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

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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.


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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.


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