'Tis the Season: On Rescuing Pets


It's not even Thanksgiving, but I know what I'm getting for Christmas.

Actually I already have it. I've had it a while, or more precisely, the neighborhood has had it for the last three months.

My husband discovered Trixie one night in an alley off of Crenshaw, where he'd stopped to throw something away in a dumpster. He was startled by her presence but when he approached she was docile, almost motionless. The white parts of her coat were dingy. She kept her large head down low, as if the long, pendant ears weighed it down. She had a mournful look. Alan wasn't sure if she was sick, despondent, or if this was just the bearing typical of the breed, which was clearly some kind of hound. This was new. Over the years we've independently rescued plenty of homeless canines in the community and eventually found people to take them in, but they've been mostly small and mostly young. Trixie was neither. But like all the others, she was definitely on her own.

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Trixie refused to budge from her spot in the alley that night, so I went the next morning to see if she was still there. She was. With the help of another dog-enthusiast neighbor (and a whole can of dog food), we coaxed her out of her spot -- she rose very slowly, like a turtle putting its feet out of its shell and testing the wind before committing to standing up. Slowly, almost gingerly, we walked her around the corner to our block. What now? My neighbor offered to keep her at her house for a while, which was a great relief. Alan and I have three large dogs -- the legal limit in Inglewood and some other cities -- who were already barking furiously through the front window at the sight of her.

My neighbor, her husband, and six children had recently lost their two dogs and seemed more than happy to help. This despite the fact that the family had been struggling financially and the expense of caring for a dog hardly made sense. My neighbor had described to me the bureaucratic nightmare of trying to get food stamps last year, when she and her family were at their lowest point; the process was so drawn-out and complicated, only the most savvy applicants she met persisted. Thank goodness she has a college degree and had enough management and logistics experience to work her way through the process, though there's something perverse about needing white-collar work experience to secure food stamps meant for the poor and unskilled. Of course anybody can become poor, but still. My neighbor did get work not long after that -- a contract gig that involved a horrendous commute and no benefits, but she was thrilled -- but I wonder about everybody else.

My neighbor and her family kept Trixie for a couple of months, until they couldn't anymore. She's been with us for the last couple of weeks. We now have a pack of four. Thanks to those months of fostering and being around people, Trixie is adapting well to her new surroundings and is quite different from the phlegmatic dog we found in the alley. She raises her head habitually, and she wags her tail. Meantime, I've been advertising her furiously and haven't gotten a single bite. It may take a while, or -- and I fear this more -- we might take to her and she'll stay. We'll have wait and see. All I know is that dogs almost never rescue themselves: People at least have the potential. And as long as I and other concerned neighbors are above water, we can't let the Trixies of the world drown.

Journalist and op-ed columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan's first-person accounts of politics and identity in Los Angeles, with an eye towards the city's African American community, appear every Thursday on KCET's SoCal Focus blog. Read all her posts here.

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