Meet La, my mom’s current dog. Yes, his name is La. In his previous owner’s Asian dialect, my mom was told La means “it.” And that was all La was to his old family. I use the term “family” very loosely.
Sure, La may have occupied the same general vicinity as two adult humans who had birthed two children, but part of a “family” La was not. La was indeed an “it” to them. If any little dog needed rescuing, it was La. And though my mom claimed her dog “removal” days were over, when she met La, she put her gloves back on.
You see, my mother has a long history of being what my family and I affectionately call a dog “thief.” No, my 70-something-year-old mother is not burglarizing homes looking for pooches. What she is doing is taking dogs out of abusive situations — whether the owners like it or not.
The clearest memory I have of my mother’s dog thievery was when she rescued Jessie, who would become our family’s dog for more than 13 years.
I actually started dog sitting Jessie when I was 14. One of the “fancy families,” as I called them, in our little suburb of Coppell, TX, adopted a ball of fluff that resembled a Tribble. Upon further inspection, the Tribble turned out to be a tiny Sheltie puppy whom the family named Jessie.
All went well for Jessie at first. But puppies have this pesky habit of growing up, and soon the Tribble became a dog, and that dog not only took up space and needed attention, he also found his bark.
Jessie was a very chatty Sheltie, and Jessie’s family — the children bored with their now-grown puppy and the parents regretting their decision to get a dog — couldn’t take Jessie’s insistent pleas for attention and banished him to the backyard. The backyard. The concrete backyard, with just a tiny patch of grass, a pool, the hot Texas sun and a fluffy adult Sheltie. All alone. All the time. When the kids forgot to give him water, which was often, he drank out of the pool.
This was too much for my mom to take. One May day, my mom turned to me and said, “We’re going to get Jessie.” Holding a leash and wearing a pair of gardening gloves (in case the dog tried to bite), my mother stalked down the street to Jessie’s house. She headed straight for the gate that led to the backyard, and mom and I found Jessie clinging to a patch of shade panting. “Time to go home,” my mother said.
Once home, my mom immediately gave him water, fed him, and called our neighbors. I don’t remember the entire message, but it basically boiled down to, “I’ve decided to take Jessie … he’ll die if you leave him out there … please be fair to your dog.”
And that was that. Our neighbors put up a half-assed attempt to object, but in less than a week’s time, all was settled. Jessie was ours. And Jessie stayed ours until he went barking off to that great big dog park in the sky, after a long, talkative life. After Jessie’s passing, her house stayed a cat-only zone for almost five years.
Until she met La.
A Dallas-area real estate agent, my mom went to check out a house, where she was met with the sight of two children in the front window pulling on a long rope. The other end of the rope was attached to a skinny black and tan terrier mix, who was being dragged across the yard by the children in the window. My mother watched in horror as the children pulled the struggling dog up by the chain around his neck, suspended off the ground.
The children laughed as the dog hung there panicking, then released the rope, laughing even harder as the little dog ran away, only to be snapped back by the children to begin the “game” again. Sickened, my mom ran over to the little black and tan dog and scooped him up. The little dog covered her face in kisses.
When the children objected, my mother demanded to know where their parents were. Their mother quickly appeared, and when questioned about the dog just laughed and said, “Oh, that’s just La. The kids like to play with him.”
Over the next few days, my mom was at the house every day, not only trying to find a buyer for it but also staking out the La situation. She learned that La was not allowed in the house, spent his days literally chained to a tree with only a dingy blanket for comfort, and that the family only fed him rice and some leftover scraps. When my mother threatened to call the Humane Society, La’s owner laughed again and said, “They’ve been here before, they aren’t going to take him.”
This is when my mother put her gloves on again. Early one afternoon, when she knew the family would be at work and school, my mother went to “remove” La. She told me he all but leapt into her arms.
After my mother took La, she went back to deal with the fallout from the family. The mother couldn’t care less and the father looked relieved, but the kids started bawling and screaming for their plaything. When the kids begged, “We love our dog! Give us our dog!” my mother looked them square in the eye and said, “You don’t want a dog, you want a punching bag.”
And that was that. The mother got bored with the whole situation, the kids were left to cry some more, and my mom found the house a buyer. She used the money she got from the sale to take La to the vet and “get him fixed up.”
La has now lived with my mom and dad for more than a year. He has a warm bed, is bossed around by an army of cats, eats gourmet dehydrated raw dog food, and only wears a fancy little red harness to go walking — never anything around his neck. Now La — affectionately called “LaLa” or “La-Dee-Da” — only goes outside for walks or to “help” my dad garden on breezy Texas afternoons.
Like my mom, La never looked back. The day she marched him out of that yard and into her home, she had no doubt that what she was doing was right and necessary. And yes, there are probably wiser, safer ways to go about saving dogs, but my mom is that rare type of person who only knows one direction: forward.
Too many shrug their shoulders in the face of animal abuse and ask, “But what can I do?” I will always be proud of my mother, pulling on her gloves and stalking down the street. She’s always known what she could do, and she has never been afraid to do it.
Do you know a dog rescuer or “thief”? Have you ever seen one in action? Tell us your story in the comments.
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