Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rescuing Shadow


Last week I had the privilege of riding along with ACO Marcie while out in the field. We did the usual stops: dropping off animals at the vet's office, picking up animals at the vet's office, scooping up dead animals that normal people don't want to pick up themselves, leaving notices on doors, looking for 'at large' dogs, stopping at Berkeley Bowl for iced tea and potato chips (wait! Forget that last one!). All in all, it was a very mellow, very easy day. Until about an hour before our return to the shelter.

We had one last stop to make - simply a follow up visit with a family to make sure that they had purchased a license for their dog.

Marcie and I pull up to the apartment building, park and get out to look around the property. Out of the corner of my eye I see that the fenced in yard is full of debris: broken furniture, car parts, a few garbage bags. When we go into the building to speak with the owner, I am surprised when he leads us outside to the 'junk yard' to show us his dog because I was expecting the dog to greet us at the door. In the junk yard, I notice a small, dark hut in the far corner of the fenced in yard. "How could I not have seen that there before?" I thought. The closer we get to the hut, the stronger the smell of dog food and urine becomes. There are a few ratty blankets laying outside the shack, but it looks empty.

The owner whistles to his dog and that's when I first saw Shadow.

Shadow gingerly wobbled out of the hut, tail between her legs, head down, feet shuffling along the ground. She wagged her tail slightly when she saw her person coming to say hello to her. But standing was too much for her and she tipped over. Trying to steady herself, she walked diagonally towards him as he knelt down to give her a big kiss on her head. The man held her as he told us about her.

Marcie, who had already met Shadow 2 months earlier, was concerned by Shadow's appearance and condition. Upon her last visit, Marcie found Shadow to be playful, bouncy, puppyish, and happy. Her coat was full and glossy and her belly was nice and round. Now Shadow looked thin, distressed, and most importantly, in pain.

"Why is she limping?" I asked the man. He proceeded to tell Marcie and I how 1 month earlier, Shadow had been kicked by 4 teenage boys that were passing by their property. Shadow was protecting her family and barking at potential intruders, when one of the boys kicked Shadow in her back through a hole in the fence. Since that incident, she had not been doing well, he said. By this time, I had settled on the pavement next to Shadow, gently petting her neck and head. She slowly crawled into my lap and shivered there, whimpering ever so softly. After only a few strokes on her back, my hands were covered in dirt and my arms itchy with fleas.

"Has she been to see a vet?" Marcie asked. Shadow's person informed us that he had 5 children, one of them a new born, and could not afford another expensive vet visit (Shadow has been spayed several months earlier after having a litter). I told the man that I understood his situation. The children and his family must come first, it's as simple as that. The next choice, however, was not going to be as simple. Marcie knew that Shadow needed to see a vet to determine the severity of the damage, but would the man let us take her?

Holding Shadow in my arms as she shivered in fear and discomfort, my heart was breaking at the thought of leaving her behind without anything to ease her pain. Marcie convinced the owner that Shadow needed to see a vet and that the only way she was going to see one was if she went to the shelter. By now, the rest of the man's family had joined us outside. The children were coming up to Shadow and I, scratching her ears and kissing her face. Shadow's owner had a difficult decision to make: surrender Shadow to the shelter so that she will be healthy and pain free or keep her because they love her, even if they can't afford the treatment she needs.

After a long talk, the family agreed that as much as they loved Shadow (they cried as they helped carry her/place her into the truck), they could not give her what she needed. Although I am glad that they acted in what I believe in is Shadow's best interest, I can imagine how difficult it would be to make such a decision. The children ran behind the truck as we drove away with their dog and I could hear Shadow's soft whimpers from behind me.

On our return to the shelter, Marcie and I placed Shadow in a kennel with a kuranda bed, fluffy blankets, and a bowl of wet food. I held her for a few minutes and told her everything was going to be okay. The following day she was going to be going to the vet's office and we would see where we would go from there.

I didn't see her again until this past Saturday. She was the first dog I went to see that day and I'm so glad I did. I went to her kennel and she recognized me almost instantly. She sprung out of her kuranda bed (despite her injury) and then wobbled over to the door to greet me. She immediately nuzzled her head next to my neck and I could feel her muscles relaxing as she settled in my lap. Glad that she remembered me, I felt comfortable trying to give her a bath. Although a little uncomfortable and not quite sure what to make of the bath, she did fine.

Brown water trickled down the drain as I rinsed the shampoo and cream rinse out of her black, glossy coat. A 20 minute hot bath with lots of bubbles was a first for her, I think. I towel dried her, using fresh towels from the dryer. And then brought an extra large blanket to snuggle on in her kennel. After I knew she was dry, warm, and comfortable - I thought it was time to try our first walk together.

At first I went slowly, worried that her legs/back would begin to feel uncomfortable if we went to far or too fast. But surprisingly, Shadow's spirits lifted once outside in the fresh air. She rolled in the grass, sniffed everything in sight, and looked back at me every so often to see that I was still by her side. Her tail wagged gently from side to side as we made our way to Aquatic Park. Along the way, we rested at a park bench and Shadow wiggled underneath my legs and settled herself between my knees. She rested her chin on my knee and breathed a deep sigh. Of relief, perhaps?

When we arrived in the park, we sat on the warm grass next to the play ground and simply enjoyed eachother's company. Shadow was nothing but sweet, gentle, and grateful. She continued to look up at me with her deep brown eyes and I saw a tenderness in them that I absolutely fell in love with. After several minutes basking in the sun, we returned to the shelter and I helped her get settled in her kennel.

I have already grown so attached and so fond of this wonderful, delightful, perfectly resilient girl that I wish only the best things for her. Slowly healing and taking medication for her pain, she is getting everything that she needs before she finally finds a home that is worthy of her.


Asia said...

This story nearly brought me to tears, Sam. It's painful to imagine the things Shadow has gone through thus far, but it's great that she has someone to depend on, someone that can help her heal mentally and someone to be there to help her heal physically.


Barbara said...

I brought Shadow into the play area yesterday because it was raining heavily outside. She is a sweet affectionate dog and we had great fun playing fetch. She will even drop her toy when you tell her to. She ran back and forth chasing the toy and wagging her tail, thrilled to have someone playing with her. I really believe this story will have a happy ending and Shadow will find a loving family to adopt her.

lahdeedah said...

Hi Sam,

We're the mom and daughter who were at the shelter last Saturday to see Shadow. We came back on Sunday, too.

We fell in love with Shadow and want to bring her home! I called Monday and Wednesday to check on her vet visit, and I was told to call back today. She was at the vet when I called.

We will call first thing in the morning. We don't want to miss our opportunity to have this sweet brown-eyed girl come live with us and our border collie Margie (a Milo adoptee).

Jill and Katie

Pam said...

Hi Jill and Katie, I was the volunteer who brought Violet to meet you. Shadow has been walking better with each day, so we are hopeful about her prognosis. She still wasn't back from the vet when we left today, but there should be some information tomorrow, first thing. I think she would feel very safe and loved with you. Thank you for opening your hearts to her and for wanting to bring her into your family.

lahdeedah said...

Hi Pam!

We hope to see you today or tomorrow. Thank you!

BTW, I loved your heartfelt post about "Lady."