A Stranger’s Quest To Give A Lonely Dog A Flea Bath: Part Two

“You didn’t tell me about the kid,” I say to him. “You didn’t tell me you have your own Milkbone delivery service, you little secret-keeper.”

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.

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


The barber’s dog has fleas.

This is a recent development and the situation has begun to impact our time together. We used to while away the lunch hour playing a game. (I toss a treat through the fence. He sniffs around earnestly to find it. Repeat.) These days, he’s only good for a few tosses before he goes back to biting at his hind legs. Or wriggling on his back against the gritty cement.

When he’s close enough for me to assist, I reach in and scratch that flea-infested dermis. I doubt a veterinarian would say that’s the healthiest approach for him in the long run, but I’m desperate for the barber’s dog to know some relief.

Even if it’s just temporary.

I rarely see the people who live above the barber shop, so a few months ago, I left them a note. It was full of exclamation points and happy sounding words to drive home the point that I’m harmless. In no way a crazy person or a bleeding-heart busybody or a mildly peculiar middle-aged woman with nothing better to do. It said, basically:

Thanks for letting me visit your awesome dog each day on my lunch hour! It’s the highlight of my afternoon! If you ever want someone to take him for a walk, why I’d be glad to do it! Here’s my phone number! And my email! I’m a real wiz with a leash!

No one ever got in touch. I should probably just be grateful they don’t order me away from their property or call the police the times they do spot me with my hand through the fence, petting their dog or tossing treats. Instead, they ignore me as I smile and try not to look too ingratiating. It’s awkward.

I read on the internet that for every flea you see on a dog, there are fifty fleas you don’t see. And why would the internet lie? The barber’s dog is crawling with fleas, so even if there is just one flea for every flea I see, that’s a disturbing number of insects having a time of it on the dog’s back. So I leave flea treatment at the barber’s place and opt again to include a merrily punctuated note:

Had a bunch of extras! Feel free to use on Fella!

Maybe I should have just tried to apply the stuff directly on the dog myself. Stick my hand through the chain-links and just go for it. Of course, there are problems with a plan like that. What if the barber’s dog is actually allergic to flea treatment and I make things worse? Or what if I’m caught red-handed interfering with a person’s “private property” and I’m ordered to never come back. It seemed a gamble no matter which way I went.


2.25.15 - A Stranger's Quest To Save The Barber's Lonely Dog - Part One6


The other day, when I was sitting with the barber’s dog and his fleas, a kid came by on one of those kick scooters. The barber’s dog jumped to his feet. I figured he’d start barking any second, as that’s what my dogs do when someone rides by on a scooter. (Or stops to say hi. Or stands quietly across the street minding his own business.)

“Oh, uh… I’m not sure how he is with kids,” I say to the kid.

“It’s okay. He knows me.” The kid says.

“He knows you?”

The kid tosses a Milkbone through the fence. “Yeah, Fella knows me. I come by here every day with treats.”

For a minute I thought I might be hallucinating. “Wait. You come by here every day with treats?” I ask the kid.

“Uh huh,” he says.

I really try to keep it low-key and nonchalant, but I’m not fooling anyone. “I come by here every day with treats!” I may or may not have suppressed a squeal. “Wow, that’s so crazy! And great!”

The kid nods politely.

“I’m just so happy Fella’s got another visitor!” I tell him. “Another friend!”

I didn’t think to get the kid’s name or find out where he lived or how long he’d been coming around. But I did ask him, “Can I take your picture?”


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


The kid lets me take a picture. Then: “I gotta go now.”

He tosses the last of the Milkbones through the fence and finishes with a rawhide. The barber’s dog takes it between his paws and settles in to work on it. I sit down on my side of the fence.

“You didn’t tell me about the kid,” I say to him. “You didn’t tell me you have your own Milkbone delivery service, you little secret-keeper.” The dog slobbers and licks at the rawhide but shoots me a look every so often to let me know he’s listening.

There are days — many — when the sense of unfairness is so paralyzing, I hardly know how to proceed. Not just the situation with the barber’s dog, but all over. On many levels and in increasing degrees of harshness.

On this day, the kid helps me forget some of that. He even imparts a bit of optimism. I feel it.

Even if it’s just temporary.


To read part three, click here.


98 thoughts on “A Stranger’s Quest To Give A Lonely Dog A Flea Bath: Part Two

    1. I agree just take the poor dog, these people obviously don’t take care of him and that’s cruelty. I’d take him and then take him to a rescue. They won’t even look for him, he looks like all he wants is to have someone play with him and show him love. You and that young boy are beautiful souls.

    2. I agree. Since there aren’t sufficient laws in place to protect neglected animals, folks sometimes have to take matters in their own hands. Legal? Well, no–but but his “owners” won’t even miss him.

    3. I agree. Since there aren’t sufficient laws in place to protect neglected animals, folks sometimes have to take matters in their own hands. Legal? Well, no–but his “owners” won’t even miss him.

    4. someone should call the SPCA or ASPCA or whatever human society in the neighborhood. His owners are inhumane to leave him outside and let him suffer. This is animal cruelty.

  1. Why can’t she come in the middle of the night a get him? This is so sad. Poor doggie he needs to know how it feels to be loved. God Bless Leslie for her compassion.

    1. “Why can’t she come in the middle of the night a get him?” Norma don’t be an idiot! Do you want her to get shot? Since its your idea, then you do it, brainiac!

  2. Wish she could steal him – but easier said than done. Hope he gets rescued somehow – Hope this story has a happy ending.

  3. Can’t wait for part 3. Keep up the good work on helping this beautiful dog. And by the way, he can’t be much of a guard dog if he takes pets and snacks from strangers.

  4. Why not buy him. He appears to be neglected and unloved.He is cold uncleaned and treated with disrespect.I am sure for the right price he might be for sale. On second thought lets work to change the laws regarding this kind of benign neglect. Abuse is Abuse.

  5. Love it! Thank you for not
    Taking so long for part two. Can’t wait for part three!!! You’re a wonderful person by the way and so is the kid who brings fella treats!!!

  6. Yes! THE LAWS MUST BE CHANGED! These precious innocents must be protected from callous humans who have no regard for them.

  7. Aww can’t wait for part. Hope fella has a happy ending and a new home where he is loved and cared for xxx

  8. Plz take fella to a safe place n loving hands…n I soooo hope his story has n extreme happiness ending

  9. I’m seriously fighting tears at this story….furbabies like Fella are the reason why my husband says I’m not allowed near the animal shelter, I’d want to bring them all home with me….

  10. to the person who gave treats to flea infested dog , owned by barber. why the hell wouldt you go buy some topical flea med. that u rub on at there back or neck. it gets into blood. flease then bite and dye. kill the fleas each month. less and less fleas to lay eggs . it should eventually greatly reduce problem… 2nd. grow some balls, go talk to barber… 3rd sneak some flea repellant along fence areas so the dog may find releafin certain areas . 4th. call animal rescue. they have obligation to help. should talk to owner. can make them register dog, which should force them to get simmunizations, records, rabies cert. dewormed de flead by prob. having to take dog to vet to comply w registration laws. 5th. I find it disgusting that there wil be another episode from u. u are using this display of this poor dog, without helping it, for your own attention. u shoud be made to live on the ground and sleep with its fleas. Fing do something besides gratify yourself that uv simply noticed and photographed this poor creature of God. ACT !!

    1. I agree, why isn’t this person reporting this. Getting a following of readers at the cost of this poor dog’s well being is absolutely disgusting. If I saw this happening I would have reported it IMMEDIATELY! It’s obviously not being well cared for, this is neglect, plain and simple to be infested with fleas.

  11. Just front line the dog. It’s easy, just estimate his weight and buy some frontline. I’d say the 55 t 80 lb dose. Pour it onto his neck, between his shoulder blades, flees gone in 24 hrs.
    What’s the worst that can happen?

  12. God bless you sweet lady and this sweet little boy. God bless this baby also. I how this story ends with you taking him home with you. So sad. This picture shows how sad he is.

  13. Great writing! I loved reading this and I look forward to up coming chapters. I’m also shooting for a very happy ending for Fella! 😉

  14. Am really enjoying this story. I really want to see him adopted by someone who would really love him, rid him of fleas etc, without having to be prodded. How can people be so callous and indifferent towards this lovely animal. People who don’t want to commit to them and make them a part of their family, should not be allowed to own these loely creatures

  15. So many of us need to learn from Leslie and instead of looking the other way, be just as compassionate. I commend her and all those who rescued this beautiful dog! God bless her.

  16. I posted the message below over 13 hours ago. I will give you the money to purchase Fella from the owner. Please take me up on my offer.

    From 2/27 at 1:36am: Please offer the owner some money to purchase the dog. Perhaps if they were offered $500 they would turn Fella over to you. I can’t stand the thought of this poor little guy being there any longer. I will give you the money to pay for him. Please try this to get him out of there and to a vet where he can get the care he needs. Please contact me if they accept the offer and I will get the money to you as soon as possible. Ann

  17. I worked down at the Cypress Street project in Oakland 20 years ago, and one of the families had a dog that they neglected terribly. He used to visit our workplace, and was such a sweetheart. One day when he came to see me, he had blood all over his paws, probably from walking on something sharp like glass. That did it for me. I took the rest of the day off, grabbed him, and took him down to the Oakland SPCA. I told them he was from another part of the city quite far away from where I found him, and gave the SPCA $100 for the rights to know what happened to him, because if they couldn’t find him a home, I would find one for him. A week or so later, a couple came in and fell in love with him. To this day, I am so glad that I just took him. Spare me the lectures, because no animal should have to live the way Fella or ‘my’ dog did.

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