People can really piss me off. Especially people who neglect animals.
When I was a child growing up on Beverly Glen I used to come home with stray cats weekly. Fortunately for me my mom was, and still is, an enormous animal lover and so bringing in a homeless cat or dog was never an issue.
There was Blackie, Misty, Marsh, Mellow, Lucky, Chelsea, Kelton and on and on. I even wanted to be a veterinarian until I had to watch one of our cats get put to sleep. I knew then and there I would not be able to handle it emotionally.
Our dogs and cats were my friends, my siblings, my heart.
They would comfort me when I was scared, sleep with me when I was in tears and play with me when I was lonely.
They were without a doubt the only ones in my house that truly knew me.
My love for animals knew no limit.
I remember playing in my backyard, looking over the neighbors fence and seeing that the dogs that lived next door were always left alone, surrounded in their feces and often without water or food.
I was seven years old.
Without asking a grown-up for permission I climbed over the fence with food, water, trash bags and a grooming brush and spent the day cleaning up all the dog poop, feeding the dogs, grooming them and singing songs to them.
And then I sneaked back over the fence.
A day later my mom got a knock at the front door. It was the neighbor.
Uh-oh, I thought. I’m in trouble. My mom called for me to come to the door.
Susan, did you sneak into this woman’s backyard?
I looked at my mom and then at the woman staring at me. I had never seen our neighbor before. For some reason I pictured a big, grumpy mean ol’ man who smoked cigars and drank whiskey.
Instead, she was maybe thirty something with long, stringy brown hair, a lanky body and sort of sad eyes.
My mom was waiting for an answer.
The woman stared at me. I could see shame in her face. She looked at her hands then slowly looked back at me,
Thank you. Would you do me the honor of coming over to my house for tea and cake?
What? I wasn’t in trouble? I wasn’t about to be sent to my room?
We went to her house where she had baked me a chocolate cake. I spent an hour with her. She talked about how she lived alone and worked long hours and had no idea how bad it was getting for the dogs.
She asked me if I would come over once a week to play with her dogs and fill up their water bowl and she would pay me.
Pay me? I guess you could say it was my first job.
I climbed over to her yard almost every day. They were never without food, water, a clean play area and love.
And then one day she moved. I never saw her or her dogs again.
But that same child grew up to be an animal-loving woman.
So, it’s no surprise that when I was with my daughter at a Rite-Aid parking lot about to get in my car to leave and saw a small dog locked in a parked car with all the windows rolled up on a day where it was 90 degrees out that I saw red.
I was furious. Who would do this?
I found the parking lot security guard and told them to see if they could find the owners of the car. He nodded and slowly walked away.
I told my daughter that we weren’t leaving until the owner of that car returned and I know that dog is safe.
Twenty minutes later two women licking their Thrifty ice-cream cones wandered towards the car.
And there I was. Standing, waiting, angry.
Well, I guess you can imagine what I said to them. And I’m sure you can imagine what they said to me. They drove off, but not without giving me the finger just once more before they went.
And the security guard? Well, he stood under a shady tree in the far distance doing nothing.
My daughter could see how upset I was.
Was it worth it, mommy?
I looked at her thinking about her question.
Was it worth spending an extra twenty minutes out of my day to sit in a parking lot so I could tell someone that their dog could have died? That the police could have come and arrested them? That something could have happened to their beloved animal all because they wanted an ice-cream cone?
I don’t know.
But was it worth it to make sure that dog was okay? That he knew as I stood by the window watching him that somebody was concerned for his well being? That my daughter see that her mom is not the sort of person who looks the other way?
I will always be that same child who will climb over a neighbors fence without permission for the love an animal.
As I was driving home I thought about the woman’s face as she walked toward the car eating her ice-cream. What was it I saw? What was it that seemed familiar?