Strays

When I was maybe 9, the other kids in the neighborhood and I unofficially adopted a stray dog that we named Scooter.  Scooter had been roaming around our neighborhood for a few days and didn't have any kind of collar on him.  What he did have was a slowly healing gash on his right front leg, so if he didn't already have our little kid hearts' sympathies, that put him over the top.  We weren't sure how Scooter had gotten hurt, but we had a pretty good idea:

Scooter liked to chase cars.

That was part of it, actually -- we started giving him food to keep him from running after cars.  Even a dog, when given a choice between a large metal object that could kill him and a bowl of food knows enough to pick the food.  Usually.

We stashed Scooter away in the woods behind our houses when one of our less charitable neighbors called the dog catcher.  There was no way we were going to let Scooter go to the pound.

One evening, about a week or so after this had started, I was walking down the street with my mom, Scooter trotting along beside us.  We were a few blocks away from our house, into an area where we didn't actually know every single person.  A man and a woman were out in their yard, most likely doing some kind of work on it, when we walked by.  Actually, it was Scooter who ran by first -- that dog was not shy.

Turns out these people had been thinking about getting a dog, so when we told them Scooter's story, they asked if they could adopt him.

And thus ends the uplifting story of Scooter the car chasing dog.

Living in Los Angeles made dealing with stray animals both better and worse.  It worse in the fact that there were just so damn many of them.  It was almost entirely stray cats, which was even harder for me since I had become a cat person.  I know cats are wily enough to survive on the streets, but it still breaks my heart to think of their eventual end.

If Los Angeles was more tolerable in any way regarding stray animals, it was the simple fact that there were
very real limitations on what you could do.  We lived in apartments.  It wasn't like these animals were roaming our yards.  It wasn't like we could set some food out for them at night.  Donating money to shelters and adopting pets were pretty much the only options we had, and, to a certain extent, that made it easier to deal with.

It's different in the suburbs.  Now, my heart breaks whenever I see a stray cat.  Heck, it breaks when I see an outdoor cat, because why do people do that?  Why would anyone leave their cat's fortune up to the cruel, cruel world outside their door?  We barely make due and we have opposable thumbs and higher brain functions.

So we leave some food out.  Nicole turned a box into a makeshift pet motel.  It gets cold, even here in California, and in the winter time I worry about our furry friends.  I worry about them when I see them and I worry about them when I don't.  But I can't take them all in and become crazy cat guy, because I already have two cats and my wife would never let me (also: kid on the way).

And so we give money to local shelters and we hope they'll be okay.  And we love our cats like crazy.

And I hope that the stray cats in our neighborhood can find new owners, the way that Scooter did.