When the year turns, I tend to watch for events, private or public, that set a tone for the days ahead. I witnessed something on January 6 that I can’t forget, that seems important, like something I need to remember and pass on.

We took our dogs to the local park for a walk in the late afternoon, a beautiful clear winter’s day. Soon after we started, two bedraggled and pitiful looking stray dogs began to follow us. They were small, of no breed I can name, but clearly siblings, and clearly they had been dumped in the park.  No tags, and they were shaggy, dirty, smelly, and seemingly desperate for the company of our dogs.

We kept ours moving – not wanting this pair to come too near – fleas and/or disease came to mind. We circled the park and dropped our own dogs back in the car. One of the strays fell behind, but the other kept up the pace, though it must have been painful, for its nails were overgrown, and walking was difficult. I planned to go to the Arby’s at the edge of the park to get a couple of sandwiches for the dogs, but this little bedraggled one shied away from humans and wouldn’t even come near enough to pick up our doggie treats. It turned back toward it’s companion somewhere behind on the trail.

Words can’t convey how forlorn these two little dogs appeared. How their abandonment evoked the thought of all abandoned, discarded, and unloved beings. How their plight aroused such a strong desire to do something, to relieve their suffering, but what?

Call animal control? They’d be warm and well fed, at least for a while. But who could predict their odds of being adopted or being put down?

In the end, we left them in the park. Once before, I encountered a similar stray, who followed our dogs back to the car and even managed to jump in. Later I learned he’d been adopted by a friend who works in the Parks and Recreation Department. I can only hope someone who wants a dog will find them before cold and hunger or coyotes do them in.

The feeling of compassion never guarantees the wisdom to do the right thing. In the end, all we can do is take our best guess and do our best. As I think of these dogs, as well as the human strays I see from time to time in the park, I think of these U2 lyrics:

Every sailor knows that the sea
Is a friend made enemy
And every shipwrecked soul, knows what it is
To live without intimacy.

The dogs, at least for a while, had each other, but plenty of others do not. Haven’t we all been there at times? And it’s not always people who visibly live at the margins, for margins are not always visible. To watch for a chance to reach out with kind words or a helping hand – is there anything more important to consider at the start of the year?

7 thoughts on “Strays

  1. At least you have the compassion to think about it! I might suggest, though, that the next time, you might try to locate a local animal rescue organization. Especially this time of year, access to water (that isn’t frozen) and being out of the elements is far better than just “having each other”. Do a search for either no-kill shelters or local animal rescue organizations. if they are a particular breed, contact a breed rescue (or resemble a particular breed). If not, animal control is a better option–unless you’re in NM, they have a ridiculously high kill rate.

    I have captured and found rescue organizations for so many dogs over my lifetime I have lost track. . .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “The feeling of compassion never guarantees the wisdom to do the right thing.”
    How true that is in many aspects of life–and in parenting.

    As far as taking strays to a shelter is concerned, I’ll note for the record that the animal control organizations in Sacramento have an extraordinary record of minimizing the number of animals “put down.” Front Street (Sac City) got a new leader a few years back and she made it her mission to stop killing adoptable animals. Sac County and the SSPCA also do a very good job of finding homes for animals that are compatible with humans. For an animal that is friendly or can be socialized, the odds of survival are better at the shelter.

    Of course, feral or aggressive animals won’t make it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ah, Morgan, you have a good heart. You had a hard decision to make and made the best decision you could with the information you had. Some will think you made the wrong one, but I’m can’t fault you for what you did. I am quite sure I would have done the same. You can’t take on all the problems of the world. It’s nice to see a post from you. It has been awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been mulling things over and in a quiet mode. Also, not monitoring all of my various email accounts so I know I missed some messages from you, for which I apologize. Thanks for your comment. Yes there’s no point in second guessing oneself.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There’s a horribly trite saying that goes something like ‘You can only do what you can do.’ Though it begs many questions, few of them comfortable, there is an element of truth there: only begin what you’re able to follow through to a just conclusion or you might have only made matters worse by going at it half-heartedly and without commitment. Still, a difficult decision to make.


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