Monday, May 02, 2011
Obeying my moral compass
ERIC BRADY The Roanoke Times
Columnist Nona Nelson found "Juliet" roaming her neighborhood recently and eventually was able to reunite her with her family.
Nona Nelson, The Happy Wag
Read Nona's blog, The Happy Wag:
Doing the right thing is typically not difficult for me. Sure, I make plenty of mistakes, but my moral compass seldom fails to lead me to the right path.
But sometimes that path gets complicated. And sometimes, you learn something about yourself.
The lost dog
On a recent Monday evening, a couple of small dogs were running loose in my neighborhood -- we don't see many unleashed mutts, and this pair didn't seem very street smart.
I followed the wayward pooches until the duo darted into an open garage.
I parked my car and walked up to the front door. I asked the woman who answered if she was missing a couple of little dogs.
No, she said, she doesn't have any dogs. I looked down, and one of the wee, collar-less fugitives was sitting at my feet. I saw her running mate disappear around the house and off through another yard.
The tiny white dog was trembling, her docked tail wagging the rest of her body. Her chocolate eyes, almost as big as her pointy, Spock-like ears, begged me to help her.
I know that it is not the right thing to pick up a strange dog. But I did it anyway.
I took the dog, roughly the size of a loaf of bread and weighing less than my last Thanksgiving turkey, and put her in my car. We cruised around looking for her friend and for anyone who might be looking for her.
We found neither.
We drove for almost three hours, asking everyone we saw if they recognized the dog. Many people said they'd seen the doggy duo roaming that day, but no one knew where they belonged.
By then, we were both tired and hungry, so I took the little dog home for the night.
My guess was that she was a toy fox terrier. She was housebroken, well-fed, and as sweet as sugar.
As adorable as she was, I knew I couldn't keep her.
I am at the legal three-pooch limit in Roanoke County, and my 55-pound-plus dogs looked at this little toy breed like she was the best stuffie EVER.
She needed another home, either the one she came from or a new one.
The next morning I was brimming with confidence because I knew the right thing to do.
We made a trip to my vet's office to have her scanned for a microchip -- a small implant put between a pet's shoulders that contains the name and contact information of the owner.
She was not chipped.
Disappointed, our next stop was the pet store for a fashionable little harness -- retail therapy.
Next we went to the Roanoke Valley SPCA. They sent me to the Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection.
There I could check in Juliet (I named her for a character on the show "Lost") as a stray, but I could keep her with me. They took her photo and posted it on the pound's website.
A clock started counting down: In five business days, if no one claimed her, she would be considered abandoned, transferred to the RVSPCA, spayed, given all her vaccinations and microchipped.
Then she would be eligible for adoption.
It was the right thing to do.
I took her to my office, and that's when things got complicated.
Due to her charming personality, everyone who met Juliet wanted to adopt her. I had a half-dozen potential homes lined up for her in an hour.
I worked the rest of the day from my home with her snuggled in my lap. While I knew it was not the right thing to fall in love with her, my protective, dog-loving instincts were latching on to Little Miss Awesome Pooch.
Why didn't her owners have a collar and tag on her? Why didn't they microchip her? Why was she running loose?
Why weren't they making posters with her photo? I'd had her for 36 hours and I had a dozen photos of her, plus postings on my blog, Twitter and Facebook.
As my attachment deepened, I started to smugly think a new home would be the right thing for Juliet.
On Wednesday I got an e-mail from animal control. A family, who lived about a mile from my house, was looking for a dog like Juliet.
The description matched, but my adoration for this dog collided with my inner cynic. I wanted proof this was their dog.
What followed was three days of confusion -- though the family said their two terriers had slipped out of their yard and one had returned, they couldn't provide any photos of the missing dog.
Then it was Friday, and I had yet to hear back from the family after they said they would look at Juliet's photo on the pound's website.
By then, I was hoping no one would call. I wanted her to have a family who would care for her the way I would.
One where I could see her occasionally.
While home for lunch that Friday, a Roanoke County animal control officer called. Juliet's family -- the folks I had talked to -- was at the pound to pick her up. They said the photo on the website was of their dog.
My husband picked us both up. Juliet vomited in the car; I wanted to do the same.
When we arrived, I couldn't get out. The moment had come to do the right thing, and I was a coward.
Sobbing, I handed her to my husband. He took her in.
He told me Juliet instantly recognized the couple, and it was a happy reunion. They politely asked how much they owed us for keeping her.
Nothing, my husband said. But please, he asked, get her microchipped. They had never heard of a microchip before but promised to take care of it.
Not always easy
I try to do the right thing to protect my pets in case they get lost -- monogrammed collars with our phone number, microchips and hundreds of photos. But not everyone who has pets is as obsessed as I am.
I worry that I didn't do the right thing in giving her back -- she could face a tragic fate if she runs again.
But maybe I did not do the right thing by not taking her back the day the family called.
In hindsight, my bruised heart agrees with the latter.
That's the problem with the right thing: It's not always easy and sometimes it hurts.
Read more pet news on Nona Nelson's blog at blogs.roanoke.com/thehappywag.