Saturday, March 04, 2006

Red Dog

You stood at the side of the road, front paws turned outward somewhat. Green eyes, even at 70 mph I could see them. You were looking down the road in the direction from which I just came, seemingly waiting for whatever life you had then, to please, finally, catch up with you here, and now.

Skin and bones displayed dirt and dinner of road kill on what was previously a beautiful red Pit Bull body. You looked like you had been down this desert road for a long time. You stared looking out, with millions of unanswered questions in those sad and beautiful green eyes.

“Where did they go?”
“What did I do?”
“What do I do now?”
“Where are you?”
“Why am I here?”
“Oh, please, come back, come back, come back.”
“I’m here.”
“Just here.”
“Waiting for you.”
“No warmth, no water, no food.”
“No hugs, no kisses, no one to tell me I’m a good dog.”

My first thought was, “What is that dog doing out here in the middle of the desert? What am I supposed to do about this?” I couldn’t go on, I pulled over, let 5 cars pass me and looped back to check on the dog. When I pulled onto the wide even path of the dirt road, he started running away from my vehicle, deeper into the desert. I then felt bad for his poor paws and for him running away and using up all that energy that it takes forever to store. And, if you don’t eat much, well then, it's even more draining on the body. I could also tell by his running posture that his right hip hurt, which made me feel even worse to have him so scared that he would run so hard in fear.

I finally got by him at an end of a turn around and pulled over. He stood far away from me and just looked at me. I got out, and pulled out a dish and some water out of the car. Then placed it over between me and him. I walked back to the edge of the car. Speaking gently to him all the time, I crouched down and waited to see any type of response from this dog. Wearily, he walked over to the water bowl, sniffed and then drank some water.

I could feel his thoughts, “Even as I stand here, or when I look down that road, I’m all by myself. Cars go by, trucks turn onto this dirt road, drop off 4-wheelers, ride around, then load up and go home. I hear guns going off, target shooting around me. Scares me. Loud, sudden shots. Where did you go? Why did you leave me here? Where did my people go? I used to weigh 80 lbs and play and was happy. Why am I here? Are they coming back? What am I supposed to be doing? Who are you? What do you want? I’m waiting for them.”

All this he said. It was a plain as day to me. There was no difference in thought between what were his and mine. And, my heart broke. Right there. While I knew his, he didn’t know mine. I would take him home with me and make sure he was treated well and right. Wouldn’t let him around Luna, and I wouldn’t keep him. But I would treat him with love and respect and make sure he went to a good home once he was better. All this I thought.

My heart keep breaking. There was no response from this dog. Never once did he wag his tail. Or seem at least interested in me. He just stood away from me. And gazed. Then he turned away and walked down a wash a little ways. I had no food at all in the car. Since I hadn’t taken Luna on this trip, there was nothing in the car that a dog or human could eat. So, I decided to drive into Wickenburg, AZ, find a vet or animal rescue, pick up a few hamburgers, and go back out to the Red Dog.

Upon arriving in town, I talked to a vet (nothing they could do), the police, the fire department (gave me a number for the Maricopa Humane Society), and the Maricopa Humane Society (closed, call back Monday). Actually, on this Sunday morning, I talked to their answering machines. Except for the Police Officer at Burger King who gave me the number of the Maricopa Humane Society that I had already called. Amazing how all these organizations want to help but only M-F 9-5. I’ll tell that to the Red Dog.

Back out to the desert I went, hamburgers in hand. Trying to figure out what I could do for this dog. Still in the trashy spot off down the dirt road where I had left him, there he stands. I unwrap the hamburger patties, place them in a dish, and walk somewhat away. He slowly wanders over and eats the food. I’m not quite sure this dog is right in the head and I’m somewhat leery to try to even walk over to him. He doesn’t seem mean, but he doesn’t seem friendly. He hasn’t raised a lip or growled, but he just doesn’t seem happy to see a human standing in front of him, talking to him and giving him food. It’s like he’s been out there for a really long time and his mind has gone feral. There is no relating to humans. And, if all that goes by are big trucks with 4-wheelers and guns, I can understand why. Big, fast, and loud. I try to move slow and just talk to him. For a long time, I just talked to him. He never moved closer to me. Just stood, over there, away from me. At the edge.

A few hours later, a big diesel truck comes out of the desert, Red Dog didn’t like the sound and moves back further down out of sight, somewhat away from the dirt road. They pull up to my vehicle. It’s a man and two boys. He asks if it’s my dog. I tell him no. I ask if they have any extra food I can give him.

We have a conversation about Red Dog. The Man is concerned that the dog will get into the deer and Havalina population. I tell him I don’t think that dog can run that fast, that he is pretty much on his last legs due to starvation. If he doesn’t starve to death, he’ll probably end up dead from eating road kill because he’ll just end up getting hit by a car anyway. I tell The Man I can’t get anywhere near to Red Dog and that he should just be put down. Living out in the desert is a suffering life sure to end soon enough for him. I had noticed that they had a few guns and asked him to please shoot him. They pulled over; I walked to my vehicle and then heard a ‘pop.’ I just couldn’t stop crying.

I basically cried all the way home. A six hour drive. And then cried about this Red Dog for the evening and the next morning. Now, I’m really not much of a crier. And I’m not much of a dog rescuer either. I’ve been to India and Mexico and had kids hanging on to my legs begging for money. Not that it doesn’t’ effect me, but I don’t cry about it. Concerning the homeless people were I live, I don’t turn the car around and go back to help. I give money to organizations, but I don’t turn around and I don’t cry about them. Why this dog had me so upset I don’t have a clue. Why I couldn’t shake him, I don’t know. This whole situation just dug into my heart and soul and wouldn’t let go. That day, that evening, and even the next day. I just couldn’t get him out of my mind and heart.

So, by Monday afternoon, I am slightly crazed with this. And, I realize I hadn’t stayed to see if Red Dog had been put out of his misery or was now wounded and/or still wandering the desert. I had no end to this story in my heart.

In talking to a dear friend of mine that has drug and animal knowledge, I decide to go back and find out what happened. Either the dog is dead and out of suffering, or I need to finish the job. So, I load up some dog drugs so that I can bring him back to a Vet to euthanize him. Then I decide that’s going to be pretty dangerous for me if he comes too while I’m moving him, bites me or has rabies. I decide I’ll just shoot him after giving him a last meal of great dog food with sleepy pills in it.

I load up everything and head out to the Arizona desert. Drive out to the spot when I arrive at about 8pm to just leave some food out. I stay for a little while but no Red Dog. It’s the dark of the Moon so there isn’t’ even any light. No noise. Just the sound of cars zipping down the highway, about a mile from this spot. All the stars are out. No Red Dog. I head into Wickenburg for a room for the night.

Next morning, I get up at dawn. Head out to find Red Dog. My heart is so heavy. I have a million questions that will never be answered about this event. Why do people abandon their dogs instead of taking them to a shelter? What type of person would abandon a dog? How long had he been out here? What kind of dog was he? Before this, had he been a happy dog? Crazy dog? A loving dog? What happened that this was how his life was now at this place? Why was I so involved? Why did I know and feel what this poor dog was thinking and living? What the hell was going on?

I park in the now familiar spot. Walk over and look at the food dish. It hasn’t been touched. Walk back to the car, load up my handgun and rifle. I’m talking to Red Dog even though I don’t know if he’s around. I find this incredibly sad; I don’t want to scare him even though I want to kill him. How sad is that? I think. I start walking to the spot where he would go down into the wash towards a huge pile of trash. And I see him. Lying on his side, dead. Slightly bloated from having been dead since Sunday. As I leaned over him, I can see that the single shot to the head was a perfectly clean shot. The Man that shot him did a good job. Red Dog never felt a thing.

I looked at the dog and the pile of trash he is laying on. Old Oreo cookie wrappers, envelopes from Home Depot, plastic juice bottles. It was a way down the hill from the dirt road, and I couldn’t figure out how a truck could dump all that there without leaving any tracks. It seemed to be new garbage. Did Red Dog get dumped with this trash? Did he stay here because this was the last thing left of the people that abandoned him so that at least there was still a familiar smell? I could see where he had made a bed under a Palo Verde tree right next to the trash. What a terrible and sad life for a dog. All that was left for him was trash. And even worse, was to be treated like that trash.

The whole side of that wash seemed to be a parable for our human existence. Trash was everywhere. The land was no longer sacred and treated with respect. It had become a dumping ground for our waste. Our trash is poisoning the land while our disrespect for our land and bodies is poisoning us to the depth of our cells. All of the trash was packaging for fake food and a fake life. No responsibility for care of anything nor renewal. No acknowledgement that the land is sacred, that life is sacred, that dirt is sacred. It looked like mankind had thrown up its soulless guts onto the desert sand, displaying for the universe the true make up of mankind’s spirit and thought processes. Plastic bottles, broken cassette tapes, cookie wrappers for snacks made of crap and a dead dog that no one cared about.

And while I greatly appreciate the fact that The Man shot Red Dog and did a good job of it, I think it would have been good for his sons to bury that dog. If you’re worried about the ‘wild life’ of the area, you don’t leave a dead body out for the coyotes, especially if Red Dog had been sick. But more importantly it is a sacred thing to bury or burn the dead. Return the body to the earth. To honor the life and give it back to the Earth. A living thing…now dead….we are responsible for its transition to the other side. And it should be done with honor.

I walked back across the dirt road to the other side away from that spot and down a smaller wash. A green and beautiful Palo Verde stood with many others in a small circle. I cleared a spot between some bushes and started digging a resting spot for Red Dog. I made sure it was good and deep so the plants would get some nutrients from his blood and bones and that maybe, some day, flowers would grow there. I went back to his body, placed him on a big towel, and dragged him to his resting spot.

I spent the morning singing to him and covering him with Earth and Rock. Telling him that he could come live with Luna and me. That he would always have a warm spot on the bed with us. And that he would always have a place in my heart. Sleep well Red Dog.

Red Dog Buried


Blogger Annie said...

Oh Kim. What an incredible heart you have. Thank you for telling Red Dog's story.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Red Dog is so blessed you came into his life. Kim I am so very sorry. My thoughts are with you.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Linda and Denny said...

Ah Kim, you made me cry before my first cup of coffee this morning. Your heart is as big as the desert.

5:21 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Thank you for taking care of him. People who abandon animals who have come dependant on them should be shot. (I don't like betrayal of the innocent) Sigh.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Desert Eagle said...

Empath to Empath
I share it too

11:47 AM  

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