This particular animal control is the rare gem that is operated by a woman who truly cares about animals. Bea, a fellow rescuer who frequents the area, let us know that the AC manager there was under pressure from the town's sheriff and mayor to kill unclaimed dogs in six days. Worse yet, while the majority of shelters have switched to lethal injection, this one still used gas, a method causing slow asphyxiation and great suffering. Horrified, several of us in St Louis and southern Illinois stepped up and offered to take as many as we were able. I accepted four - two for me, and two for a neighboring rescue.
The two dogs I chose for IL-MO were described to me as a rat terrier type female about 20#, and a 10# chocolate female, both very sweet and great with other dogs. The two my neighbor rescue accepted were another rat terrier and a beagle mix of similar stature. No pugs here but this was a "special circumstance". I felt obligated to lend a hand. The dogs were all young, I reasoned, and sooner or later I'd be able to place them.
The weekend rolled around, and I met my friend, Faith, in St Louis for the pick-up. The rat terrier x I got turned out to be more of a red heeler x, much larger than I had been told. I admit, I did a bit of griping to poor Faith, who was just transporting, about how Bea did not know her breeds and I could never be sure what to expect when she was the sender. But the little chocolate girl was just as described - about 10# gorgeous with green eyes. This was an absolutely PERFECT little dog anyone would love to have. Awesome!
But I had to look at the other two. The rat terrier was just as described - small, friendly, adoptable. But the last crate appeared be empty. Where, I wondered, was the beagle mix?
Then I heard a soft scratching noise from within. There, crammed so far back into the corner I had to lean down and peer through the cage door to see her, was the fourth dog. She was curled into a ball, her head buried against the crate wall. No beagle in this dog - she was a hound mix, much larger than expected, and very thin. I pulled her from the kennel. She left a trail of urine. When I sat her on the asphalt she dropped to the ground and bared her teeth.This was not a threat, but a "submissive grin". No matter which way I moved, she refused to meet my eyes. She actually crawled along the ground. She did exactly the same in my front yard, crawling through the grass, head down, like a dog who'd been beaten. She was, I realized, as terrified an animal as I had ever seen in my 18 years of rescue.
With Kevin's help, all four dogs were brought into the house. The heeler bounced happily through the living room, the rattie made her self at home, the little chocolate girl hopped up on the sofa and laid down. I scanned the house and yard - the hound was missing.
Closet doors were frantically opened, linens pushed aside, the backyard paced from end to end - no hound. Sure she had jumped or climbed the fence, I headed to the front door to begin searching the neighborhood. And caught a shimmer of eyes behind a 120-gallon glass tank on a six foot stand by the front window.
There she was, squeezed into an impossibly small space. Watching my every move. I spoke to her softly. "Hi, baby. Is that girl alright there?" Thump, thump, thump. She actually made eye contact for the first time, but made no move to leave her safe spot. "Just leave her there," I said. "Let her come out when she's ready." It took hours, and when she finally did emerge, she went straight to another hiding place - my bedroom closet. I placed a bed on the floor for her, stroked her head, and spoke in a soft, reassuring tone for a long time. The tail thumped, but it was out of fear, not trust.
The rescue she was slated for was a good one, but the dogs there were kept in kennels. For most rescued dogs, that was fine. But most dogs were not this severely traumatized.
The next day, I met Lisa with the two rescues I was not keeping: The rat terrier and the perfect little chocolate girl. "They'll love her", I said.
Two weeks later, Nellie (for Nervous) has been spayed and treated for heartworms. While
she has made progress, she is afraid to make eye contact with men and will not come in the house if she can see Kevin standing in the kitchen, although he does his best to befriend her. She has had puppies. I picture the man who abused her saying he would use Nellie to "breed me some huntin' dogs". Keeping her in a pen. Hitting her. Only time will tell if the damage caused by his cruelty and ignorance can be undone.
In the interim, this hound can take baby steps at my house, where she'll be safe and get the one-on-one she needs. Not a pug. But sometimes a coonhound needs a good pug rescue, too.