Tuesday, December 6, 2011


There's a dog that we've never talked about in Shelter Diaries before; I don't have any photos of her, and she was only in my life for a total of two days.  I really think that her story needs to be told, however.

Nyla was picked up as a stray, and brought to the shelter.  Everyone knew that no owner would come to claim her.  No rescue would take her, and she couldn't be adopted.  She was a lost soul by the time I met her, but it really didn't matter to me.

I had seen some pretty badly mangled Pit Bulls before.  Sam, for instance.  But Nyla was something different altogether.  She was absolutely beautiful - velveteen, snow-white fur with a ticking of black freckles across her nose and shoulders, bright, alert eyes, and a graceful and powerful body.  And on this elegant canvas had been wrought a cacophony of hate and brutal injustice.  Her tail was missing completely, her graceful legs and shoulders and her beautiful face were crisscrossed with scars and fresh wounds.  Worst of all were her ears; severed entirely, flush with her battered skull.  I'd seen some pretty horrific injuries:  the effects of severe neglect, mange, malnutrition and even cancer before.  But this was different.  This was done by a human: deliberately, purposefully, and malevolently.

And that's why no owner would ever reclaim her.  Nyla was a fighting dog.

She was understandably skittish, and slow to trust.  Toys meant nothing to her, but food and treats were more than welcome.  Since she couldn't be taken out of her kennel, I worked with her inside.  SitLie downGood girlHigh-five.  We were making progress.  We were finding that small ember of happiness, that real dog down inside her.  She was relaxing, and oh so beautiful.

And then it happened.

Another volunteer passed by with a dog, on their way out to the play yard.  Nyla sprang up, snarled, and threw herself - just once - against the door of her kennel with a fury that had been beaten into her for so long, it was reflex.  Then she froze.  And then she turned and looked at me.

I've only met one other dog with eyes that soft.  There was no aggression on her face; no tension in those powerful, scarred shoulders of hers.  She took a couple of steps toward me, then collapsed in my lap, rag-doll limp and shaking like a sobbing child, her head buried in my chest.  We sat like that until closing time.

Due to overcrowding and her dog-aggression issues, Nyla was euthanized.  I wish I had been able to get some photos of her, but I don't need them.  Her face is burned in my memory as deeply as Buster's.  And if I don't react well to people pontificating about how it's the breed of the dog, and Pit Bulls are "born killers" and "genetically aggressive," I hope people will understand.  There are killers and monsters and savages out there aplenty, but most of them walk on two legs instead of four.