Thursday, February 3, 2005

37. It's a dog-gone runaround

My wife and I, on two occasions now, have "rescued" dogs, that is, we pick up a stray or neglected dog, nurse them back to health, give them their shots and then have them neutered or spayed (to prevent additional unwanted or uncared for animals). After they are healthy, we try to find them a good home.

Our first endeavor went off without a hitch. The dog, we named Foster, was a Dalmatian that wandered to my place of employment so hungry that he was eating cigarette butts outside the front doors. The veterinarian visit indicated heartworm, which we had treated. He was adopted shortly after neutering to a family that had just lost a Dalmatian. The family has been wonderful, even recently calling us to update us on his latest veterinarian visit and welcoming us to visit again, whenever we pleased.

Unfortunately, our second endeavor did not quite follow this script. The dog, we will call Spike, was noticeably neglected. We asked if we could have the dog, and the owners, who obviously did not want the dog, were more than happy to relieve themselves of his burden. We took the same approach. We took him to the veterinarian for his shots and a checkup. Shortly thereafter, he returned to be neutered after which he was ready for adoption.

We ran an advertisement that did not bring a response until the last day. A couple was interested and came to see Spike. The man seemed to fall in love with the dog, often recalling stories of his childhood dog and jumping on the floor to play with him. They asked if we would take less than our $100 asking price. We set the price at $100 not because we want to recover a portion of cost, but rather to ensure that the new owners are serious about taking in a new dog. We agreed to $50, simply because he seemed to fall in love with the dog. Our request has been that if things do not work out with the dog that the dog is returned for a full refund. We do not want the owners to feel trapped, and we do not want the dog to be passed around from home to home.

That night, the couple called and said that Spike had scared their young child and asked if they could bring him back. It was Friday night, and we agreed that we would get Spike back on Sunday, as Saturday did not work out for either of us.

On Saturday, we put another advertisement in the paper, anticipating his return Sunday morning. That Sunday morning we received several calls about the dog. We explained that we were anticipating his return shortly. We did not hear from the couple (they were supposed to call us), until finally late Sunday evening I called them. Suddenly, things were working out with the young child and now they wanted to keep him. We said that was fine and notified the inquirers that Spike was no longer available.

Several days later, the bank called to inform me that the couple's check has returned with insufficient funds. Here is where the story goes bad. I called the couple, told them of the apparent error and asked them to make amends. We understand that those things happen, and were happy to work things out with them.

When we contacted the couple, they asked if they could bring out the money, though danced around when exactly they could come. We offered to come get the money whenever it was convenient, since we wanted to see how Spike was doing. Without going into extensive detail, as soon as we mentioned that we wanted to see Spike, communication broke down. Instantly, we began to grow very concerned about Spike's well being- why were we not permitted to see him?

The worst of images began circumventing in our heads. My theory was that he ran away and that they did not want to tell us. My wife was literally sick for a week with worry. They offered every excuse imaginable as to why we could not see him. Once they said they would not be home, although we drove past their residence to verify that they were indeed home. We even offered at one point to disregard the bounced check if we could just see him, and in desperation, we offered $200 to buy him back. They refused both offers.

After receipt of our certified letter, to our relief, they agreed on a time when we could come over to get payment and see Spike. We visited, received our money and saw Spike, who seemed to be reasonably healthy and happy. We knew something was wrong; that they were lying about something, but legally we could not do anything- for they did make good on their debt. As it turned out, they were convincing deceivers, even if our skepticism knew better.

Earlier this week (three months later), a different couple called and told us they had Spike, and that were getting ready to move and needed to "get rid of him." They said that they got our number from the veterinarian bill. They said they wanted the $150 they had paid for him. They seemed incredulous when we told them that we had only sold him for $50.

Apparently, the "real" story, for whatever that is worth, is that the original couple was not permitted to have another dog (they told us they did not have a dog). That Saturday, they had talked to this couple, and sold Spike to them for $150. Thus, when I called that Sunday, they had already sold Spike for a considerable profit. When the check bounced and we wanted to see Spike, they put us off until they could coordinate Spike's visit with ours. When we arrived they put on an Academy Award winning performance- stories of Spike dressing up for Halloween, how attached their son had become to him, etc., etc. Spike played his part as well, jumping around the house as though he owned it and comfortably playing with their child. When my wife said we would rather have the dog back, the couple pleaded that we not do "that" to their child.

Today we purchased our rescued dog from this second couple, which for all we know may have been a part of an elaborate extortion scheme. Perhaps they even split the $100 profit. It is hard to know whom to trust after an experience like that. However, and most importantly to us, this poor dog is now on his fifth home in less than six months- looking for his sixth and final home.

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