Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rescued from squalor

A house full of dogs saved by The HSUS and partnering organizations provides a glimpse into the delusional world of animal hoarders

All Animals magazine, July/August 2010

By Carrie Allan

The blue lights of a sheriff’s black cruiser blaze through the early spring drizzle, flashing a signal of caution to any cars approaching the modest, ranch-style house on this rural road in Preston, Miss.

Such passersby are infrequent; the road is isolated, the piney woods around it stretching into the distance. But if you were to be driving by this morning, you would see a small woman—middle-aged, blond, perhaps once pretty—standing in the driveway between two officers from the sheriff’s department. She is crying, pleading with them. Her face is crumpled and exhausted. The officers have their hands on her arms, restraining her.

Like a river moving around a boulder in its path, a half dozen grim-faced emergency responders in dark blue rain jackets and rubber boots divide and trudge past the officers, heading toward the woman’s house.

If you saw this from the road, from a distance, what would you feel? Confusion? Pity for the woman, who is crying as though her heart might break?

Look again: Several loose dogs circle around the front yard, wandering onto the road. More dogs move slowly about in pens in the side yard, some peering out from ramshackle hutches of plywood. The only sounds are the rain, the low voices of the officers, and barking—some close by, other howls fainter, farther away, from the woods behind the house.

Many of the dogs don’t look quite … right. From a distance, it’s hard to say why.

Come closer. Get out of your car. Wear shoes you don’t care about; every few steps, there are piles of dog feces. There is also trash everywhere, and shoddy fencing made of plywood and rusted metal wiring, and a busted-up sofa in the driveway that has been mauled and shredded by the dogs. Chunks of its yellow, weather-stained foam litter the yard.

The sheriff has opened the plywood gate to allow the responders deeper into the property. As they pass the officers and the woman they’re restraining, she says to them in a low, choked voice, “Please, go away.”..." More

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