A Stranger’s Quest to Find the Lonely Dog a Family: Part Three

“’Fella’s owner said you could have him.’ I waited for her to laugh and say she was kidding, but she never did.”

2.25.15 - A Stranger's Quest To Save The Barber's Lonely Dog - Part One2

 

To read part one of the saga, click here.  To read part two, click here.

Leslie Smith is a volunteer at the Berkeley Animal Shelter in California, and originally posted this piece on The Dodo.

 

Things are getting complicated with the barber’s dog.

For starters, it’s become clear that he doesn’t actually belong to anyone who works at the barber shop. Or to anyone living there on the property. Or to the man with the key who comes by to feed and water him.

It’s a fine line between quirky-harmless-lady-who-loves-the-smelly-watchdog and nosy-busybody-with-an-agenda-and-judgment, so I glean what details I can and try not to bother the people who live and work in the area. I don’t want to jeopardize my access to the barber’s dog, er … Fella.

Which is why I nearly fell over when the woman from the shop came out one day during my visit and said, “Fella’s owner said you could have him.” I waited for her to laugh and say she was kidding, but she never did.

“He doesn’t want Fella anymore?” I finally asked. “Why? Why now?”

“We’ve been telling him you come visit every day,” she said. “We’ve been advocating for you. Maybe he thinks there’s someone who can take better care of him.”

An immense wave of gratitude and relief washed over me, but the moment was bittersweet. There was no way I could bring another dog into my home without severely disrupting the lives of the three individuals most important to me.

“I … can’t take him myself,” I managed to say. “But I know people who know people. I could try to find him a good home. Do you think the owner would be open to that?”

“I think so,” the woman said.

I already know this will not be easy. The local shelters are full of dogs who, on paper at least, are infinitely more attractive than Fella. And with a fence between us, there’s no real way to find out the kind of stuff that regular people and rescue organizations like to know. Things like how Fella reacts to other dogs once on neutral ground. Or if he’s a “resource guarder” when it comes to tennis balls. Or whether he’s pully on leash.

Even trickier, I know nothing about his health, aside from what I can see. I don’t know what shots he’s had or whether he snores when he sleeps or why he limps on his right leg. I don’t know what the raw patch on his tail is about.

 

2.25.15 - A Stranger's Quest To Save The Barber's Lonely Dog - Part One5.5

 

What I do know is that he’s lived for years on a cement lot behind a fence, and at one time, another dog lived there with him. I know that he takes treats with a soft, polite mouth, even from children. And I know that on warm days, when the pigeons come to bathe in his water bowl, he doesn’t chase them away.

So I cross my fingers and hope that’s enough to get started. Maybe there’s someone out there who’s between pets and would want to share a home with a dog who’s asked for nothing. Someone who is looking to pay it forward — or backward. Someone with a bleeding heart who might at least sign on to foster this poor goof, knowing there’s no expiration date or any guarantee a permanent family will be found.

I had to think about it when a friend asked me if Fella’s life is really so bad. She pointed out that he has plenty of space to move around, and he has food and water and a dog house. He can check out the cars driving by each day and watch the occasional person walk in or out of the barber shop. It’s not a fate worse than death, I admitted. But I wonder how lonely or uncomfortable or unbearably boring does it have to get before that line is crossed?

I think there will come a time, and I don’t think it’s that awfully far off, when the line will creep dangerously close to where he is now. A time when Fella’s limp will progress to near immobility. The incessant itching will become full-blown distress, and a plastic door-less doghouse will not be enough to protect him from the cold.

And while there’s a chance this old dog is so set in his ways he literally prefers the lot that he has, I’d like for him, in his golden years, to have the option to come indoors if it’s raining. To lie someplace soft, if he chooses. I would rest easier knowing someone is there to be his friend — not just for ten minutes during her lunch hour — but unfailingly throughout the day. A pal, if he wants one. I would hope he could be part of a family. You know, only if he feels like it.

The sun is out today when I arrive and Fella is leaning his head against the tire of the truck. I call to him and he moseys to the fence to greet me. I tell him that “I’m putting the word out” about him and he looks at me with mucus-y eyes.

There is a movement these days, in the adoption arena, away from posting photos of sad, pitiful animals looking forlorn and neglected. No one wants to see that, they tell me. Happy shots of clean dogs against pretty backgrounds are what get dogs homes, I’m told.

Since I can’t get one of those pictures, at least not right now, I think that maybe an image of Fella looking affectionate and kind is the next best thing. So I ask for kisses and he obliges.

I snap an off-center selfie and hope for the best.

 

2.25.15 - A Stranger's Quest To Save The Barber's Lonely Dog - Part One7

 

 

To read the final part of this story, click here.

 

91 thoughts on “A Stranger’s Quest to Find the Lonely Dog a Family: Part Three

  1. I am very disappointed also….. All I keep thinking is “TAKE THE DOG, ” TAKE THE DOG”, “TAKE THE DOG” !!!!YOU be the foster Mom. YOU take him home NOW, WHILE YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY, BEFORE ANYONE CHANGES THEIR MIND!!! YOU can do this, and you need too. Do not let the poor guy wait while you figure out what to do and struggle to find a home. You are being very foolish, and although you have proven to be a bleeding heart, you are unable to ACT and BE REALLY COMMITED to him. I hope you change your mind and step it. I hope that is what I will read next and am looking forward to reading THAT! Not, how you are TRYING and making the poor guy wait longer or to never have an opportunity for life outside of the fence.

    1. My name is Leslie Smith and I’m the author of this post, not Melanie. I did end up bringing Fella to my home and getting him cleaned up. But in order to do that, I had to know that he had a place to go afterward so that I could bring my own dogs — one of whom can be dog-reactive — back home eventually. (I boarded them when Fella was at my house.) I contacted as many local rescue orgs as I could and no one was able to take him. I live in Oakland, CA, and we are maxed out – so many animals need homes or fosters right now. Ultimately, he got the ending he deserved (https://www.thedodo.com/community/lesliesmith/the-barbers-dog-part-iv-943873322.html) but it definitely takes time, money, and resources. And Fella’s situation is not unique. I visit many like him that live in conditions that are just as objectionable – it’s an endless, tireless cycle. Please know that there are many of us trying so hard to make things better, that there were countless conversations with my husband about how we could bring Fella home and still maintain sanity and quality of life for our own two dogs. Sustainable solutions are needed. It’s not easy — I was truly doing my best.

      1. Fella is lucky for what you’ve done to him. I read the part 4 and you’ve gone the extra mile to help find a good home for this dog. He would’ve been stuck all his life in that cement lot and never felt the love and care of humans like he is experiencing now. I can totally relate to your situation. I once picked up a stray dog but cant take him home coz i live in a small apartment with already one dog and im pregnant. i left this stray in the pet shop while i posted online on local websites to help find a home for him. Now he’s in good hands, a lovely American lady took him in. Its a relief to know these dogs are in better hands. Dont let these negative comments bring you down. they have no idea how difficult it is to take in another dog. God bless you Leslie!

        1. Ferguson’s, as he’s called now, is doing great. She went way way way out of her way from the start and she did see this through. He has made his way to foster and his life will be good from now on

      2. Thank you for caring! When others passed him by, you took the time to stop. That means lot! Thank you for taking the time to find him a better home.

      3. You are an angel on earth! Nobody knows the hardship unless you have gone through it. Fella is one lucky boy to have you be on such a mission to bring him a better life. A life he deserved❤️ My two rescue pitties Drake and Dezi and myself thank you and send ❤️from Boston Mass!

    2. Oh Leslie, I just read Part Four on Dodo, and I am in tears! Thank you, thank you for what you do! You are an angel! P.S. I love the pictures of Fergus in the front seat of the car!

    3. This story is told in the past tense. Fella, now Fegus is safe with lots of love. Why are folks so judgmental?

  2. OMG! Please dont let this poor Angel stay where he is, as we all know this isnt the life anyone wants for a dog, you and he are bonding…the picture of him kissing you thru the fence is heartwarming. HE needs a 2nd chance inside, bathed etc. I hope you can take him or find someone you know that will take the time to give him the home and love he (all animals) deserve. Please keep us posted with your updates etc. Also the boy who also stops and throws him a milkbone, his parents are certainly teaching him great things.

  3. Wow. So you get what you’ve been hoping for and now you say OOPS. Wait a sec. This dog deserves a chance. If they change their minds because you hesitate, SHAME ON YOU. Don’t get involved if you won’t step up.

    1. My name is Leslie Smith and I’m the author of this post, not Melanie. I did end up bringing Fella to my home and getting him cleaned up. But in order to do that, I had to know that he had a place to go afterward so that I could bring my own dogs — one of whom can be dog-reactive — back home eventually. (I boarded them when Fella was at my house.) I contacted as many local rescue orgs as I could and no one was able to take him. I live in Oakland, CA, and we are maxed out – so many animals need homes or fosters right now. Ultimately, he got the ending he deserved (https://www.thedodo.com/community/lesliesmith/the-barbers-dog-part-iv-943873322.html) but it definitely takes time, money, and resources. And Fella’s situation is not unique. I visit many like him that live in conditions that are just as objectionable – it’s an endless, tireless cycle. Please know that there are many of us trying so hard to make things better, that there were countless conversations with my husband about how we could bring Fella home and still maintain sanity and quality of life for our own two dogs. Sustainable solutions are needed. It’s not easy — I was truly doing my best.

  4. Owner: “You can have him” (hands washed – checks out)
    Nice Lady: “Uh, nevermind”.

    Great story.

    1. My name is Leslie Smith and I’m the author of this post, not Melanie. I did end up bringing Fella to my home and getting him cleaned up. But in order to do that, I had to know that he had a place to go afterward so that I could bring my own dogs — one of whom can be dog-reactive — back home eventually. (I boarded them when Fella was at my house.) I contacted as many local rescue orgs as I could and no one was able to take him. I live in Oakland, CA, and we are maxed out – so many animals need homes or fosters right now. Ultimately, he got the ending he deserved (https://www.thedodo.com/community/lesliesmith/the-barbers-dog-part-iv-943873322.html) but it definitely takes time, money, and resources. And Fella’s situation is not unique. I visit many like him that live in conditions that are just as objectionable – it’s an endless, tireless cycle. Please know that there are many of us trying so hard to make things better, that there were countless conversations with my husband about how we could bring Fella home and still maintain sanity and quality of life for our own two dogs. Sustainable solutions are needed. It’s not easy — I was truly doing my best.

      1. Leslie, Don’t let all the negative people bug you. They sit behind their computers typing and doing nothing to solve any of life’s issues. Glad you did what you did! So does Fella!

    2. She took the dog and found him wonderful people to care for him. Why so judgmental? Ever heard of compassion?

  5. I don’t understand if you read the story he was rehomed and is now very happy, what she did by just spending a bit of time with him, there are so may out there who will never have what he has, and spend the rest of their lives in misery and die alone, he will not. you cant just take a dog home not knowing how he is with other pets! she did get him out and she did re-home him, don’t be so mean what horrible people you are!

  6. Melanie (I know that is not your exact name but works for now): This is a touching story/article. It reflects the lives of so many animals and truthfully is likely not nearly as devastating as others are. But, your story tells the life of animals who have been cast-off in a heart-felt way, that those who simply don’t understand may begin to “get it”. The lonely animals, the flea-ridden or tick infested, the animals with cigarette burns, intentionally broken bones, harmed by dog fighting, skeleton-skinny from lack of food or nutrition, abandoned in fields/roads/woods to fend for themselves, maggots climbing on them from “dumpster-diving and so many more. We have a cat who was feral and when spayed, the vet said she had “baby maggots all over her body ‘. They said she would likely not survive. We made sure that was not an option and she is now a tame, happy, affectionate cat. No maggots, either! Thank you for making this sort of story come to life. That is what you have done. You have brought life to the people who lack compassion and consider an animal just a frame with fur. Thank you for helping ‘Fella’ and I hope this helps others to do the same or adopt or foster an animal.

    For all those who loved this article: CONTACT YOUR LOCAL ANIMAL RESCUE LEAGUE AND OFFER TO FOSTER. It is fulfilling and will help an animal find a home. They will help you with the animal and most often pay for all vet bills. You will be an angel to that animal who will thank you, forever. Go to the Petfinder website or your local pet supply store to help

  7. God Bless you sooooooooooooo much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you are an angel from God & too bad more people aren’t like you! My friends & I have save stray cats & we love them so much. I live in a condo other wise I would love to take in dogs also. Keep up the good work & God Bless, Jean

    1. Dear Leslie,
      You did a wonderful thing for Fergus. Please don’t listen to the people who put you down.
      You gave Fergus a reason to live and a chance to have the life he deserved. It is a lot
      to bring another dog into your home, even if that is what you want to do. There are
      so many things that can go wrong, but in this case all worked out for the best.
      You changed a life for the better, not many people can say that in this world.
      God bless…..

  8. I couldn’t help it, I went to the original post of this story and read parts 3 and 4. Had a good, long ugly cry (GOOD cry, though). <3 <3

  9. Robyn Williamson, didn’t she mention that she’s got 3 dogs already? Maybe they’ve got a pretty solid pack already, and a 4th might be too much. Just a thought.

  10. He is rescued and goes to Colorado. How many of us have stepped up to help a dog or cat that needs help? Glad for Ferguson, the barbers dog.

  11. Leslie Smith, thank you for caring about Fella. Thank you for being a good person. I am literally sobbing while hugging my own dogs. Fella will always remember you and love you, dogs are so gracious and their hearts so pure.
    Hugs from SC. I hope this story inspires more people to rescue animals.

  12. I applaud you Lesile!!! He’s gorgeous and you are amazing…you found each other for a reason!! From one rescuer to another…when we can’t take them in ourselves…I have 4 rescue dogs and one rescue kitty…we do anything and everything we can…use any and every resource we can find!!!! ROCK ON MY FRIEND!!!! <3<3

  13. Aww it looks like Fella is attached to Panda :). Is he in his forever home or a foster? I hope this is a foster fail, he looks so happy! And thank you Leslie for caring and breaking him free.

  14. that’s the problem. people who have a soft spot for dogs probably already have a house full of them and if you rescue one there’s no place to put them.

  15. This is soooooo drawn out its pathetically becoming more about the author trying to look like a superhero under the guise of saving a sad dog. I’d love to hear more from people who don’t make a big fuss about saving dogs because it’s the right thing to do and not because it’s a great platform for self promotion.

  16. I found the next installment and although he has finally been given a good home with a foster, I cried my eyes out! I am so grateful to Leslie for staying on her mission to save this boy. He’s always going to remember that and her

  17. Julia Vita, guess we all take away what we will from this….I didn’t feel it was about the “author trying to look like a superhero” It was about her process in getting to know the dog and about the connection she developed with him. Yes, she did A LOT to help this dog and to me, it read like a beautiful story of a strong bond between a human and a dog…I, for one, am glad she wrote it this way….in parts. I was touched and the short and quick version would have left out all the emotional parts.

  18. Oh, I do hope some kind person will take him and give him a good loving home – cant wait for part 4, hope theres a happy ending

  19. Well done all those involved in helping this poor soul. Great to hear about a happy ending for a change.

  20. I thought you were going to have Fella…….never thought you only wanted to pass him to another. He’s bonded with you.

  21. Just read the last part I’m in floods of tears god bless u I’ve rescued 9 dogs over the past few years thank u 4 what u did from the bottom of my heart xxx

  22. I cheated and read ahead after part 2. Then I had stop because I kept crying at my desk. But I made it thru. Such a great and frustrating story. I don’t know if I would’ve lasted so long (I would’ve stolen the dog) and I feel the pain of not being able to keep him. I fell in love with Fella, I can’t imagine what the author felt. Hope there will be follow up story’s for me to cry over. Lol

  23. Thank you for sharing Fella/Fergus story…I am glad and with happy tears that he’s finally safe and cared by ColoRADogs…Thank you too!

  24. Compassion isn’t always easy, in fact, it often involves bravery and risk. Thank you Leslie for being brave, for being that fortress for Fergus/Fella. Lots of happy tears here.

  25. As much as I appreciate Leslie’s efforts in rescuing this dog, it creates a dilemma about what to do when I see animals being mistreated. For months I watched my neighbor’s dog chained to a tree, often in freezing temperatures and/or rain, walking in his own feces, and left alone for as much as a week at a time. Giant buckets of food and water were left within his reach, albeit spilt and dirty, and thus animal control said they were breaking no laws. Once he broke through the fence and I let him stay with me several days until the neighbors returned. I tried to give him the love and attention he needed, but it was overwhelming, especially when he had to go back to a chain collar, and a now heavier chain connecting him to the tree. I spent days and weeks emotionally distraught, until the dog escaped and hopefully found a good home. IDK. Of course, the neighbors got a new dog. I was a basket case 24/7 worrying about it, and finally had to admit I would like to fix the ills of the world, but it’s not always possible. I’m happy it worked out for Fergus.

  26. You are an awesome human being… Cried like a baby.. So happy for Fergus!! Loved how you write.. Great job! !

  27. Take the dog out of the heat now that u got the ok poor thing still have to stay there n wait for somebody? Take him to another vet n start tx before he get worst

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