Monday, August 26, 2013

50,000 Stray Dogs Roaming the Streets of Detroit

It’s a place you may have heard of. Especially now with it declaring bankruptcy, Detroit has become the lazy punch line for those who don’t know what they are talking about. The dynamics that lead to its current situation are both beyond this blog post as well as beyond my (or probably anyones) full comprehension. 

But what I am quite certain of is that on a summer night downtown, the tiger game letting out, and the booming of fireworks still echoing in the air and the bars spilling into the street, that the city is alive and electric.  The theater district in Detroit can match anyones.  Wonderful Cultural pockets like Mexican town and  Greektown live amidst the squalor. There are bars with character, museums with history, a youth movement filling up newly renovated lofts and new businesses filling downtown office in record numbers.

What you hear about Detroit may be the truth, but it is the most dangerous of truths: half truths.

Of course there’s incredible blight and areas where it looks like a bomb went off.  The phrase ‘war zone’ is overused to the point of cliché, but it often fits.  Those pictures you see are real.  The grittiness of Detroit made for the settings of both of my first two novels. STRAY takes place in an animal shelter near Detroit and The Jade Rabbit in a runaway shelter on the outskirts of Detroit in an area known as Little Saigon. Both are actual locations where I worked for many years.

And now we hear the news that there are Fifty Thousand  STRAY dogs roaming the streets of Detroit.  50,000. It’s being reported by major news sources everywhere including Bloomberg.

50,000 STRAY dogs?  Can that be right? This is a number I have to question.  This is one of those exaggerations that is so easy for readers to believe since it’s a jigsaw piece that fits so well into a stereotypical puzzle. I can’t prove it’s wrong, but as the Detroit Free Press reports, this number would mean 360 dogs every square mile. Break it down further, that’s 36 dogs every block (consider a block a tenth of a mile).  There’s got be a stray dog on everyone’s lap, at which point, they are no longer STRAYS but have an owner. 

 Dog-fighting certainly occurs in Detroit (STRAY includes a visit to a Detroit dog-fighting den) and as a social worker, I’ve spoken with a mother who feared stray dogs on her street.  I also spent time helping out in Detroit’s Michigan Humane Society and saw a freezer full of stray pet body bags that had been euthanized.

But many dogs and cats were also being adopted and walked out the front door with new, loving families. 

An article like this evokes images of packs of wild dogs roaming the streets like an apocalyptic movie scene.  Imagine Cormac McCarthys’ The Road meets the movie Suburbia. 

A child plays at the Detroit River Walk. Certainly he's at risk from the packs of wild dogs roaming nearby.

There is an organized plan for a count of Stray Dogs to take place in September. If the count somehow confirms this 50,0000 number to be true,  I will be amazed.  I’m betting it’s half that. This is still an incredible number of suffering animals.

But chances are Detroit is not what you think. Run the Detroit marathon and you will see it’s beauty. The ghost of a better city is still roaming the streets but not yet dead. All of us have been strays at one point in our lives, and Detroit is certainly one right now.  But don’t believe what you hear, this town has lots of heart, you just got to poke around and be surgical in your strikes to find some incredibly rich city experiences.

Or perhaps we could believe it is a fact that 50,000 STRAY dogs are roaming the streets of Detroit. Yes, let’s go with the story as truth.

50,000 strays. All of them hungry, feral, and roaming the street. Survival of the fittest means only the vicious survive, and they’ll certainly have to feed off a pedestrian or two each day. They reproduce, as dogs tend to do, with litters of 3-4 pups a piece. That’s 150,000 strays in a few months, 500,000 by Christmas. A million hungry Detroit STRAYS are bound to spread like the killer bees were supposed to from the south and kill and eat everything in their path.  Someone call the DrudgeReport and let them know. The dogs are all very dark and viscous looking, so will certainly get a top story and large photo on their website.

So, when you hear about these things, think twice. Or, in other words:

Ask not for whom the STRAYS roam, they roam for thee.


Visit an Animal Shelter of Detroit- STRAY
Visit a Runaway Shelter of Detroit– THE JADE RABBIT


Detroit Runner(Jeff) said...

Detroit gets a really bad rap. People probably think we live in a war zone. We have so much here including some of the brightest minds. 50,000 strays - that's ridiculous! I've never seen one running. How could that be? What are the odds I'd never see it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I spend many days a month working in Detroit, in the "war zone" areas. I have seen packs of strays than number up to 12 animals, but when I read the article and the reference to 50,000 I figured they must hiding somewhere during the day - where I could not guess. While running the Detroit Marathon last year my friend commented that he was surprised that you could find 20 plus miles of "good city" in Detroit and he was impressed with the sights to be seen along the marathon route. I look forward to the official count of the strays. I always adopt from a shelter. It makes me feel a little better looking at my "friend" knowing I probably saved his life.


Jen Feeny said...

This number is ridiculous. It actually made me laugh out loud, for reals! Also, are they really going to spend money counting strays (and how are they going to make sure they don't recount one) when that money could be spent replacing street lamps or cleaning up the city?

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