Last month, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to go with PJ of Gateway Pet Guardians on her daily trek to feed the strays and neglected dogs of East St. Louis.
We left PJ’s Lafayette Square home at 5:30 AM and headed to Washington Park, a neighboring town to East St. Louis that is just as poor, before heading over to East St. Louis.
Everywhere you look there are abandoned homes, many of them falling in on their foundations. Overgrown weeds and tall lawns are everywhere.
This house was one of the homes in better shape.
The streets were mostly quiet with residents still in their beds. As we drove up and down streets, we scanned the horizon looking for dogs lurking on porches or in the weeds.
Others dogs were just laying on the edge of a street, relaxing before the world woke up.
Many of the dogs we found we “owned” and not strays, but many of these so-called pets were in horrible shape and neglected. It’s not unusual for PJ to find dogs chained outside in the rain. At least with the strays she can work on gaining their trust so she can one day rescue them.
With the owned dogs, all we could do is throw them a couple of Milkbones.
Dogs that were strays got a couple of bones plus a pile of dog food.
This dog, named by PJ as DB, was later rescued and is now looking for a foster or forever home.
I give PJ a lot of credit. She has been feeding the strays of East St. Louis since 1995. Since 2001, she hasn’t missed a single day.
I don’t know how she handles the heartbreak of leaving them out there to fend for themselves. But she can only take the dogs when there is space at the shelter or someone is willing to foster the dog. It’s not unusual for a desperate plea to go out on Facebook for someone willing to take in a dog that was just rescued because there isn’t a kennel available for them.
Often, the new dogs end up at PJ’s house until someone can be found to foster them.
Someday we hope to rescue every one of the strays and show them what life can be like with a loving family and a soft place to lay.