Friday, August 27, 2010

Animal Heaven - Part I

This post is presented in two parts because it is much too long to read at one sitting. I do hope you will read it all the way through; the message is worth it. Thank you for stopping by. Please, please feel free to comment - I love to hear what my readers have to say!

If there is a Heaven I know just what I want to do for eternity. When I arrive at the gate and the gatekeeper hands out assignments, I hope he/she sends me to be the assistant of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis is legendary for his love and dedication to animals. This morning as I sat in my own little heaven, surrounded by my menagerie of pets, I knew that to be among animals and to be responsible for their care would be a job I could do forever. In Heaven the animals would never suffer, there would be plenty of love and food galore, and none would ever want for anything. I wish it were the same here on earth.

I shield myself from exposure to sad things when it comes to animals; that means I don’t go to animal shelters and I turn the channel when ads or programs show abused animals. I step up, however, when I’m confronted with an animal in need. I have come to the rescue of more animals in my lifetime than I can count. It started as a young child when I came across a nest of baby birds or rabbits. In my naiveté I assumed because the mommy was gone the babies had been abandoned. I would take them home and try to care for them only to have them die. That was my first lesson in letting nature do her job without interference – sometimes. Nature is both giving and cruel, as are people, and without help, sometimes the weakest become the most vulnerable and suffer at the hands of both. This was never more apparent to me then a recent trip through the magnificently beautiful, yet harsh land of the Four Corners region of the United States.

On my way to Mesa Verde National Park I stopped at a McDonalds for a break. There was a black lab dog running through the parking lot. Suddenly I heard both a motorbike and barking and when I looked up I saw the dog chasing the bike as it headed out of the lot. Coming in was an SUV, which the dog ran headfirst into; the sound of impact was loud. The dog ran off and I hoped it was okay; needless to say watching it was hard on me. When I headed into the restaurant I saw the dog; it was sitting next to its apparent owner. “Sir,” I said, “your dog just got hit by a car!” His response shocked and disgusted me, “That’s okay, its happened before. It’s a good lesson for him.” The dog looked okay but I know he had to be injured. As there was nothing more I could do I walked away but have thought about that poor creature many times since. My next encounter was just as difficult for me to forget.

Stopping at a gas station I encountered around seven adult dogs sitting in the bay areas. They were skinny and panting; some I could see were nursing mothers. They were obviously looking for handouts so of course I complied giving each of them a bit of beef jerky. I wasn’t as worried about them as I knew they were old enough to fend for themselves, especially when fools for animals like me happened by. It was the next stop on my way back home that has caused me the most distress both emotionally and financially.

It was by chance that I stopped at one of the many remote outposts where the Native People set up plywood booths to sell their wares. When I let my own dogs out for a stretch I soon lost sight of them. “Where are my dogs?” I asked aloud. A young girl behind a counter said, “They are trying to play with this abandoned puppy.” Uh oh. Those are words that I can’t hear. “May I see?” I asked. Under the stand was a small, frightened pup. I immediately picked it up and held it close. I soon learned that wasn’t such a good idea as upon close inspection I discovered what a poor state the pooch was in: he was loaded, I mean loaded with ticks. From the inside of his ears to every crevice of his body those loathsome parasites were attached. His eyes were crusty as was his shoddily-docked tail.

Picture taken just after rescue on 8-8-10
Upon hearing the words abandoned puppy I already knew I would be taking the animal with me to find a home for it, but when I realized what condition it was in I panicked a bit. How would I transport it in my packed car? The ticks alone, not to mention worry about disease, caused me to rethink my decision. But I knew I could not leave him; there was no way that was an option. It took a bit of thinking but I acted on instinct and did the best I could under the circumstances.

I carry with me Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap, a natural castile soap infused with pure peppermint oil. I asked one of the vendors if anyone had both a bucket and a box. Luckily someone had both. I could see both disdain and compassion on the faces of the people as they watched me go to work. I bathed the puppy hoping the soap would dislodge most of the ticks. Unfortunately, I found I had to remove them by hand, a job I hated doing. But I was determined and just did it. Satisfied I had many of the larger ones off and hoping the soap would work on the others I dried the puppy and placed him in a box lined with paper and towel. I worried about the ride home which would take about four hours. I placed box and all in the very back of my car and set off; stopping once at a store to get food that when presented to the puppy was wolfed down. As difficult and nerve-wracking as the trip was, we made it home. My daughter, another animal caregiver, was waiting with flea and tick shampoo, as well as tweezers and when I handed her the puppy, she picked up where I left off. We weren’t out of the woods yet.

Still worried about the ticks and illness, I kept the puppy outside in a secure area away from our house and pets. The next morning he went to the veterinarian. I explained to the vet that rescue was something I did on a regular basis, meaning I spend a lot of money I can’t afford to spend and that I would need to be very conservative in the treatment. I found a sympathetic ear (a rarity) and considered myself lucky to be charged only $140.00. The treatment included a bath, hand-picking ticks ranging in size from minute to engorged, fluids for severe dehydration, and deworming. When I brought the little guy home, and for the next week, he seemed to thrive on several small meals a day and the company of our pack, both human and canine. One week to the day of his rescue, however, he stopped eating and drinking and became lethargic. The next four days were touch-and-go as to whether his valiant effort to survive would work.

Fearing he was carrying the dreaded dog disease of Parvo or distemper I kept him isolated. I left him alone for the first day, not forcing any food or liquid on him, taking him out to urinate and see if diarrhea followed. Thankfully it didn’t.

Feeling very unwell 8-17-10
By the third day he was on Pedialyte® for rehydration but felt he needed more fluids than I could provide. Another trip to the vet and a decision came next. The vet that first saw the puppy was off and the one that examined him showed little compassion for the situation. All I wanted was for the puppy to be placed on fluids to give it a boost. The estimate to do so was $233.00. I declined and took him home to carry on my own treatment and hope for the best. My instincts and experience paid off.

I was pretty sure the puppy was not stricken with a disease; he showed none of the aggressive symptoms. Rather, I believed that the procedures he was subjected to were too much for his malnourished and weak body to process. I was right. By the fourth day I incorporated food along with the liquids. He had no interest in eating so using a syringe and liquefied dog food, along with the high-calorie food supplement Nutri-Cal, I force fed him. By the evening of the fourth day he was perking up. Although his body has suffered (you can see his rib and hip bones), I knew if I progressed slowly he just might make it. By morning he was spry, playfully chasing a ball and our dogs and cats. He ate brown rice and cooked chicken all on his own.

Feeling much better and ready to play 8-26-10
With a lot of small meals and lots of love and exercise, I think we’ll have a healthy, happy puppy on our hands. This, of course, is the last thing I need! With the number of dogs and cats (many of them “fixed” ferals), and a pig, I don’t need another mouth to feed or dog to care for, but I am not sure I can part with one whose story I am so wrapped up in. So, I’ve done what I do best and came up with a way to use this opportunity for good.


1 comment:

Debbie said...

What a great story! Glad we connected so I can visit your site and enjoy your blogs.