I pulled into one of the alleys on my route, an alley always heaped with bags of trash and debris where most of the buildings are burned-out or vacant, when in front of my headlights beside a mound of garbage I saw a large shadow. I knew it was an animal's shadow so I waited at a distance, hoping he would show himself. First appeared a head. I knew then the shadow was from a dog who was digging in the garbage for something to eat. This in itself is not unusual. When he realized he was being watched, he ran across the alley. The body of the animal running through my headlights and heading for a burned-out building could scarcely be recognized as that of a dog.
What I saw was a skeleton covered over with tight black skin. I was mortified. This poor creature had to be rescued from a certain fate the alleys had waiting for him; in fact, I couldn't imagine how he was still alive. I knew I had to do my best for this dog I'd never seen before on my trips through the streets. Grabbing a pot of dog food, a leash, and a bit of a prayer, I hurried to where I thought he had disappeared.
Inside the building I called to him with the sweetest voice I could muster. Shaking the pot of food in the hope he would recognize the sound, I stood waiting and hoping he would reappear, though I really didn't expect to see him again--dogs frightened away by strangers rarely return. Because all the buildings lining the alley were open all the way to the street, this emaciated, frightened animal had an easy escape route. Still I kept calling and waiting. To my amazement he slowly emerged from behind a piece of charred furniture. After all he'd been through he remembered the sound of food in a bowl and knew a stranger might be offering him a meal, something he hadn't had in weeks, I would guess.
Slowly he came closer and closer until he put his head in the pot. As he ate he wagged his tail that looked more like a bone protruding from a skeleton. He let me gently place the leash around his neck and I waited for him to finish eating. I admit I wasn't sure if I could get him to follow me to the car, leash or no leash. Even if I could get him to the car, I'd still have the job of getting him into the car (although he was skin and bones, this was not a small dog). As he downed the last remaining crumb of food I gave the leash a slight tug and started to wa1k. Again he amazed me by being a total gentleman. He followed me when I asked him to and he got into the car upon command. Once in the car he crawled into my partner's lap and, with as much of his bony body as would fit he stayed there, accepting all the petting and encouraging words she had for him as we transported him to safety.
Coal is in foster care and doing well. He is proof that abandoning an animal who once lived in a home with people is a cruel and severe death sentence. Cared for animals do not know how to get by on their own, and people who tell themselves otherwise do so in order to pretend they have a clear conscience as they abandon a dependent animal to a prolonged road to death. Those we rescue are the rare exception; most find relief only after they draw their last breath. Ed