He'll be waiting.