For a few months now, my girlfriend and I have been talking about purchasing a dog. This past Saturday, she suggested that we pay a visit to the SPCA before a family dinner. At first I agreed, but after some consideration I changed my mind. I knew we wouldn’t be buying a dog that day because we were not set up for one at the time, and the thought at looking at those poor animals in need of a home, and not being able to take one with us, didn’t sit well with me. We agreed to go to the SPCA when we were ready.
Later that day, we picked up my girlfriend’s sister, and headed for their folks’ place. On the way there, and only minutes from the SPCA we were originally supposed to visit, we passed a little dog, maybe a yorkie-cross, on the edge of a ditch. I pulled over and the three of us got out. The little guy was gone.
My girlfriend’s sister moved up the shoulder of the road and spotted it. At the bottom of a ditch, in a hodgepodge of blackberry bushes, sticks, mud, and refuse, the dog struggled to find its way. The little guy would take a step, sink into the mess, and take a second step resulting in the same misfortune. The poor guy wasn’t big enough or strong enough to climb up the steep slope, and he seemed to be walking, what could be, his final steps.
My girlfriend hustled back to the car to get some towels while I climbed into the ditch. I noticed a grey hue to the dog’s eyes and assumed he was blind. Regardless, he was able to sense my presence and began whimpering as I approached. I held out my hand, gave him a minute to calm down, and then I scooped him up. My girlfriend’s sister was waiting at the top of the ditch with a towel and she wrapped him up and brought him to the car.
He didn’t have a collar, but based on his meager build and possible old age, I assumed he must have come from a nearby house. Hoping that luck was on my side, I nipped across the street to the closest house. The man who answered the front door gestured to the property next to him when I inquired about the dog’s owner. I continued to the neighbouring property, which resembled something out of the film Deliverance, where two large barking dogs raced towards me. I assumed their owner was nearby because I could hear some sort of engine running from where the dogs had begun their charge, but that wasn’t in the cards for that Saturday afternoon. I didn’t take my eyes off the lead dog, maybe a pit-bull, and again hoped for the owner to emerge. Nothing happened.
I waited another moment, but with the two dogs not backing down, and no local hillbilly stepping up, I decided to leave. I hopped in the car and we made a short detour, the original detour we’d intended to make, to the local SPCA.
Luck wasn’t on my side when I was searching for the little guy’s owner, but when we arrived at the SPCA, it was. They were scheduled to close at 4:30, and even though we arrived at 4:35, their doors were still open. The staff members were great and it only took them a matter of minutes to get the dog out of our hands and into their care. One of the staff members was able to tell us that the dog was blind, deaf, and missing all of his teeth. He didn’t appear to be hurt, but would see a vet the following morning for a proper check up.
During the rescue mission, my girlfriend’s sister asked an obvious and concerning question. “Why weren’t other people stopping?” There was no way of knowing how long the dog had been on the side of the road, but the cars ahead of us passed it, and the cars behind us passed it too, so it was a fair question to ask. Apart from those who didn’t see the dog at all, there are two answers worth considering.
First, it’s the easy way out. Stopping one’s car, whether it’s a red light, a traffic jam, or an emergency, is never a preferred choice, so even though a helpless little dog is lost and wandering near fast-moving vehicles, better to put that hammer down than delay the arrival to your destination.
Second, the bystander effect. The people ahead of us who passed it would have seen there were people ahead of them and behind them passing it as well. They would have been quick to draw a conclusion that somebody would pull over, or the owner would find it, but aid would come one way or another because of the high volume of witnesses. The greater the number of witnesses, the more likely that help will come, right? Wrong. Most people go the way of those passersby in front of and behind them — they assume that somebody else will help. Granted, this example may not be that compelling to a lot of people, but there are more shocking examples of it that have been documented, many ending with the loss of human life.
It’s an uphill climb to combat the bystander effect, and possibly a steeper trek to even notice when it’s happening, but it’s an effort worth making. Looky-loos, and passersby are not in short supply, so when it’s possible and when you can, stop and help.