Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Peppy, Sadie and the Secret Hoarder Syndrome

Twenty-plus years ago I tried country living for the first time. I bought 14 acres in a rather poor rural neighborhood of rundown mobile homes and even more rundown farm houses. I got the property because of a foreclosure, and the new mobile home I moved there stood out like the comma in a comma splice. It was an interesting collection of farm-lets.

There was a group home of mentally challenged children a few lots over, and one of the older teens there once came by and “confessed” to raping one of the other fosters and holding up a local store with his pretend gun. The sheriff assured me none of that was true and escorted him home.

Another neighbor from down the road who I’d never met came to my door one night, quite drunk and bleeding from having negotiated her way through the barbed wire fences between her place and mine. She asked me to call the sheriff to escort her back home after spending a couple of delirious minutes on my porch. I obliged.

The woman who lived in the lot next door seemed to be a truly nice woman when I first met her. She owned a number of young dogs – all rescues, according to her – as well as a young bull calf who followed her around everywhere, including to the mailbox and back. Her place was as squalid as the rest of the area, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she was caring for the animals the best she could.

Two of the dogs came over quite frequently to play with my Dobermans. Peppy was a tall black-and-tan setter/shepherd cross and Sadie was a tiny black cocker spaniel mix. My two Doberman puppies adored Peppy and I appreciated the way he mentored them, even though he wasn’t even a year old himself when he first came to visit. Sadie was a little dynamo who ingratiated herself with anyone she met.

My Dobies - Lance (L) and, um, Phoenix (R)
My dad loved coming out to the property on weekends to mow or work on the old Ford 8N tractor. Built in the early 50s, that tractor needed lots of care to keep it going. Sadie would come over and hang with Dad while he worked. When he expressed interest in getting a dog to keep my invalid mother company, I was surprised – and pleased – and knew Sadie’s attitude and non-stop tail were instrumental in his even considering getting a dog for him – er, Mom.

About a year after I moved in, I was on my way to work when I saw a tired and muddy dog plodding along the road about 8 miles out. It was Peppy. I bundled the grateful boy into the car and brought him back to my neighbor, who told me he’d jumped out of the back of their truck when they’d gone to the little country store that was 6 miles away. She seemed pleased to have him back, and I left it at that.

The next weekend, my dad made another comment about getting a dog – this after Sadie snuggled up beside him while he was on a break and demanded a tummy rub. Since she’d taken to spending a lot of time over at my place, I made a decision. Friday morning before work, I asked my neighbor if my dad could have Sadie. I was stunned when she said, “I took all my dogs to the county shelter yesterday. I just couldn’t handle all of them any more.”

I was crushed. Especially since she hadn’t asked me if I wanted any of them first. She and I had never been close as neighbors, but she knew some of her dogs and mine played together. I ditched work and drove straight to the county animal shelter. There was no sign of Sadie or Peppy – who I’d also decided would come home with me – and the shelter manager told me no one had dropped off 7 dogs in recent memory. I went home and called every shelter in the area. Not one of them had seen any of the dogs I described.

Only then did I realize that not only had the neighbor lied to my face, she had no doubt purposefully lost Peppy on the side of the road a couple of weeks earlier. Where she’d abandoned him and Sadie and the others this time I never found out. I had been too late to save them by no more than a couple of days. That I had been so close to enabling a different outcome for them ate deeply at me for a long, long time. I suppose it’s still eating at me 20 years later.

A couple of weeks after the pups went missing, I noticed the calf, who’d grown into quite the hefty bull, had also disappeared.

Not long after, I was working near the fence between our properties (we couldn’t see each other’s homes otherwise) when the neighbor came out carrying an 8-week-old bulldog puppy she’d bought the week before. She showed him off to me without apology and told me she was picking up a shih tzu puppy the next week. She cuddled the little bulldog close, kissing him on top of his head, and went back into her house as though nothing were wrong.

I wished the puppy god-speed, knowing he had maybe 2 good years ahead of him. I’d finally figured out the woman had a special kind of hoarding syndrome. She collected BABY animals only. Once the animals outgrew their cute phase, she’d simply get rid of them and start collecting all over.

I moved before that happened again.

Twenty years ago in a poor neighborhood, in an even poorer county, outside any city limits and with nothing but circumstantial evidence to go on, what could I have done to prevent the woman from cycling again?

Abuse and neglect come in many forms. If only they were all obvious.

Good dogs both - forever missed.


Regina Duke said...

This is such a sad story! When do we step in? How do we know? Yesterday I saw a young guy with a pit bull in front of a restaurant. My friend and I were immediately concerned. Was the dog his? Had someone else left the dog tied to the post? Did the dog need water? We finally asked our server. She said yes, the dog was his and he was waiting for take-out. I couldn't relax until we figured it out. *sigh*

Very nice blog.

Jo-Ann said...

Phoenix, you're not a mind reader. Dont blame yourself for not being able to save the dogs. We have to take people at face their word, otherwise we become cynical before our time.
But I do hope that the dogs were rescued by someone with a conscience.

Sarah Laurenson said...

What gorgeous dobies! I love it when they're not cut. Sleek hound dogs at their best.

A friend's sister has the same puppy-only syndrome. At 2 years old, they go to the pound and she brings home a new puppy. Something I'll never understand. Puppy hood means training, training and more training.

Sure they're extra cute as babies, but they're majestic as full grown dogs. And they can guard the house much better when they're older. So much less work and so much more useful. What's not to love?

As a friend at work has said - There's no explaining crazy!

fairyhedgehog said...

That's awful.

How painful for you to know about it but to be unable to help.