Usually I am writing about walking on one of Berkeley’s many paths, the quirky pieces of artwork I see along the way, and how lucky I am to live in the Bay Area.
This is not one of those posts.
Right now I’m in charge of walking our two dogs, Rufus and Ruby, and our foster dog from Paw Fund, Blanco. My husband, Dave, is their everyday walker, and I usually just join them on Sundays. But Dave is glamping (oh, it’s a thing alright), which means that I’m on sole doggy duty for five days.
I managed to get all three in the car and even remembered the puppy pouch that holds the poop collection bags, tennis ball, and treats. We arrived at P.I. (Point Isabel) and saw several dog-park friends. It was a beautiful morning, and all the canines were happy.
I even found an old but intact tennis ball for Ruby to fetch as a back-up to the one I’d brought with us. Which was lucky because I threw one ball ahead of Ruby, and another dog got to it before she did. I figured, okay, this is why I found that extra ball: it allowed me to be generous and not worry about one stolen tennis ball. I couldn’t ascertain which human was with the ball-stealing dog, so I let it go.
Then he did it again.
One time is not a big deal. Twice requires action. I followed the dog until he plopped down to chew the ball into mush. I tried to get him to trade me the ball for a treat. He was not interested, but all three of my dogs saw me open the treat pocket and were very interested. During the feeding fracas, the dog took off with the ball again.
But I was not going to give up so easily, so I kept following him, all the while scanning the area to see if I could figure out who his people were. It was almost 9:00, which is past the heavy dog traffic time, so there weren’t that many possibilities. Finally, I caught up to him after traveling nearly the length of the park, from the bridge to the curve where the picnic table looks out over the bay.
This time I grabbed his collar, and a few seconds later I heard a voice call out, “Is that your dog?” I thought maybe he’d taken someone else’s ball too, so I answered, “No, he’s not mine.”
The woman who’d called approached me and said gruffly, “No, it’s not your dog. It’s my dog.” I explained that he’d taken my dog’s ball, and I was just trying to get it back. She said firmly that she’d take care of it, so I let him go. She called “Hudson!” a few times without result. Then she barked at her human walking companion, who had stayed away from the scene, to bring the leash. He quietly obeyed.
Eventually she got back what was left of the ball and deposited the slobbery mess in my hand. No apology.
But she did say this: “I’ll shoot him tonight.”
I asked if she was kidding, thinking perhaps she had a macabre sense of humor, but her answer was in a no-nonsense voice: “He stole a ball. I’ll shoot him.”
I told her that if she was just taking a tough stance in a show of appeasing me that there was no need–it was over, but she just kept walking.
I tried to appeal to the man who now had Hudson on leash and asked him if she was really going to kill her dog. Keeping his eyes on the ground in front of him, he answered in a low voice that did not inspire confidence: “I’ll try to talk to her.”
She strode ahead of us, so I took the opportunity to sidle up to the man to inquire about her mental condition. He didn’t respond, but she yelled back to me, “I’m not crazy!”
I pleaded with the man to surrender the dog to me right there and then so I could protect it. I explained that I fostered dogs and that I could find a home for him. He never looked at me. He just kept walking.
I couldn’t help it–I started to cry. Hudson was not a dangerous dog. He hadn’t tried to bite me when I attempted to retrieve the ball. He didn’t have good recall, but whose fault was that? How could this woman reduce his entire life into this tiny meaningless infraction ?
She heard my tears and turned around, chiding me: “Don’t cry! This dog has lived a good life. If you want to cry, cry for my son who was killed by a police officer!”
So she has reason to be bitter–I won’t deny that. But killing a perfectly healthy dog is no way to deal with the loss of her son.
I grabbed a Paw Fund business card out of the puppy pouch and begged the man to contact the rescue organization rather than let this woman end her dog’s life. Hudson could have a loving home in his future if this man could just make a phone call. He took the card and pocketed it, but I didn’t have much hope that he had any intention of crossing his companion.
I was still shaking when I saw my friend Lise on the path above me. I spilled out the account, and the act of sharing it made me feel a tad stronger. I continued our walk, halfheartedly tossing the remains of the ball for Ruby, who didn’t seem to mind that it no longer bounced.
When we crossed back over the bridge, I spied the bitter woman, her complacent companion, and poor doomed Hudson heading west. This was the moment Ruby decided to take a dip in the estuary. By the time I’d lured her out, they were far ahead of me. Our car was parked in the eastern lot nearby, so I loaded everyone into Dave’s Rav 4 and started to head home.
But I couldn’t help but feel that I hadn’t done enough to prevent something heinous from happening.
So instead of getting on the freeway, I turned west to the other parking lots, where I figured Hudson’s people were heading. I circled both lots a few times, peering into windows of vehicles as they left, hoping to. . . I don’t know what, but I couldn’t just leave.
As I watched many cars drive away, I realized that I had no plan. Even if I saw them again, what would I do–distract them and then grab Hudson’s leash? Plead some more? Give her the opportunity to yell at me again for crying?
It was a moot point because I never did see them. And the dogs were wondering why we were hanging out in the car instead of going home and having breakfast.
So I drove home.
I may never know what happened to Hudson. I hope his owner changed her mind, or that her gun jammed, or that her male companion made that phone call and sneaked Hudson out the back door to freedom when she was otherwise occupied.
But I have a feeling that none of those things happened, and it haunts me.