Saturday, July 26, 2008
No jaunty headline here -- Doggie Death Row
I'm not sleeping at all tonight. It's three in the morning and I've already been up twice. I think spending the day marching up and down the aisles of doggie death row has taken its toll. You suck it up at the time, steal yourself, try to say hello to them all, you know, hello-you're-a-beautiful-girl, and then sometimes you take them out to a tiny patch of grass and witness them bounding about, often for the first time in months, completely delirious with happiness from all the pent up energy, knowing it may be the last time they get to do that. But by the end, your head is down, too. Lancaster was the worst, with sometimes 6 or 9 dogs in the same concrete cell. When I was there the cages were being cleaned and so all of the dogs were on the outside portion of the cell, the thick metal dividers shut, while the insides were sprayed down with water. I wanted to bring them some Dettol too. The stink of dog pee and poo is overwhelming. The dogs were sitting outside in the 97 degree heat, some cowered in the corner, some sleeping, some barking maniacally and leaping up and down at the chain link as you pass by. It's awful. The Pasadena Humane Society is a paradise in comparison, and I didn't really feel sorry for the dogs there. Compared to Lancaster, it's Butlins, the place teaming with earnest volunteers in nice t-shirts, with their leashes slung around their waists. Many cages had a person inside, just sitting and gently talking to the animals.
By the time you've done this for a few days, and I believe this is my third or fourth day, you become quite hardened to it. I no longer stop at each cage, just a quick glance is enough, to tell whether there is an animal vaguely resembling a black lab. The best dogs are the mutts, the pit bull mixes and the rotties. I can't keep my eyes off the old guys either, the old black dogs with their gray muzzles and sad brown eyes, who remind me just too much of Briar. I want to take the old guys home and let them live out their days with some dignity, instead of in these prisons.
God bless the people who volunteer. There was a kooky girl at Lacy Street (North Central Animal Shelter) with pink hair and yellow teeth, who knows all the dogs. "Chip them, I say" she tells me "and I don't say it nicely: CHIP your dogs." She lugs yet another young black lab mix outside and does a bit of Cesar Milan-inspired leash training for my benefit. The dog has no interest at all in the leash and naturally just wants to bound about sniffing everything he can in the shortest time possible. "I don't get paid for this, you know" she says, "but I still come every day. I like to think that I give them better lives." Lacy Street is near Dodger Stadium and it looks familiar to me, and I realize as I drive around that the pound is on the same street as the studios where Allison Anders shot "Mi Vida Loca." This girl could have been an extra in that film.
Dotsie has been my patient companion all day long. We stopped for hamburger patties and water at In 'n Out Burger for lunch and sometimes she sits in the front seat as we drive through Southern California. Lancaster and Palmdale are brown and dry. The ground is the texture of a cookie under your feet. I let her out to pee and she pees quickly before jumping back in the car as it's too hot to stay long. "I miss her too" I say to her and she sticks her nose under my elbow as I drive so that I can include cuddling her in my multi-tasking. We listened to old Simon and Garfunkel and I think about Hockney and his desert pictures. When I sing, she doesn't care. When I whistle, she looks at me expectantly.
There was a dalmatian puppy this morning called Celeste. Probably the nicest dog I've seen all day. She's three months old, comes to her name and is house-broken. She sits too, but wouldn't sit for us when we were there because she was too excited to play with Dotsie. There's a lovely woman in Brentwood who runs the dalmatian rescue out of her house. She must have fifteen dogs there at least. Celeste in the youngest and she's very, very sweet (and believe it or not, rescued from Belson in Lancaster). But J wants a black lab. And so do I, I suppose, but it dawned on me today, that we're never, ever going to replace our girl. Not even close.