On my way home from work, I often see a group of homeless people on the side of the street, particularly at one busy intersection. Sometimes there are only one or two, sometimes there are several spread out for several blocks. One of them, a man, nearly always has a dog with him. I have admired the dog, who looks to be a black Lab, before. I hadn't seen them in a couple of weeks at least, though, because I'd been taking a different route home due to my stop at the gym.
Then, this week, I went out for lunch two days in a row on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, I saw the man with the black Lab, and he not only had the big dog with him, but a tiny black puppy as well. The bigger dog looked to be the puppy's mama. I worried about the little dog, as there was no water around and it was kind of hot, and these folks don't seem to have any shelter, but I kept going by. Then on Wednesday on our way to lunch I saw the same guy and the same black Lab, but this time there was a yellow puppy with them and I got close enough to tell that the black Lab was definitely the mama. So I figured there must be more puppies somewhere.
All afternoon I thought about these puppies, what their fate would be, how they were being taken care of. By 3:00 I couldn't stand it anymore and I went back to the intersection to see if he was still there. He was not. I called Mark and Mark started calling rescue folks he knows, to see if we could find a home for these babies if I could get this guy to give them to me. Not much turned up before I left work, but I went back anyway, determined to find him and the pups.
And I did find him, sitting with two women and another man on milk crates on the side of the road. There were seven puppies in all, kept alternately in a bucket on top of one another and in a makeshift pen. The man told me that he was selling the puppies for $100 each, that they were going to be his ticket off the street.
I talked to the man and his wife, as well as a couple of the other people sitting there, for about an hour and a half. Several things became clear over the course of the conversation. First, the mom was weaning the puppies, so they were going to need food. The man said he had this taken care of and proceeded to show me that he fed them pieces of Kielbasa sausage, tuna fish, and chicken strips. Mostly they would not eat this food, which is not surprising considering he said they are two days short of five weeks old. Second, there was no shelter available where these folks were hanging out. When I asked about shelter, the man said they were staying in an abandoned car parked across the street. The puppies didn't look to bad, but definitely had fleas.
So I tried to talk him down on his price, asking what we could barter, what I could do for him and his wife, etc. I also tried to impart to him that the way he was feeding the pups was probably not going to work, and that I really seriously doubted he could get $100 for them. I offered first $20 per puppy, then $40. He finally gave me the runt of the litter (now called Wednesday) for $40 and the promise that I would come back with some blankets and sweaters for the group.
I called Mark and told him what the deal was so he could come home right away, raced home, put the puppy in in the bathroom where it couldn't destroy anything, tried to calm Chance, and started throwing things in garbage bags from their list. Coats, sweaters, sweatshirts, towels, blankets, dog treats, dog food, people food, dog de-wormer...whatever I could find in my house that I thought they could use and we could live without. I then stuffed two full garbage bags of stuff, as well as a 36-pack of Pepsi, in the car and headed back out. On my way back to the corner, I stopped at the ATM. At the ATM, I had a very serious talk with myself about how much I could afford to do to help these people and these puppies. I withdrew $200 and kept going.
When I got back to the site, I found the man and the dogs in the abandoned car. I sat and talked to him for a bit longer and got a bit more of their story. Although there story was a very shifting thing, it seems that they have a place to live, a trailer oustide town, but they cannot get there, so they are trying to sell the puppies for enough money to buy a car. At least that was one train of the story. The woman is obviously ill, and she told me it is liver cancer due to years of alcoholism. She is not currently drinking. Everyone else there was drunk. I asked if she had medical care, needed a ride to the doctor, etc., and she said that she had an appointment scheduled and could take the bus there.
After talking to them for a while more, I began another round of puppy negotiations. I brought the bags out of my car and showed them the things that I had brought for them, about which they seemed pleased. I started to cry when the woman slipped on the leather jacket my mom bought me for Christmas a few years back. I broke completely down when I saw the man give the big dog the blanket I had on my bed in high school. They didn't notice, and I pulled myself together. After more discussion, he agreed to sell me two more of the puppies for $150. I accepted and gave him the cash. I asked if I could have another one for $50 more, but he refused, saying he was only giving me a price break on the ones he was selling me because I seemed like such a nice girl. Before I left, the woman whispered to me to come back in a couple of days, because he may give up more of the puppies cheaper when he realizes that they cannot be sold at his price.
So then I took the two puppies, one black and one blonde, home (they are now dubbed Monday and Tuesday). There are now three beautiful Lab puppies (they look like full Labs, but who knows?) in a computer box in my spare room. Chance went nuts for awhile, but seems to have calmed down some, considering the situation. He can't be near them yet, they have to be checked out by the vet first. They kept us up all night. We'll work with the rescue where Mark volunteers to do that, and the rescue founder who came over last night to check them out said that she can't imagine they'll be hard to adopt. I hope she's right.
I am going to go back to that corner tomorrow and see if he'll give/sell me more of the puppies. I am sure they are going to starve otherwise. I've never in my memory felt so clearly that this was a situation that I had the power to change and I should change it. I don't want three more dogs (I don't even want one more), but I know we are capable of taking care of these babies until we can find good home for them, and that's exactly what we are going to do.