Monday, February 3, 2014

A Hauntingly Beautiful Spot and a Murderous Tale


I was honestly worried that the man lying motionless on the wet grass was dead. Eyes shut, arms held stiffly at his side, the old man was lying flat on his back with his legs extended straight out like a body in a morgue.

All around the little courtyard park where he lay, there were rows of townhouses, but no one was about. It was well before dinner hour and I had happened by only on chance, while looking to meet up with my husband.

It was freezing cold and a light rain was falling. Could he be sleeping? No. Surely, no one in his right mind would choose to sleep on the wet grass in the rain.

I stopped walking, stood still for a second and watched to see if the old man's chest might rise and fall with the measured breath of slumber. I could see none, but then, perhaps I was just too far away. Too much of a coward to approach him myself, I rushed off to the spot where I knew I could find my husband.


A few minutes later, my husband was standing over him, "Are you okay, sir?" I heard him ask. The man opened his eyes (I sighed with relief!) and mumbled a slurred response.

"Can I call someone to come help you?", my husband asked. I heard the old man muttered something nonsensical. Then he mumbled something about a daughter. He tired to sit up, wobbled wildly and fell back hard on the wet grass. My husband noticed there was a beer can at his side. Mystery solved. The man was simply fall down drunk.

Though his problems were self-inflicted, we could not in all good consciousness leave him there lying in the cold. Alcohol thins the blood and can make a person, especially a man in his early sixties, more susceptible to hypothermia. It seemed clear enough to us that this was a man who needed some sort of help.

This brings me the point of my story: when faced with a complete stranger, it is not always easy to tell when to step up and offer assistance. It can feel akward and even uncomfortable to step into another person's private problems.


Let me tell you another story. This time I will put you in the driver's seat.

There is a dog, a white, mop-head of a dog. He is a harmless, goodnatured, goofy dog who you have noticed sitting out at all hours of the day and night, in every kind of weather, in an outdoor pen. In the summers, the grass is uncut and a water dish seems absent even on the hottest days. In winters, his ramshackle dog house is stuffed with straw. Mostly you notice that he prefers to sit outside shivering in deep snow. What is most distressing, is the fact that a rash has begun to spread across his rump.

Then one day you find him loose running wildly through the neighbourhood, giddy in his excitement to be free of the pen. You might feel glad for him except you see that he is covered in his own green excrement.

Are you ready to call in the authorities?

Get ready of the complication.

You don't know his owner, but you have heard tell of her drinking problem from a close friend. There is a lot of sadness in her life, because it has been recently discovered that her husband is dying of cancer. The most recent operation has left him barely able to stand. As this man's health has deteriorated, their small business has begun to falter.

How do you help the poor dog? It is gut wrenchingly hard isn't it? Knowing when and how to step in is not easy.



I know this post is getting really long. Just one last story! This one is both sad and true.

But first, let me set the scene for this story. Along the banks of the Credit River there is a chain of valleys, I live in one of them.

The valley to the south of us is in my estimation the most beautiful. Unlike the more northern valleys, it is a broad plain that sits low on the water table.


In summer it is lush and green. 


In fall, the valley is filled with ochres, reds and orange. 

In winter, its beauty is more haunting.




This valley was also the sight of a local murder. 

If you are a mother, I am sure you will be able to identify with this terrible story. Again, I am going to put you into the story:

You are in the middle of a weekend shopping trip to the mall when your daughter asks to use the washroom. The problem is that you have your 9 year old son in tow and he is refusing to be seen in the women's washroom at his age (this story occurred 10 or more years ago before family washrooms became common). 

You understand of course. He's growing up so fast. Maybe you even experience a brief moment of pride at the thought. 



You don't want to send your daughter into the washroom alone, so you opt to leave your son who is older on his own in the hallway. You'll only be a few minutes and he is right outside the door.

Moments later your son is abducted from the hallway by a man recently released from prison. People witness the abduction: it's popular mall. But here is the part of the story that especially breaks my heart: no one steps forward and no one intercedes. It is not that they are heartless or don't want to get involved. Most witnesses see a boy struggling with a man, but fail to recognize the situation for what it is. Instead they see a misbehaving child and decide the man is most likely his father.

The abductor brought the young boy to the picturesque river valley assaulted and murdered him. Then the deeply disturbed man turned himself into police.

This true story haunts me a little. I have a son who is about the same age as the boy who was murdered and we often shopped at that very same mall. I pass by the valley where the terrible deed was done at least a few times a week.

How I feel for that poor woman who left her son on his own for just a brief moment! As a mother, I find myself wishing someone had stepped forward, even though I know that confronting and questioning the actions of a seriously disturbed man was a potentially dangerous thing to do.

But then, aren't most mothers willing to through themselves in harms way for the sake of their children?


So what happened to the man we left lying in the grass a few paragraphs back? We stayed with him until police arrived to handle the situation.

And the neglected dog? That was another true story, and as you may have guessed, it could not possibly have end well. One of my neighbours tried to help out with the care of the dog, but she could only do so much. I took action the day I found him roaming loose covered in excrement and soars. With a heavy heart, I called the SPCA. I begged them to use compassion with the woman whose husband was so seriously ill. I told them that I hoped a new or temporary home could be found for the dog during the ongoing health crisis.

I am not sure anything like that happened. I was walking our dogs when the angry dog owner confronted me in a drunken rage a couple of weeks later. The only good thing to come out of this story is that the poor, neglected dog did go to a new home.

I worry I could have handled the situation better, but I am still glad that I interceded.

44 comments:

  1. I have goosebumps and am chilled to the bone after reading of that poor little boy....how the mother must feel...she is probably haunted by her decision. What powerful stories you related here, I would have acted as you did re the man and the dog, we all have a duty to assist our fellow man and animals. It's a shame about the dog owners, but no animal should suffer abuse whatever the reason. Good on you though, it is hard when you get abuse. I must say I always intervene when I see a child struggling with an adult, it's better to be safe than sorry isn't it. Such stunningly beautiful pics and gosh, what a powerful and beautifully written post.You have left me with so much to think about.xxx

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    1. Thanks Snowbird! I think everyone who read this long post deserves a medal for perseverance. LOL! We tend to see problems as black and white, but they never are. The story of the dog is a perfect example.

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  2. it's always so heartbreaking to hear of these horrible stories which always seem to end up in a beautiful valley or wooded area. I'm so sorry that you got dragged into the dog situation. Sometimes it's understandable by people just stand back and watch when something bad happens.
    On another note - your photos are gorgeous - I really like how you showed that tree during different seasons.

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    1. Heather, It doesn't seem right that such a beautiful spot could ever be the sight of a murder. I guess because the water table is quite high, trees seem to die and remain for years as ghostly skeletons. I find them spooky and beautiful at the same time.

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  3. You did do the right thing Jennifer. In both instances. I am the wife of a retired (3 yrs ago) police officer and there are so many times in his career that outcomes to tragedies could have had a different outcome if others would have stepped in or at least called in concerns. It takes so little to call 911 and for the most part the one calling never hears of the effect their call made, but usually it makes all the difference.
    I loved this post!

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    1. June,I agree that it really does take so little to call 911. We never did know what exactly what happened to the man in the park, but I felt when we left him with the police officer that he was in good hands. And it felt like all the worry and even the embarrassment was worth it, because that poor little dog went to a new home. I truly hope he was happier there.

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  4. I was captivated by your stories and could tell they came from the heart. It is good to know that there are good people in the world who will lend a helping hand such as yourself. Your stories (and photographs) were inspiring to me and I am sure to many others.

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    1. Thanks Lee. These were difficult, but important stories to tell.

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  5. We all have a duty to intervene and to help when someone is in danger, whether it’s children, adults or animals. The difficult line to walk is not to become nosy and interfering and ‘help’ people who doesn’t want to be helped or doesn’t think they need to be helped. I must admit I probably have given help to one or two in the past who didn’t think they needed help, but I don’t regret doing it – they really did need help and for some people, part of their problem is that they don’t realise that they need help.

    Thanks for a thoughtful story and beautiful pictures.

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    1. So true Helene! Sometimes people just don't realize they need help. Sometimes you have to point it out to them.

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  6. I am glad you stepped up as well..in both situations. My sister's friend recently rescued 6 puppies who were being left outside in this freezing winter. They are now at her home and one by one they are being adopted. Bravo I say...and if that woman was in her right mind she just might thank you for taking something off her plate...just wish more things could be done for the abandoned and forgotten. And as for the story of the young boy....makes me sick. That poor boy. I will be watching ever so much more closely when I see screaming coming from a child and I will be teaching my children to yell out for help...that they are being kidnapped by a stranger. Such a powerful post. And those pictures are stunning in such a striking way! All the best this week friend! Nicole

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    1. I am so glad that you are going to teach your kids what to do in such circumstances Nicole! I wonder if the boy had made his situation clearer, if he had screamed out the right words people would have recognized the situation for what it was.

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  7. It sounds like the poor neighbor could really use some help. I guess it's easier to help a dog than a person.

    All three very hard stories & very hard choices. I hope we always reach out to help people. I've experienced both situations myself, finding a man passed out drunk in the park & dealing with an overwhelmed neighbor whose pets were neglected because of other traumas in the family. Sometimes the hardest thing is overlooking the very bad to reach the person & help them change. Many people just walk on by any more & don't give someone else's pain a second thought. I'm so glad there are those who stop & help.

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    1. One of the things I begged the SPCA to do was to show some compassion. I was hoping that they would help her out by providing a solution to her problems with the dog. She had enough on her plate already. The dog was one thing to many.
      If I had know her better I might have helped out myself, but I had never had so much as a conversation with her. The only acquaintance we had was with her husband, who we occasionally ran into when he was better and was out walking their dog. One of my neighbours who did know her tried to help out. But even she could only do so much.
      The whole situation was difficult and I agonized over what to do.

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  8. Such moral dilemmas you have presented us with Jennifer and such sad tales - I hope I would have reacted in the same way as you with the dog in fact I'm sure I would. Your photographs are hauntingly beautiful. Helping one's fellow man in this day and age is particularly difficult when you are just as likely to find yourself at knifepoint for your trouble.

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    1. That is true Elaine. The man who abducted the boy was seriously disturbed. He had been out of prison for a matter of days when he did this evil dead. Our prison system here in Canada is not well equipped to deal with the mentally ill. Even people with less serious mental illness have a shortest stay in hospital, are giving drugs and then shipped out to go back into the community with minimal assistance. Often they neglect to take their medication and end up homeless on the street. It makes me very sad.

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  9. I don't know if anyone could say in advance what they would do in a given situation. I know what I hope I would do, but would I?
    Fabulous photos of the river and valley. It sure does not look like that by the lake where I live.

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    1. My husband is always the type that would step up to the plate no matter what. He is just that kind of guy. I am shyer and more introspective. I worry what people will think, if I am doing the right thing and that makes me hesitate. I admire my husband for being brave and sometimes even a bit foolish when he steps into harm's way. Perhaps between the two of us there is a good balance of caution and willingness to step forward no matter what.

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  10. options and choices..... its alright to to keep looking back and ask "what if", but the journey is always forward to meet more options and choices.

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    1. Bangchik and Kakdah, You always want to hope that you will do the right thing in any situation involving another's distress.

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  11. Jennifer girl .. this was a very thought provoking post. First ... these pictures were stunning, you live in a beautiful area.
    What to do in situations like these ... how do we know how we will react in advance ?
    We all want to do the right thing .. for the dog I would have absolutely called, no question. I am sorry the woman was in such a sad situation. The odd thing is that your identity should never have been revealed. That is SOP ..
    The man lying in the field .. yes .. police should be called for his own sake.
    The tragedy of the little boy ... heart breaking .. I just don't know, like you said we jump to the conclusion the little boy was just being obstinate ? difficult ? I have no idea .. it just leaves me so sad thinking of it all.
    Joy

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    1. Joy, Complaints to the SPCA are supposed to be confidential, but that certainly wasn't the case here. Her first words to me were to thank me for calling the SPCA on her. I could have tried to talk to her in the first place, but I felt that she would just tell me to but out. I had no authority. To her I was just a meddling neighbour. I felt the SPCA did have the authority to question her neglect. The scene she made was embarrassing, but I did what I thought had to be done for the dog.

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  12. It can really be a fine line we all walk when we witness something out of the ordinary. It's odd that we see so much violence and evil on TV, but when faced with a situation just a little out of the ordinary we can't understand it, or don't want to try to understand it. It's hard to know what each of us would have done in the situation with the young boy ... so heartbreaking. I always feel to bring in the authorities is the best thing. They have more training with respect to human behavior than I do. I would like to think that I would have alerted someone to call the police if I saw something like that, but whose to say I too wouldn't assume it was a misbehaving boy like so many others assumed. I think you did the right thing with the dog. No matter what agony the owner was going through, she obviously was unable to properly care for the dog, and to have him away from the home was best. She obviously didn't like being "found out" by her neighbours, and was probably lashing out at you because she felt humiliated. But I have to agree with Joy (above) that your identity shouldn't have been revealed.

    I've taken a lot of CPR courses over the years, but one in particular stood in my mind the strongest. We didn't do a lot of "counting pushes on the chest etc", but the message was strongly to "STEP UP TO THE PLATE". If you see someone in distress, go to them and try to help. Surprisingly, there were several people at the course who had witnessed people choking (and dying!) because they were too afraid to go to their aid. Often the thought of helping someone even gagging on food disgusts us and we don't want to be there. But I think this message can apply to these situations too. If you see something amiss ... help out ... whether it's calling the authorities, or calling to someone walking by to help you ... do something because it could be you lying on the ground one day, and maybe you just slipped and banged your head, but you've got to hope that someone will stop to offer a helping hand.
    Wendy x

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    1. One of the sad things about the mall abduction was that it all happened so fast. It took the boy's abductor only minutes to walk out of the mall. Police were called and a search began, but as so often in these cases the boy was dead within a few hours.
      I heard a radio article regarding the percentage of people how die of cardiac arrest while waiting for paramedics to arrive- its high. Immediate care is usual required to make it through these situations. Too often people foolishly worry that they will get CPR all wrong and do more harm than good.
      Wendy, you are so right when you suggest that people sound act in a way that they would wish someone else to do if they were in a situation of distress.

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  13. There is a quote (and I forgot who said it), but it goes something like this...
    Do all that you can, in the time that you have, in the place that you are.
    We never know what we would do when faced with these situations, until we are actually IN a situation.

    Just my opinion, but I think what you did for that poor dog was the absolute best. They simply don't have a voice. xo.

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    1. That is a great quote Lisa. It is sage advice. The poor dog didn't have a voice or anyone's attention most of the time. I still worry I might have done something better- what I'm not sure- but I was very glad to know that that sweet little dog went to another home.

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  14. First of all, these pictures are of an outstanding beauty, I like them all. Then the dilemmas, it is often difficult how to handle in a critical situation, we think and make choices hoping to have done the best thing possible for humans and/or animals.

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    1. Janneke, I like to think that most people try to do good and very often someone does step forward.

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  15. I'm glad the dog got a new home, he needed one.

    What a tragic story about the boy. Today I would hope at least one person would at least snap a picture and call the police, at the very least.

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    1. It was a hard decision to call the SPCA and the scene the drunken owner made was embarrassing, but it was all worth it knowing that dog might be in a happier home where he would not be neglected.

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  16. You made the right choice with the dog, even though the owner didn't agree. She didn't care as much for the dog as she wanted you to think she did. She was just 'saving face'. Fear of the unknown is a powerful force that prevents people from making a choice in crisis situations. They don't know what will happen if they do intervene. I think it's important to ask ourselves how would we need people to react if we were in the situation of the person in question. No easy answers. Gorgeous photos to accompany an equally evocative post.

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    1. I think you make a good point Tammy. If I had been the daughter of the man lying in the rain, I might have been upset about having to lug down to the police station, but I would also be grateful that someone had seen to it that he wasn't lying out in the cold and rain. And who knows, if someone had stepped forward, maybe there might have been a happier ending to the story about the little boy.

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  17. It's hard to step out of one's own life and someone's possible messy/tragic/dangerous situation. I'm glad you made a call and got help for the dog, and I'm glad you stayed with the man until the police came. If only people had stepped in to help the little boy - there would have been no terribly tragic story.

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    1. It would have been dangerous for someone to have confronted the man abducting the boy, but if I was his mother I would have wanted someone to have the courage to do so. I also wonder if things might have gone differently if the boy had made his distress clearer to onlookers. How do you teach a child that kind of thing though? I am not sure where you would begin.

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  18. It is such a difficult question isn't it? A few years back while driving with friends on our way to dinner we witnessed a man fall down in front of a store. There were people around but no one stopped to help. I kept looking in the rear view mirror and just had to turn around. The neighbor hood's not the best so two of us approached the man and asked if we could help. He appeared to be drunk but . . . something didn't seem right. Long story short, the man was disabled and ill. Thankfully the police cam to help. Sharing your story and beautiful picuters on my blog this Friday. :D

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    1. One of the things that crossed my mind when we approached the man in the park is that a stroke can result in slurred speech. The beer can seemed to be a good indication that he was drunk, but you never know. I am glad that you turned around to help the man in front of the store. I wish others had stopped, but all it takes sometimes is for someone to step up and lend assistance.

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  19. Heavy stories and heavy situations. Glad some of them had happy or at least non-fatal endings. The one about the little boy at the Mall broke my heart.

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  20. So hard in some situations to know when to step forward and when to step back. there are lots of grey areas and I guess that they are the hardest to call. I suppose the biggest regrets would come from NOT doing something, rather than doing it.

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  21. I think that you did the right thing, in both very difficult situations. As for the poor child, what a heartbreak. We had a similar situation where a young woman was abducted in broad daylight, many cars drove by watching her struggle for her life...no one stopped. She was taken into the bush, and murdered...broad daylight, in a public place. It was heartbreakingly sad.

    Jen

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  22. Such difficult situations, and even harder to know what to do when you must decide quickly. I think you handled both the old man and the dog very well. Although I'm sure the dog owner was upset, you did what was best for the dog. As for the mall abduction, what a tragic story. It's especially sad that no one stopped to help--I would like to think I would have done something, but it's hard to know how you might react in a situation like this, especially when you aren't sure of what is really happening.

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  23. Thanks for his mid-winter mental stimulation. You did the right thing by the dog and the man, and the story of the abducted boy is heart wrenching. Several weeks ago a young lady who is friends with my son took her own life. Since then I have gone out of my way to keep up with his whereabouts and am being almost intrusive when it comes to his attitude, which is difficult for a 16 year old growing up fast, though I think he knows why I've been that way. I know he has been hurt from losing a good friend in such a way, but I think he will be fine and hopefully has gained some strength from it. I just don't ever want to be as regretful as the mother in the bathroom.

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  24. Wow those are some perplexing stories. I would not go near a stray or a body without intervention...too many stories like the last one. But I would intervene much like you did....you did what was best for the man and the dog.

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