I seldom rerun a story, but occasionally we all find it necessary to sort through our piles of papers, and a good dog lover-friend found this column that I had done five or six years ago, and suggested it was worth sharing again, so here’s the story of The Fourth of July Litter.
Another year’s celebration of high-pitched swooshing rockets climbing into the sky, with the fantastic light shows and lots of food and fellowship is history. It was certainly a fun outdoor time for picnics and parties, and now park employees and city crews are busy cleaning up the litter left behind. Shelters are already receiving frantic calls about missing dogs that apparently panicked and ran to escape the festivities. They are also receiving numerous calls about animals simply dumped for one reason or other…frightened, confused, and starving. This is a sad story, but the truth is that helpless pets are left to suffer and die, and I would hope that the next time you see a homeless animal, you will be reminded of this tale. As Charles Doram says, “Folks will know how large your heart is by the way you treat a needy dog.”
For several days the little shaggy dog had stayed next to a trash can in the park where it was shady and cool. The fresh earth of the small hole she had dug beneath the picnic table gave a little comfort to her skin, skin that was embedded with thorns and covered with fleas and ticks that were slowly draining the life out of her frail body. She could barely see because of matted fur that was covering her eyes. Weak and in pain, she had not felt like looking for food and water. Vaguely she remembered a bowl filled with food, a wrinkled hand and another one with fresh water. Oh yes… cool, refreshing water!
Suddenly her head raises, her tail starts to thump, hesitantly and slowly at first, then getting faster and faster. Cars are coming through the park! The morning peace and the song of the birds are interrupted by the noise of trucks, cars, people shouting and children laughing. Tables are set up, covered with all kinds of things. The little dog recognizes the smell of food. Wearily she raises her head to see what the hustle and bustle is all about. More and more people are arriving. The smell of food is getting stronger and the little dog starts to stagger around, in hope of finding some crumbs, to ease the nagging hunger pain inside of her. Maybe there will be even a few licks of water somewhere.
There is music and everyone is having a good time, so the little dog is hardly noticed. However, two children give her a few pieces of their hotdogs and some ice cubes from a paper cup, which lessen her thirst. She follows the children who stop to talk to a large man. All of a sudden the man comes rushing at her, screaming, clapping his hands and yelling at her to “go away”! She runs as fast as she can, gets tangled in a cloth of red, white and blue colors, and desperately seeks a place for safety under a picnic table. A man bends down and gives her a gentle pat on the back. She curls up next to his seat, hoping that he will touch her again.
Drained of the little strength she had left, she falls asleep. When she wakes up, the sun is setting. The man is gathering up his belongings and is getting ready to leave. Hopefully, she wags her tail, wanting to be taken along. The man pats her once more and says, “Go home, mutt.” Then he leaves. The little dog watches until the car disappears from sight.
It is quiet now. She crawls back into her hole under the table and curls up into a small ball. Weakness relaxes her body… she is tired… so tired! Her small body quivers, and a tiny sigh escapes from her mouth. Her eyes slowly close. The noise of the fireworks do not disturb or frighten her any longer, in fact… nothing will ever frighten her again. She sees another man’s face, one she used to love so much. She feels his gentle, wrinkled hand stroke her body. The little dog is home again! This time for good.
The next morning city workers are cleaning up the park. They talk about the wonderful party they had the day before, as they pick up the trash that is carelessly scattered all over the park. One of them discovers the little dog. He picks her up. For a quick moment, a sign of compassion softens his face, then he tosses her body into the trash can with the rest of the litter, shakes his head, and walks away.
The world is a dangerous place, not only because of those who do evil, but those who look on and do nothing. In the ideal world, there would be none left to rescue, none left to buy, none left to suffer, none left to die, none to be beaten, none to be kicked…all would be loved—Albert Einstein