Sunday morning, I got all of my handmade Pet Clinic signs and flyers together, and headed off to the parks to hang them up. Over the years, vinyl banners, poster board signs, and lots of flyers, door to door, in targeted zip codes of South Los Angeles has resulted in more than 10,000 community pets being spayed/neutered and vaccinated at our monthly dog clinics with the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association. Prior to COVID we were operating our monthly event out of the Watts Senior Center, planning on staying for two years, like the previous locations.
Committing to an area, focusing on the needs of the community, we get to know people and their pets very well. In some cases, we offer their pets a lifetime of support with both food and veterinary services. We get to know the pet owners like Loba’s “dad” who appears to live in one of the parks that I visited Sunday morning. I visit this park often. Sometimes I see Loba, laying under the table while her owner plays cards with friends. Other times, she is following behind him, wagging her tail, watching his every move. Then there are the times that the park seems deserted, no Loba, and I wonder if she is still alive.
A couple years ago, driving north on Compton Ave., I saw Loba sprawled under a truck, as if she had been hit by a car. Believing what I had feared might happen came true, I assumed she was she was dead. I even wrote a Facebook post so that DDR dog clinic volunteers who knew her would know that she died. There was no doubt in my mind, Loba was dead, I was sure that I saw her lifeless body.
To my great surprise, who do you think pranced up to our dog clinic, it was Loba! She was alive, I was shocked. How could she be alive, I had seen her under a truck, dead. Since her owner speaks Spanish, a volunteer translated, letting me know, “Oh yeah, she does that when she is hot.” Well, I was so happy and relieved to see Loba alive. I felt ashamed thinking that my very first thoughts when I saw what appeared to be her “lifeless body” under the truck was, Damn it, I knew that she was going to get hit one day. I should have rescued her. I should have convinced her owner she deserved a better life.
Fast forward to Sunday morning in the park off 47th street. I saw Loba’s owner, or was it him? He looked older and tired. As I approached him reading our clinic sign, I realized, yes, that’s him, and there was Loba, under the picnic table, curled up in a ball. He called out for her to come, and that’s when I saw that she also looked older, with a matted coat, her body looking thinner, but she still had the same happy tail wag, and look of adoration for her owner. I offered to give some dog food to him so that he could make sure Loba ate every day. Looking into her eyes, as she connected with me, my only thought was I wish that I could take you with me Loba girl. You deserve better.
Handing the bag of dog food to her owner, we made eye contact, I felt ashamed for caring more about Loba than about him. Time moved very slowly for a couple minutes as we said goodbye. Walking back to my car, I wondered, what if Loba needed us, or something happened to her owner, how would anyone know how to find us? Was she microchipped, I couldn’t remember. Then I did something that’s new to me, I was kind to myself, understanding that it’s ok to care about Loba, and to stop future tripping on what might happen. It’s not that I don’t care about her owner, I do. If there was anything I could do to make his life better I would.
Flashing back to when I was new to the dog rescue world, and still feeling conflicted about my perceived problem of caring more about the animals than the people. I never knew how to reply back to someone who would challenge me with “It’s only a dog! Why don’t you put all your energy for the animals into helping people?” Never thinking that by helping the animals, I was helping the people. Today I’m confident that the people that DDR helps desperately need their animals, just like you. Just like me.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. Writing honestly about situations that I encounter and sharing my thoughts and feelings with all of you has been a key to my healing.
Share your thoughts with me anytime at Loriweise@gmail.com