Chapter 24

   When Steve worked at his brother’s east side car lot, he came across stray dogs all the time. He would pick them up, bring them home, they would take them to the vet, get them repaired, train them and find them homes. Although they don’t live or work on the east side anymore, if Steve or Thelma see a stray, they stop the car and do something about it.

   After they moved to West Park, they got a reputation for stealing dogs from people who mistreated them.

   A postal worker had been delivering mail to a house for a few years, always saw a dog in the back yard, and noticed one summer as it was morphing into fall that the dog was getting skinny, skinny, skinny. She found out the homeowner had gotten another dog and was starving the dog in the back yard to death.

   When she complained, Animal Control told her the dog wasn’t being visibly mistreated. She was distraught. One day she was telling somebody who knew Steve and Telly about the creature.

   “I know these crazy awesome people that will go steal that dog. Just give me the address,” said their friend.

   “Really?”

   “Yeah.”

   The mail lady gave the friend the address of the skinny starving dog.

   It was Thanksgiving night. The plan was set, but Steve and Telly sat down at the table first. They had dinner, set the alarm for 2:30, and went to bed. When they woke up it was storming lightning and thunder.

   “That’s a good sign,” Steve said. “In case the dog barks the thunder will hide the barking.”

   “What about the lightning flashes?”

   He didn’t say anything.

   They filled their pockets with turkey scraps. When they got to the skinny dog’s house, it was pitch dark. They walked up to the fence and the dog came running. Steve unlatched the gate. The dog came to the gate and sniffed him up. They gave the dog some turkey, he was happy, and went right to the car with them.

   The next morning, they called the mail lady.

   “We have the dog,” Steve said.

   “What? You have her?”

   “Yeah, you want to pick her up?”

   The next day, when the mail lady walked up to their front door, she was looking around in all directions. You would have thought they were up to a drug deal. Many people think dogs are their property, but when dogs are mistreated, Telly doesn’t care about your philosophy of property. If you’re starving a dog, you should have it taken away from you. When you chain a dog up, and get a kick out of it, you need some mental health. You’re one step away from being a serial killer.

   A friend of theirs in Lakewood had one of their rescues. They kept in touch. She called them one day and said her neighbor was kicking and whipping his dog. “He leaves the dog in his sweltering garage all day, too.”

   She was in tears. “I can’t take it anymore.”

   “Can’t you do anything?”

   “I’m afraid of him, but I can’t let the dog live like that.”

   “The minute he leaves, call us, we’ll get the dog,” Telly said.

  When she called them, Steve and Telly walked right into the man’s garage. The side door wasn’t even locked. They took the dog, who was in bad shape, because the man had been taking his belt and whipping the shit out of it.

   “If you treat a dog like that, I can’t imagine how you treat your kids and wife. The young German Shepherd had heartworms, which we got fixed, and we found him a loving family.”

   Steve went and rescued a pit bull bait dog one morning after Telly’s niece-in-law’s sister told them about it.

   “You stay home, just in case there’s trouble,” he said.

   It was seven o’clock in the morning, He walked up to the backyard, where there was no food no water no shelter, and pulled the dog by his collar over the fence. The next minute he was gone. That was that. No more docile dog for a mean dog sent to attack it.

   It’s not always that easy, although it can be. They were told about a Great Dane in Hough that was left alone chained to a post all day and night in all kinds of weather. When they got there, they found out the homeowners were on vacation. Their neighbor was in his backyard.

   “I’m here to take the dog,” Steve said.

   “What are you going to do with him?”

   “We’re going to find him a good home.”

   “OK.”

   Steve cut the dog’s chain and they took him away.

   Most of the dogs they rescue they find by word-of-mouth or on Facebook. Telly has lots of dog rescuer friends on social media. When they rescue a dog, they take it to a vet, and then take it to their house where it can play with their dogs. Steve and Thelma work to find them homes. 

   “Those dogs are put in our path for a reason. That reason is to help them. We find the money for it all by praying.”

   They have a vet who has been helping them for a long time. They took a dog to him that Steve found running in the street. The owners of the dog were chasing him. A chain was dragging behind him and there was a padlock on his neck, a padlock that was so tight it was embedded in the skin. Steve scooped him up on the fly and flew away down the street.

   “This is the cruelest thing ever,” said the vet.

   He wouldn’t charge them for the surgery, just like he doesn’t for many others. Steve rescues dogs all the time. He found one when he saw some guys stopped at the side of the road and noticed they were yelling and throwing rocks at a dog.

   “What the hell are you doing?”

   “Nuthin! What’s it to you?”

   “I’m making it my business,” he said, walking straight at them.

   They got in their car and took off. He found a mastiff in the bushes, gained its trust, and the next thing she there’s Steve with the dog eating out of his hand.

   He found Gretel the same way, on a street somewhere on the east side, escaping from who knows what. Thelma was making soup for their pastor when he brought the dog home. Telly gave the soup to the dog, instead.

   “What are we going to do with her?” Steve asked.

   “We’re going to keep Gretel,” Telly said.

   “Gretel?”

   “That’s her name,” she said.

   She was the sweetest dog ever. It made her day the day she came to live in their home. They never found a Hansel for her, but they kept her safe and sound until the day she died.

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