The police arrived and smashed in the two rear windows of his new black truck parked across the street beneath the balconies of two newly constructed three story buildings, an infill on our old residential street. They needed to get a brown Lab out of the vehicle. It was nearly 30 degrees celsius and his tongue was extended, bouncing with his rapid panting.
For the past six months or so, I’d seen this new tenant, a middle-aged portly white man, living in an expensive apartment, yank and yell at his two Labrador Retrievers, one older and one younger – a puppy just learning to walk. Each aggressive thrust on the leash hurled their muscled bodies back against him as he leaned forward cursing and glowering. Each time, I felt my body pull away, my head turn sideways, eyes squinting, and mouth drawing in air through clenched teeth. I desperately wanting to admonish him. But, I didn’t.
Through my dining room window. I’d seen him enter the building with his disabled son, on his own, and thought I should hold my tongue, hold judgement. Maybe I’d witnessed him at a difficult moment. Unrestrained frustration. But then, I’d see the same public violence, yanking, yelling, nothing that would leave visible marks. I’d observe, weigh and measure, looking for an opportunity to speak, maybe offer help, a trainer, some advice on positive reinforcement, on kindness as encouragement. I’d imagine myself saying, “I’m no expert, but I’m a dog owner, and that looks harmful.”
This reluctance changes when I realize this animal’s life was in danger. He made a choice to leave a living being locked in a hot vehicle. This choice is not only illegal. This moment confirms my obligation. It’s no longer about kindness or being non-judgemental.
Another neighbour holds his toddler while two others twirl around his legs. He talks with my husband at the end of the driveway explaining the dog was in the car for 40 minutes. He, too, saw the police smash the truck windows jarring the neighbourhood out of summer slumber. He’d spoken to the man previously over the fence that separates their properties, the man who yelled obscenities at his disabled son; he’d asked him for kindness. “Please stop. My children are in my backyard and they hear you yelling.” He’d seen him kick his dogs and told him to stop.
This duty begins unfolding in my head as I calculate how, and when, and if I’ll speak to him directly. I research information on animal abuse through the Humane Society, my chosen charity for the year. Anil Seth reminds me that “I am a part of what’s going on; I am not apart from what’s going on.” My obligation is now clear.