Snowflakes trickled down late one afternoon in the Mile High City that winter of 1991. Cardboard gray skies suggested a big storm was on the way. I left the clinic early but stopped by Triangle Park with lunch for Pat and her friends. A pharmaceutical rep was overly generous with turkey sandwiches, potato and macaroni salads, and vanilla cookies for desert.
Pat steered me towards an abusive neighbor, a young thug with a rap sheet who lived in a decrepit house not far from Triangle Park. He built up a collection of strays, some with recently delivered puppies, and according to Pat, beat them when he came home drunk. That was often. Some of the dogs wandered freely on and off his property. Others he confined.
“He leaves for work around 11:00 a.m.,” Pat said.
“When does he get home?” I asked, checking my watch. It was 2:30 p.m.
“About 7:00 p.m., or that’s what I’ve heard.”
“Where does he keep the dogs?” I asked.
“In a wobbly shack in the front yard,” Pat said. “You can see if from the street. Want me to show you?”
“No, I think I can find it.”
“Be careful, he’s dangerous,” Pat said.
“I will,” I said.
I cruised down his block, careful because the streets were slick from recent snow. An outhouse type structure sat in his front yard. As I rolled down my window, I heard tiny yelps. Pat was right. On a whim, I hopped over the fence and opened the door. There, I found a large mixed breed dog with eight squirming puppies stuffed inside. Mom seemed friendly and nice, which made all the difference. If she was overly protective, I was in deep shit. She could’ve ripped my hand off. Sweating profusely despite the cold, I cradled two puppies at a time in my arms then placed them in my car, all the while praying the terminator didn’t come home or that a nosy neighbor didn’t alert the police. I was stealing from private property. Finally, I rushed back for mom and threw a leash around her neck. I led her into the back seat and drove down the street. I couldn’t peel away because of the snow. Once I was about four or five blocks away, I stopped panting. I wiped my brow with my sleeve. I drove mom and puppies to a shelter about 25 miles away, neglecting to say I stole them from a scumbag owner. That could potentially embroil the shelter in a legal battle with the owner on the slim chance he found his brood there. Instead, I made up a whopper. I said I found them abandoned in a garbage dump. No one asked why I was in a trash heap nor did I volunteer much information. All that mattered was the animals were safe. I wondered when the street urchin start would collect again.
Two days later on the way to work, I drove by his property looking for the fluffy dog with one puppy that I left behind the other day. The dirt bag didn’t appear to be home so I grabbed the dogs and ran. I pestered animal control to pick up the 3-4 strays hanging around the block because they belong to him. I tried to capture them but they always eluded me. Pat finally saw the animal control truck one day and never saw the gang of dogs anymore. As long as I worked at the clinic, he acquired no more animals and I continued to rescue strays from the streets.