Sunday, November 14, 2010

May They All Go Home

I love it when a dog goes home.

I love it when the bouncy, happy puppy goes home, and when the healthy two-year old with no issues goes home. But it's the "special needs" dogs going home that reminds me why I rescue.

Yesterday, a very special pug went home. This blog is about how God, or Fate, led this dog from a terrible, painful and hopeless existence through a series of remarkable people to a one-in-a-million ending that could have been so much different.

The story begins when a woman entered Noah's Ark Veterinary Office carrying a bloody mess of a pug.

"Can you take this dog?" she asked. "I came home from work for lunch and found him in my backyard. I don't know how he got there. I think my dogs may have attacked him."

Dr. Karen Stufflebean was just leaving for lunch. WShen she saw the emergency come through the door, she stayed and instead took the dog - a young male pug - into an exam room. He was underweight and crawling with fleas. He had also been badly mauled by two large, intact male dogs. One eye had been surgically removed at some earlier point in his life. The remaining eye was ruptured and hanging out of the socket. Despite his pain and blindness, he kissed the doctor and tentatively wagged his tail. While most vets may have put him down, Dr. Karen decided he was "too sweet to euthanize". She sacrificed her lunch hour to perform the necessary surgery to remove the damaged eye, provide much needed pain relief and treat his bite wounds. While Dr. Stufflebean and her staff hovered over him, the woman who had brought him quietly left and was not heard from again.

The pug stayed there at Noah's Ark Veterinary Office in St. Louis and began recuperation from his surgery. The staff there began looking for a rescue or shelter to take a pug with no eyes. The pug rescue in their city said they "couldn't place blind dogs". Likewise, all the nearby shelters were full and said the dog had zero chance of adoption - why give up much-needed space to him? The vet and her staff began to feel like had saved him only to find they now had no place to go with him.

They could easily have given up. Instead they tried harder, expanding their search to the next state over.
I already had two blind pugs in the rescue when they called me about this one. Though I've placed many blind dogs over the years, it's not an easy thing to do. I was not overly thrilled about taking a third, but I've never yet turned my back on a pug in need. "If no one else will take him, call me back," I said. Of course, they did.

I picked him and named him Sugar Ray, because he truly was a sweetheart,and the name "Ray" seemed to fit his laid-back demeanor. Dr. Stufflebean donated all Ray's vet work, and I brought him back a week later to be neutered. Ray was a real gem who loved other pugs and had the best sonic navigation system I had ever seen. I knew he must have been blind even before the attack. He learned his name and the surrounding geography very quickly. If I called "Ray! C'mere, Ray!", he would make a beeline from the back of the yard straight to me. When he found me, the tail went wild and the kisses flew!

I posted Ray for adoption and expected to wait a year, or longer.

To my amazement, just two weeks later I opened an application from a woman who lived about an hour away. Reading it, I could feel the adrenaline start to flow - it's that feeling you get when you just know something is right. I quickly realized she was a true animal lover. She had rescued before. She was also a natural-born caregiver - a nurse who worked with cancer patients, a vocation requiring extraordinary compassion. And she wanted to adopt Ray! I tried not to get my hopes up - lots of people fail to follow through on apps - but I was so excited! This was better than I could ever have hoped for Ray. I quietly said a little prayer and had Ray cross his paws. I emailed asking her to call me. The call I received a few days later confirmed everything my intuition had already told me.

When Mary Sue walked into my home she was, naturally, covered with happy pugs wanting her attention. "This is my idea of Heaven," she smiled. She petted everyone, then asked "Where's Ray?"

"He's asleep on my bed, " I answered. "I'll go get him."

Ray was standing alert on the edge of the bed. As soon as his paws hit the floor, he headed for the living room and straight for Mary Sue. It was love at first sniff. As Mary held him and Ray leaned into her, I knew Ray had found his forever home.

The next morning, I missed Sugar Ray at breakfast. I could not stop thinking about the way so many people and events had aligned in his favor. What should have been a terrible tragedy had done a full 180 through an improbable series of encounters, each of which (by all rights) could so easily have gone badly for him. Could that possibly be coincidence, I wondered? No, I concluded, it had to be something more. It appeared to me that Ray had - not one guardian angel - but a whole bunch of them!

We see so many bad things happen in rescue, and lots of bad people. There are times when I seriously dislike human beings. 

Sometimes I forget about the caring, compassionate people out there.

You see them working in hospitals and nursing homes, in social services or coaching kids' sports. They foster dogs for rescue, or screen applications, share what little they may have with those less fortunate. People like Mary Sue make this a world where even a dog with no eyes can find happiness, can be loved and treasured. People like you, too. Because if you are reading this, chances are pretty good that you're one of those special people.

So, with the holidays upon us, and in the wake of Ray's astounding odyssey (it still blows me away to think about it), I want to take this time to acknowledge all the people of the world who do the right thing, even when it is not the easy thing. This is for the good people out there. You know who you are. You inspire me. I am overwhelmed by your boundless compassion. From the deepest breath of my being, at my darkest point and most euphoric, in the face of hopelessness and on the brink of endless possibilites, I will live in awe of you every day as long as my heart keeps beating.

Thank you. From me, and from Ray.