The people across the street from me moved in about 10 years ago. At first, it was a few people, then a few more, and over the years, more and more people seemed to move into this 1200 square feet home as evidenced by the five or six cars that they parked all along our street. They were renters and as such, not invested in creating good relationships with neighbors.
Over time, they acquired a Gampr – an Armenian Wolfhound – who I was told was smuggled in someone’s jacket from Armenia. Then they brought home a black German Shepherd puppy who they named “Sevo,” which means “black” in Armenian.
I love all dogs and so I reached out to them with kindness and interest in their dogs. But I became disturbed, over time, by the way they treated their dogs. Sevo was always in the front yard without any kind of shelter, sleeping in a hole that he dug in the garden. He was filthy and very, very thin.
“Max,” the Gampr, was treated somewhat better. He seemed to be healthy and grew to be over 200 lbs. When he was in the front yard, Sevo would be separated from him in the backyard or chained to the garage door. But most of the time, Max was kept in a small fenced concrete area in the backyard. Neither dog was walked and I never saw anyone in the house interacting with either dog or making an attempt to socialize them.
What concerned me even more was that Sevo was being let out of the yard, loose, by himself in the early hours of the morning and also late at night. He was frequently wandering the street with no collar or supervision, and would be in the middle of a busy street at night – all black – where he could not be seen by motorists.
During those incidents, I would take it upon myself to put him back in his yard. He often ran from me and wouldn’t let me pat him but he would run back into his yard when I would open the gate. It seemed like nobody in that household cared about this dog.
A few years ago, when Sevo was out loose one day, I noticed how badly he had deteriorated. His coat was lackluster and he was dangerously thin where you could see his whole skeletal structure. So, I approached the young man who was the primary resident in this home and the owner of the dog and asked him what was wrong.
He told me that Sevo was “fine” and that he just didn’t gain weight. Of course, I didn’t believe him and I made a comment about the need to take him to a vet and get him proper care. That comment went nowhere.
Then I tried reaching out to the young wife of this man. She was in her 20’s and Russian (he was Armenian from one of the Russian-controlled countries), and her name was Ana. I started making small talk with her when I would see her getting into her car. She was friendly and seemed very lonely and invited me over to chat one day. I sat with her outside while the rest of her family was inside the house. She told me about her life before she got married and how she wanted to become a teacher but couldn’t now because she had two small children and her husband expected her to stay home with them. While I was there visiting her, I began talking with Sevo and patting him. He wanted to play so I chased him around the yard and had fun.
A short time later, I was walking by their yard and stopped to pat Sevo through the fence. An older man, who turned out to be the young man’s father, came running outside and began yelling at me while making gestures for me to get away from their yard. I didn’t know why he was angry until later, when Ana told me that her father-in-law didn’t like me playing with Sevo as he was training Sevo to be a watch dog. She also told me that he was known as a dog trainer in “their village” and he felt I was ruining Sevo by playing with him or even patting him.
That abruptly ended my involvement and efforts on behalf of Sevo for several years. I avoided their yard and when Ana saw me, she would look the other way and not say hello as she felt her father-in-law didn’t approve of her talking to me.
As the neglect continued, I observed the older man (the father-in-law) chaining Sevo to the garage where he remained in chains for 3 weeks. I called Animal Control and reported this to the officer who answered the phone and they opened a case.
While they did send someone out to investigate, they would not tell me the outcome of their investigation – only that they had gone out there. I did notice that Sevo was not chained up anymore however, he was still ignored and left outside in all conditions of weather.
I called again at another point in time because Sevo continued to look like he was malnourished and it seemed to be a clear case of neglect. Another animal officer came out but again, nothing changed. If they fined these people, I doubt they paid the fine. Neither dog was neutered and neither was licensed.
Over the next few years, Sevo’s ongoing neglect would keep me up at night. I would wake up to hear the wind howling or the rain beating down, or the cold fog moving in or extreme heat causing intense suffering and I would wonder if Sevo could survive these conditions. Sometimes, I would not hear Sevo barking for several days and I would exclaim to my roommate, “I think Sevo has died. I haven’t seen him in their yard and he’s not barking.” Then, he would bark and I would be overwhelmed by a sense of relief that he was still alive.
Finally, a few months ago, a neighbor told me that Ana told her that they were moving. Then, I heard that the older man and his wife had moved out. And I saw the pool was being drained, so I approached Ana one day and asked her what was going on?
She told me that they were going to have to move because they couldn’t afford the rent but she didn’t know when they would be moving as they hadn’t found a place to live yet. I told her that if she moved to an apartment, then I would help her find a home for Sevo. Max, meanwhile, had been taken with the older people to wherever they had moved.
Ana told me that she appreciated my offer but that “her kids would miss Sevo if I took him and she didn’t want to put them through that.”
When I heard this, I thought, “How can you say that? Your kids never spend any time with Sevo, that I can see. He’s not allowed in the house and when the kids come home from school, I see them walk right past him without even a glance. He’s totally ignored, by everyone in your family.” And the saddest part was that Sevo would wag his tail at them whenever people would open the gate and come into the yard where he lived his whole life – expecting some acknowledgement and getting none.
I began feeding Sevo on the side – First, just when he was loose wandering into my driveway, I would run outside with a bowl of dog food and he would eat it very quickly and then run away. Then, I would wait for the people to leave and I would bring a bowl of food to him. I often felt at-risk for doing this because he wasn’t my dog and I could have gotten myself into trouble with them. But it was so important to me that this dog get cared for – and no one would help me with this.
The other neighbors complained about him and Max barking all night as no one made any effort to discourage the dogs from keeping the neighbors up all night. They would bark at various wildlife that roam around at night and it was ongoing, most every night.
Also, the neighbors did not appreciate Sevo dropping a “load” in their yard or driveway and no one from that household taking responsibility for cleaning it up. Additionally, the residents of the household would frequently stand outside in the street at midnight or 2 a.m. smoking joints and talking at full volume while people were trying to sleep. And finally, they crashed up every vehicle they drove and then would tow the totaled cars back to our street and take up people’s parking spaces for several months at a time.
I often wondered if they had a money-making operation going on with vehicle accidents because there were at least five or six smashed up cars parked on our street over time.
After the older folks moved, Ana started responding to my neighborly outreach efforts. She would never invite me into her home, however, which I found odd. Instead, she would rapidly rush out the door and close it behind her to talk with me. I would ask about her plans for moving and what they were going to do with Sevo. She would tell me that they were going to find a house where they could live and bring him along.
Finally, after about two months of this same dialogue, I called a friend whose wife operates the Westside German Shepherd Rescue and I asked him what options I had. He referred me to his wife who suggested that maybe Sevo had an enzyme deficiency which prevented him from digesting nutrition. She said this was a common problem among German Shepherds and gave me a website to check out that spoke about a solution called Enzyme Diane.
At this point, I wanted to believe that Sevo’s problems were due to an enzyme deficiency, even though I had visibly experienced his ongoing neglect over time. So, I ordered some of this product and then visited Ana to share it with her. I told her that I had paid for this because I wanted to help Sevo get healthy. I didn’t ask her to repay me – just to give it to him in his food. She said she would and thanked me.
About a week later, I texted her to see how it was working. No reply. Two more weeks went by of silence. Then I saw her and asked how everything was going. She was in a hurry to go somewhere so I couldn’t speak with her.
A few days later, I saw a moving truck out in front of their house. I panicked, knowing that they were going to take Sevo and continue to neglect this poor dog who never had a chance. So, I went over there, again, to offer my help. This time, the young man – Ana’s husband, answered the door. He told me that they were taking Sevo with them and asked me why I wanted to know about his dog?
I told him that I had offered to help with finding Sevo a home if they couldn’t take him. But he was firm in his response. It was clear to me that he didn’t like me and wasn’t going to let me help.
That night, I left to fly back East to visit my 90-year-old mother. I was sad and disappointed and I felt I had failed to help this dog. But two days into my vacation, Ana texted and then called me. This was the first time she had ever texted me. So, I called her back to see what she needed.
She said she was sitting on their steps and only had two hours before they “had to be off the property.” I knew then that they were being evicted by the Sheriff. She said she couldn’t take Sevo after all and couldn’t find anyone else to take him so she was calling me. Was I still able to help her because, she said, her husband wanted to kill him!
I immediately jumped on this opportunity to offer my support. I told her to hold on while I called my roommate who was home with our two girls (dogs). I then told my roommate that Ana wanted to know if we could take Sevo! I was ecstatic! Finally, I could save this dog!
My roommate said he would receive Sevo at our front gate and he would feed him and keep him separated from our dogs until I came home. So, I called Ana back to tell her the good news. I could hear her crying on the other end of the phone!
While I was on vacation, my roommate fed Sevo and introduced him to our girls. On the 5th day, Sevo decided to come into our house through the doggie door so my roommate decided to let him spend the night. On the first night inside, he found his way to a futon that we had placed under the staircase. Our late dog, Mojo, liked to sleep there five years ago but it hadn’t been used recently by our other dogs.
By the time I came home from my trip, Sevo had decided he was staying for good. He had made friends with both my dogs and had been fully accepted into the pack. He was timid with me and my roommate, at first, but he quickly grew to trust us and come to us for pats on the head.
Over the past six weeks, Sevo has made great progress. After our vet treated him for ear infections in both ears and got him on some nutritional supplements, he has begun to put on weight. He was only 70 lbs. when we took him in and all his ribs were prominently showing through his dull fur coat.
Now, his coat is shiny and beautiful and he has gained a few lbs. and continues to get stronger. He gets walked twice (and sometimes three times) a day – sometimes by himself and at other times with his sisters.
He’s gone to the dog park three times and is happy when he meets other dogs but still hangs back with me when another dog approaches or is too energetic. Gracie bothers him constantly, trying to wash his face and ears and he yells at her and runs away when he’s had enough. But he is starting to play with Aggie. They put their paws on each other’s back and he opens his mouth really wide and seems to be grinning at her.
Sevo is also very vocal with us humans. He talks to me quite a bit in a singsong voice. Mostly, I think he is saying he is grateful for the warm, clean shelter and food we are giving him but he’s also saying he loves being a “pet” instead of a watchdog.
Each night, I spend time with him teaching him little tricks for extra treats. He is giving me his paw now but hasn’t learned to sit or lay down. We’ll get to that eventually.
I also take Sevo out with me in the car to sometimes do quick errands so that he will be comfortable riding in the car. My car has been repurposed as a “dog mobile” with the back seats down and cushions and comforters spread out for them to ride on. He has gone on rides to the Angeles Forest and enjoyed the smells of the forest, which he has never seen before. When we get snow, I’m planning on taking him up there to experience it.
Sevo is a joy to have in my life. Having him finally in my home has relieved me of constant worry and fear about his safety. I’m also grateful that his former owner, Ana, chose to give him to me. She has told me twice now that her husband “wanted to kill him” but she resisted and held out, hoping I would help her that night that they were evicted.
She has been keeping in touch with me – intermittently – although I never know when she is going to show up or call. She was here the night before Thanksgiving to bring me boxes of canned goods and frozen meat that she said was left over from the catering jobs her husband had worked. The meat is good and apart from being a bit frost burned, I am using it to make a stew for the dogs. I appreciate that she is trying to help and that her kids want to see Sevo – with my supervision, of course. So far, I have not been able to get any information from her on whether they ever took Sevo to a vet or got him any shots. Because she is being so evasive, I’m assuming the answer is “No.”
Finally, I have concluded that she was doing the best she could do under the circumstances. I think she was the only one in that household who was giving Sevo any care – even if it was not enough. I have chosen not to be angry with her but instead, to be grateful to her for letting me help her – and most of all, letting me help him.
He is the love of my life and deserves a good home for the rest of his days. And he will have that now that he is part of our dog family.
Pat Kramer, December 2, 2022