Yvette Holzbach is used to taking extremely sad, difficult photos of Houston's overlooked dogs.
She's taken hundreds that'll rip your heart out in four years of volunteering with the Forgotten Dogs of the 5th Ward Project
Like this one:
The picture of the stray dog with his teddy bear, though, was just so hard on her soul.
"Certain pics I really don't want to look at again," Yvette tells BarkPost
. "This was one of them."
Yvette shot the photo back in November, while out on a run to feed stray dogs---Houston has more than a million strays, by some estimates
This week, on a whim, she put the image up on Facebook. It quickly spread across the world
Folks were understandably moved by it. They wanted to know what had happened to the dog, wanted to know how they could help. Many also demanded to know why this dog had been photographed but not saved.
Yvette tried to explain. The group she volunteers with is small. On a tight budget, they feed stray dogs, and also provide pet food and veterinary services to residents of the city's impoverished 5th Ward.
Forgotten Dogs can rescue strays who have obvious medical needs, or who have homes to go to. This dog seemed bereft but healthy; and no one had offered to foster or adopt him.
"We are always faced with the dilemma of deciding which dog to send out a plea of help for," Yvette wrote on Facebook
. "This dog absolutely broke my heart but it a [sic] dog that was in relatively good shape and unfortunately, the sad truth is, a dog in this condition would be much harder to find a foster for than any others we find in worse shape. We can feed up to 50 dogs in one day. Out of those, we are lucky if we rescue just one because fosters are so hard to come by."
But she, too, still wanted to know what happened to the sad dog with his tattered bear.
So, despite being aware that these months later it was unlikely he and his toy would be where she'd last seen him, Yvette tried to find an answer.
On Wednesday, Yvette returned to the place where she'd seen the dog.
He wasn't there. An elderly man was. The man told Yvette that his name is Calvin, and he's 89 years old. Yvette showed Calvin that now-famous photo and asked Calvin if he knew the dog. Calvin said yes, it was his dog---one of dozens he'd rescued off the street.
Calvin cares for these dogs so much that he buys ice for them in the summer, so they'll have cold water. A neighbor told Yvette he sees Calvin hauling 50-pound bags of dog food on his shoulders, walking home from the store.
This dog didn't want to be rescued, though. He kept hopping the fence; he kept escaping---and a while back, the dog disappeared.
"He said he does not know what happened to his dog and he wishes he knew," Yvette wrote on Facebook. "As he spoke we could tell it was painful for him. There was no doubt at all that he loved his dog."
But that's not the end. Yvette and Calvin now have a relationship. She's going back to see him today; he seems amenable to allowing Forgotten Dogs to help him get his remaining dogs spayed and neutered, and vaccinated.
And two more puppies likely had their lives saved, because of this photo. Yvette visited with Calvin's neighbor while she was in the neighborhood. She discovered that he has two extremely sick puppies, who have a highly contagious, very serious virus.
The neighbor allowed Yvette to bring these puppies to a vet. She's feeling optimistic about their prospects. "Hopefully they're going to make it," she tells BarkPost.
She's hopeful about something else, as well. That maybe her photo will have excited interest in Houston's dogs beyond the one in the photo.
Perhaps more people will offer to foster
, so that more stray dogs can be gotten off the streets.
Perhaps folks will donate
enough that Forgotten Dogs of the 5th Ward Project
can purchase a mobile spay/neuter van, so that there are fewer dogs winding up on the streets in the first place.
"I hope that by posting the picture awareness has been raised to the plight of the street dog," is how Yvette put it on Facebook. "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."
All images by Yvette Holzbach