Yesterday, like many times before, I was following up on a request to help rescue a stray dog. It came from Amanda, a FB follower in Baker. She reported that a very skittish, apparently pregnant, female had been roaming in the area of her mother’s home for the past several weeks. Our fear was that she would have her puppies this weekend during the very cold and wet weather conditions. After checking the layout of the area, I quickly saw that it was going to take more than one of us, if we were to catch her. Her normal hang out spots had too many places she could run. I left food & met with Amanda’s mom, Wendy. Wendy had been feeding her for weeks & was very concerned about her situation. Wendy reported that the dog was staying at night in the backyard of one of the many empty homes in the once vibrant residential neighborhood.
Per usual, my first call was to my rescue buddy, Doug Wayne. Doug was working but told me he’d come help after he got home. Doug & I have been on rescue missions before. In fact, some of the very first pups we adopted out from Must Luv Dogs were a result of one of these. Big Mamie, Hamilton & Lil’Bit (Andie), to name a few. I donned Doug “the dog whisperer” or “Super Doug” years ago. He can catch pretty much any stray he sets his mind to catch. It takes patience sometimes. But he never gives up.
Fast forward a few hours & Doug & I were scoping out the backyard of the empty home. Doug was going further into a grown up area to see if he could find where the dog may lay up at night. I decided to go back to my truck to get my rope leash when I spotted her sitting across the street. By this time Amanda, Wendy’s daughter, showed up to help. Doug soon came through from the back yard with his catch pole and began approaching her. As soon as she realized what was happening, she predictably bolted. I stood closer to the street to make sure she wouldn’t double back & bolt into traffic. Amanda helped pursue this sweet frightened soul as she gave chase. In the end, Doug, caught up with her in a ditch area where she got stuck in a small fenced area. I went back to help Doug retrieve her and we all climbed our way out of the long overgrown ditch area. We had noticed earlier that she was limping badly. Another neighbor confirmed that she’d been hit by a car a “few days” earlier, as we crossed over his yard headed toward the kennel in my truck. This poor sweet girl was panting and really struggling to breathe. With her very distended tummy, we all assumed she may be in labor. That, along with the fact that she had obvious damage to her hind leg, we made the decision to immediately rush her to the vet clinic.
Doug carried her into the clinic when we arrived. Thinking she was pregnant, we laid her on a blanket on the floor in the back exam room. Dr. Blair was on call and was quickly concerned. Observing that the pup was in very obvious respiratory distress, after a brief exam, Dr. Blair confirmed what was beginning to dawn on us. This was NOT a pregnant dog. Dr. Blair went over our options. Sedation for exploratory surgery wasn’t a option given the condition of the patient. Suspecting a possible spleen rupture, a sonogram revealed her belly was extremely full of blood. Blood also surrounded her heart and lungs, accounting for her breathing difficulties. Based on her teeth, we observed that we were dealing with an approximate 2 year old. I NEVER want to give up on a dog this young so I asked Dr. Blair if she would attempt to draw some of the fluid out . Hoping this would relieve some of the respiratory issues and help her to breathe more normally, thereby making it possible to perform surgery. Sadly, however, the fluid had been built up for so long that it had developed proteins and other filaments making it impossible to extract via tube insertion or syringe. My heart fell because I knew we were out of options.
At this point, I stepped back and looked objectively at this truly beautiful four-legged soul lying before me. Despite being on her own for a very long time, you could see that she once had a beautiful coat of warm brown fur. Her nails were now caked with mud and in dire need of clipping. Doug had earlier observed the nails on each of her dew claws curling back, growing into itself. This, along with her diseased gums and poor skin condition, showed us that this sweet soul had been fending for herself for a VERY long time. Based on her age, I estimated that she’d been alone possibly since she was a young adult. In addition, she was recently missing a paw and her back leg and foot looked possibly fractured. Assuming all of this damage was done with her recent run in with a car, she had been living in much pain and distress for the past several days, her belly slowly filling up with blood and fluid, making her appear to be pregnant. What a fighter! For her to still be alive was a miracle.
As much as I’d like to give this story a happy ending; as happens too many times, it simply isn’t the reality of the situation. As I watched this beautiful soul struggle to draw her next breath, I knew they were waiting for me to make a decision. I also knew that the decision had been taken out of my hands. Selfishly, I wanted to do more. But I couldn’t be selfish to this sweet girl. She deserved peace. She deserved to be out of pain. She deserved so much more than her human in this life gave her. It’s times like these when I feel like punching somebody in the face. I want to find the person who enjoyed this girl as a cute little puppy. The person who laughed and cuddled her cute little fluffy puppy body while she was rolling around on the floor trying to chase a ball. The person who didn’t have time for her after she grew out of that cute puppy stage. The person who hit her too hard in anger when she was teething and chewed up their new sneakers. The person who no longer spent time with the adolescent version of the cute puppy she once was. The person who didn’t take the time to properly house train her or pay attention to her cues when she needed to pee. The same person who threw her out into the cold, wet, night when she peed on the living room floor again, simply because she was confused as to what to do. The person who finally put her in their car, drove across town and dropped her off in the middle of the night. Confused and alone, this beautiful soul couldn’t knock on a door and ask for help. She couldn’t tell someone that her owner “accidentally” left her and she wasn’t sure where to sleep or what to eat. Weeks turned into months while she desperately tried to find “home” again. She was yelled at, shot at, and sometimes chased away by other humans and larger dogs. At first she tried to approach families she saw, hoping maybe they would love her. As time marched on, nobody seemed interested in who she was or where she belonged. Eventually, she became street smart and leery of all humans; learning to recognize them as potential threats to her safety. The initial love she felt from humans was quickly fading from her memory. She rummaged for food and became accustomed to living with hunger pangs and thirst for clean, fresh, water. She found a few, favorite protected spots where she could grab a few hours of sleep without feeling threatened. This is when she became the skittish, but loving dog we just rescued.
As my mind snapped back into reality, I instructed Dr. Blair to put this beautiful soul out of her misery. It never gets easier. It never doesn’t’ make me super sad. As usual, the tears started rolling as I watched this beautiful creature slip out of her mortal, painful, broken body and into the everlasting. Once again, Doug and I discussed the “AT LEASTS”. AT LEAST at the end of her life she knew there were humans who loved her. AT LEAST she didn’t die outside in the cold where nobody would notice. AT LEAST we were there to gently calm her and lay hands on her as she slipped away. AT LEAST she slipped away quickly and her remains will be taken care of humanely. Sometimes, in this world of rescue, AT LEASTS are all we have. We have to learn to accept it and be okay with it. Problem is, I NEVER want to be okay with the fact that people are allowed to own a pet and then discard them like a pair of overly stretched-out socks. But after 55 years of living, I know myself well enough not to let my brain go down that rabbit hole. It will only end in sadness, frustration and more anger. Instead, I decide to name this sweet girl. She deserves better than to slip away anonymously. She deserves to have her name on someone’s lips, being spoken aloud one last time. My mind flashed on the name of the street I first saw her and from where she was rescued. Myrtle Street. Okay, Myrtle. Goodbye Myrtle. RIP Myrtle. I’m sorry Myrtle. This life is a mixed bag. Its full of experiences and people ranging from horrible to joyful. I’m sorry you didn’t get to experience much of the latter. Myrtle, I hope you are running free in a beautiful place. Myrtle, I hope I get to see you again someday & that we can embrace in the glow of pure joy and love. Myrtle, YOU are the reason that I spend my retirement years working in rescue. AT LEAST that is something. Cindy
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Prov. 31:8