It all started with a photo that can only be called sadder than sad. A stray dog lies down on the sidewalk, seemingly forgotten and unloved. His only source of comfort is a similarly cast-off and forgotten teddy bear that he holds on to as tightly as he can.
The photographer, Yvette Holzbach, wrote: “here is a stray dog taking comfort in a worn out, discarded toy. How many of the dogs that we see are also thrown out on the street once they have served their purpose?”
The picture went massively viral as people all over the internet wrote in to express their concern for the dog and find out what had happened.
But while many people thanked Holzbach for drawing attention to the poor pup, others criticized her for not taking the dog home with her on the spot. As a committed dog rescuer, Holzbach works with an organization called Forgotten Dogs of the 5th Ward, trying to help homeless dogs in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Houston, Texas.
She regularly takes and posts pictures of abandoned dogs on her patrols through the neighborhood. She and her fellow rescuers try to find owners of lost dogs, get them veterinary attention, get them spayed or neutered, and in many cases, get them fostered and adopted.
But the enormity of the problem often escapes people who don’t see what Holzbach does. After her picture made the rounds, many negative commenters asked the simple but brutal question, “why didn’t you rescue the dog?” So Holzbach took to Facebook to explain exactly what goes on every day for rescuers like her and help armchair critics understand.
This dog was posted on my personal page and it sparked a lot of debate. I know that one of the first things someone is…
As Holzbach wrote on the Forgotten Dogs of the 5th Ward page, “on one feeding route we can feed up to 50 stray dogs. Of those 50 dogs we are lucky if we are able to save one because the sad truth is, there are not enough foster homes to place these dogs into.” If she and her colleagues were to pick all these dogs up, they wouldn’t have anywhere to take them.
Instead of trying to take all of them, they try to give medical care to as many as they can, and for those that can’t make it on the streets any longer, they try to rescue and foster them.
Holzbach stressed how bad the problem is and how sad it makes her and her colleagues to leave homeless dogs on the streets. She also invited all the critics to come and see for themselves. “If there is anyone that does not quite understand what we are faced with we welcome you to do a ride along with us. You will be astounded at how many homeless dogs there are.”
As it turned out, the dog, who Holzbach called Teddy because of his stuffed animal friend, did have at least one human in his life who cared. When Holzbach and her colleagues from Forgotten Dogs went back to find out what happened to the stray on the street, they encountered an 87 year-old man named Mr. Calvin, who recognized the dog from the picture and said it was one of many that he had been feeding.
As Holzbach wrote, “this was his dog, along with many others that he had rescued off the streets of the 5th Ward over the years. At one time he had as many as 20 in his back yard.” She could tell that he loved the dog and her organization offered to come by and spay/neuter the three remaining dogs at his house, free of charge.
This was an episode that illustrated exactly what Holzbach had been talking about. “I hope that by posting the picture awareness has been raised to the plight of the street dog. We are facing an uphill battle and we can only hope that there will come a time when no dog will have to struggle to survive on the street.”
It is with great sadness that I have to give the news that a very special man, Mr Calvin passed away. Almost 3 years…
Sadly, Mr. Calvin passed away in 2018, but his kindness to the dogs of Houston will never be forgotten thanks to Yvette Holzbach and her organization’s ongoing efforts to help those who have been left behind.