Before I lived in my present place, I kept my gym equipment in self-storage. It was the late nineties and I lived with my girlfriend, her two English Pointers and Jonesy. We were very much a dog family. Those were also my days of working with local animal control officers (ACO’s). As much as I could, I provided stewardship and care for homeless dogs. Back then most local towns had at least a handful of unwanted pooches. I had a key to their cages and each weekend or vacation day, I would get a different dog to be with our pack.
So I couldn’t but help notice the dog chained a few feet away from my self-storage bin. He was a thin mixed breed. And though he had an undercoat, he had not an extra ounce of fat. He looked like a yellow coyote. His owners were picture perfect white trash… and they treated him accordingly. The dog had the classically unimaginative name “Duke.” He was on a short chain and had a homemade dog house, just an empty cube with no blanket, nothing. Duke was out there in all weather, 24/7. Zero companionship. Zero affection. Zero mental stimulation. Zero exercise. Ever, from what I saw. Those assholes who owned him were, in fact, zeroes.
I contacted the town’s ACO about his neglect, but she said as long as Duke had water and “shelter,” her hands were tied. I spoke with my own ACO. She and her husband said there were thousands out there just like him. They suggested I take a bale of hay from the horse barn and offer to stuff Duke’s dog house for the sub zero winter nights we were then experiencing. The owners refused, said he was “fine.”
I was into pit bulls at the time and Duke was not my type of dog, but I offered to buy him from the owners. They refused. The storage bin where Duke was chained was directly on route to the nearby city. When my girlfriend and I went out to eat, we always saved Duke some food and stopped on our way home. I rarely passed the place without giving him extra calories.
This morning as the sun filled the living room, Rollo and I played tug-o-war with an old pair of long johns I’d knotted up. His tiny tail stump was wagging to beat the band and he growled with pleasure. I let him win, of course, and he began to whip the long johns in figure eight patterns around his head. As I laughed, it occurred to me that though I never knew Rollo in his previous life, his conditions had allegedly been remarkably similar to Duke’s. No wonder Rollo constantly sought my touch. No wonder he literally threw himself against me each morning to spoon. 🙂