We live in a fairly OK suburban neighborhood on the north-east side of town – working class to middle-class, well-kept small house, with lots of military and retired military, being convenient to Randolph AFB, Fort Sam Houston and Brooke Army Medical Center; mostly owners and not many rental units. A solid, but not upscale neighborhood, which we know very well through having lived in and taken a lively interest in since I bought a house in 1995. We walk the dogs, and even before we had dogs, I used to jog a course taking me through most of the streets – it’s an OK neighborhood and we know it well. And San Antonio and Texas generally is doing all right, employment-wise, in comparison to many other places, but even so, I am developing my own way of following the current economic picture; the numbers of disposable pets.

Up until about a year and a half ago, when we found a loose dog in the neighborhood, the animal invariably turned out to be a strayed pet, and their owners were usually frantic to get them returned. Two of the largest dogs that we found and returned to their owners turned out to have strayed a good distance; several miles and from the other side of a busy four-lane avenue, but small dogs usually haven’t gone very far, not more than a couple of blocks from their starting point. We had it down to a science; if they were tagged and/or chipped, we would usually have to wait until Monday to call the veterinary practice and get them to look at their rabies shot register and give us the owner’s phone number. Or the owner had put up posters all over the neighborhood, or even thought to put their phone number on the dog’s collar, or registered them with some kind of pet retrieval service. Sometimes, it would be a matter of just putting a stray on a leash and walking around, asking anyone if they recognized the dog. On one particularly memorable weekend, we found and returned four dogs to their owners – I was at a point where I was afraid to step out of the house, for fear that I would find yet another one. It usually wasn’t a bother to keep a stray for a day or so; they were almost always house-trained, friendly, and amiable towards our own dogs and cats, older animals showing evidence of having been groomed and cared for … but in the last year and a half, this has changed in a bad way.

The dogs that we have found in the streets lately have all been dumped here by their previous owners – no collars, no chips and no tags, no one advertising their loss, and certainly no one recognizes them. Most of these dogs were young, almost always dirty and rambunctious. It was easy to work out the story arc there: someone got a cute puppy, it grew up and grew large, became a handful. Someone solved their problem by driving into our neighborhood and making their problem someone else’s problem; a distressing circumstance, but kind of understandable. We dealt with two incidents of this in the last year; the first time by finding a new owner, the second time by reluctantly contacting the city animal shelter. The local city shelters will do their best to place healthy, uninjured and amiable animals, so we were not unutterably depressed in having to do this. What is most depressing of all, is that the last few dogs that we or our neighbors have rescued from the street were not the very large, young, untrained and un-housebroken kind. They were all small, affectionate, older and well-behaved; one was a Chihuahua/min-pin mix, and the other two appeared to be Maltese-poodle mixes, not one of them more than fifteen pounds, and all three bearing the evidence of having been otherwise well-cared for. The first of these had also been neutered, tail docked, fairly well clipped and with beautiful manners – we thought for sure that he was a pet, and would be searched for by his owner … but no. He had been dumped as well: no one recognized him, there were no posters or notices up, as appear when a well-loved pet goes missing. The only way we can square this, is to think that perhaps his owner died or was incapacitated, and whoever was sorting out their household couldn’t be bothered to take him to the shelter. We’ve come to a bad place, when pets are being dumped like this. And if it’s like this here … how bad is it in the cities where the economic pinch is really being felt?

(We’ve kept the well-mannered little dog, by the way. His name is Connor now, since we found him near O’Connor Road, and he is curled up in his dog-bed under my desk as I post this.)

12 thoughts on “Disposable”

  1. The coyotes are making quite a comeback in these parts, making sure that little guys like that don’t have much of a chance for long. The coyotes are even doing well in the city here.

    In general though, we see the occasional stray but nothing to report such as you.

  2. My aunt and uncle – who lived on a rural farm, would discover people dumping their dogs/cats on the property – and leaving.

    My uncle, never one to shoot them (a stray cat – becoming feral – has to kill so many birds to survive) –

    While he wouldn’t take them to shelters he would rarely take them into his home other than feed them.

    He referred to these animals as “walk-ons”.

    Until I got a pit peeved at my dog rescue friend I would take in these dogs for a week – 6 months – 8 months – until she found them a home.

    You can tell a lot about the previous owner by the dog – how it acts – and I have to say grew ambivalent about a lot of people. (which is my way of saying some dogs are preferable to some people).

    I figure if it gets bad enough for me my dog – mr Tobus – got from the pound but a beautiful white Spitz – well, we’d be cruising the streets with a shopping cart.

    I can’t understand people callous enough to just dump their animals.

  3. Dan – coyotes are amazing. They even live to this day in suburban Los Angeles, in the Hollywood Hills.

  4. Yes, you can tell an amazing amount about where an animal came from, by how it behaves, and responds. One of our cats – also a street rescue (he was being tormented by some teenaged boys who had super-soaker squirt guns) – we figure that he was a guy’s pet. Any man who comes to the house, this cat is all over them, like white on rice. It’s really embarrassing. He’s moderatly affectionate to women and children, but we have to practically peel him off the male visitor.

    Connor the dog is a darling – affectionate, well-behaved, loves everyone: he had been clipped recently when we found him, and brushed (Malti-poos’ fur tends to matt horribly otherwise). Every indication was that he was someone’s very-well cared-for pet. Just like the little spitz-poodle that we found, on Christmas Eve, two years ago – we were rewarded, quite generously, when we called the number on the posters that his people had been papering the neighborhood with for days.

    That’s why I just thought it was so cruel and tragic, that someone just drove Connor (or whatever his name was before) into a strange neighborhood and booted him out. Every indication was that someone was dearly fond of him! I’m also kind of angry about this – my good-nature and fondess for animals is being taken advantage of. Someone didn’t have the time or the fortitude to find a new home, or to take him to one of the shelters. The last dog that we found was sort of a goldish-tan version of Connor, but rather more timid. We had to turn him into the shelter, but we checked, and he has gone to the adoption section, which was a relief for us.

  5. When people are losing their houses, exhausting their savings, forced to wait tables to make rent and in every possible way try to cut their expenses – it is understandable they give up on their pets. Not admirable, but understandable.

    Yesterday I was watching a rerun of the Dog/Cats documentary on PBS; and as much as I long for a cold nose pushing my palm, I told myself – now’s not the time. Exactly because I am a responsible person: when I make a commitment I will have to stick to it. It’s better not to make a promise…I don’t know what will happen to me a few years from now.

  6. Sgt – Tatyana – some of the people I found to be most callous – during my rescue days – were the people for whom spaying/neutering is “cruel” – and they are so judgmental towards those who thought otherwise.

    Many of these same people are the ones who will dump puppies/kittens at the pound when they cannot place them.

    Or dump them in the wild, thinking a pound would be “cruel”.

    My dog – I could tell at some point someone paid a lot of money for him – my mother used to have a German Shepard – sired from National Champion, etc and I get more positive comments on my “pound dog” than she did with the Shepard.

    But when I got him he would – at the first opportunity of an open door – bolt out and run merrily
    down the sidewalk of my fairly busy residential street.

    Now you want to watch something funny – watch a middle age man rapidly losing his temper – running down the street trying to catch a dog that obviously doesn’t want to be caught.

    He did this 3 times – each time – after about 2 hours I’d see him patiently waiting by my front door with what looked like a grin. American Eskimos (their official name in this country) really do look like they are smiling sometimes.

    Well, on the 3rd time I was so mad I just walked back to the house – yelling and telling him that if a car didn’t kill him he could go back to the pound.

    And from that time he never did it again.

    Now I am not trying to “anthropomorphic” the dog into a furry version of me; just sayin’.

    Oh, and the first day I had him – I took him home – picked him up and the little @#$%^ whipped around and bit me in the arm.

    He drew blood. I was so mad I literally threw him out in the patio and let him sit there – by himself – for 12 hours.

    But from those 2 episodes we are now the best of friends.

    I could tell that he had very minimal human contact during his 8 years “wherever”. He was probably one of those dogs who spent their lives – alone – in the back yard.

    A dog is a pack animal and you are one of the pack – and to them you are either above them or beneath them.

    Making them live solitary will over time, drive them nuts.

    Now cats to me are fascinating. I used to despise them; now I grudgingly admire them. Wish I could find the video – long out of print =- but a good 30 years ago the National Geographic ran a special on cats – as a species.

    From the house cat to a Bengal Tiger – as a species behaviorally they have more in common with each other than any other species.

    Left to themselves in the wild a house cat will behave like a little lion. Next to sharks I think physically they are a near perfect hunting machine.

    I came to view even lions as 400 lb house cats – and years ago (I am afraid with most of my stories the preface these days is “Many Years ago….” but I was able to get to Kenya – and one always remembers the lions there.

    They even roam the countryside by the roads – and when I asked this woman in Nairobi – a British expat – what she did if she saw a lion laying in the middle of the road she replied ‘I honk the horn!”

    A lion really is just a giant pussycat. Years ago (again) MGM used to have a hotel in Reno and if you went down to the lower floor – below ground – there was a man with a lion who would let you have your picture taken with him. Whether the lion was drugged or simply well fed I can’t say but he was never aggressive to people.

    Not saying he wouldn’t be if he needed a meal ;-)

    But when I asked the attendant where he kept him at night he just said at his home.

    I’ll bet he didn’t have any trouble with break-ins ;-)

  7. We’re down to 1 dog, 2 cats, no kids. The lizard, rats, & 1 cat are with the kids. We have taken in strays from time to time, but none have turned up lately.

    We live in a rather dense inner suburb of Boston. There seem to be a lot more posters for missing cats and small dogs than for those found. The difference may be made up of several things, cars especially, but I would not rule out the activities of the coyotes. I saw one trotting straight up a rock embankment, as easily as I would negotiate a sidewalk, with what looked like a black and white cat in its jaws. There is a 600 +/- acre state park nearby which may serve as their point d’appui.

  8. “There seem to be a lot more posters for missing cats and small dogs than for those found”: someone’s eating them. Perhaps Mr Coyote.

  9. …someone’s eating them

    OR: someone did not bother to hang the “found” poster but simply
    a) called the “missing” poster contact info
    b) kept the pet (if there were no “missing” matches)

    I mean Mr. Human, not Mr. Coyote.

  10. After the oil boom busted in the early 90’s we had a real big problem in the Granbury area with people from Ft. Worth coming out there to dump their animals. We just put down an old cat last year we aquired as a kitten when someone cruised our neighborhood dumping out rheumy unweaned kittens on Halloween night.

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