For Louis

Last week, my husband, JP, was leaving our house to go to work when he saw something huddled in the bushes. Just as soon as I had heard his key turn in the door to leave, I heard it again as he re-entered the house frantically.

"Come here. Quick!" he told me.

I was still sitting in my pajamas watching The Today Show and was reluctant to walk into the hot, muggy air, but I
didn't protest.

When I opened the door to follow him outside, I saw him holding a frightened puppy in his arms. It was wet, stinky and painfully afraid of us. I could feel its rib cage as my husband placed him in my arms like a little baby.

It had no collar and was obviously severely under-cared for, so we presumed it to be a stray and took it inside to examine it. Twenty minutes later, I was at the animal clinic teary-eyed as the veterinarian explained that the puppy was plagued with worms and a variety of parasites.

At an estimated 12 weeks old, the large-breed puppy only weighed 9.3 pounds. Given his poor health, we suspected that someone had dumped him out on the road or that it was the product of another stray dog.

Who could be so cruel?

Over the next few days, we pulled 11 ticks off the puppy, and he slept virtually all day—apparently worn out from dehydration and malnourishment. When he was awake, he would run for the nearest corner and cower, avoiding eye contact with us. It was heart-breaking.

The Humane Society estimates thousands of cat and dog births every day, and reports that 6 million to 8 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year in the U.S. Of that number, nearly half are euthanized due to lack of resources and space. And that figure doesn't take into account the thousands of stray dogs and cats that don't make it to a shelter—the ones whose bodies you cringe at on the shoulder of the interstate or who die from starvation
and fatigue.

Until recently, those numbers meant little to me—they were statistics. I realize now, however, that they are telling of the growing problem of pet overpopulation in our country, most of which is the fault of neglectful or ignorant pet owners.

When my husband and I got our first dog, Jackson, we didn't know much about pet care; we just wanted a puppy to cheer us up as we underwent a grueling final-exam week. We learned quickly, however, that caring for a pet is much like caring for a child, and that means doing your research and acting responsibly in the interest of another living being.

We had to build a fence enclosing the backyard to give our new puppy a space to run around in a safe environment. We had to figure out what to do with him when we weren't home. Too often, owners allow their pets to roam the streets, opening them up to attack another animal or be attacked themselves. Many people argue that dogs and cats need the freedom to run around—like they would if they weren't domesticated.

But that's just the thing: If you have a pet, it is domestic whether you call it an "outdoor" pet or not. Make provisions for your pet when you're away, and be sure that they are secure. This will help ensure that they don't escape and get lost. It will also ensure that they don't impregnate another dog or cat.

Spaying or neutering your dog or cat can make a huge difference in this situation, too. When our vet approached us about neutering Jackson, we were unsure about the procedure. First, we were broke college students, and the surgery was $100. Second, we didn't know if we wanted to cut off "his manhood." In the end, though, the pros outweighed
the cons.

If you're on a fixed income, some organizations offer vouchers for pet owners who meet income requirements. The Mississippi Animal Rescue League also holds a spay and neutering day each year, during which you can take your dog or cat to be fixed for nearly half the price you would pay in an animal clinic.

Especially for males, fixing your pet can mean less frantic, territorial behavior. If your dog is bouncing off the walls humping on everything in sight, this is just another reason to consider the operation. The vet will anesthetize your pet, and it won't feel any pain during the procedure.

The puppy we found on our stoop, whom we named Louis, has begun to open up—almost too much. Once afraid to walk around, he gallops around the yard and curiously sniffs or tries to eat almost anything. He is no longer uncomfortable when we pet him; in fact, I think he has grown to like the touch.

I have been pressing my husband for months to give in to my demands for another dog, but I didn't want one this way. JP says that he believes Louis crawled into that nook under our bushes to die; maybe he did. If he hadn't seen him on his way to work that morning, we might have come home to a stench under our doorstep.

I'm glad we found Louis when we did, but there are countless other dogs and cats roaming Jackson in search of food, shelter and love. Solving the problem doesn't mean adopting every stray you meet, but it does mean taking measures to ensure that your own pets don't breed unwanted offspring, further populating the city with sick, dying animals.

Previous Comments


How about a posting a photo of Louis? I'm just a big dog lover and want to see a face to put with the story, but it also might prompt others to realize, as you have, these wonderful creatures are more than just a statistic.


This made me cry! (Of course I'm the most pregnant woman in the world right now) I have three worthless cats-all missing their privates- whom I love more than life that have NO IDEA how lucky they are to not be "roaming the streets" anymore. (One of them a 27lb-er that Donna and Todd found outside their house in Belhaven. The other two shelter kitties) Instituting "Wet Food Fridays" at the house only served to make them MORE useless.

Lori G

We, too, have three worthless cats. And I can't believe Ernie weighs 27 pounds. Although my King Ed may get there soon. I found Eddie as a tiny kitten under a hedge yelping his face off. As a result, he is obsessed with me. I go out of town, he stands and yowls at Todd, and he is one loud mutha. Deuce is the son of Maxie, whom Todd and I found as a kitten in the middle of the road near Hal & Mal's. Maxie went to JoAnne; we got one of her hoodlum boys. Willie we adopted from Jackson Friends right after we moved here, naively thinking he would be the "only." (He has never forgiven us that he's not.) I have rescued 18 cats, I believe, since I've been in Jackson, mostly that fell right in front of me at work or home because someone didn't take care of them, or spay and neuter their parents. We didn't mean to have so many cats, but they are everywhere in Jackson, along with straight (and irresponsibly loose) dogs. Mine no longer go outside ever. Too many loose-dog attacks right in our own yard. My dear tail-less Miss S was killed in our yard in Belhaven by dogs. JoAnne lost Spit McGee to a dog. People, we can do better. Jackson must grow up when it comes to care of animals.


Maggie, I am so glad that you rescued Louis. I have had a bad and I've been searching for something to lift my spirits. Low and behold, i find your article here. It breaks my heart and like Lori (although without the pregnant part) cried through this entire peice. However, it does make me feel really good to know that Louis was saved. JP was probably right that he was looking for a place to begin an endless sleep. How upseting that would have been to come home to one day. So, I think it's written among the stars for you two to have found him. Just in case you may not know this, I am a huge (gigantic) dog lover. I, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your efforts to help Louis. Post picture!



Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment