The phone call came to the Espanola animal shelter in New Mexico a little after 4 p.m. on a Saturday. A woman was driving home and had seen a dog on the side of the entryway to her mobile home park. He was wrapped in a blanket and “might be dead.” Staff at the shelter asked the woman to call animal control to go check the situation, as this is the department in that area that is authorized to pick up strays — alive or dead. Thirty minutes passed, and while the other staff headed home early to avoid an impending snowstorm, two of them stayed behind to wait for the animal control officer’s arrival with the dog, in the event that the animal needed medical attention. The officer did not arrive.
The two staff agreed on one thing — neither of them would be able to sleep that night just wondering if the dog was alive and in need of help, so they went to the area the caller spoke of and came upon a heartbreaking scene.
A large, middle-aged white Husky–mix dog was there, in plain sight, wrapped in a child’s Winnie-the-Pooh blanket. Three feet away was a pot of water, a bag of Doritos, a small bowl of dog food, and bread. The dog was motionless. It seemed unlikely he was alive in the 33-degree weather, but when they approached, he flicked his ear. They ran for blankets and made a makeshift stretcher to get him into the car.
After a five-minute drive to the shelter, the staff gave the dog the basics of heat, medication, gentle words, and petting. The dog lifted his head. He tried to stand but couldn’t. In spite of what must have been excruciating pain, he allowed the staff to give him a cursory exam. His injuries were significant, but he ate the food and drank the water they offered.
The shelter is required by law to hold stray animals for a set amount of time to give owners an opportunity to come forth and claim them. The dog, now named Mr. Wendal, sits patiently in a cage in the shelter’s clinic, heavily medicated to manage pain and infection, to see if an owner will come forth. If not, it will be up to the shelter to find the resources to treat his injuries at a full-service veterinarian and a foster home where he can recover.
The saddest part of this story is someone knows what happened to Mr. Wendal. Even those who did not know what happened to the pooch drove right by him. It was impossible to miss the 65-pound dog lying less than four feet from the main road, and someone (else?) cared enough to cover him with a blanket and offer him food and water. Sadly, because Mr. Wendal could not stand, he could not access the food that was left for him, just feet away. In the next 24 hours, the area would receive six inches of snow and Mr. Wendal would have been, literally, buried alive.
Why didn’t someone pick up the phone before 4 p.m. that day to get him help? Why didn’t the animal-control officer answer the call? Why did someone care enough to wrap him — still breathing — in a blanket, but leave him outdoors, unsheltered, with a storm in the forecast?
I do not know how Mr. Wendal ended up on the side of the road. I do not know why people cared enough to offer this dog food and warmth, but not enough to call for help. And if I can only wonder, I might be here for days. What I do know — he may be in the safest place he has ever been, with people who want, more than anything, to give him the happy ending he deserves.
If you are interested in following Mr. Wendal’s journey, visit the shelter’s Facebook page.