Yesterday started off with drama. Picked up a rental truck so I could start the move. That’s reason enough to cry because everyone knows just how miserable it is to be an American and buy so much unnecessary shit and then have to move it from place to place. Just terrible. Anyways, back to my story, please don’t interrupt again. On the way back from the rental location, the gps in the wife’s car takes her on an illogical route which I elect not to take. Fine. Ten minutes later, she calls me and I can’t understand a word because she’s sobbing so hard. Never a good sign.
If you knew my wife, you’d know that she was a soft spot for animals like most people do for power and money. She just can’t help herself. And on this morning she saw a dog limping along the side of the highway and couldn’t go past without helping. So she picks up a dog with what she thought was two broken legs. And then she called me.
I piloted the moving truck halfway across town to meet her in a parking lot. I’m not happy about this – I’ve got a very long day of moving heavy objects in the hot sun. One look at the dog’s face and I realize that I have no choice but to help. She had only a rabies tag, so we called our vet and they were able to track down the owner.
Owner calls us back to tell us that he is not the owner, just some guy who found the dog 18 months ago and tried to clean her up. And he says her name is Scatchy. Not sure what kind of name that is. Very strange. We hang up with the guy and drive the dog to our regular vet. I carry her into the vet because she is unable to walk on her own, getting two steps and then falling over. I see why she’s so thin – being so immobile is no way to track down food. Inside the vet she lays down on my feet and looks up at me with cloudy eyes. For a “stray”, she’s got an abundance of soul and a wonderful disposition. Very affectionate. I look back wondering how it is that this dog has come into my life. I don’t have the time or money to nurse a sick dog back to health. Both of my dogs have been to the vet enough times this year to fund his third home in the islands. I hear it’s nice.
This stray dog, Scatchy, is stealing my heart. The vet tech is very accommodating and takes us all into the back. Never been back there…I was expecting one of the usual exam rooms (I know the place very well). I carry Scatchy into a room with a leather couch, linoleum floor and two boxes of tissues. Oh shit. I put her down gently on the floor and she resumes her position on my feet. I run my hand under her chin and give a gentle scratch along the chest and neck.
The vet comes in and gets right down on the floor with her. He looks her over. No teeth. None. Both back legs have no cartilage in the knees. When he extends the leg fully, she can’t bend it on her own. No control. Signs of parasites. Fleas. They got her records from the vet who had last seen her 18 months ago…and it wasn’t good news. Heartworm. I knew where this was going. She was old, she’d seen quite a lot, yet I still harbored some inane idea of helping rehab this dog. The vet could see this on my face and let me know the real situation through the look he gave me. She was in terrible shape. I knew it. I didn’t want to believe it, but I knew it would be better for to call it a day. I signed the form and they brought back a syringe. She was really dehydrated so finding a suitable vein took four tries. Scatchy looked up at me, calmly, expectantly. She coudn’t know how close she was to the end…and that knowledge was eating my insides with every passing second. I held her head and ran my hand across her bony shoulders. When they finally got a vein, and the blood gushed back into the syringe, my sobbing increased. I held her a little tighter, feeling like the angel of death, signing her papers because I thought her life had gone past the point of hope. I felt like a traitor, exploiting her trust and gentle spirit to bring her to this place of death. When the plunger was fully gone, Scatchy let out a big sigh and let her head rest on the floor. I kept my hands on her…and within seconds, she was gone. I didn’t know what to expect, but this was so very fast. No more heartbeat, no more breath. I suppose this was better than her being hit by a car, or picked off by a larger animal.
The vet stepped out to leave us alone with the dog we had known for an hour. I kept my hands on her and cried some more. Why the hell did this happen to me? Why this day? Why this dog? I’m pretty far from a religious person, but I understand why such moments push people to look for a better answer than “this is how it works.”
Scatchy will be remembered far longer than I actually knew her.