30 October 2014

A Real Life Halloween Horror Story...

A Haunted House Taken Straight from Real Life:

The dogs are gone.

You might have heard about the dogs on the news. I know it was state news, maybe national.

My neighbor was arrested after an attempt to evict him from the house he was living in. The house belonged to relatives who did not know he was there.
Inside the house he was occupying, along with SEVEN trailer loads of dog feces, were 19 dogs and 4 cats.
At least that is what they originally found.

It's one of those attention grabbing news bits that gets everyone speculating. People comment on websites. "He needs to be locked into a closet until he dies" and "Give him the death penalty".  Words of vitriol aimed at someone they don't know and know nothing about.

But this was my neighbor. His yard and mine meet in a corner. Every day I drove or walked past the cacophony of barking dogs in the yard. He smiled and waved. The dogs charged the fence and barked at Carlos, who usually responded by lifting his leg or sometimes squatting right out of their reach.

So how did this happen?

Do the spirits of littles animals wander this yard?
Haunted, for sure.

Before we ever met, every day I would see a man walking down the gravel road and then hitchhiking on the highway into town, about 15 miles away. He carried a couple of duffle bags. Every afternoon he walked back, bags full.
I did not know where he lived

One day Carlos and I are at the mailbox when a truck stops and a passenger gets out. It's my neighbor.  He grabs his mail and heads towards his drive, directly across from the mailbox cluster.

I stop him and ask "So what's your story?".
That always a good icebreaker. I explain I see him daily going to town and back and never knew he lived so close. I tell him where I live. We admire dogs.
And we talked for about 45 minutes.

This is his story as he told me.
He used to be a lawyer. He lived in Houston for many years. (So that explains his Houston Oilers cap!) He has a son that lives in town with his ex-wife. His son is at the age where he can choose which parent he wants to live with and the son has said he will live with dad if they can go to Florida. He is working on getting his law license in Florida and getting the house ready to sell.  He has two vehicles, neither operable, which is why he hitchhikes into town every day. We chat about Houston and it is obvious he has lived there and knows the area.

So far he is making sense and I am delighted to finally get to know this neighbor. Meeting neighbors in my rural part of Colorado can be dicey.  Many have loaded guns and most are adamant that it is their property and they don't want to be bothered. While he isn't inviting me in for tea and cookies, we chat and I am perfectly comfortable visiting.

But then we veer into more "interesting" territory. He tells me about the aliens. They've visited. He trash talks a neighbor. And mentions the KKK that rides at night on four wheelers hunting down Democrats. He tells me how much he loves his dogs and how much another neighbor hates dogs and to keep a close eye on Carlos. He's on the edge of making sense...but sometimes he teeters. 

After our chat, I wave the next time I see him and offer him a ride. He says no and waves me off.

Talking to another neighbor, she mentions to never give him a ride. The dog smell on his clothes is too hard to get out of the car. There is a strong stench around the house. There ARE a lot of dogs there.
Doesn't matter. I offer a few more times and he always waves me off. I quit offering. 

I  notice his house more now that I have met him. Lots of dogs... probably 8 or 9... are in the yard most every day. There are also dogs barking inside. But I never see more than the 8 or 9. There's always a smell. My dog neighbor is dressed neatly, clean clothes, nicely groomed. He doesn't look crazy or like a hoarder or anything out of the ordinary.
There never seem to be lights on in the house.  I realize all the windows are covered. No wonder I don't see lights. Does he have electricity? He must. How else does he get through the winter? But the two cars. The dogs live in them. Neither one runs, some days the dogs are on top of them, they are dirty. Why doesn't he get ONE of them working? Obviously some things do not add up.

And then, while we are in Texas in July, the girls' Facebook pages light up with comments regarding the Animal Control trucks heading up our road. HazMat teams follow. Where are the trucks headed? Five of them went up our mountain road. We know where they are headed without seeing them or even being in the state. 

The next day we see the news stories. It's in the Mountain Mail. Even the Denver and Colorado Springs papers. Dogs were being kept in the cabinets, in every room, all over. There were 19 found all together. The floors of the house were covered in feces, 3-4 inches deep. The ENTIRE house. The dogs were malnourished said the papers.  I am not so sure about that. The dogs I saw looked healthy. Pallets of food were dropped at the gate to his driveway frequently.  Neighbor might not have been eating but the dogs were.
But. Some dogs had chew marks. Were they eating each other? Another neighbor speculated that possibly dog neighbor was eating the dogs. We would see puppies, but never the older dogs.   All hard to comprehend. 

A few weeks later we are back in Colorado. The house is abandoned. Garage doors are open, cracked and broken. The windows are wide open. Trash and belongings litter the yard. No dogs, no cars, no neighbor.

His gate is open and the girls and I walk over to the house. A photo of his son as a toddler is face down in the yard. The smell is overwhelming. How did he live here?
They peek in the windows. There really is dog poop everywhere, in every room, at least 4 inches thick. Cabinet doors are open, exposing scratch marks on the inside. There are tunnels between the rooms, dug through the walls by frantic dogs. A refrigerator in the yard is opened, the freezer lined with tufts of fur. Did he keep them in the freezer? Or just store a dog that had died in there? Garage walls have arcs of missing Sheetrock, courtesy of the acid from dog urine. Wherever the dogs lifted their legs, the Sheetrock is gone, both in the garage and in the house. Outbuildings are filled with trash bags. A grill in the yard has a fluff of fur poking through the smoker hole. A lifted lid reveals a cat. Dead. Head turned backwards. Fresh. The police and animal control missed this one. There are also screens on the grounds covering areas recently dug. Buried animals? Are the screens there to keep the other animals from digging?
And the smell. Always the smell. Clean clothes are hanging on lines in the dog run. Did neighbor live in the dog run? It appears maybe he did. My brain cannot comprehend. 

It makes me sad. This is mental illness writ large. The United States does not do a good job with mental illness. Personal rights trump the reality of a family realizing brother, uncle, mom needs help. Now anyone over the age of 18 must be willing to get treatment, otherwise hands are tied. But guess what? If you are crazy, chances are good you don't think you need treatment.
So people like my neighbor sink into their own world, filled with dogs for friends and feces for carpet. 

The house goes up for sale. Who will buy it? It's a beautiful lot with a once darling little house.  But it needs to be razed. I doubt the smell can ever be removed. Urine has soaked into the foundation, the studs, the ground.
There is a flurry of activity. Someone removes the carpet and piles it in the front yard. The roof is covered in plastic. The "For Sale" sign is replaced with "No Trespassing" signs.

The end?

A few weeks later, walking higher up in the neighborhood with Carlos, we come upon entrails. Someone, probably a poacher, has dumped deer intestines on the side of the road. The dog recoils. The smell is strong and familiar. 


I thought the neighbor's house smelled of dog and urine and feces.
But no. 
Now I know.

The smell is death. 

The gentleman cleaning out the house has said the final total of animals, alive and dead, was 41. Animals were inside the walls and missed the first day they were rescuing. Cats were in the ceiling.
Someone is actually interested in buying the house. There are (supposedly) treatments that can seal the studs and foundation, making the house once again livable. For now, that is the plan.
I don't believe for a second that house can be saved, but maybe. We'll see. Bad juju in that house if you ask me.
Walking by the house, 3 months after the animals were removed, the property still smells. Strongly.
Neighbor has pled not guilty and has a hearing in November. He will not be tested for competency.


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