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Stray dogs and other minor disasters
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Oof. So, our morning didn't go quite as planned....

We got up at 5:50 (aack aack) to eat breakfast, walk Nika, and still arrive at Starbucks in time for an hour of writing before I had to leave for exam proctoring/invigilation at 8:40. We were bad and hit the Snooze button once before getting up, but still, we made the 7 am bus. It was crowded and hard to find seats; I saw an adorable brown-and-white springer spaniel hanging out at the back and wagging at everyone, so Patrick and I headed back there in hopes that his owner would let us pet him.

He was off-the-leash and hugely friendly--he came racing up to us as we came, leaned hard into our legs for petting, and shook hands/paws with us. I was laughing and petting him, but thought I should say something nice to his owner; unfortunately, it turned out that he didn't have one. Everyone in the bus had been petting him; several people, laughing, talked about how he'd just hopped up into the bus back at the last crossroads. Everyone laughed about how hilarious and cute it was.

Patrick and I leaned over and felt the skin around his ribs. He was way too thin; mats clogged up all the fur underneath his chest and belly; and the mud, which I'd taken for just a day's play out in the forest with his owners, seemed to have been there for quite a while. He wasn't wearing a collar.

He kept racing up and down the bus, wagging his stubby tail frantically and peering up into people's faces with so much hope, it was almost painful to watch: "Are you my mother? Can you take me to my mother?"

Patrick and I looked at each other. Patrick said, "We've got to take him with us." It was exactly what I'd been thinking. It was massively inconvenient. I really didn't want to. But there was no way we could step off the bus and leave him, so when we stepped off in downtown Leeds, we scooped him up (he'd already crawled into Patrick's lap anyway, by that point, snuggling in and licking Patrick's face) and carried him out with us. And then the real fun began, because he started to panic (in the most sweetly nonaggressive way possible, squiggling and wagging and panting and saying in every way possible, "Ummm, this is all very fun, but I really need to go find my real parents now if you'll just let me leave!"). Patrick had to try to hold him down and soothe him on the sidewalk while I chunked coins into a payphone and called Directory Enquiries, then the RSPCA...and found out (drumroll): "The RSPCA does not accept stray dogs."


I'm sure they've instituted that policy because of desperate overcrowding, lack of funding and facilities, etc., etc., but at 7:15 a.m., in the still-pitch-black downtown of a big city, with a frightened, squiggling, starving lost dog (and a job to get to, in an hour and a half), there was no way we could think empathically about that. "What the hell DO they accept, then?" we snarled. "Isn't that their JOB?"

I started to panic. What were we going to do with him? This is the wrong time for us to take in a second dog--not as bad as some times in our past, but still not good. We really want to own our own house before we do that. And it'll take serious work to ever get Nika (a former stray herself, and therefore incredibly insecure and territorial about her house/family/food bowl, etc.) to accept another dog in our family.

I called back the RSPCA voice mail, and took down their emergency number, called that, and got ANOTHER message, saying the same thing, and then: "If you do find a stray dog, contact the local dog warden or take it to the closest manned police station." I tried the dog warden's number (with great nervousness--I've read too many kids' books!). No answer. We got back on another bus, carrying the squiggling, licking, panicking stray, and rode it to the bus station, just by the police station. And there, thank God, the police were incredibly warm, helpful, and pleased to take him in. They took our details and the (minimal) information we had, spent a little time petting and playing with him, and then took out a leash (at which point he was so delighted he jumped up to get it--this is not a dog who has always been a stray!). They thanked us for bringing him in, and led him away, wagging. It was a good feeling.

And now I hope, hope, hope that he only got lost, not abandoned, and that his owner (as the police assumed) will be phoning them to find him. And I really hope they don't end up calling us back, and putting us through a heart-wrenching decision.....

Even before getting Nika, I could never walk past a stray dog without trying to help it. I don't understand how so many people can just shut their emotions off--or simply honestly not CARE--when they see a dog in need of help, food, medical treatment (sometimes), and a home. But God, I know we can't save every single one....

Every time I look at Nika, though, I'm reminded of how grateful I am that one of my friends was generous enough to take pity on a stray dog she saw, even though it was a huge pain for her and she herself didn't even want a dog. If she hadn't, Nika probably would have been dead long before now--she was already lying on the street, too weak to move, when my friend found her in Naples (and there were no shelters there at that point to cope with the problem of stray animals). I hope our stray finds his way back to his own family--or, if he's been intentionally abandoned, that he finds a new family that'll cherish him as much as we cherish Nika.

This has been a long entry, but I've spent all day thinking about him and the whole problem of abandoned and unwanted animals in general. Sometimes just thinking about it can be enough to break your heart.


Just so this entry doesn't end on a complete downer....

As usual in January, Leeds city council has erected a beautiful ice rink in Millennium Square. It's always filled with skaters, it looks incredibly fun, and at night, when the rink is lit, it even looks wonderfully romantic. But just in case anybody gets any funny ideas, the local radio station that's sponsoring it this year has put up a helpful billboard above the rink that says:

No la-de-dah skating
No lycra outfits
No cheesy smiles
Remember, this is Leeds

Yeah. We may be skating, but we're no poncey Southerners. No, we're all hard, tough Northerners here. Really. :)

The skaters seemed to be having a great time, though.

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