“You know what this place is, right?”

Like any other visit out to Dogpatch, it started at one of our feeding stations.

We approached the food and water bowls left out for strays and whatever else enjoys dog kibble and fresh water. As usual, we found the water bowls dry and so we cleaned and refilled them. But it’s the food dispensers that always tell a more interesting story.

Sometimes we go out and find them bone dry , save for leaves and dirt—not even a single trace of kibble on the ground. Even the most sickly of dogs usually won’t lick up a dirt covered morsel, so it’s in these cases that we suspect theft…and we suspect often enough.

But today that wasn’t the case. Today we found them somewhat full, and with some kibble scattered around, so we filled them back up with enough to last until the next patrol.

After the first feed station we continued our usual run, but it wasn’t long until we found a cardboard box. Bags, crates, boxes, and anything else that can hold a body are never good news on the side of the road in Dogpatch. Even if the flies have given up and moved on, or it’s not warm enough to smell that unforgettable odor,  you’re bound to open the box and find something that you don’t want to see.

Today it looked like a cattle dog, though it was a hard to tell from its collapsed skull and the bald patches where most of its fur had been peeled off its back. Its feet were hogtied—post-mortem we can only hope—and it looked to have been dragged by the extra rope, which would explain the fur loss.

Sometimes you have to look away, and in that moment we saw a truck parked up the road from us. The people standing next to the truck were watching us. We decided that is was best for our personal safety to move on for now, and come back to the cattle dog later on in the run.

We continued onward to replenish the other stations. On this particular day we ended up meeting more residents than usual, and provided them with our contact information and receiving the same from them. Like many others, they had heard of us and were willing to help if we needed it.

After making the rest of the usual rounds, feeding some unapproachable strays, and discovering yet more canine carcasses (these ones too far gone to call in), we returned to the cattle dog. We deliberated over the condition of the body, and finally decided that the rope was cause enough to call it in to the police as a possible case of abuse.

After an hour, a patrol car rolled up. The officers took our contact info, inspected the body, and asked how we came across it. After getting our details, one officer asked, “you guys know what this place is, right?”

We just stared on, not sure what specifically he was getting at. A dumping ground? A desert graveyard for the dying and dead? A place you don’t want to find yourself once the sun goes down? Whichever it was: yeah, we know.

Ten minutes later, with the officers in our rearview mirror, we tried to refocus on the good that we had done that day. Aside from filling food and water stations and making connections in the community, we had also found a sickly looking dog living under an abandoned trailer.

Sometimes it can take months to gain the trust of a stray, especially if it has been abused and/or neglected by humans. By leaving food and water for it, we began building the foundation of trust that will one day allow us to pull him from Dogpatch. With this emaciated,  frightened dog on our minds, we left, knowing that we had someone waiting for us, someone counting on us to come back another day.