I was just fine until I watched the video in its entirety.

The dog bounds out of the car with unleashed enthusiasm and not a care in the world. She runs a big circle in that crazy grinning way dogs have when it’s play time, tail whipping from side to side because by God, life is good.

Even when the minivan pulls away, the dog’s glee is apparent. This must be part of the game! She gives chase, no doubt confident that her people would never leave her. Surely they’ll stop at any moment, and they’ll all run around the empty parking lot, jumping and laughing in the cold winter night. It’s good to be a dog!

You know, until it’s not.

Watching the now-infamous video, one wonders at what point grim reality occurred to the dog we know as Abby. Was it when the brake lights faded to dim red eyes in the distance? Was it when the van turned that final corner and disappeared forever from view?

It’s impossible to know, of course but surely that time came. Surely, there was one horrible moment when the heartbreaking truth revealed itself her people were gone and they were never coming back.

By now, thousands upon thousands of us have speculated with empathy on the sad final hours of Abby. 

“I can’t get that vision of the dog chasing after the vehicle out of my head,” one woman wrote on the Humane Society Facebook page. “It truly makes my heart hurt.”

Empathy is what makes us mourn for men or beasts we’ve never even met. When we watched Abby’s world crumble in front of us, we could imagine in all-too-vivid detail the agony of loneliness; the bite of the bitter January night; the uncertainty of a life without the people whom we have so devotedly loved.

When it comes to the weaker parts of our society the very young, the very old, the pets who depend on us even the mildest-mannered folks can turn savagely protective. We don’t want to see the helpless abused and who can argue that abandoning a dog in a cold parking lot is not abuse?

It’s not surprising in the least that the sad fate of Abby so galvanized the community. It’s not surprising that empathy morphed into white-hot (and at times, irrational) rage against this person who so disregarded the happiness and well-being of a good dog.

Back in November, a North Carolina woman drew the wrath of the world after posting photos of her chocolate Lab with duct tape wrapped around its snout.

“This is what happens when you don’t shut up!” was the message she posted.

 Hoo boy! Was that a mistake.

The 44-year-old woman was ultimately charged with animal cruelty, but I’d wager that the criminal charges were nothing compared to the public lashing she suffered when her post went viral.

She was hounded (pardon the pun) from all corners of the globe as animal lovers everywhere demanded justice. She was called every name imaginable and threatened with untold violence. She was ostracized to the point where she had to go into hiding and this was a woman police described as a responsible pet owner.

Sadly, it would be difficult to describe the person who deserted Abby as a responsible anything. It was cold, it was cruel and it ultimately resulted in the death of a dog whom we all saw so merrily bounding from that minivan, eager to play.

The entire community mourned the death of Abby, and I think it’s to our credit that we did it so loudly. Whenever you get to thinking that people are generally heartless and indifferent, take a look at how we react to stories like this one. The outrage was universal, as it should be.

It’s no fun to wonder about Abby’s final hours, in the grip of freezing cold and hunger. Did she perk up at the sight of each passing vehicle, hoping with all her heart that it was her family returning at last?

It isn’t pleasant to engage in these thoughts, but we do it anyway, because most of us still have hearts and if nothing else comes from this sad affair, at least we’ve confirmed that much.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer with a heart of gold. Email him at [email protected] 

As you many of you know, our staff and volunteers have been actively searching for this dog that was abandoned outside of our facility on Monday evening. Unfortunately during our morning search the dog was found hit by a car near the off ramp of the bridge. A sad morning here at GAHS with the passing of this dog, but we are determined to figure out who dropped this dog off at our facility. If you have any leads, please contact Animal Control through the police department. Thank you to our staff, volunteers and members of the public who helped us try to bring this dog back to safety. You are all greatly appreciated.

Posted by Greater Androscoggin Humane Society on Thursday, January 28, 2016

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