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It’s hard to believe she had started to go through death’s door in 2013, just two years ago.
A big thank you to all who believed we could, as a team save this girl.
And a really big round of applause to the family who adopted her and love her.
This is what makes rescue worth the tears.
I didn’t get what I wanted.
There were two lab mixes at an area shelter that I had planned on picking up and bringing home with me to place in our adoption program. I had interacted with them both a few days earlier, and I told the employees of the animal shelter that I’d be back for them. Using a thick black marker, an employee had written on their kennel tags: “Rescue: Petsconnect.”
I returned and visited with them again. We were ready to move them to my van when one of the employees said, “Did you see the little white dog?”
I had not seen the little white dog, so I followed an employee down one hall and then another, and there, in one of the employee offices, was the saddest, most pitiful-looking dog I’d seen in a long, long while. She was small, maybe 5 pounds, perhaps a Maltese or Poodle mix and probably white – but that was hard to tell since she was covered in her own vomit. A small electric heater blew warmth over her body.
In this moment, I wrestled with my compassion for this small creature. She is clearly knocking on death’s door. The costs required to bring her into our program – financial, emotional, volunteer – all add up. The cost of helping this one dog seemed high compared with the many that could be helped with the same resources. Was she worth it?
After all, the little white dog looked dead. I wasn’t even sure she would make it to the vet to be checked out. When I picked her up, her body flopped over my arms like a rag doll. I rather doubt she knew how bad she smelled.
It’s these situatins – when compassion wages war on the practicality of limited resources – that my volunteer work with the rescue becomes gruelling. The odds were against this pathetic dog. Two labs were waiting for me. Healthy dogs that wouldn’t rack up high vet bills, dogs that would easily be adopted by new families. It only made sense. It was only logical. I should leave her behind, move on.
But I couldn’t.
We named little white dog Jillian. I took her straight to the vet where she received fluids, drugs, and had blood drawn. Once home, I bathed her. I had to hold up her head so she didn’t drown. We set her up in our bathroom with water and a bed so we could check on her often. She was listless and wouldn’t be bothered by the curious, sniffing noses of the other dogs. While I hand-fed her special canned food, I couldn’t help but wonder if I made a mistake.
But then, the next day, she picked up her head, sort of. It seemed the only way her head would work was twisted to one side, like she was trying to look over her back. She ate a little on her own. Within days, she was up on all four legs and moving but only in tight circles. I was sure she had a brain injury.
Four days after I brought Jillian home, she went back to the vet. The blood work showed that all her body organs were functioning. X-rays revealed no broken bones. What the vet did find was that she had an infection in her uterus. This infection had raged out of control, creating a toxic condition. She needed to be spayed immediately, and she was.
Every day we watch Jillian improve: what began as walking in circles quickly became walking until she hit wall, and soon, walking to get from place to place. Those first few days her eyes were glazed, and she did not recognize anything, including me. One afternoon, I spoke to Jillian, expecting the same disconnection, the same lethargy. But she looked at me, took me in, studied me.
Often, we don’t get what we want. But just as often, what we end up with brings us what we need. I guess what I needed was a miracle. I needed to see that life rebounds joyously, to know that, at least sometimes, compassion pays in ways that practicality and resources can never measure. Those things, after all, can’t always account for people, people who will set aside their needs, their schedules, and their own resources to save a small, helpless, stinky five-pound dog. Why? Because it just seemed right. And it’s moments like that which make me glad I chose to be involved in rescue.
The two lab mixes? I did go back and get them, of course. And that is another story.