23 Jan Throwing Out the Christmas Tree

On our way to dump our Christmas tree Saturday afternoon, we picked up a stray dog. A small, female pit bull mix, it was clearly a run-away — skittish and young and fairly well fed. Baltimore may be the nation’s capital for pit bulls. This one was wandering through our neighborhood and, for a moment, came up to us then darted away as we loaded our dried-out tree into the car. When we spied the dog minutes later, scampering along the sidewalk, its tail between its legs, Jill insisted I pull over. She had brought a leash and a couple of dog biscuits.

The pup was so frightened, it peed as Jill cornered it. A couple of passersby helped us get the leash around its neck. The dog was growling and cowering. Then I did the Dog Whisperer routine and took control, acting with full confidence and pretending that nothing was wrong and we were going to walk. The pup yelped but complied. When we got to Jill’s CRV (a little 4-wheel drive), Jill made some room in the back, pushing the tree aside. The pup looked interested. I scooped up the dog and deposited her inside.

We drove to the SPCA. But they wouldn’t take our stray. She was too wild. Apparently the pup had been tied in someone’s back yard, maybe being readied for breeding or worse. In any case, it was thoroughly unsocialized and frightened of people. “Oh, she’s so fearful!” the SPCA vet said. She sent us to Animal Control. When I reached over to reassure the pup, she growled and shrank away. Never mind that she had accepted my comfort earlier.

Jill named the dog Sulky because the dog seemed inconsolable. She wouldn’t eat anything we offered her. Sulky calmed a bit as we drove. But, then, before we arrived at Animal Control, in downtown Baltimore’s back bay, she got car sick. She heaved and heaved. She had probably never been in a car. Animal Control’s parking lot was packed on this Saturday afternoon. A place like that is both disheartening and encouraging — we witnessed adoptions and drop-offs. One guy brought a big, beautiful all-white American bull that had been tied to a fence for three days. “I got fed up watching it sitting out there and waiting for somebody to take care of it,”the good neighbor said.

A kind Animal Control employee came out and talked to Sulky for a few minutes. “Don’t growl,” she scolded the dog. Sulky did not take kindly to another attempted leashing. But eventually she yielded and was led away. We bid her a sad farewell.

Before the day’s end, we dumped our tree at the recycling center, where it will be ground into mulch. You’ve never smelled as lovely a smell as ground pine trees. Those piles of trees got me thinking about dogs. We have two at home. And two cats. All of them shelter animals. Too many dogs and cats in the world with too few homes. But, I guess, you already knew that.