So true on so many levels, right ? But how awfully wrong when engraved on the tag of a dog, tied to a tree, yelping in mid 90 degree heat.
Financial District. New York. July 6th, 2013. 6:00 ish PM. (which believe me, is HOT): Karan and I were ordering street food off a food truck when I saw Sunshine. He said he’d get our food while I go find the owner.
I entered the air-conditioned Chipotle, frantic, hot and dehydrated myself, yet incapable of imagining what she must be feeling. It was fairly empty. The was a really old lady slowly picking at her lunch.
“Ma’am is that your dog outside ?”
“Yeah, just go pet her..”
“Ma’am its really hot outside”
“Yeah look someone left her some water. Give her this too.. ” (Hands me a side dish of corn and onion.) Really ?
“Still, if you could please see why she is yelping and shivering so much ?”
Old lady walks out with me. “What’s your name ?”
“What nationality is that ?”
“Indian” (why is this relevant?)
“Oh! I have some friends who like Indian food- can you recommend a good restaurant?”
“Ma’am sorry, I don’t live here.” (This is New York. Every second restaurant is Indian. And they’re all good.)
“Sunshine, Aunt Shalini will take care of you for a while ok ?” “Here, just pet her. I’ll be back soon.”.
Golden rule of human-dog interaction – Never run up to an unknown dog to pet them. Specially one who is already feeling vulnerable (tied to a tree, yelping, 100 degree heat ? ) So I knelt down, and offered her my hand to sniff.
“No, No just pet her. I’ll be back.”
She went back inside. I let Sunshine approve me. And then I pet her. I ran back to the food truck. We were about leaving when she yelped again. It had been 10 minutes. No sign of the lady yet. Meanwhile another guy had bought a bottle of water and stood near the dog.
“Ma’am there are a bunch of parks two blocks away where you and Sunshine can sit together. She is really unhappy right now.”
“I’ll be out in a second”.
Karan and I and the water guy stayed with the dog. A lady pulled up in an SUV and asked “Do you wanna put her in my car and cool her off ? ” (I swear, the world is functional only because of these few good people -water guy and car lady).
Karan couldn’t handle Sunshine crying anymore “I’m going to get her out.” (Only one of the reasons why I love him 🙂 ) And he brought her out, somehow.
Somewhere in the midst of all this we had noticed Sunshine’s tag which read “I am not Lost. I am Waiting.” and had a phone number. However, the lady told us that she thought Sunshine had an abusive past related to being tied and left alone and so she tries not to do that to her. (I think the fact that she had a tag that said this, indicates otherwise.) She also said whenever she ties Sunshine and goes into a store, a crowd accumulates around Sunshine. The two statements contradicted each other so starkly. I don’t know if that was old age, or ignorance, or what! She also said the dog was 16 and had a nerve condition that made her quiver and that it wasn’t fright.
She said it was hard living in the city with Sunshine. She was 16 floors up and the dog needed to go out twice a day. There was no grass around where she lived so she had to walk her further. I honestly did not know what to make of this situation. At one point, when untied, the dog stepped on the road and I alerted the old lady.
When they left, Sunshine walked off leash, close to the old lady. This got my mind racing about leash laws. This dog was one of the perceived aggressive breeds. Very mellow, very sweet. When she approved me, she came and sat on my foot. She leaned all her weight on my legs. This shows trust. She let me massage her ears and give her a kiss. That is how sweet this girl was. But the fact that she was off leash might work against her if a leashed dog were to come up to her, provoke her and make her act in defense.
So many mixed feelings. Should we have called animal control ? A 16 year old perceived aggressive breed dog has pretty much sealed fate in a shelter. Should we have called the cops and troubled this ancient lady ? I don’t know. Did I detect a bond between the two old girls ? Yes, sort of. Not one of the strongest I’ve seen, I’ll admit. But the dog seemed to love this lady, so she was at the very least, good to her and fed her well, so why separate them in this old age ?
We got talking about how this was a two-tone problem: First, the owner needing to realize what they were doing was unacceptable. Then, getting help. My instant reaction was “Why can’t she hire a student to walk the dog twice a day? ” and “Why does she need to take the dog to lunch with her at all?” and a host of other things including “Why does she have this big dog that she can’t look after even?” But Karan pointed out – she doesn’t even realize what she is doing is wrong. How do you tell a parent they are doing wrong by their child ?
How do you tell a pet parent that they are wronging their pet without the pet bearing the brunt of you upsetting the owner ?
I was just wishing Sunshine had a button I could press that would make her small and compact so I could bring her back with me on the plane and then press the button again to re-size her back.