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Davy and the Dragon

Down the street in a dilapidated little house lives a somber, bedraggled boy. Call him Davy. He recently told me he’s 12 years old; I had figured nine or 10.

The house, whose windows are covered with plastic and duct tape and are never opened, holds Davy, Davy’s fat, unprepossessing siblings, and Davy’s harried and vaguely slutty mother. No father of course.

Davy has an air of refinement that doesn’t fit. My gut tells me that within a year or two he might be struggling with his sexual identity. But for now one of his biggest problems is that he loves dogs and wants to help them.

He can’t have a dog. Maybe because they’re renters. Maybe because they don’t have a fenced yard. But there’s something more going on between him and his mother; she’s hostile to dogs (or hostile to Davy) to the point where, when he found a lost, elderly, sickly, unneutered, dirty chihuahua mix at twilight about a year ago she ordered him to put it back out on the street immediately.

This neighborhood is surrounded by woods and heaven knows what would have happened to that ancient mutt if Davy had obeyed. Nice dinner for some coyote. Instead, he snuck over to my house with it (he knows I rescue dogs).

I kept the dog overnight, then took it to the vet where it automatically went on a three-day police hold. Nobody claimed it so it was adopted out. The sorry pooch found a great home despite being really old and needing a lot of vet care.

Yesterday Davy and his buddy Bernardo showed up with another foundling. Another chihuahua. Younger this time, but as usual no collar, no tags, not neutered. And they’d found it running up and down the highway where it was in danger of getting killed. They checked a house or three nearby but couldn’t find its owner. Again they headed to my place (and again, I later learned, it was against Mom’s orders).

If somebody brought me or I found a dog with a collar and ID, I’d look for its owner. If I couldn’t find them right away I’d keep the dog here for a while. That would be technically illegal — but obviously the decent thing to do. If I found a dog that was neutered and looked well kept despite having no collar or ID, I’d put up posters.

But an uncollared, unneutered dog running on the highway is nearly always an unwanted dog. In those cases I do the “legally correct” thing and take the dogs to the vet ASAP, even though I know it puts them into police custody. Rarely does anybody turn up to claim these guys.

And you know what? I don’t even care if the dog belongs to somebody in that case. Because much as I don’t like cops, I like irresponsible dog owners even less. Unneutered, collarless, running loose — that tells me its humans don’t love that dog. If they have to make a trip to the vet and pay an impound fee and some penalties, maybe they’ll look after it better in the future, for their own sake, if not for Fido’s.

Anyhow, I went to the vet about an hour and a half later with the dog that Davy and Bernardo dubbed “Littlefoot.” In the early evening Bernardo is out playing soccer with other neighborhood kids and he learns who Littlefoot — whose real name is Dragon — belongs to.

Can I go get the dog back for them? he asks.

I explain to Bernardo that only the owners can claim the dog now and they’ll have to pay to do it.

Half an hour later a whole pack of little Mexican kids and one older boy are at my door. I explain it all to them again. Whichever of your relatives the dog belongs to will have to go down, claim him, and pay fees.

Fifteen minutes later, Davy is at my door, wracked with sobs. His mother, he says, is demanding that he go down to the vet and get the dog and nothing he says will make her change her mind.

So, reassuring him all the way, I head for Davy’s house to explain the situation to his mother. This is awkward. I think Davy did absolutely the right thing, but how do I say that without subverting her authority? I go through the legalities. I explain what I did. I explain that nobody but the owners can claim the dog within the next three days, and that if they had just put ID on the little beast none of this would have happened. By this time, all the Mexican kids are surrounding us again. Must be hellishly humiliating for Davy, an older boy, to be bawling his lungs out in front of them. I’m feeling very responsible for all this.

Mom claims that Davy knew who the dog belonged to before he showed up at my place. Between sobs, he denies it. I believe him. Evidence says Mom is lying, though I don’t know why she would.

Anyhow, no matter who the dog belonged to, her son may very well have saved its life and the owners ought to be grateful. Whatever anybody thinks of what I did, the kid did the right thing.

So far — somewhat to my surprise — nobody has demanded that I go fetch the dog and pay its bills.

Some people reading this are going to tell me I stuck my nose into something that wasn’t my business or that I should have kept the dog around longer. It’s true that if I’d have hung onto the dog, Davy almost certainly wouldn’t have been put through that misery. Which does bother me. I’ll apologize to him for helping get him in trouble.

Yet at the same time, I wouldn’t do anything different; I can’t see myself making a big effort to return a dog to people who are likely to get it killed through their neglect. I can’t see myself keeping their pup for them until they care enough to notice it’s gone and look for it.

In any case, Davy’s a sweet, sad, well-intentioned kid who’s being punished for doing something right. I want to take him aside and tell him that what he did was good and that sometimes you do get smacked down for that, which shouldn’t stop you from doing what you believe in.

But I don’t want to put myself between him and his mother, which would be very much not-right. I really don’t know what goes on in that house. I just know that my heart breaks for that kid and I bear a lot of responsibility for what just happened to him.

43 Comments

  1. Karen
    Karen July 25, 2012 4:03 am

    It sounds to me like there’s a chihuahua puppy mill around there somewhere that needs to be shut down. I hope you can maintain contact with Davy and help to convince him that he did the right thing and that oftentimes the right thing is the hardest most thankless thing to do.

  2. Pat
    Pat July 25, 2012 4:15 am

    If Davy went to the vet and got the dog, what would his mother do with it – give it back to the family who had it, or throw it back on the street? (I wonder if the family is pressuring her to get the dog back for them. Or if she wants to keep it; otherwise why would she be willing for Davy to get it out when she knows she’ll have to pay for it?)

    I wonder, too, if his mother is jealous of your involvement in her son’s life, that he trusts you to make the more humane decision about dogs than she would.

    You are not responsible for what happened to Davy. He came to you, and took his chances with your decision. And he knew his mother’s attitude toward dogs – and possibly toward you as well. He put himself in his mother’s ire by getting involved in the dog’s life; it was a lose-lose situation for him, and it’s bad, but there’s nothing you can do about their relationship.

    (I doubt he’ll be bringing any more dogs to you.)

  3. John Venlet
    John Venlet July 25, 2012 5:47 am

    Claire, I think your interactions with Davy are a positive aspect in his life which may, very well, offset the negative aspects of his current life, to his benefit, in the future.

  4. FishOrMan
    FishOrMan July 25, 2012 6:11 am

    I am not convinced you shouldn’t put yourself between him and his mother. Maybe not “put” yourself there… but, he is twelve and will soon be doing it anyway and chances are it won’t be with someone who actual cares for his well-being. He is also likely desperately looking for evidence that his mother’s example of “love” isn’t all a woman can offer.

  5. grenadier1
    grenadier1 July 25, 2012 6:51 am

    I concur with FishOrMan,
    That young man needs positive role models not only male but female.
    Hes as much a lost dog as the pups hes finding on the street.
    No doubt hes making a connection there.
    Things could go south for that kid real quick in the next few years. He will be searching for any pathway out of his mothers house.

  6. Jim Bovard
    Jim Bovard July 25, 2012 6:54 am

    Beware of vortexes.

  7. sam johnson
    sam johnson July 25, 2012 6:54 am

    Davy sounds like a lost pup in need of love himself. Try and help the best way you can without stepping on anyones toes. The day may or may not come when more direct action against mom needs to be taken. Until then keep help the boy do the right thing.

  8. Pat
    Pat July 25, 2012 7:58 am

    (Not trying to be argumentative, just stating some thoughts.)

    I realize that Davy needs a guiding hand, and I understand that the male contingent here might see this as a real opportunity to give him what he obviously lacks at his age (namely a father, or at least another counter-figure to his mother – god knows he needs it), but…

    There’s sometimes a fine line between helping/sympathizing, and MYOB. I have a strong almost-premonition that any other *immediate* contact might be misconstrued as interference. (Perhaps in a month or two, things might calm down.) If something else is going on between Davy and his mother, it might be the wrong time to make overtures when they’re at cross purposes.

    (But I tend to be conservative where others’ emotions are concerned. Just my 2 cents…)

  9. billswift
    billswift July 25, 2012 8:03 am

    >Because much as I don’t like cops, I like irresponsible dog owners even less.

    You like people that you consider irresponsible to animals even more than you dislike thugs who harass and attack other people even less? Lady, you have serious moral and emotional, and probably mental, problems.

  10. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal July 25, 2012 8:23 am

    I don’t think you would be doing anything wrong to put yourself between him and his mother. Defense of the innocent is very much a good thing, even when you are defending them from people who are supposed to be doing that job.

    billswift- Who are you to judge people on their “likes” and “dislikes”? You can know both are wrong, but have a visceral reaction to one that is stronger, without having “problems”.

  11. Claire
    Claire July 25, 2012 8:34 am

    billswift, I may have problems, but you’re not in a position to assess them based on one statement. The _local_ cops are mostly pretty decent folks, despite my disapproval of parts of their job and the way they get their paychecks. It’s them I’m comparing the local bad dog owners with. Think whatever you like about that.

  12. Claire
    Claire July 25, 2012 8:42 am

    “There’s sometimes a fine line between helping/sympathizing, and MYOB”

    That’s the truth.

    I also admit that my gut says Jim Bovard is right: “Beware of vortexes.” I feel for the kid, but I don’t think I should ever be anything more to him than the (hopefully nice) lady down the street.

    This is a poor neighborhood with more than its share of hardship and drama. I have some good, self-reliant neighbors, including one who endeared himself to me by offering to kick the ass of anybody who ever might give me a hard time. 🙂 But my one effort at helping already ended up with me being freeloaded upon.

    Not to mention that hermit writers need uninterrupted silence to work.

  13. Claire
    Claire July 25, 2012 8:43 am

    billswift- Who are you to judge people on their “likes” and “dislikes”? You can know both are wrong, but have a visceral reaction to one that is stronger, without having “problems”.

    Thank you for that, Kent.

    Yes, there’s a difference between visceral reactions and philosophy. Thanks for putting it better than I did.

    Also, IMHO there’s often a fine line — or no line — between people who are cruel to animals and those who are cruel to people.

  14. bumperwack
    bumperwack July 25, 2012 8:52 am

    Just do what ya gotta do Claire …and the boys should get to.kiss Robbie for free…and I thought I was the one around here with serious emotional, moral, mental problems? Ect.,ect..

  15. Matt, another
    Matt, another July 25, 2012 8:56 am

    You were “wrong” because you are the crazy Anglo lady that lives alone and takes care of dogs. You also improve your place, and how crazy is that?

    You and Davy did the right thing. I have done similar on some occasions. In April I pulled three cats out of my owners A/C ductwork (long story) and immediately took them to a shelter. It’s not my job to look after all the strays. I have taken in and fostered dogs fro freinds though.

  16. billswift
    billswift July 25, 2012 9:13 am

    Actually I have read most, if not all (all that I know of anyway), of your books and followed your previous blog until you “retired”, though I only discovered this new blog a month or two ago. I have come to the conclusion that most libertarians are fools or liars. The liars mostly fall into two camps, those like Royce and North, both of whom apparently are anti-government so they can more easily harass non-Christians at will. And the liberaltarians (Megan McCardle, for example) who are politically socialists but realized socialist economics doesn’t work because they need sheep to fleece to fund their political goals.

  17. Scott
    Scott July 25, 2012 9:16 am

    Anyone who can be cruel to animals can very easily do the same to humans-especially-exclusively, maybe-those unable to defend themselves. There is no line to cross. I feel sorry for Davy-sounds like he’s got a really rough road to travel, but maybe he will remember for the rest of his life the concern you showed.

  18. billswift
    billswift July 25, 2012 9:21 am

    Also, most police officers are polite most of the time, but politeness should not be confused with decency.

    And the point in your post was not about cruelty, it was about irresponsibility. They are not the same things, despite your attempt to confuse the issue.

    If your philosophy is disjoint from your emotional reactions, then you don’t really believe it. But them, I was having doubts about your general competence already from your blathering about spirituality in your old blog.

  19. Claire
    Claire July 25, 2012 9:27 am

    “But them, I was having doubts about your general competence already from your blathering about spirituality in your old blog.”

    Billswift — then I have the perfect solution for you! If reading me causes you so much distress, just quit doing it. So easy.

    Well, I guess after that you’d have to work to find somebody else to feel superior to. But then, that’s a job you enjoy, so have at it and have fun.

  20. bumperwack
    bumperwack July 25, 2012 9:50 am

    Ditto…

  21. Gus S. Calabrese
    Gus S. Calabrese July 25, 2012 10:51 am

    I would like to hear what billswift’s philosophy for making the world a better place is….. where is your bog ? I would like to read it……

    I am always annoyed that younger humans [YH] ( children and teenagers ) are treated as property. I have gotten in trouble many times for interacting with YHs as though they owned their own minds and bodies. I admire Claire for what she has risked interacting with Davy. Good luck Claire …. remember …”no good deed goes unpunished” 99guspuppet

  22. Gus S. Calabrese
    Gus S. Calabrese July 25, 2012 10:53 am

    sorry about the typo …. I meant blog …. not bog

  23. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty July 25, 2012 11:16 am

    Just curious, billswift… why would you read anything by Claire or Royce if you honestly feel that way? You into some kind of kinky masochism or something?

  24. Claire
    Claire July 25, 2012 11:20 am

    No problem on the typo, Gus. OMG, if I had a buck for every typo I’ve ever blatted, I’d be on a beach in Tahiti right now.

    Be of good cheer; yours was not as egregious as, “But theM, I was having doubts about your general competence …” (Which is sort of like the Radley Balko’s favorite hate-mail line on his … um, bog: “Your stupid.”)

    Thank you for you defense — and for having the guts to treat YHes as people who own themselves.

  25. Claire
    Claire July 25, 2012 11:25 am

    Perhaps billswift is a clinical psychologist working on his magnum opus: “The Serious Moral and Emotional, and Probably Mental, Problems of Liberaltarians, LibLiars, and Libtards.”

  26. Ellendra
    Ellendra July 25, 2012 11:33 am

    Davy’s got a dragon in his life, but it’s not the dog!

    Good luck, Claire. That’s a sticky situation.

  27. Karen
    Karen July 25, 2012 12:07 pm

    Now now people. Let’s not pick on billswift. I think he’s just a poor mainstream media reporter. He read a whole story, picked out one line that’s totally unrelated to the actual essence of the story and used it to twist the entire piece into a focus and discussion on his own personal agenda. Media distortion 101 at it’s finest. I think there are a couple of presidential candidates looking for just such a man.

  28. billswift
    billswift July 25, 2012 1:45 pm

    Don’t worry, I won’t bother commenting here again. I am a 51 year old anarcho-libertarian, the closest to my position I have found on the web is Eric Raymond’s Armed and Dangerous blog (http://esr.ibiblio.org/). I read Royce and Claire 6 to 12 years ago, and have mostly developed my opinions of them towards the end of that time – especially Royce’s essay defending “Molon Labe” where he was pretty explicit and disgusting. They both have occasional interesting or useful points, or in the case of this blog – links, even if I don’t agree with much.

  29. Karel
    Karel July 25, 2012 2:09 pm

    Notice how much @billswift thinks we give a damn. He writes us a personals ad.

  30. Brian
    Brian July 25, 2012 4:02 pm

    You did the right thing. Don’t worry about the dog.

    Brian

  31. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth July 25, 2012 4:59 pm

    Claire: most of all, thanks for sharing. I’m an inveterate agonizer myself, and do not envy you this situation. I certainly couldn’t make the claim that I could have done better, and that’s more than good enough for me. (If this life was all about amassing “purity points”…well, it wouldn’t be nearly as worth pursuing.)

    Take some comfort in the fact that what follows, I learned from you. 🙂

    Way I see it, to the extent that you do have an ongoing moral conundrum here, it may be best to simply be who you are–in a most Nock-ian sort of way. This kid already understands the things about you that matter–I’m nearly dead sure of that, based on the above–and so deliberately going further would seem to be all risk with little potential reward. If he needs you, he’ll find you; on the other hand, if he doesn’t come to you any more, that doesn’t mean he’s not paying attention–he may in fact leave you out of it for precisely the same reason that you would do the same for him. Perhaps it’s best to let him do that.

    Be who you are. That’s what this kid noticed in the first place; be happy to let it be something he can count on if he needs it.

    (And understand that if such a situation comes to me, I hope like hell I am up to the task of doing the same. 🙂

  32. Vega
    Vega July 25, 2012 6:42 pm

    “Unneutered, collarless, running loose — that tells me its humans don’t love that dog.”

    No, you tell yourself that humans don’t love that dog. If you see a dog habitually doing running around as such, you may justly come to such a conclusion. But a one-time deal? No, you have no right to make that judgment. I don’t own a dog, but I routinely see dogs found who have slipped out of their collars after 15 minutes outside. Dogs who only wear a collar when they go outside bolt when they see a rabbit or squirrel. You don’t have a right to drop the gavel on those owners like that. If you had x-ray vision, Clare, you’d be able to see microchips in a lot of those uncollared, “unloved dogs.”

  33. Mary Lou
    Mary Lou July 25, 2012 7:01 pm

    Of course you did the right thing. Kindness to animals and children is NEVER wrong. I’d let it die down. Davy will be back, possibly with another dog. And then you can tell him “what he did was good and that sometimes you do get smacked down for that, which shouldn’t stop you from doing what you believe in. “

  34. Claire
    Claire July 25, 2012 7:39 pm

    Thank you Kevin, Mary Lou, and Brian for your kindness & humanity.

    Vega — you have a point — and miss a point. True, a loose, collarless dog might be one who has just pulled off its leash. A loose, collarless, unneutered dog is nearly always a different story. I grant you that in some toney neighborhood, a loose, collarless, unneutered dog might be an escaped grand champion stud dog or something. But a loose, collarless, unneutered dog in this neighborhood? Virtually no chance that’s somebody’s microchipped darling. You don’t know this area. You don’t know the neglect we deal with all the time.

    But in any case … that’s all the more reason to take the dog to the vet, because they’ve got the chip scanner. Had the dog been chipped, he’d have gone right home to his owner. He wasn’t. So he stayed at the vet, safe and sound.

  35. LarryA
    LarryA July 25, 2012 9:59 pm

    “sorry about the typo …. I meant blog …. not bog”

    I think you were right the first time.

  36. grenadier1
    grenadier1 July 26, 2012 6:58 am

    Pat – you are right Davey’s situation cried out to me as a boy who needed some mentoring and guidance he was missing.
    Cant help it I am a Scoutmaster so I call it like I see it.
    it is a delicate situation and I would not overstep and insert myself into the “home” but I would not hesitate to offer Davey advice and support if he asked for it.

  37. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty July 26, 2012 8:53 am

    “Way I see it, to the extent that you do have an ongoing moral conundrum here, it may be best to simply be who you are”

    Right on, Kevin!

    Did everyone here see this? “Man Alive!” http://selfadoration.com/ManAlive.html

    Lots of deep stuff, and not everyone is going to agree with all of it, but definitely plenty of food for thought on the subject.

  38. furrydoc
    furrydoc July 26, 2012 1:17 pm

    You forgot to mention all the fleas the dog was packing. Nothing says true love like uncontrolled fleas.

  39. kevin m
    kevin m July 26, 2012 3:07 pm

    Just because she gave birth 2 him doesn’t make her a “mother”. A mother should be kind and responsible. I would say she was a baby support system [for 9 months] but after that has done the bare minimum [legally and esp. morally] in his case. Sad.

  40. Claire
    Claire July 26, 2012 8:09 pm

    Yeah. Fleas. I almost forgot those amid all the drama. I’m still itching from cuddling the little cuss.

    Furrydoc knows this, but as a footnote for anybody else who’s reading this far … while there isn’t exactly one chihuahua puppy mill around here, there are a number of people “propagating” chihuahuas around the Mexican community — families making a few extra bucks by backyard breeding chis in crappy conditions. I already knew about one; another volunteer has been working with that family to try to get them to spay, neuter, and take better care of their chis (and she already persuaded them to give us a pit bull that lived alone in a garage). But furrydoc told me today that she knows of several backyard chihuahua breeders.

    Few of these dogs or the pups they produce ever get spayed, neutered, vaccinated, or cared for other than casually.

    I had been wondering. Used to be that most of the roaming, unneutered dogs that came in were big black labs. For the last year, there have been a strange number of chihuahuas. Two were impounded on the day I took Littlefoot to the vet, and while I was there a woman brought in another that she’d found.

  41. Christine S.
    Christine S. July 31, 2012 12:38 pm

    Claire-

    I haven’t read all the comments, just the story. I just lost my one and only niece to a suicide and suddenly I was thinking of her through this whole story. Long story short, for 13 years she was told she was adopted when she wasn’t. I won’t go into the f-ed up person (my compulsive liar of a sister-in-law) who would make up such a lie, but all of her life my niece knew, KNEW her mother did not care for her much at all. Now that she’s dead, the woman is ballyhooing to anyone who will listen. But for nearly 14 years she actively lied to her child-told her she was adopted when she wasn’t- and denied her to her face when she was challenged.

    I know that’s off the subject, but a mother who is adversarial, for whatever reason, is not off of the subject. PLEASE take this child aside and tell him he did right, that he is a good person.

    Two days before my niece killed herself (she would be 19 in two weeks), we had heard that she was having difficulties there in Seattle. Her mother didn’t want her back in SF, my in laws were planning on bringing her back to their house, and my husband and I discussed asking for her. We didn’t make the call, so sure that we couldn’t give her what she needed (her own car, work and school opportunities) here in the Midwest.

    We never made that call.

    And it is far too late now.

    In her journals they found an entry in which she wondered if she would have been welcome in our house. That will stay with me for the rest of my life. That I could have done more. That I failed to tell her how much she meant to me.

    My point in all this is – it really does take a village to raise a child. You have the ability to make a difference, and this boy has seen in you something he connects with. I hope you will continue to make yourself available, provide him with a view far different from that of his mother’s, and interfere as much as possible. His life, or simply his next few months or years, may depend upon it.

  42. Claire
    Claire July 31, 2012 1:50 pm

    OMG Christine. That’s so heartbreaking. Even though you know your aren’t ultimately responsible, you’ll never stop regretting that call you didn’t make.

    And your SIL sounds like the bitch from hell.

    A year or so ago a local teenager shot herself to death. I had no connection to her but friends were very close to the family. Father too preoccupied with drugs to give her any decent grounding. Mother made it clear every moment of the day that the girl was lacking and her sister was SO much better than she. Mom was, of course, dramatically heartbroken when the girl blew her brains out. Dad was so heartbroken he died a few months later of an overdose. Big help all that “love” is after the fact.

    I’m not going to shove myself into Davy’s life. But I’m sure going to let him know he did the right, and possibly even life-saving thing and let him know I think a lot of him.

  43. Eric Oppen
    Eric Oppen July 31, 2012 9:43 pm

    Some people, it seems to me, are the reason curb-stompings were invented…and I’m not nearly as fond of dogs as you are.

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