Fred Eyes

Right Red Fred

It’s been a rough week for animals.

What started off as an entertaining story about escaped exotic animals in my home state quickly turned tragic as many had to be killed. Thanks to the magic of the Facebook feed, pictures I would like to have ignored (tigers, bears, and a slew of other dead animals laid out on the very farm where they had escaped) popped up. Roughly 2/3 of the animals who escaped were killed. My friend Seth posted that there are about 1500 Bengal tigers left in the world, and 18 of them were with some crazy guy in Ohio.

The whole thing reminded me of a Cracked article I read about animals trying to escape from zoos–kind of entertaining, but you had to be saddened by the fact that they just wanted out.

Shortly after that, one of my high school acquaintances posted something pretty horrible–a picture of stacked dead pets in the back of an animal shelter. The picture ambushed me, but it was my own fault that I read the description of the entire process. My wife Claire worked for animal services for awhile, so it’s not like I think they all go to a big farm or anything like that. Still, it’s depressing as hell.

It’s especially tough right now. Depending on where you look, millions of dogs and cats are euthanized each year, and it’s even worse now given the state of the economy. People give up their animals because they can’t afford to keep them, or else they move somewhere and, instead of turning their animals over to a shelter (where there’s about a 90% chance the dog or cat will be put down), they simply leave the pets behind. I can only imagine how horrifying and puzzling that must be for an animal.

Depressing, yeah?

Well, remember that dopey but endearing poem about the starfish that grade school teachers tend to have on posters and sweatshirts? You know, “I made a difference in that one?” Well, that’s what I cling to. We rescue more animals than we should in this house, but it’s mostly been cats. Well, this week we scored another minor victory.

For a few weeks, my wife and I have seen a red boxer-mix running around the neighborhood–a beautiful pup, but skin and bones, and skittish to boot. We put food out for him, but he disappeared for awhile and we thought he had gotten picked up. But, this week we saw him again. After we made sure he would have a home somewhere (we can’t have a dog with all of these cats, plus we rent and our wonderful landlords already made exceptions for the felines), Claire lured him into the backyard.

He was trying desperately to get out of the fence, and was very standoff-ish…for about 30 minutes. He then attempted to lick our faces off. He was so happy. The plan was to keep him in the sunroom, but it was supposed to get down to almost freezing (in Lubbock!) overnight. So we cordoned off the cats in the other room, and the dog (we named him Right Red Fred, or just Fred for short) hung out in the living room. Again, so so so so so affectionate–he curled up on the ottoman and always wanted to lay half of his body on us so he could put his head in our laps.

We only had him for a night. The next day, Claire tracked down a person who had expressed interest, and we met up with the woman at a park. It turns out the woman has rescued dogs before and she was great with Fred. He was scared at first, but warmed to her quickly. We said a goodbye that was much sadder than either of us imagined, and with that, Fred walked obediently with the woman to her car. As I type this, he’s living indoors north of Lubbock, playing with kids, with plenty of happiness, warmth, and safety.

As he was walking away with his new owner, he did stop after about a hundred yards and looked back, just for a moment. He then continued walking obediently, distracted only by the runners jogging by.

I guess we made a difference in that one.

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