The email was forwarded from someone in the rescue community. No cover letter or note, just the original plea from BARCS for a rescue to step up on behalf of a dog found that morning in a Baltimore sewer. Apparently, people had heard him barking for a while until finally, on this day, someone picked up a phone and called Animal Control. When officers arrived, they removed the manhole cover and discovered a dirty, bedraggled, blind and terrified pup twenty feet down. Two photos accompanied the email and either one was enough to break the hardest of hearts.
What kind of person throws a dog in the sewer and then places a manhole cover on top to ensure not only a certain death, but a long, torturous one? What kind of society walks by, day after day, hearing the cries and does nothing? And what kind of community are we if we refuse to make it a priority to catch the monsters that do this?
The dog was promptly named Dean and within minutes, his photos and story was posted on the Show Your Soft Side page. Almost instantly, outrage poured in from people across the country. As the comments and inquiries kept growing, we received a text that we should “consider removing the post.” It was believed Dean may be feral and, therefore, would be impossible to treat. If that proved to be the case, he would be humanely euthanized that evening. I can’t explain what it was about Dean, a dog none of us had ever met, but there was no turning back. The post remained and we continued to hope and pray for a miracle.
By 4pm that afternoon, all indications were that Dean would not live to see another day. Postings by many in the Baltimore rescue community confirmed that the word on the street was that Dean was feral. At that point, we shut down Facebook and walked away to prepare for the worst and start thinking how best to convey the news.
I’m not sure what made us check one last time, but when we did – we saw a miracle unfolding on our Soft Side page. A rescue in Georgia was communicating with two individuals in Baltimore – one was stationed outside BARCS waiting to pick up Dean and the other was preparing her home to provide Dean with a temporary refuge before he made his way south. All of this was taking place, real time, on the thread below his photo.
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Not only do animals bring out a person’s soft side, they also bring like-minded people together. Those three individuals – two in Baltimore, one in Georgia – who communicated on a single thread, had never met each other. Nor had the two in Baltimore ever done anything quite as drastic as this before. Yet, all were so moved by the story and accompanying photos, they dropped everything to rush to his rescue. Three strangers who will be forever bonded by a pup named Dean.
Thanks to Marie, his temporary foster, we were able to follow Dean’s progress over the course of the next week. She took to calling him Rocky as more and more evidence emerged that violent and repeated blows to the head were the reason for his blindness. We saw him come home freshly shaved from the vet and for the first time, saw the bruises on his body. We saw him venture out of his crate and cautiously accept human touch for the first time. We waited in anxious anticipation of when he’d be leaving Baltimore and felt an overwhelming sadness that we’d never get to see him again.
That changed with a simple text one night. Marie was going to drive the first leg of his rescue and gave me the address of the rescue-transport meeting place. At 7:30AM on a Saturday morning, I headed to Catonsville with a small bag of gifts. In a parking lot at UMBC, I finally got to see Dean in person. He was clean and shaved to the skin, yet fear clung to him like a second coat. Cowering in the back of his crate, his head was furry like a lion and his eyes clouded, perhaps God’s way of helping him forget the hell he’d seen. For a few minutes, it was just the four of us – Marie, her daughter, Dean and myself. One clung to the safety of his crate while three of us stood by quietly with tears running down our faces. For Marie and her daughter, this was a poignant good-bye to a pup that had stolen their hearts in the course of one short week. For me, it was imagining what those innocent eyes must have seen to cause such raw and palpable fear.
Thanks to the angels at ARF Rescue, Dean is now living in a foster home in Georgia and recovering from having both eyes removed – a surgery deemed essential to alleviate his pain. He faces a long road to physical and emotional wellness, but is finally surrounded by the kind of patient, gentle, caring people that will support him every step of the way. Marie often talks about doing a road trip to see her “Rocky” boy again and I fantasize about going with her. I also fantasize about the time when the monsters who commit these crimes in Baltimore will be investigated, charged and punished. With any luck, both of those fantasies may one day come true.