The Parking-Lot Dog

The Parking-Lot Dog

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

The Parking-Lot Dog

It was just a routine trip to the drugstore but it changed my life.

As I got out of my car, I noticed a scared, starving, mangy dog with rusty red fur in the store parking lot. He looked as though he was waiting for someone. I learned from a store clerk that a man in a pickup truck had dumped the dog in the parking lot and had driven away. Obviously this dog was waiting for the man’s return. By the look in the dog’s sad eyes, I knew he needed help.

For the next several days I returned to the drugstore parking lot and tried coaxing the dog with food. Like clockwork, the dog would appear from the woods but wouldn’t approach the food until I drove away. I realized that if I were going to help this dog, I needed to use a humane trap. But the next day when I pulled into the lot with the humane trap in the car, the dog was gone. I searched the woods and the surrounding area, but the dog was nowhere to be found.

I decided to hang “Lost Dog” posters in the area. The only information I could put on the poster was a description of the red dog and my phone number. I didn’t even know the dog’s gender. I don’t make a habit of rescuing dogs, and I already had two dogs of my own—why was I looking for a dog I knew nothing about? I couldn’t explain it, but I was determined to find this dog.

Within a day I received a phone call from a clerk at a convenience store located about a mile from where I had first seen the dog. He said a red dog fitting the description on the poster had appeared at the convenience store and had been running up to pickup trucks in the parking lot. He explained that animal control had picked up the dog and had taken him to the county shelter. Although it was almost an hour away, I drove to the shelter to see if it was the same dog. There he was, crouched in the back corner of his cage growling, barking and very agitated. The shelter must hold dogs for ten days to allow owners time to claim them, so I would have to wait and see what happened with this dog.

Even though I had no plans of adding a third dog to our family, I felt compelled to help this dog. So over the next ten days I checked on him regularly. The people at the shelter told me the dog was very aggressive. They said no one would adopt him, and he would be destroyed when his time was up. On the tenth day I made the long drive back to the shelter to see the red dog. The receptionist asked if my name was Deborah Wood. I didn’t pay much attention to her question; just simply replied “no” as I followed her back to the dog’s cage. There was the red dog, just as scared and agitated as before.

Intimidated by the dog’s behavior, but still determined to save him, I asked the kennel assistant to bring the dog out to my car and put him into the crate that I had brought for him. I had no idea if I would be able to handle the dog once we reached home, but I knew he couldn’t stay at the shelter. As I followed the assistant and dog through the lobby area to my car, the receptionist stopped me. She said there was a Deborah Wood on the phone. She was inquiring about the red dog and wanted to speak to me.

I picked up the phone. The woman named Deborah told me that she had been at the convenience store talking to the clerk about the dog when animal control had picked him up. For some reason, she had been drawn to the red dog, too. Over the past ten days, Deborah had made several visits. She had tried coaxing the dog out of his cage for a walk, but the fearful dog had snapped at her. Despite the dog’s behavior, Deborah never gave up on him, and now she wanted to know what I was going to do with the dog. I explained to her that I was taking the dog to the veterinarian for a checkup and that I would call her once I got home. It turned out that Deborah and I lived within five minutes of each other. Both of us had traveled almost an hour to visit the “unadoptable” red dog at the shelter— both of us not completely sure why. I was struck by the lucky timing of her call. If Deborah had called the shelter a moment later, we might never have made a connection.

I was nervous about the dog being in my car and anxious to get him to the vet. Surely I would be able to figure out what to do with him after that. I must be crazy, I thought, as I backed my car out of the shelter’s parking lot. Why am I doing this? I have an aggressive dog crated in my car, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with him.

Just as I thought this, the red dog looked at me with his expressive eyes and stuck his paw through the crate for a “handshake.” I reached over and tentatively closed my hand around the outstretched paw. It seemed to me that the red dog was thanking me. This melted my heart. I held his paw in my hand for the entire forty-five-minute ride to the vet’s office. When we arrived, we were both smiling!

The red dog spent about two weeks at the vet’s recovering from mange, worms and other health problems. While the red dog was being treated at the vet’s office, Deborah came often to visit him, and although she had never had a dog before, when the dog was well enough to leave the animal clinic, she offered to foster him until we could find him a permanent home. It didn’t surprise anyone that Deborah quickly fell in love with her foster dog and decided to adopt him, naming him Redd. The moment Redd realized that he was safe, he became the perfect dog: affectionate and sociable—loving everyone he met. He never again showed any sign of aggression.

It has been five years since Deborah adopted Redd. Initially drawn together by our concern for Redd, Deborah and I have become close friends. And Redd has two families that adore him. He also frequently visits his “uncle,” the clerk at the convenience store who responded to my poster.

Today, Redd is surrounded by people who love him. When I see this contented dog, lying on the sofa and getting belly rubs, I find it hard to believe that he is the same dog with the haunted eyes I saw in the parking lot five years ago. That routine trip to the drugstore brought a very special dog and a dear friend into my life.

Wendy Kaminsky

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