Posted on October 4, 2012
So today is the day Jacinda leaves Los Angeles for good. Sweet mama girl is headed for greener pastures…quite literally. She is off to find her new family in the gorgeous state of Oregon with Born Again Pit Bull Rescue. The amazing Angela Adams is waiting on her end with arms wide open.
Jacinda is the dog I saw on one of my trips to the Carson Shelter. I don’t know her history, but she has had a very hard life. She has lost much of her fur. She has patches of raw sores. Her skin is covered in mange. (Mange is a treatable skin affliction caused my mites. It’s itchy. It makes the skin thick and if left untreated, turns into a condition that looks much like Jacinda) She has been overbred. The vet said she was probably bred every single time she went into heat. She looks like a granny, but in reality she is just about two.
But that is all in the past. Today she is on the way to her new home…and I am driving her there.
I pick her up at the vet that has been treating and boarding her since she was sprung from the shelter. Sweet girl is happy to get out for a walk. The vet techs and staff say goodbye. Jacinda is a little apprehensive as I bring her to my car. She’s probably only been in one a few times…and never ending up in a happy place. She goes right in, though, like a good little girl.
We’re off. I have a long drive ahead of me. The drop-off point is over the hill…in the Valley. Yes, the destination is only about 20 miles from where I live, but in Los Angeles, those miles could take hours to drive. I have made sure I have plenty of time. Famous last words.
Jacinda absolutely loves having her nose out the window. I don’t know how she will be in the car, so I have her leashed safely and the windows cracked just enough for her to sniff the wind.
We drive along the neighborhood streets. I call Angela to let her know we are on our way. Next up, the freeway entrance. I take a peek while waiting for the light…Woo Hoo..No traffic! I breathe a sigh of relief.
Jacinda and I are listening to 80′s pop and enjoying the smells and smooth ride. And then I get to The Getty Center…otherwise known as the Sepulveda Pass or the Gates To Hell. Traffic is at a dead stop. Dead. Stop. No worries though. I planned for this. I still have an hour to make it to the drop off location. Twenty minutes later, I have moved roughly a block.
It’s about this time that I smell something familiar. Dog farts. Yes Miss Jacinda can fire them off, although they are silent, they are deadly. Very deadly. The odor is enough to make me gag. And then I realize Jacinda doesn’t have gas. She crapped in the backseat. A huge pile of steaming, hot poop. Poor girl! I don’t know if it was nerves or the car motion, but let me tell you, it was one of the biggest craps I have ever seen. Only second to the one she took before we got into the car.
I am still on the freeway and there is no place for me to pull off. Besides, now I am running behind because of traffic. So poor mama girl has to stay in the backseat next to her ginormous poop. And of course she is oblivious to it and decides to sniff out the other window. Yep, walking right through the crap. Can you guess what happened next?
She decided she needed to pee. Again. I watched from the rear view mirror as she squatted. The pee mixed with the poop and got all over her feet. Gotta love the smell of semi-new car, hot fresh pee and a steaming pile of poop. Of course I had to get it on camera. There I was, almost late, stuck in slow-moving traffic, filming mama girl and her mess.
Earlier I had taken a spin class and so I had my dirty clothes and towel handy. I threw that in the backseat to cover up the mess as best I could without actually seeing where to put the towels and t-shirts. I did not want Jacinda to lay in it and not be able to have a bath before she boarded the bus. That would have been way too uncomfortable.
But, Jacinda had other ideas. She wanted to be as far away from the stink as possible. First she tried to get up front with me. Sorry, baby girl, no can do. She settled for the floor and curled up for a nap.
That’s when my phone started to ring. The bus was fully loaded and ready to go. Sandy wanted to know how much longer I had to go. Yes. I am officially late. I look at my Garmin. I have 6 miles to go. I look at the traffic. I’m guessing it will take me 25 minutes to get there…if I am lucky. Sandy tells me they cannot wait. They are on a schedule and if they aren’t driving, that means no air condition for the dogs. She said to give her a few minutes, she would see what she could do and would call me back.
Of course I am thinking I am the worst transport person ever. I am totally bummed out that I misjudged my time. I am freaking out that I will have to tell Angela I failed and missed the bus. I look at Jacinda and am so sad she will have to go back to the kennel for a few more weeks. And then I push the gas pedal as far down as I can and jet off as fast as my Kia will take me. I think I was channeling Mario Andretti.
Sandy calls back and confirms my worst fear. They have waited as long as they can. I curse the Los Angeles traffic. Then Sandy says I can drive further and meet up with them at their first stop. Yes! I don’t have to think twice.
The only problem…I suck at directions. I have no sense of north or east, left or right. The freeways are a mystery to me. I’m not in my home neighborhood. I sometimes turn left when I am told to turn right. Sandy tells me where to go.
“Stay on the 405. Then get on the 118, then on the 5 going north. Then get off on the Rexford exit. Go a little way and we’ll be at the Denny’s. You can’t miss it.”
I laugh. She apparently doesn’t know the depths of my directional handicap. I silently pray.
Hurray! All goes well. I find the 118. Then Sandy calls. The exit is actually called Roxford. I say OK. Then (thank God) I ask her how long I should drive on the 118 before the 5 comes up. She doesn’t know exactly, but says something about going east. Holy crap. I am going west! At this point I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Or run away because I am sure Sandy is about to kill me.
I get off the freeway, turn around and get back on…going east. I see signs for the 5. Hallelujah! I pull onto the ramp and am met with…wait for it…wait for it…TRAFFIC! Bumper to bumper. Kill me now.
Jacinda senses we have stopped and comes out of her cubbyhole. She sniffs the air. Wags her tail. And then like Moses himself has parted the Red Sea the traffic starts moving. It was really crazy. For about 5 minutes all I could see were red taillights. And then, all of a sudden the cars start speeding up…to the normal 65 mph.
Jacinda did not appreciate the shift of the car. She threw up.
Poor Jacinda agrees with me that this is the car ride from hell. But she’s a trouper and decides she likes her cubbyhole much better. She disappears onto the floor.
Finally I reach my exit. I see the Denny’s. I call Sandy to let her know I’m RIGHT HERE! She tells me that they had to go to another location because there were no parking spaces in the lot. She gives me directions. I laugh…manically.
And finally…for real this time…I see the bus. I see Sandy. I park. Praise the Lord. We made it. I grab Jacinda’s medical records. I grab some Wet Ones I have in the trunk. Wipe off mama girl. (And she was very careful! She hardly got any gruesomeness on her!)
Jacinda looked around. Peed again. Sandy took care of the paperwork. I said my goodbyes to mama girl. Picked her up and loaded her on the bus. Her bus to true freedom. Her journey to love. Goodbye LA and hello Oregon.
I sat in my car for a few minutes and watched as the bus drove away. I couldn’t help but smile. What an amazing feeling…to be a part of something so life changing…something so momentous…I was so full of happiness for Jacinda. I was filled with gratitude for Angela. And Neda. And Sandy. And Steve. So many people pulling for a once lost soul that had no hope. Giving her a chance. Giving her a brand new life. And through my happy thoughts, I smelled poop. And I laughed. Alone in my car…Like a crazy person.
Posted on April 21, 2012
A surge of adrenaline pumps through my veins. My hands are tense as I take the key out of the ignition. I am in South Central. I am tentative.
I woke up this morning with an idea swirling in my brain. And so I begin my day. A day that will no doubt be very different from any other. I drink my single cup of morning coffee. I check my email. Take a shower. The thoughts still running through my mind. Brush my teeth. Get ready. Today, these mundane tasks are filled with apprehension. Maybe even a little dread.
The day’s agenda looms in the distance. I grab my camera. I grab my bag of dog treats. I think of the possible sights I may see. I push them from my mind. I take a deep breath. I am focused.
As I’m driving to my destination, I am overcome with an unexpected feeling of peace. I’m about to go into the heart of South Central Los Angeles and photograph the dogs that live there. I don’t know what I’ll find, but I’m certain the scene will pull at my heartstrings—maybe even make me angry. And most definitely I’ll feel a sense of helplessness. The dogs that I see will not be ones I can help. Not directly, anyway.
I don’t know where I’m headed exactly. Florence Avenue and some random crossroad. I suddenly worry that no one knows where I am going. I haven’t told a soul. This is a very rough neighborhood and I will be carrying my expensive camera, driving a brand new car and more than likely, I’ll look very out of place. And so I text Maureen. It was brief.
“I’m in South Central. Photographing dogs”.
She knows me well and responds with a simple, “OK. So sad”.
Nothing more needs to be said.
I find a parking spot. There are some men loitering there. I say hello. They look at me but don’t answer. I can feel their eyes follow me. I’m a little nervous, but don’t show it. I reach the alley and take out my camera. As my first footstep falls on the cement, the barking begins…
I am done. I climb back in my car. The images still fill my head and threaten to drown me. It’s soul crushing. The people. The despondency. The homes. The dogs. The gloom. The sounds. The hopelessness. I see each and every moment again. Feel every emotion wash over me again. I close my eyes. I’m filled with melancholy. With a of deep feeling sadness. For the dogs. For the people that live there.
I am driving home with thoughts swirling in my brain. So different from the ones I had upon waking. And then I saw him. I drove by so quickly I wasn’t sure what it was. But I had to go back and see. I had to take a photograph. I drove around the block and found a parking spot. Then I had to walk across 4 lanes of traffic with no crosswalk. My heart was pounding. Adrenaline coursing through my body. Probably much like the dog I was about to photograph. Images of him entered my thoughts. Where was he trying to go? Why didn’t he turn back? What was he feeling as he stood in a spot not far from where I stood. Trying, like me, to navigate the busy road. I wonder if he suffered.
A surge of adrenaline pumps through my veins. I run to my car. Shut the door. My hands are shaking as I put the key in the ignition. I am leaving South Central. I am overwhelmed. The sight of the dead dog is the last straw and my heart can’t take anymore. But the tears I have anticipated all day, don’t come. I am numb. Thinking. Wondering. Feeling. I drive home in the silence—contemplating when I will return.
Music: Breeze by Xavier Rudd
Posted on April 14, 2012
I had been there about an hour. Gone through the dog runs. Passed out treats. Scratched a few ears and muzzles as best I could through the chain that separated us. Now I was standing in the office. I wanted to take out A243244 (pictured) and give him some attention. He’s the one that brought me back. The one I first saw when I went there with Josh. The fawn and white pit bull curled up in a tight ball, tail tucked under, never lifting his head off the ground. But his eyes would follow me. Those eyes. Full of fear. Sadness. Confusion. The scars on his face told a bit of his story, although the details will probably never be known. Dog fights, yes. But where those fights occurred will remain a mystery.
I was second in line. I watched the soft-spoken young man ahead of me. His voice didn’t match his look. Tattoos on his neck and forearms. Baseball cap. Flannel shirt. A thick gold chain around his neck. I wondered why he was there. And then I heard. The woman behind the desk handed him some paperwork. He was here to turn in his dogs. Two of them. She explained the process. He thanked her and walked out as she got on the intercom to call a shelter worker to bring his dogs to intake.
It was my turn. I asked to meet A243244. She pulled up his records. Turns out he is she. Maybe. I’m not sure why the paper on the cage had different information than her computer screen, but she described him. It was the correct dog. I hadn’t seen any others that looked like him. She explained that the dog hadn’t been temperament tested yet, so I couldn’t see him out of the cage. I could leave my name and I would be called in 3-4 days if he passed. I wasn’t sure what to do, since I had no intention of adopting him. I just wanted to show him some kindness right now. I knew that by his behavior and look he probably wouldn’t make it out alive.
Just then I saw the soft-spoken young man with the tattoos enter the runs. I told the lady I would look at some others.
I was curious why the young man was looking at other dogs when he had just turned in his own. Curious and yes, judgmental. My hackles went up thinking that he could callously desert his two pets and replace them. I’ve seen it happen before.
And so I followed him. Pretended like I was also looking for a dog. He walked up and down the rows. Stopping to look at the pits and rotties. I made eye contact with him and said hello. Again his soft, gentle voice threw me as he said hello to me. I walked behind him. I had to know what he was doing.
And so I asked him, “Did you lose your dog?”
“No,” he replied.
I don’t think I responded.
We walked through the kennels together. We were quiet. I wondered what he was thinking as we passed cage after cage. Then I asked him if he was getting a dog. Again his response was no.
He turned to face me. “I just brought my two in.”
All I could say was, “Oh.” Our eyes met and held for a second. Then he turned away and kept walking.
He looked back at me and smiled a very sad smile. When we got to the end of the row, I couldn’t help myself and asked him why he was getting rid of his dogs. The look on his face was pure torture. He explained that he had just moved here from Texas and that the apartment manager told him to get rid of the dogs or find a new place to live. His voice cracked as he told me he’d had the dogs since before his son was born. They came with him from Texas. He’d had them since they were puppies. Then he looked at the floor, unable to continue.
By this time we were at the front of the shelter where 2 dogs in temporary kennels were being processed. His dogs. As soon as they saw him their tails started wagging with joy. He bent down to put his fingers through the bars. I heard him call the pit bull Hazel. She had recently had puppies and looked like she still was producing milk. The other dog was a German shepherd and started barking for his attention. The young man obliged, as I pet Hazel.
He then turned to me and said, “Hazel hates being in a cage.”
He stood up and walked over to me. Again our eyes met. Mine had begun to tear up. He met my gaze and I could see that he too had tears in his eyes. He touched my arm and said quickly, “I gotta go….I just can’t…” His voice trailed off as he quickly made his way to the parking lot.
I watched him walk away. His dogs’ eyes glued to him. Hazel started to howl. He turned back to take one last look at his beloved dogs. There was no hiding his tears. I don’t know if my heart ached more for him or his dogs.
For the last time he met my eyes and said, “It was nice meeting you.” And then he was gone.
I stood there a minute. It was Hazel’s howls that brought my mind back. When I turned to look at her, that’s when my tears really began. She was trying to get the young man to come back. The shepherd was just gazing in the direction he had gone. Silent. Watching.
I walked to the bathroom so I could pull myself together. When I emerged about 10 minutes later, the two dogs were still starring in the same direction. Not moving. Alert. Wondering.
The tears began again and I decided it was time for me to go home. I don’t know when the tears stopped. Somewhere along the 405. And somewhere along the way, I decided that yes, I was going back. To check on Hazel. To make sure she and the shepherd were OK. To do what I can for the countless others I met today. Yes. I’m going back. No matter what.
I’ve decided to save Hazel and the shepherd. If you want to help I’ve set up a way to make a donation toward their care. I know they will appreciate it!