b Papa Dog's Blog: Animal Prisons: Club Fed in the Morning, San Quentin in the Afternoon

Papa Dog's Blog

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Animal Prisons: Club Fed in the Morning, San Quentin in the Afternoon

So, Sunday morning came around and we’d had a possum biodegrading under our washtub for almost a week. Its presence had been causing Mama Dog great distress, and the lack of responsiveness from Animal Control just compounded things. We decided to throw caution to the wind and pack the thing up to Fruitvale ourselves. If we had to line the trunk with air fresheners afterwards and perhaps perform an exorcism, so be it.

First though, we had an engagement with the Pirates. We were to meet them at the Royal Café – the one way up on San Pablo in Albany, not Mama’s Royal Café way down on Broadway in Oakland (and a good thing we established which one before meeting, too). When we got there we were surprised to find Papa Pirate by himself. Baby Pirate had taken sick and he had been dispatched as a solitary envoy to keep our meeting.

After breakfast, Papa Pirate checked in and learned that Baby Pirate seemed to be keeping her food down after all. We formulated a plan to all meet at the Little Farm. We went ahead with Papa Pirate and Mama and Baby Pirate would follow shortly thereafter. When we got to the farm, Mama Dog took Baby Dog into the ladies’ room for a change, and Papa Pirate and I malingered about the visitors centre. Inevitably, I bought something from the gift shop, a little stuffed cow for baby dog. For as much as she has adored cows since her very earliest days of discernible adoration, she’s never had a cow doll. The time had come to change that.

We then went off to the farm to see real cows, plus goats and pigs and ducks and roosters and geese and bunny rabbits. We’d never made it out to the farm so early before, and ten a.m. on a Sunday is evidently the time to go. The farmer fellow – I’m not certain, but I believe his name might be Mr. Greenjeans – led a baby cow out from the enclosure and tied her to a fencepost where she could be petted by all and sundry. Baby Dog managed to feed her a bit of celery, which was a thrill and a delight. Later, we saw goats being taken out for a walk, led on ropes by tiny little volunteer girls who seemed barely able to control them. Later still, one of the baby pigs went out for a constitutional, not on a rope but flanked by volunteers holding up red shields that apparently force it to walk the straight and narrow. A third volunteer led the pig by means of dropping blueberry scone crumbs.

We had been at the farm a while and had seen all the sights when Papa Pirate commenced to worry that his wife and daughter had yet to show. He tried calling, but of course there was no cell signal in that pastoral refuge. Eventually, a couple came up to us and asked if he was waiting for his wife and daughter. He said yes. “They’re waiting in the parking lot,” they said. “The baby fell asleep. She told us twenty minutes ago, but we forgot. Sorry.” As we walked back to the parking lot, several more people passed the same message on. Apparently, Mama Pirate had been asking all passers-by to alert the guy with the shaved head and the black sweatshirt to her presence, but they all waited for half an hour to let us know.

Baby Pirate woke up when we got there and was raring to see the critters, but Baby Dog was winding down, so we opted to head home. Making baby timelines intersect is always such a delicate negotiation.

After snack time and nap time and lunch time, we finally were ready to take a trip to a different sort of animal facility. I gingerly lifted the tub off our little friend, trying not to breathe through my nose. Happily, the garbage bags were still intact and there was nothing particularly gross to be seen. Because of the tub, it hadn’t even been rained on. Just to be safe, I wrapped it up in one more bag and plopped the whole thing in a cardboard box.

At the animal shelter, we were ready to get our dudgeon high, and Mama Dog did start to express displeasure, but we didn’t get very far with it. We quickly learned that the centre is chronically understaffed and overworked. There didn’t seem to be any point in berating them for being unable to keep pace with the animal death rate. We left the possum and took off.

First we stopped in to see some of the live animals. There were more kittycats and Baby Dog’s second set of bunnies for the day. We looked in on the dogs and that was as always a dreadful and depressing sight. In one row of kennels, every last dog had shit on the floor of its cage. There’s a yard right on the property, and we saw dogs frolicking in it as we arrived; were they just neighbourhood dogs? Don’t the ones who live in the shelter ever get to go out? The place is dismal and sad and I couldn’t wait to get Baby Dog out of there.

Later that night, I was getting Baby Dog ready for bed when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and turned on the outside light to see an Animal Control officer standing on our doorstep. “Hi,” she said, “we had a call about a dead animal, but I can’t seem to find it.” I suddenly realised why I recognised her. “I just dropped it off with you this afternoon,” I said. “Sorry, I was going to call tonight and say not to come…didn’t think anyone would get the message until tomorrow.” She told us that they’re skeleton staffed – they have six officers to cover all of Oakland. That’s nuts, given how many dog complaints I know there must be each and every day. We’re still annoyed that our call went unanswered for a week, but now we’re a bit less certain who’s deserving of the wrath. We’ll be writing to our City Councilmember about the situation. This little corner of the system definitely needs improving.


Anonymous Mama Dog Duvalier said...

Yup - once I saw that the Animal Control officer who came to our house was the very same person to whom we handed ove the dead possum earlier that day, all of the frustration and anger I'd harbored toward the OPD all week had melted. Sudddenly, I felt empathy for this poor woman, whose job must be very unpleasant: working at a kill shelter during the day, then picking up animal carcasses at night.

Oakland mayor Jerry Brown is to blame. He'll be receiving a letter from us, with a cc: to City Councilwoman Jane Brunner, soon.

8:49 AM  

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