Monday, February 20, 2012

The Day After My First Cruelty Case Raid

Tired and drained, so lethargic,  why staying in bed wasn’t an option, I don’t know; it was just time to get up.
“Hey, you’re up, good morning,” the big smile on my husband’s face slowed to an abrupt halt, replaced by concern as his eyes took in the sorry sight before him.

Being devastatingly ill for a long time leaves you feeling way deep inside yourself, like there’s a space between you and the outside; you have to come back to the world, your resources are gobbled up internally. Why did I feel that empty, so vacant? 

Only yesterday I felt good,up at three am to participate in a bust of a man accused of impersonating a veterinarian and mistreatment of animals. Since I am a certified animal control officer and cruelty inspector, ACO/CI of Puerto Rico, badge #10, my friend, Alma Febus, ACO/ACI, lead investigator on the case; invited me to be there for my first actual experience, my first bust. 

As we headed down the hill in the rain to the police station with dog food, leashes and treats, my husband and I talked about times gone by, about driving to dog shows in the wee hours of the morning, my thoughts were to stay focused on the dogs I would be helping, to watch and learn; how bad could it be?

Before dawn we were part of a procession lead by police cars with lights flashing heading up a hill, which being a novelty, I enjoyed the drama. Maybe I should have had a clue about how dramatic the day would become, but no, to my mind it was just another day at the office doing something with dogs.

Being called to go into the premises along with the police to get dogs shouldn’t have felt so shocking, since in the parking lot conference I was assigned to the dog handler crew to protect the police from guard dogs on the property, as well as containing any loose animals, but oh, boy did it.

Emaciated and scared pit bulls, Wiemeraners, a German Sheppard, a couple of rotts, plus a variety of larger mixed breed dogs stood or walked around barking, not knowing what to do, as we began rounding up these pathetic creatures in the glaring light of the TV cameras.

The concrete front of the property, where you had to be careful not to step in shit gave way to the dirt rear made a feces swill by the morning rain; reminded me that earlier I laughed to myself thinking that the bust should be called on account of rain, as I tried in vain to avoid getting my shoes and feet wet, while we trekked to sheds outback, taking care not to step on a spine or jaw bone strewn in the path. Dead dogs, dying dogs, diseased dogs were in every nook or cranny of an almost acre property, the living numbering about sixty dogs to be photographed, cataloged and veterinarian checked before being shipped to a better place.

Most of the emaciated creatures were easy to seduce with sweet words and tones; others with saucer big eyes stood their ground barking. Each time I passed those, I’d toss a treat to the big barker, so when it came time to take them in we were on a first name basis or as close to it as some frightened spirits got. This was no time to stop or think, must keep moving, no time for reflection, help needed, now.

The bust was of a guy impersonating a vet, so I pictured an office, a few crates; this was like John Wayne Gacy on acreage, only difference is almost sixty were alive and suffering, needing to be triaged from the muck.

With the dogs from sheds at the back of the pasture tethered along a concrete walk, we wanted a break, but the morning sun began heating things up, we shifted gears to getting the dogs in the shade on the carport.

Crates were assembled; we found and carried crates from all over the place, so the dogs wouldn’t overheat. Two dogs were in crates in the yard between the house and the pasture, when we picked up the wire crate of a Wiemeraner pup, perhaps seven months old, toasting in the sun, it’s legs dangled through the bottom, so we each carried an end of the crate with the pup on leash taking two steps before collapsing. Oh, how cold that grey baby was when I scooped him under my arm to carry to the carport, where he was diagnosed with Leptospirosa.

Hot, thirsty, hungry, tired as I can be; I’m told this dog has Lepto. I need to decontaminate immediately, so I go home thinking, why did no one leave a note on the kennel that this dog has a communicable disease. He had the blue collar they were using to indicate that he had been examined.

What am I going to do to prevent the dogs at our house from contact with my clothes, oh heavens I wouldn’t want to be responsible for them getting sick, so I rushed in the door to hop in the shower.

After a quick lunch, I returned. Dr. Luis Moran, MD gave me a single dose prophylactic prescription while telling to watch out for coughing, nausea, vomiting, jaundice and other symptoms. The concerned doctor tells me to have the doctor call him, if I need to go to the emergency room. Oh, what fun!

The dogs were well consolidated in the shade, so I made myself useful making the dogs as comfortable as possible, a cup of water, a handful of kibble,you must be careful not to give too much too fast to a starving dog; each time I made my rounds faces would look more hopeful, tails began to wag; being the dog lover I am, their hope comforted me. How naive!

A truck and a van were ready to be loaded, most if not all of the dogs leaving on the truck were to be euthanized to be put down because they had the bad luck to be at this guy’s place. My stomach lurched, as I took my place in line to load the scared little beagle mommy, who when I patted the top step looked me in the eye and jumped trustingly aboard.

The best I could hope for was to make their last, a bit better; that’s not much. That’s the thought which began to overwhelm me, when we had a lull in the work, the dogs were settled, everyone was waiting for the next set of instructions.

I made my escape with the radio turned up, no thinking on the ride home. Vile, ugly pictures and smells assaulted my senses, my soul cried, but I couldn’t, not yet. What would I tell my husband, who had opted to stay home in the afternoon? He worried about contaminating the dogs, what will he feel when I tell him of the MD’s concern for my health, which may mean I could contaminate him; just a few of the things I didn’t want to think about.

After a discussion which ended in, you have the prescription, be smart enough to use it. We picked up the med, which needed to be taken with a meal, on the way to have dinner someplace with a good view of the ocean. A good view goes a long way to healing the soul; it reminds us of the majesty of what God has created. By dinner’s end my nerves began to settle.

Too heavy a hand with canned garlic makes me sick. Stress has caused the same symptom upon occasion, so when I lost my meal and the pills on the way home, I could think of better reasons, than leptspirosa, really, I did. Who needs the head trip?

I have reasons to feel beat to shit today, better spirit will return; life is too good for it not.

Good people did a difficult job; whatever happened to these animals is better than the fate in store for them without intervention. I am so totally in awe of this group of people, who came together for the animals in a big way.

Everyone has their own story of the day, of the case. I hope to share theirs.

Tricia Carr

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