Monday, January 08, 2007

Dog At Venice and Hauser

I saw a quick, furry flash from the corner of my eye. Though I was cruising down Venice boulevard in fourth gear, I turned to see the dog scuttle under a parked car. Right behind him a shirtless man slammed into the car wielding the dog’s doubled-over leash like a whip. I jerked my wheels toward the curb but I didn’t pull over. I was barely going to be on time to Sarah’s as it was.

As I pulled up to the next stop light, my stomach knotted. Could I really just drive away knowing a man was beating his dog in broad daylight? I decided Sarah would understand and I swung around the block. Back on Venice, I found the dog alone, panting and looking back to the man who sat in frustration about a half block away. I parked and went to the dog.

A friendly red chow/retriever mix, he wiggled happily under my touch as I checked for blood and asked him if he was OK. The man, still brandishing the leash, was walking towards us. In my mind I had a whole litany of angry speeches. Though he was clearly a weight-lifter, I had a good six inches on him and figured, worst case, I could take him.

He got within spitting distance and I stood up. Before I could get a word out he smiled and calmly asked if I wanted the dog.

“Is he yours?”

“Yes. You want him?”

“I saw you hit him.”

“He chase cat. You want him?”

This was unexpected. I knew if I was really going to make a difference in the situation, I should take the dog. And do what? My apartment was already crowded with a dog twice this size and a huge cat. But I could feel a larger self asking me: alright girl, just how much responsibility are you willing to take here?

“Take him to a shelter.” I suggested.

“No, they just kill him.”

“There are plenty of no-kill shelters in LA.” Although I couldn’t think of the name of a single one as the adrenaline made my hands shake.

The man shrugged. “I kill him myself.”

“Please, just take him to a no-kill shelter if you don’t want him.”

“You want him?”

The dog grinned up at the man who had never looked me in the eye. I could feel the plates of time grinding in one of those crossroads moments. Do I take this dog and figure out how to get him a better home or do I walk away? The dog thumped his tail and sat next to his master.

As I drove away, the man attached the leash to the dog and they walked around the corner.

I hope I read him right. He didn’t seem like a dog desperate to get out of his situation and I’ve seen them. I hope the man heard me and will do the humane thing but I know the chances are slim. I hope I made a small difference for good beyond a stranger getting pissed about a meddling gringa and taking it out on a little red dog.

When I recounted the episode later to my dad, he said I’d been crazy to get out of the car. I could have been hurt. True. But I think it would have hurt a lot worse to just keep driving.

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