We planted a seed quite a while ago. We always hope we are doing that, but sometimes we just never know if anything we said to someone is even heard, let alone considered. This is Elmer. Elmer lives at the bottom of a steep hill, his very humble house sits far back from the road. The driveway is a sink hole of mud, as is a lot of the front yard. Chained in the front yard are two dogs, neither of them have a name. It’s the dead of winter and I drive by and see that one dog has a 3 sided, plywood box-type thing as it’s shelter. Totally inadequate. There is snow on the ground and it was snowing the day I found these guys. There was a second dog chained kind of off to the side of the front porch, kind of wedged back in a small corner of the yard. It was filthy-there was feces literally everywhere. The dogs had no food, no water. They had chains wrapped around their necks and were chained to the fence. The second dog had a regular 2-piece doghouse, but his area was littered with beer cans and trash and empty containers were everywhere-whatever Elmer had put their food in. I knocked on the door and that’s the day I met Elmer. Elmer is an elderly man that lives by himself. He told me that the dogs had belonged to his nephew and his nephew had moved off and left the dogs there with him-a story we hear often. I asked him their names and he said they didn’t have names. How very sad that is. We couldn’t touch either one of the dogs-they were too frightened. The second dog was really, really scared and would always run and hide in his doghouse when we came close. We had a terrible time trying to constantly put straw in his house during the winter because he was always in there!
The first thing we did was set up a nice dog house for the dog that just had the plywood contraption and filled both of the dogs’ houses with straw. We got both of the dogs off of those chains. It was very difficult because Elmer is very slow. He can barely care for himself. We couldn’t touch the dogs, so we had to have Elmer put the collars on the dogs so that we could hook them up to tie-out cables rather than the heavy chains. He was shaky, has arthritis and is hard of hearing, but he kept at it for a long, long time until he finally got the collars hooked onto the dogs. We hooked up water buckets to the fence, left Elmer some dog food, treats and rawhides.
That began our relationship with Elmer and his dogs. We visited 1-2 times a week just to replenish straw and kepp our eye on things. When we pulled up in his driveway, Elmer would always come right out and wave and smile. He lived alone, had no transportation and was mentally slow. It was a sad situation for both the man and the dogs. But I could tell that Elmer was not a mean person. He was a sweet man, but totally overwhelmed with having these two dogs that he didn’t need and couldn’t really care for.
The second dog that was chained by the front porch really lived in a nasty, stinky, revolting sink hole/mud pit. It was just a horrible mixture of mud and feces. When we arrived one day, it was really bad and the smell was horrendous. I asked Elmer if we could move the dog to another location and he agreed. I could not even pull the doghouse out of it’s deep ruts because of the smell back there. I literally had the dry heaves over and over. It was unbearable and this is what this poor dog lived in day after day after day. We moved him to higher ground with some grass (although dead grass) and got him set up. He was so much happier and was running around on his tie-out a little bit. I just kept telling myself one step at a time over here. It’s getting better.
One day when I was there Elmer asked me if I had a cigarette, which I did and I gave it to him. He said thanks, took it and went in the house and shut the door. The next time that I came by, he asked me for a cigarette again which I gave him. He turned, went in the house and shut the door.
We started noticing some very small improvements, such as the dogs would have clean water when we would come. Or once in awhile they would still have some food in their bowls, whereas before they were always starving. They were starting to catch up with their voracious appetites.
The next time I went, Elmer did not ask me for a cigarette and I didn’t offer him one. I did not want him to expect something from me everytime I came.
The next time I went over there was this past Wed., which was a gorgeous day! Sunny and warm. We pulled up in front of Elmer’s house and we could not believe it. Elmer was sitting in the middle of his front yard in his lawn chair, right in the sun. He had one of the dogs off of it’s tie-out and was letting it run around free for awhile. I really wanted to cry! This was amazing progress. These dogs’ lives have improved so much from what they were when we found them. I was so shocked to see him out there with the dogs, I went over to him and I handed him 2 cigarettes (I know he wants a cigarette more than anything) and I said, “Elmer, you get 2 cigarettes today because you’re out here loving on your dogs and that’s exactly what we like to see” and he just tucked the cigarettes behind his ear and smiled!
A little effort, a little education and a little compassion and this situation is turning around. Little does Elmer know that my next plan is that I’m going to buy him a pooper-scooper and demonstrate how to use it (I literally have to do that!) and get him to start picking up the poo!