*Continued - Part 2 -
"Sophie" by Tim Wohlforth, http://www.timwohlforth.com
(** Read beginning of story - Part 1)
Part 2 continues:
Banging at the front door. Sophie and I had nodded off in front of the TV. I got up from my chair determined to confront the intruders. I didn't have a plan. More a conviction that I would stand my ground. I would not be intimidated.
I opened the door and faced a huge man, massive beer belly, covered only with a stained undershirt, bulging out over dirty jeans. One muscular arm knocked me out of the way. He marched into the room and smashed a hairy fist into my face. I fell over on to the floor, blood dripping from my nose.
He swept up a snarling Sophie from my recliner. His lady friend marched in after him, smirk on her face, holding a kennel. He shoved the squirming animal into the kennel and slapped the front grate closed. I could see Sophie cowering and shivering in the rear of the kennel. As if she was at San Quentin and was being prepared for execution. The bottle blond marched out the door followed by beer belly.
I pulled myself off the floor and dashed after them. He turned and punched me with both fists. I fell again to the floor. He laughed, stomped out, and slammed the door behind him. I could hear Sophie's haunting, high-pitched screech in the distance.
I picked myself up off the floor and staggered toward the front door. As I looked out, a battered yellow Toyota pick-up truck pulled away from the curb. Too late. A lot of good I had done to fulfill my vow to protect Sophie. I stood for a moment by the open door trying to clear my head and think of a plan of action. A cold breeze blew a drizzly rain into the door. Refreshing. My first instinct was to call the cops. I could charge that bastard with assault and battery. But he could accuse me of kidnapping his dog.
I decided to go after Sophie. I knew this couple lived on Hemlock Street and owned a yellow Toyota pick-up. I could find their place. And then? Rescue Sophie. But how? This guy was powerful and a skilled fighter. And me? Forget about it. I would need to use brains this time, not brawn. I closed the door, went into the bathroom and washed the blood from my face. God, my head hurt. I swallowed a fistful of aspirins and headed back out into the drizzle.
* * *
The yellow pick-up sat in front of a dingy white stucco cottage I hadn't noticed during my last cruise through the neighborhood. It was set back further from the street than the other houses. A yard covered with knee-high weeds was enclosed by a chain-link fence topped with razor-wire. A good eight feet high. Not a very inviting place. A yellow glow came from windows in the house.
I pulled past the pick-up and parked my car. Then I approached the fence. A heavy chain with a padlock secured a gate that led to a pathway of broken cement slabs. How to penetrate this fortress? I walked the length of the front fence. No holes. A fence appeared to wrap around the entire property. Only one way in. Over the fence.
I went to the corner of the property, took off my jacket, and tied it loosely around my neck. Then I climbed the fence, one painful step at a time. When I reached the top, I covered the razor-wire with my jacket. Then I climbed over the fence. Here and there pieces of razor wire poked through my jacket and ripped at my flesh. I dropped to the other side. I left the jacket there for my exit.
The fresh razor cuts burned as the rain hit them. Dizziness returned. I hadn't had time to recover from the beating the punk had given me. I stood for a moment to regain my equilibrium. Then I crouched down and approached the house.
I will never forget the sight I saw when I peered into a side window at the living room. Dachshunds everywhere. On a tattered couch, on an overstuffed lounge chair, cowering in corners. Feces and pee covered the floor. Newspapers scattered about in a futile effort to catch excrement. Most disturbing were three cardboard boxes with openings cut in the sides to create makeshift dog beds. Emaciated mother dachshunds lay in each with blind newborn puppies snuggling up to them. The odor was so strong that it penetrated outside into the rain-soaked air. I became nauseous.
I searched for Sophie but didn't see her. Of course, she wouldn't be that easy to single out in a room with dozen of little dachshunds. Yet, none of them had collars and nametags. Made me think. Why did Sophie have one? She must have been the first dog this couple had. Once they realized the money to be made off selling puppies, their brood multiplied. The puppies were then sold before they received names. A goddamn puppy mill. A cruel, sickly puppy mill.
A high-pitched sound pierced the night air. Sophie. The only dog in the world that sounded like that. The noise wasn't coming from the house. The backyard. She was close now. I was going to rescue her.
I rushed through the underbrush by the side of the house. I tripped over a rusted wheelbarrow sans wheel. I picked myself up and plowed on. There. I made out the shape of a fenced in area encompassing much of the backyard. The only light was the dim glow coming from kitchen windows. Occasionally a shadow blocked the light. The couple must be in the kitchen, having abandoned the living room to the dogs. I would have to be careful. They could hear me, spot me. And I didn't want to deal with beer-belly.
I crouched down and approached the dog yard. I spotted at least fifty dachshunds, walking around, lying exhausted on the wet grass, crammed into the one shelter in the area - an old rabbit hut. I searched for Sophie. So many dogs. They all began to look like Sophie to me. With soft sad eyes, little legs, long bowed empty bellies, little tails, long snouts.
Then I heard her screech. My eyes followed the sound. She sat all by herself pressed into the far corner of the yard. I could make out her collar and nametag. She spotted me. She ran across the yard and pressed her cold nose into an opening in the mesh fence touching my hand. We were together again. But how was I going to get her out of there?
* * *
I rushed to the gate of the puppy pen. Sophie followed my progress on the other side of the fence. Regrettably barking her little head off. Luckily this gate wasn't locked. They figured they had no security problem as it was entirely enclosed in the outer perimeter fencing. That was the end of my luck, however.
I opened the gate, scooped up Sophie, holding her under one arm like a loaf of French bread, and ran. Scores of Sophie's dachshund buddies dashed out through the gate, yelped their little heads off, and scooted around my legs. I almost tripped, but I couldn't fault the little tykes dash for freedom. A floodlight lit up that backyard as brightly as the noonday sun on a Cabo San Lucas beach. The hulk stormed out the kitchen door of the dump, shotgun in hand, just as I made it around the side of the house.
I crashed through the bushes. Soaking wet as it was pouring rain now. Having left my jacket on the fence, I was freezing. Sophie was blessedly silent. I hoped the fleeing mob of dachshunds would occupy the puppy persecutors until I got out of that place. But how? I could climb over the fence, but I needed my two hands. What to do with Sophie? Then an image from a long-ago trip to Mexico City formed in my mind. I remembered being accosted at each red light by peasant women selling Chiclets, babies strapped to their bodies by large shawls. I had lost my jacket to the razor wire atop the chain fence. But I had a shirt.
I reached the spot in the outer fence where I had climbed over earlier. My jacket was still in place. I put Sophie on the ground. She hovered by my feet. I had become her protector. I stripped off my shirt and created a sling by tying the shirtsleeves to the tail. I picked up Sophie and wrapped her in it. I then placed the sling over my neck and started the climb. Thank God Sophie was a mini. No more than ten pounds. I could feel Sophie pressing her warm body against my side as the wind-driven rain pummeled me. Up to the top, then over. I made it.
I ran to the car and took off. That's when the hulk emerged from the front door. He lowered his shotgun and fired. My back window shattered. I felt a piercing sting on the side of my neck. Involuntarily I took a hand off the steering wheel and felt my neck. Blood. One birdshot had hit its target. Could have been worse. Buckshot. I took the first turn off Hemlock. Out of his firing range. Some consolation. But just as I knew where Sophie's tormentors lived, they knew where I lived. Couldn't go home. But where?
* * *
As I weaved my way through the dark streets of East Oakland with one eye on the rear view mirror, I concluded that the only safe place to go was the police headquarters in downtown Oakland. I grabbed my cell phone - admittedly not a safe practice but neither is dog rescuing - and dialed the emergency number for A.S.P.C.A. An Ellen Holmes answered. I explained what I had found on Hemlock Street.
"We've been after these puppy mills for some time now," she said. "A breed, like miniature dachshunds, becomes popular. Breeders overproduce. Fly-by-night operators move in. The market gets satiated and breeders get stuck with a lot of dogs. Feeding them becomes a drain on their profits. The unscrupulous starve the poor animals."
"Moreover its criminal. We have received a complaint of emaciated dachshund puppies being offered to a pet store in this area out of the back of a pickup truck."
"That's it. Cheap. No questions asked. The storeowner reported the incident to us. We know the source is local, but we haven't been able to uncover the identity of the breeder."
"Can I assume that what they are doing is illegal?"
"Certainly. It's illegal to run a kennel in a residential area, for starters. Then there are tough laws on the books on animal treatment."
"What about Sophie?"
"All the dogs these people possess will be removed from the premises. Then put up for adoption. You will get Sophie.
"I'm headed for Oakland PD. Could you...?"
"Meet you there."
* * *
I walked into police headquarters blood streaming from my neck, dripping water on the floor and wearing only an undershirt. Sophie was tucked under my arm.
"You can't bring a dog in here," the desk sergeant yelled at me.
"She's a witness."
"The mistreatment of one hundred of her fellow miniature dachshunds."
Ellen Holmes walked in at that moment and explained the situation to the cop.
"What do you want me to do about it?" he asked.
"Send some officers out there now."
"Yes, for dogs. If you don't, the A.S.P.C.A. and the Humane Society will be calling upon the Mayor in the morning."
He agreed. Ellen Holmes was one determined lady. She turned to me and whispered.
"Why don't you head on home with Sophie? We'll work on the adoption paperwork later. Just...."
"I know. Look out for a yellow pick-up truck and don't answer the doorbell."
She smiled and then left with two patrolmen. #