September 8, 2007

Good people

This has nothing to do with public speaking, but I'm feeling so optimistic today I'm going to post it anyway. It's a little long.

On Thursday morning, a giant German Shepherd puppy ran down our driveway and onto our back deck, snuffling around and freaking out all 8 cats on the property. We often get dogs running down our driveway; we live across the street from a popular park, and sometimes people don't get the leash back on the dog before the dog smells cat and goes nuts.

I went outside and tried to capture the dog, but she was way too excited to stop snuffling and rummaging. I also looked up and down the street for someone who might be missing their dog, but there was no one around. The meter-readers for the electric company came down the driveway and told me they remembered seeing the dog in a yard a few blocks away.

A guy came walking down the street with his dog, and the German Shepherd wanted to play. She ran back and forth across the street several times, narrowly avoiding being hit by several cars. I spoke to the man briefly and told him the story. He helped me figure out how to catch the dog.

I finally was able to grab her - Katy - and look at her tags: address and phone number in Oregon. At this point, I called Animal Control, and right after that called the number in Oregon and left a message.

I also went into the house and grabbed a leash I had on hand (for when we were trying to leash-train one of our cats - yes, we really were), and I was finally able to get Katy under control.

As animal control arrived, the man with the dog came back down the street - he had remembered the house where he had seen the dog! He had even spoken with the woman in her garden. In fact, the dog was visiting from Oregon and was due to return home that day. The officer took down the information and our names and numbers, and took off with the dog.

Later that same day, we heard the sound of maniacal yapping as two Beagles came charging down the driveway, chasing one of our cats and creating general havoc. As I shooed them away and followed them back out to the sidewalk, thinking they had escaped their owner at the park, I realized that they, too, were on their own. They took off across the street, stopping traffic and barely missing getting smooshed.

I walked up and down the street, examined the park and realized, once again, that I was going to have to call Animal Control. In the meantime, the dogs had disappeared.

I came back outside a few minutes later to look for the dogs, and a man was walking down the street toward me. He asked me if I was looking for my dogs. I said, "They're not my dogs, but yes, I'm looking for them."

Turns out that this guy (one of the "regulars" who hangs out at the park until it closes every day), had caught one of the dogs and had tied her to a picnic bench with his belt. The other dog was still roaming, but staying close. He had given them water and some of his food, and had somehow found a way to call the owners, even though he didn't have a cell phone.

He said he was willing to stay with the dogs at the park until either the owners or Animal Control arrived. Another good guy jumping in to help. I called Animal Control and gave them the updated location of the dogs, in case the owners didn't show up before the park closed.

So . . . Friday evening, my husband and I returned from dinner to see two dogs running wild in the street in front of our house. Yep, the Beagles were on the loose again. A car stopped on the other side of the street and a guy got out and tried to catch the dogs, but they were having too much fun dodging traffic.

We went into the house and came out with flashlights, determined to catch the dogs this time and get them out of the street. We had searched two blocks when we caught up with the guy who had stopped his car, crouched down holding each of the dogs by the collar.

He had already called the number on their tags and left a message. The dilemma: it's 8:00 p.m. and where do we take the dogs? I called the police department and they told me that Animal Control will only come out at night if an animal is injured or aggressive. They mentioned that the animal shelter has a drop-off cage where we could leave one dog. So it sounded like we had to let the dogs go and wait for one to get injured before we could get any assistance.

We tried to think of someone we knew who had a dog, who wouldn't mind babysitting the runaways until morning.

Finally, the helpful stranger offered to take them back to his apartment until the morning or until he heard from the owners, something we were unable to do due to our three-cat household.

As we walked back to his car, one dog in the stranger's arms, the other carried by my husband, we debated dropping the dogs off overnight at the animal shelter. What if there really was only room for one dog? What if another dog was already in the cage? Finally, while putting the dogs into the other guy's car, the owners called. They were an hour away and would head straight to the apartment to get the Beagles.

Apparently, they had recently moved from one part of the neighborhood to another, and the dogs kept getting out and trying to find their former home. The owners had paid someone to secure their yard that very day, and the dogs were still able to escape.

The dogs went home with the good Samaritan, and that's the end of the story. So far!

(For those of you concerned that I was condemning the dogs to the animal shelter: our county has a no-kill shelter. Their policy is to keep an animal for three days and then offer it up for adoption. An owner or pet sitter who is missing an animal will surely notice their dog is missing within this window.)

Sometimes we develop a jaded view of our fellow citizens, believing that people don't care about others and that people only help others when they can get something for themselves. I'm a pretty positive person, and I try to be open to seeing the good things about people. I'm also an animal lover and animal "parent", and I'm not very patient with people who are less than responsible about their pets.

But even I was surprised at how every single person I encountered while trying to catch these dogs was concerned and willing to help, and even go out of their way to help - especially when it seemed like the owners themselves weren't even missing the dogs.

Is it just because people love animals? No - these people would have helped no matter the situation. Because people are mostly good inside, aren't they?

Keep it up, good people of the world, and thank you. You know who you are.

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