Frankie says Relax

6 Oct

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When I arrived at work on Friday morning, the overnight tech let me know that there was a new patient, rescued from the euthanasia list at a nearby shelter, in our isolation unit. I went to the back room to see a ball of matted fur curled up in the back corner of the cage. I wish I had taken a before picture, because he was huge. And, heavens, the smell that came off of him. He reminded me of the mentally ill people who live on the subway.

New Yorkers all have this experience when they’re being broken into the city. A subway train approaches, every car that passes is full of people, jammed in together. Then a subway car approaches that is magically, nearly empty. There seem to be one or two people in the car. You think it’s your lucky day, the stars are aligned. You don’t notice the other, more seasoned New Yorkers quickly opting for the crowded car. You board your train, and the doors shut. All of a sudden, your nose begins to sting with the most foul, burning smell you can imagine. It’s a combination of B.O., urine, vomit, and God knows what else. You try to hold your breath and not physically wretch, because the people from which this smell is emanating are watching you closely, curious as to why you boarded their train. At the next stop, you run out the car and onto the next, happily crammed into the car, thanking God you can breathe again. It’s honestly a smell like no other.

That’s what this dog smelled like.

He came in under the generic name “Puppy” with a bleeding growth on the side of his mouth and obvious months of neglect. Dr. C decided that he was going to put him under anesthesia to remove the mass, demat him, and perform a dental cleaning. I couldn’t wait though. I got out the clippers and set to work on the inch and a half of mats all over his body. I would take him out between appointments and set to work, starting with the shell-like mound of fur on his back. I cannot tell you the satisfaction of getting those mats off of him. Just seeing him made me itchy and uncomfortable, and I can only imagine how it would feel to finally have air touch your skin again.

Finally we were able to knock him out, and while Dr. C performed the mass excision, I continued to hack away at the fur on his body. His limbs were so matted, it looked like he had a five-inch diameter cast covering them. When Dr. C finished the procedure, I passed the clippers to my co-worker and set to work on his teeth. They were coated in heavy plaque and tarter which I had to physically crack off. Then a full scale and polish with a bit of fluoridated sealant for good measure. By the time I had performed the full dental, my co-worker was still working on the dematting. I moved on to trimming his nails which were so long they were curving back into the paw pads. We also cleaned his ears and expressed his anal glands. All in all, it took about two hours in total to turn this dog back into a dog. My back was sore from bending over him for so long, and my fingers were stiff from all the dental scraping.

While under anesthesia, dogs cannot regulate their body temperature, and he was very cold in recovery. I put him on thermal support, but he kept trying to crawl away. So I wrapped him in a towel and held him close to my body. He laid comfortably in my arms. He really had bloomed into an adorable dog, a true Cinderella story and I christened him “Frankie” for unexplainable reasons.

Dr. L, who used to work at the ASPCA and deal with many cruelty cases needed me to help her with an appointment. She had to put together health certificates for a Maltese to travel to Cancun.

“Sorry to take you away from your fun dematting project,” she said as she handed me the pristine little dog.
“It is actually so satisfying to give that dog a full makeover.”
“I’ve seen this a million times. You’re going to fall in love with him.”
“I think he’s going to be a nice dog without all that fur and dirt.”
“He already looks happier, and you are going to go home today feeling really good about your job today. It’s nice to actually help animals with real issues, instead of this bullshit,” she said pointing to the nippy dog with the studded collar.

And it did. I couldn’t stop thinking about Frankie after I left work that night, and I ran straight to his cage when I arrived at work the next morning to bring him a piece of turkey meat. He hesitantly took it from my hands and seemed terrified to have a human so close to him, but eventually he let me pet him, and he seemed to revel in the feeling of a warm hand upon his bare skin. Working with animals can be unbelievably rewarding sometimes, knowing that you actually improved the quality of life for a wee beast. Even though I was exhausted, I felt so good about what I had done that day.

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