CHAPTER ONE (Cont’d)
THE DECISION—PANIC IN THE CATTERY
(7th installment of Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)
So, it was with a large helping of trepidation that I went to the shelter. I was giving myself one last chance to find an animal that would have no other chance if I did not step in and adopt. I steeled myself against the pain of seeing so many hopeless animals at the end of their sad lives, animals I knew would be gone in two or three days—put to death to ease the over-crowding.
My original intent was to go directly to the cat ward, but it had been moved to the far end of the facility through a maze of dog kennels. As I tried to find my way, I ended up going through the large-dog kennel: the last place I wanted to see.
As I hurried down the aisle of the large-dog kennel, I saw a Rottweiler sprawled on the floor, her head resting on the elevated curb separating her inside cage from the outdoor run. Her breathing was labored, her eyes droopy. My heart stopped. How could anyone leave such a beautiful dog to suffer like this? I literally skidded to a stop and backed up to her cage. Without thinking, I called to her and tried to connect. There was no way I was leaving that dog in that kennel to suffer. If she made even one positive move toward me, I was taking her home. But she needed to make the first move.
Rottweilers are a special breed of dog. They are a working breed and, as such, are very tuned in to their owners’ needs and expectations. However, the owners must be calm and assertive, not cruel or unpredictable. If a Rottie is exposed to cruel or unpredictable behavior as they are maturing, they will become aggressive. They are animals that quickly learn patterns and will adapt to whatever they believe is expected of them. Temperament is everything to a Rottweiler. I would not intercede on behalf of a dog that was not stable.
I stood at her cage and waited. She looked at me but did not get up.
“Hey, sweetie girl,” I said. “How did you get here to this place?”
She looked at me but quickly looked away.
“Can you come here, girl?” I asked. “Come here, sweetie. Let me look at you.”
She made eye contact but still did not respond. There was no aggression in her eyes, but there was no willingness to connect either. I waited a few minutes, hoping she would be curious enough to come to me. Instead, she stood up and moved to her outside dog run. I heard her began to cough. Her coughs racked her body so hard she almost collapsed. Nonetheless, her body language was clear: “Leave me alone.”
I moved on down the aisle, trying not to look at the dogs. But three cages down, in kennel number 83, a scruffy golden retriever mix threw himself on the chain-link gate to his cage. He was all happy grins and wags, inviting me to stop. I spoke briefly to him, sending him into spasms of joy; he was jumping up and down and twirling like a dervish. But my heart was not bent by his demonstrations of affection. I was on a mission to find a cat. With not so much as a backward glance, I left the building and found the cattery.
Inside the cat ward the cages were stacked three high with kittens crying for their mothers, older house cats lying calmly waiting for their owners to return, and the feral cats caught only to be discarded at the pound. Too many cats and kittens pressed their needs against my psyche. I almost bolted from the room. How could I find just one kitten or cat out of all these creatures that needed someone to care for it? How could I pass by the older cats whose owners no longer wanted them or, worse yet, had lost their own homes and now could not keep their companion cats in newly rented apartments? And the kittens: there were so many kittens. Some were sick with eyes running with greenish pus. Others were barely old enough to be without their mothers, getting thinner and thinner because they could not eat the dry food they were offered. Some cages held the newly abandoned babies. It was easy to tell which ones had just come into the shelter. They were the ones who cried piteously at the cage door and reached through the bars to grab at whoever walked by.
I did a quick turn around the room, my eyes searching for just the right one. Was it the gray-and-white kitten newly deposited in its cage, the one that reached through the bars and grabbed at my sleeve? Was it the black baby with the impish copper eyes who skittered up to the cage door, then pranced away arching her back as she went? Or should I take the beautiful calico momma with the litter of three identical calico daughters? Would they let me take her and foster the babies?
Panic finally overtook me. Gasping for air I rushed from the building. Inadvertently I again passed through the large-breed kennel area. As I passed by kennel 83, the same scruffy golden retriever mix began his tail-wagging. I dragged my fingers across the chain-link fence and was rewarded with a quick swipe of his tongue and a laugh in his eyes. I hurried past, not wanting to look too closely at the dog, afraid of what I would see in his eyes. I did stop briefly at the Rottweiler’s cage hoping she would respond to me.
She was again lying inside, sprawled on her side. Her only response was a few more coughs and brief eye contact, but no wag of her stumpy tail.