We gave up Heidi on a Sunday. The following Monday morning, Clara called Dave to see how “our” dog was doing. That telephone conversation changed everything. When Clara asked if Heidi was behaving, Dave answered matter-of-factly, “She messed on the floor, so I hit her with a newspaper.“ Upset at the news, Clara asked,” Why did you do that?”
“I just told you. She took a dump on the floor.”
During the conversation, Dave revealed that Mario did not live with him (“He lives with his girlfriend”), was not his caretaker, and hadn’t taken Heidi for any walks. We had been lied to.
Clara hung up the phone and said to herself We have to get her back!
When Clara gave me all the details, the first words out of my mouth were, “It’s too bad Lance didn’t get his teeth on Mario when he had the chance!”
The next morning, Clara called Dave again and advised him that I was going to be stopping by to get our dog back. “We made a mistake.” I drove to Dave’s house, as quickly as I had driven to the Schmidts’ house years earlier to get Lance. Like the Schmidts, I didn’t want to give Dave time to change his mind. On the way, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of greeting I would get.
When I arrived at Heidi’s new home, I found a trailer without a fenced yard as we’d been told it had. There was not even a penned-in area for a dog to use safely. My first thought: Was Dave letting Heidi out unleashed to do her business, right next to a busy road, no less? I knocked on the door. Inside I heard Heidi’s unmistakably irritating bark. For once, it was music to my ears. I knocked a few more times. From inside, someone shouted, “The door’s open. ” I took that as a sign that I was (un-)welcome to enter. I opened the door and went in. Heidi greeted me like a stranger. She looked confused and stressed and kept her distance. A man I assumed to be Dave snidely remarked, “Looks like your dog isn’t so glad to see you.”
The interior of the trailer was a mess. Picture a scene from the television show Hoarders. Dave was sitting in a wheelchair, watching television, and smoking a cigarette. I got the impression he smoked a lot, based on the amount of cigarette butts in several ashtrays and the smell of stale burnt tobacco that permeated the inside of the trailer.
Dave didn’t hide his feelings. “If I had a gun, I’d shoot you.” I didn’t reply. Instead, I did a quick visual scan of Dave and his immediate surroundings and, to my great relief, didn’t see any firearms. I knew then and there this was an encounter I had to keep short because it was never going to be sweet. I picked Heidi up and carried her out to my car. I wanted my precious cargo secured as soon as possible in case Dave became unreasonable.
After strapping Heidi into the back seat of my car, I re-entered the trailer and attempted to dismantle Heidi’s crate. I couldn’t do it quickly enough, so I grabbed the box holding all of Heidi’s toys(it was obvious they hadn’t been touched), put it on top of the partially disassembled crate and carried everything out to the car.
I debated whether to go back into the trailer and bid Dave a polite farewell. I opted to be as civil as possible. After entering trailer for the third and last time, I said. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out, Dave.”
“You f**king piece of sh*t! Get your f**king ass off my property!” If looks could have killed, no doubt I would have been a dead man.
I wasted no time getting back into my car and driving off. On the way home I tried explaining to Heidi what had happened. She didn’t look as if she understood. I couldn’t blame her. I didn’t understand either.
When we got home, the first thing I did was give Heidi a walk, knowing she hadn’t had one for several days. Walk done, I let her into the house to re-unite with Clara. Though Heidi had been out of our house for not quite two days, she greeted Clara as if they had been apart for two years.
I brought the crate and all of Heidi’s toys back into the house. I’d left the dog food at Dave’s, not wanting to make an extra trip back inside the trailer and risk getting my head blown while retrieving a bag of kibble. A quick trip to the local supermarket solved the food shortage problem.
The painful lesson we learned was that you must do the research before turning your pet over to someone else. As a former President of the United States said: ”Trust but verify.” Maybe, don’t even trust. Just verify.
That night Heidi was back on our bed “where she belongs”, according to Clara. The good news: we’d essentially rescued Heidi a second time. The bad news: we again had a dog we couldn’t handle.
To be continued…
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).