Acting as Mother Theresa to Denver’s homeless dogs in 1991 almost got me killed once. I chased a pint-sized white mutt with protruding nipples down a side street in the Five Points neighborhood, a run down section. The dog’s alleged owner, a shabbily dressed man with a long unkempt beard, lashed out at me, accusing me of trying to steal his dog. I thought the new mom was a stray.
“I didn’t see any tags on your dog,” I said. “She was running loose onLawrence Streetand almost got hit by a car.”
“Stupid dog,” the owner said.
Stupid owner, I thought.
“She looks like she recently had a litter.”
“The puppies under that house on the corner,” he said, acting a bit calmer. “She was probably on her way to feed them. You interfered.”
“I thought I was saving her.”
“You want her?” the man said.
“Yes, I do,” I said. He picked up the scruffy dog and handed her to me. I put her in my car.
“What about the puppies?” he said. “They’re in that abandoned house.”
I was surprised he even cared.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
The narrow two story house was run down. Garbage cluttered the alley. The yard was overgrown with weeds. Windows were shattered. I tried to open the front door but it was locked. Instead, I poked my head inside an open window and listened for whimpers but heard nothing. I went back to the man’s house.
“That house seems abandoned,” I said as I stood on his front steps. “I listened through a window and didn’t hear any puppies.”
“They’re in there. Mama feeds them all the time.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, nervous about entering an unstable unoccupied building. Besides, I’m sure it was illegal.
“Want me to show you?”
“No, that’s OK.”
I kept dog dried food and bottled water in my car. I shoved supplies for the puppies beneath an opening in the ratty looking building, just in case they were inside. Noticing the time, I’d be late for work unless I got back to the clinic. Not that I had work piled up but Deborah my boss would crawl up my ass if I staid out any longer. I drove to the clinic, left the little white dog in my car and called Denver animal control. They picked her up about an hour later. That was the best I could do.
I called the Denver Dumb Friends League and told them about the allegedly abandoned puppies. They dispatched an investigator who called me a few days later.
“I see what you mean about that building,” the DDFL investigator said. “It looks like it might collapse. I couldn’t get inside.”
“Did you hear anything?” I asked.
“Not a sound,” she said. “I left out food and water. I also taped an official abandonment notice on the door. Not that anyone will read it. If the owners don’t show up, we can legally break into the house. I’m just not sure how someone can get in. That house is dangerous. We love animals at the DDFL but I don’t want any of our people getting hurt.”
“Let me know what happens.”
I fretted that the puppies, if they were inside, might starve or freeze in the middle of winter. I drove back the next day and studied the building. To get inside, I would have slide through a first floor broken window in the back of the house. And even if I got in, the interior was trashed. Finding the tiny puppies would be risky. I worried about taking a chance but I always had a bit of daredevil in me. Because I was in the backyard, no one saw me, or at least I didn’t think they did. As I shimmied through a wobbly window frame, I slipped and fell to the pavement below. I escaped serious harm, save for bruises, bumps, cuts and scrapes. My heart pounded thinking that if I had become lodged inside the building no one would have heard my cries for help. The homes in the immediate area were abandoned too. That ended any further rescue attempts. I called my contact at the DDFL and told her what I did.
“Don’t ever do that again,” she said. “You’re not trained for animal rescue. We are. Please leave this to the professionals.”
“After what happened today, I swear I’ll never do something so stupid again.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I don’t know you, but I believe you have a good heart. If you died doing something foolish, think of all the animals that won’t be helped.”
“I nearly dropped dead from fear. I’ve learned my lesson.”
“We’ll investigate again, but I can’t send someone inside such an unstable building. We’ll try to lure the puppies, if they’re inside, out with food.”
I don’t know if those puppies were really in that building. Maybe that scuzzball wanted to see me die. Who knows? I never risked my life like that again. My arm full of cuts, bruises and scrapes scared me away from that building. If a rescue was possible the DDFL took action. As for me, it’s 2011 and I’m still involved in animal rescue.