We line up at the front door, first me, then the officers, animal control and the paramedics last. I unlocked the door, turned the handle, then turned back toward everyone and said, “I’m going in!” Which made all of us laugh. I cracked open the door and yelled “Dad, are you ok?” He yelled back from the back bedroom “NO!” It was a huge relief to know that he was alive. But the dogs were going crazy. With my mace, I go as quickly as I can through the kitchen and out to the garage. The dogs followed. When they were all in the garage, I ran back into the kitchen and closed the garage door. I yelled to everyone that the coast was clear. Immediately, the officers stepped aside making way for the paramedics to get to the back bedroom. The house was too small for me to be in a place where I could see what was happening. I waited in the kitchen, looking around. I realized that the dogs had been locked in the house with him. They had no food or water and there was feces and urine everywhere. The smell was nauseating. My dad had become a hoarder and his house was disgusting to the point where I hadn’t gone in for several months. But this was a new level of revolting.
They ended up taking my dad out in a gurney. He looked terrible, pale, and weak, his hair all over the place, his beard matted. They took him to the hospital for evaluation where he stayed for a few days. I remained at the house to feed and water the dogs. The animal control person said that I could be charged for elder abuse for letting him live like this. I turned on the lights and locked up the house before heading to the hospital.
The prognosis was dehydration. Nothing broken, nothing else wrong with him. A miracle. When I finally got to see him, he said that he fell off the bed and couldn’t get up. His phone was on the other side of the room, and he was too weak to crawl to get it. I asked why the neighbor had thought he was fine. He said that the neighbor had asked if he was inside and he said yes, thinking he would come to his aid. Instead, the neighbor assumed he was ok, thus delaying a rescue.
I had known this day was coming. Earlier in the year he and I had toured assisted living places. I found out that he was getting lost when driving around town, a town he had lived in since he was 15. He liked Oakmont of Fresno the best but refused to go because of his dogs. I asked if I could begin trying to rehome them which he wouldn’t consider. I said that there would be an event that would force him to move. This was the event. I called and made the arrangements to have him moved directly to the facility from the hospital.
I had taken pictures of all the dogs and posted on social media that they needed new homes. After two days, I gave up and was left with no choice. I called the SPCA and asked if they could come pick them up. They met me at the house and together we managed to get them all into their vehicle. Again, I had the neighbors standing in their front yards watching the scene. And believe me, it was a scene. I told him I was thankful for his help, without him I would have had to just open the front door and let them out. My next problem was his house. With the dogs there, no one would dare break in, but now they were gone, and everyone knew it. I asked my mother to help me get all the valuables out before dark. We took the guns, ammunition, jewelry, etc. We agreed to come back the next day with her cleaning lady and my husband to go through the massive amount of junk to make sure there wasn’t anything else of value. When we arrived the next morning, we realized that the house had been broken into but there was so much clutter that it was impossible to know if they had taken anything. We worked all day and determined that we had found anything of value. We then hired a contractor to come in, clear everything out and pull up the carpet. After about a week, and four full size roll-offs filled, the house was in condition to renovate or sell. We sold it without having to list it. With the dogs and house out of my care, I had more time to focus on settling him into his new home. There was very little in his house that was salvageable. Over the years he had amassed collections of magazines, toys, etc. Unfortunately, he hadn’t stored anything properly rending all his collections useless. I had to purchase nearly everything for his apartment at Oakmont. Just as he seemed settled and content, COVID came along and forced him into quarantine. I was grateful that he was safe, being cared for and eating well. I don’t think he would have fared well otherwise.