Hard Candy: The Dogs of Clam Bayou

“Come down to Clam Bayou,” Kayak Kurt said, and I groaned. What now? A protest against the restoration? A protest favoring the restoration? A councilperson kayaking at low tide? Did the police find a body under the mud? With my morning coffee as of yet unfinished, I lacked the strength for another Clam Bayou story.
As Kurt spoke, I reconsidered. Animal Services was en route to collect a wild dog trapped in a humane cage. Trapping a wild dog’s good, right?
When I arrived at the Bayou, the Animal Services officer explained the difference between wild (like wolves) and feral (like these dogs.) The dogs of Clam Bayou started their lives as cuddly little fluffballs in somebody’s home, but once they got too large or too much to handle, their owners found them guilty of “not cute enough anymore” and left the pups to fend for themselves, either abandoning them at Clam Bayou or abandoning them, period. Somehow, these not-cute-enough almost-grown dogs found each other and banded together and formed a pack to survive.
While the city’s enjoyed its share of debate about Clam Bayou’s mud, no one’s found Alpo in the tidal flats yet, so the pack must hunt for food. The dogs of Clam Bayou subsist on marsh hare, baby birds, and other wildlife.
People can’t approach these dogs, and the dogs of Clam Bayou will defend the pack, which rumor now says includes puppies, if they feel threatened.
As I write this, Calypso is curled up on the chair next to me, her cold leathery nose huffing dachshund breath on my knee. She just turned three, and on her birthday she had a steak and a bone and some ice cream. Her biggest worry is conning me out of part of my dinner.
Those dogs in Clam Bayou? They want the same things as Calypso: a warm bed, protection from predators, and some of whatever the rest of their pack is eating. The difference that Calypso sleeps on a Tempurpedic mattress dressed in 600-thread count sheets and they sleep in a den of dead leaves and sandspurs in a park that the city closes early because of drug deals and “romantic” interludes.
Calypso’s best friend is Scuppers, a Maine Coon who dwarfs her with his fur. When Calypso and I go for a walk, Scuppers waits in the window and cries for her. When he hears my key in the lock, he runs to the door and brushes up against Calypso, which, as we all know, is cat for “you belong to me.”
When people found the trapped dog Monday morning, another feral dog outside the cage wouldn’t leave her side. Even after Animal Services got the trapped dog in the van, this dog lingered.
Calypso eats fresh meat every morning; the dogs of Clam Bayou subsist on whatever they can catch without getting caught themselves. Calypso is protected by humans and she charms those she meets by fluttering her tiny eyelashes, cocking her ridiculously furry ears, and rolling over on her back and pawing at the air. The world, to Calypso, is just one great big adventure.
The dogs of Clam Bayou rely on each other. The rest of the world has not treated them well. The people who enforce laws to protect Calypso and us humans will also be the ones to kill the dogs of Clam Bayou if they trap them. The dogs of Clam Bayou view the world as a mean, scary, and dangerous place.
I can imagine what happened: the female, hungry, possibly from nursing, wandered into the trap for the food and got caught. Her pack mate probably tried to find a way to tunnel under the cage or get her out, and when he could not, he waited by her side, even as the sun rose and every instinct he had told him to hide himself. Even as humans showed up, he waited. Only when they approached did he retreat and watch from a distance as the officer dragged his packmate to the back of the van.
This captured dog will never roll over on her back to paw at the air to impress a human with her powers of cute. She will not lick a face, not without a lot of patience and love. With so many strays waiting for homes, no agency has space or staff to work with these “unadoptable” dogs. Their loyalty to one another means nothing; that humans created this situation is insignificant. These dogs will die five days after they wander into a trap needing food.
I don’t advocate allowing the dogs of Clam Bayou to remain in the park, but every time I close my eyes, I picture that dog, waiting by his trapped companion. I see him staring at the Animal Services van as I speak with the officer. And I may have imagined it, but somewhere in his dark, sad eyes, I saw a little bit of Calypso in there.
Contact Cathy Salustri at Cathy@TheGabber.com.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.

One thought on “Hard Candy: The Dogs of Clam Bayou”

  1. What a thought provoking article and hopefully another rescue person will read it as well.
    We have a feral lab that is proof that a dog can be rehabillitated although a physical and mental up hill battle.
    Many of these dogs are so sick with worms that the most humane thing is to euthanize. The lab we have is full of worms and we were just in time. Time as he had not fully bonded with a pack yet and still had that forgiveness to those who abused him.
    I though it was interesting that the article about the clam dogs came out in an issue that also featured an aritcle on a person who claims to “speak for all animals” but apparently cannot decipher reality from fantasy soaked in pity.
    Homeless dogs do not need pity or mouth pieces, they need action and new homes.
    For myself – I will continue to keep an eye out on them and maybe can pull another one out before being trapped. One that may not have ,bonded to his pack yet or one that is just been dumped like Jack.

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