THE QUEST FOR ZAC
By Mary Scott
I first saw the dirty little white dog stretched out in my next door neighbor's backyard early one morning. I did not consider him an unusual sight because of the number of dogs and cats (not to mention deer and raccoons and other wild animals) I have seen running loose in the southwest area of our Shingle Creek neighborhood. A few days later I saw the same dog resting in another neighbor's driveway, again early in the morning, and I remember thinking that he looked familiar. But it wasn't until he began sneaking up on me during my walks that I really noticed him. Cheerful but filthy, this little dog with the long wavy hair listened when I turned and spoke to him but never approached me. If I moved toward him, he ran the other way. But he was happy to trot along behind me, although cautious to stay inside his "safe zone."
I wasn't the only one who noticed him. Neighbors I spoke to mentioned seeing him, how he had been hanging around all summer, sleeping in different neighbors' yards, eating dog food put out on the sidewalk or in the yards of concerned residents. His cheerful disposition made him memorable. Residents even gave him names like Charlie and Scruffy. I personally call him Zacchaeus, but for simplicity's sake, let's call him Zac.
In time, summer became fall, and Zac's lack of trust in anyone and the suspicion that he made a habit of sleeping in piles of leaves -- which were often stuck to various parts of his body -- became a concern. What would become of him when the frigid temperatures and snow inevitably descended on us? No one has been able to catch the little guy. I called Animal Control early this fall when I saw him sleeping in one of the neighbors' yards. I knew he was not an unwanted dog, but I couldn't catch him myself. Because he wasn't an aggressive dog, Animal Control warned me he would be low on their priority list; they showed up two days later by which time Zac was gone. Another neighbor reportedly took one of those long-handled fishing nets and snagged the little guy, but the handle broke, and the dog took off.
There are notices on utility poles around the neighborhood; perhaps you've seen them. Someone is offering a reward to anyone who can bring the little critter to her. She wants to give him a home.
This someone's name is Ann. She came pounding on my door one morning in late November, bundled up in a winter coat and knit hat to ward off the chill in the late fall air. She was taking phone calls about the dog day and night. Zac was spotted here, he was spotted there; he is getting around the neighborhood, and when she gets a call, Ann goes out to find him. The day she came to my door, she was out trying to track down someone who called her about the dog; she knew approximately where the caller lived, but she didn't have his phone number, so she was pounding on doors and leaving notes for residents, hoping to find him, so she could question him more about the dog.
As Ann spoke to me, Zac's story began to unfold. The dog belonged to a family that was living in Wisconsin when he was stolen by another Wisconsin resident. Both families, she reported, now live in this area, yet no one appears to be taking care of the basic needs of this dog, which may be why Ann is calling this homeless creature "my dog."
The story confused me. I didn't understand why two families who struggled over this dog are not taking care of him. I don't know the whole truth and maybe never will. All I know is what Ann told me. And it confirms what I know by instinct: there is no person or animal that is truly unwanted. I am beginning to doubt I can even label a material item "unwanted" as fast as I've seen junk set out in alleyways as waste get snatched up before the garbage truck stops. Perhaps animals like Zac are just unfortunate enough to be owned by someone who does not truly want them or is unable to care for them. But there is someone, somewhere, who wants them and perhaps is even willing to make great sacrifices of love for their sake. I see this in Ann's quest for Zac and as Shingle Creek neighbors pull together, trying to get him into a home. Zac’s story is a great message of hope and of our community's compassion. No matter how unloved and lonely people may feel, someone who knows your worth and your dignity could be closer than you know, maybe even living in your own neighborhood.