Barking mad

I have rescued nearly 30 cats and dogs in Southwest in a dozen years, and Micky has ended up twice in my carrier.

Micky, the orange tabby cat, is a cuddler and a lover, and I wish with all my heart he did not love me. Recently, seeing me unload groceries from my car, he darted across the street and was narrowly missed by a car passing up the boulevard.

A cat versus a two-ton automobile is no contest, and I would have been the one to carry Micky home to his owners one last time and say "Do you still not want me near your cat?"

It’s always the same: a wandering animal, without identification. I have found them on the street, on the lake paths, on the bike paths, in forests, along rural roadsides. And the response from owners reunited with their pets has, until recently, been much the same: "We can’t thank you enough for saving our Binky (Billy, Fluffy, Sammy) and getting him to a safe place." I am often on the road for hours, on my own dime and my own gas, and my "pay" is the owners’ kindness and thanks.

This second time Micky’s owner shows neither. You should have known he was ours, even without his collar. Everyone in the neighborhood knows our cat. We had to pay to get him out the last time. Get away from our cat, never touch it again.

I put the carrier down on the driveway, open the carrier gate, and Micky shoots out and across the street into a neighbor’s yard, to live or die another day. I look up Micky’s owner on Google. She is an ordained minister, an author of children’s teaching units on patience and compassion.

You should have known he was ours. Everyone on our block knows him. On a lovely leafy boulevard lined with family homes where folks of a like socioeconomic status commune in their front yards and have keys to each others’ back doors? Yes. A city block away in every direction where there are 250 apartment units? We know not from your little Micky.

Who let the dogs out?

Lynae Gieseke of the Minnesota Valley Humane Society notes that "An outdoor cat has a lifespan of a few years: coyotes, foxes, cars, catknappers, Feline Leukemia, fights between animals. People seem to have gotten the message more on dogs — keep a collar and tag on your dog, keep your dog on a leash, sterilize your dog — but they have failed to get that message on cats."

And microchips won’t prevent someone from snatching little Micky off the street: their value is in quick identification, owner contact, and immediate release from pound or shelter. Karin Winegar of the Animal Humane Society agrees that microchipping can ensure permanent identification of family pets, but adds dogs and predator birds (eagles, hawks and owls) to the list of factors in "outside cat" deaths.

The last animal to accompany me to the Humane Society was a big, gentle dog found wandering without collar near the lake boulevard. I left him at the Humane Society in good care and then put a dozen posters up around my neighborhood. A call came within hours: Where is our dog? I explained the events of the day. Well, he’s never wandered away before. End of call, contact, and courtesies.

Mutual friends would later report that the owners were dumbfounded that anyone would fail to recognize the animal—without a collar and a block from home—as their dog.

Tom Deegan, Director of Minneapolis’ Animal Control, calls this behavior "the goofball mentality," wildly unreasonable expectations for others where one’s own actions are indefensible, a skewed sense of personal space and personal rights. The Animal Control folks don’t get much glory scooping up strays, confronting owner neglect, removing dangerous animals, and responding to reports of abandoned pets in rental complexes where departing tenants have left behind old furniture and little Fido. They really do see it all.

Ahead of me at the curbside was a black SUV with rolled up windows and a small, desperate white dog. It was mid-80s, no clouds, bright sun. The inside vehicle temperature must have been at least 100 degrees. I touched the car body: it was burning hot. I tried every door: locked. I asked passersby. Big apartment buildings lined the street, shoppers jockeyed for parking spaces. The SUV could have belonged to anyone.

A heavily-built man dragged a small child up the sidewalk toward the car. We’ve only been gone a minute, mind your own business. As the car tore away from the curb, a middle-finger salute told me what he thought of me.

And I felt guilty. If it had been a child, and not a dog, in that car, I would have run without hesitation into a business across the road, demanded a call to 911 and a heavy instrument, and gone out to break the windows of the SUV. Did I do what I accuse others of doing, did I devalue a living being?

The cat came back

You should have known he was ours. He’s never wandered away before. You mind your own business.

I can’t. This is my business. And our business. Animals, children, the elderly, the vulnerable—wherever we may find them in harms way is our society’s business.

I watch from the window as Micky languidly crosses the road to the far curb. A car passing by misses him by inches. I sigh, and walk into my apartment.

Deborah Morse-Kahn is a regional studies specialist and author in Linden Hills.