Tag Archives: rescue animals

Tulip Marie

13 May
Tulip's first day at the clinic

Tulip’s first day at the clinic

About a month ago, we had a nameless, rescue pug dropped off at the clinic. By her drooping belly, we could tell that she was far along in a pregnancy. She was shy, timid, and terrified. We dubbed her Tulip, and I figured out that all she wanted to do was sit in someone’s, anyone’s, lap. I was happy to lend her mine.

That night, after I had left, she gave birth to two puppies. One was stillborn. The next day, the overnight tech relayed to me the story of how he tried CPR on the tiny body and how when it didn’t work, he presented Tulip the puppy so she could see it was dead. He told me how she pressed on its chest with her paws, how she licked its nostrils, trying in her own way to revive the lost pup.

“I never see a dog do that in my life,” the night tech told me, pointing to the pug. “That’s a special dog.”

Despite her efforts to nurse the other puppy, it passed away the following day, leaving her with none.

Tulip with Upper East Side tulips.

Tulip with Upper East Side tulips.

I felt so heartbroken for her that in my downtime at work, I let her snuggle on my lap while I petted her and hugged her and told her it was all going to be okay. And over the course of a day or two, she became attached to me. She is a friendly dog who will like most anyone, but she had it made up in her mind that I was her one and only. She insisted on following me everywhere I went, always at my heel. When I left the room without her, she would cry and howl until I came back. And when I cameĀ  into work in the morning, she hopped around me, barely able to breathe from the excitement.

I fed into it too. I loved being so adored, so chosen by her. I continued to let her sit on my lap during my downtime. I cleaned her face folds and ears, daily, got her a pink harness and a gold-striped collar. I even came in on my day off to pick her up and take her to Central Park for the day. After all, that’s what people do with their dogs. They take them to the park and lay in the sun together. And she felt like mine. We felt like two peas in a pod. Two kindred spirits. She was my sidekick, and my partner in crime.

When I brought her back to the clinic after out day in the park, I gushed to all my co-workers about how much fun we had together.

“Look at you!” Dr. N said. “You have that great first-date, falling in love glow!”

Asleep in my lap, her favorite place.

Asleep in my lap, her favorite place.

And I was in love with her. I found myself overjoyed to head into work in the mornings. I couldn’t wait to walk in and see her snorty, lolly-gagging tongue face. But a bitter-sweetness tinted everything, because I knew we were star-crossed and not meant to be. I still can’t have pets in my apartment, not to mention my supplemental income of pet-sitting that requires me to stay at other people’s apartments anywhere from 6-12 days a month. That’s not the kind of life a wonderfully puglet like my Tulip Marie deserves. Throughout our love affair, I was well aware that the rescue organization that brought her to us already had a couple of prospective homes lined up for her.

So it hurt every time I left work, and I could hear her howling for me as I walked out the door. And I shed a couple of tears when I hugged her goodbye before leaving on my vacation last week. I knew that it was likely the last time I would ever see her. She’s such a loving, special dog that I know she’ll find a good owner that will love her and bond to her as much as I did. And I know that things are all seemingly falling into place in my life, the pieces are coming together and not too long from now, I will be in a position to adopt a dog of my own who will hopefully live up to the greatness that is Tulip. But I will always hold a special place in my heart for the Spring romance I had with her. It was special. She was special. My Tulip Marie.

Our day in the park together.

Our day in the park together.

Advertisements

Happy Ever After

14 Feb
Crane in his youth

Crane in his youth

Almost three years ago, I wrote about a frequent boarder at our hospital, a bulldog named Crane. To recap, he’s disgusting. I wrote about him being disgusting then, and his situation has only deteriorated. His owner is a wealthy, egotistical man who takes little responsibility for Crane. From puppyhood, Crane has boarded with us for a huge chunk of his life. His owner drops him off looking unkempt and uncared for and leaves in his Escalade to fly to some tropical location, forgetting Crane.

In many ways, I can’t stand Crane. He stinks. No matter how much we bathe him, this foul odor radiates from every orifice. Is it the rotting cancerous growth growing out his paw? Is it the noxious farts from a bowel that is likely diseased? Is it the breath from his rotting teeth? He’s too old and sickly to anesthetize, so we’ll likely never know. He has chronic dry eye which causes yellow goop to seep from his eyes. His face folds easily get filled with bacteria and become infected. He’s unpleasant.

But for all his faults, he’s a good dog and wants nothing more than to be petted and snuggled. We all had a love/hate relationship with him. I’d put on gloves to pet him so as not to acquire his rotting smell. We’d bring him cookies during the day. It’s hard to not love him when there is not a mean bone in his ever-decaying body.

Earlier this week, his owner called us, because he was tired of having to pay for boarding. He told us to euthanize him. Dr. L and I agreed that maybe it was the best thing for him. He’s old and disgusting, and a life living in a cage (for as much as we try to give him attention) is not a happy existence. Selfishly, perhaps we were tired of having to deal with him, to take care of him.

Much to our chagrin, another technician, Kristina convinced Dr. S to keep him at the hospital. She has an aunt who works with rescue animals, and Kristina felt confident that they could find him a home. I was skeptical. I thought Kristina was being too much of a soft heart, and I stood by Dr. L in asserting that he should be euthanized.

Within three days, eight families had come forward wanting to adopt Crane, and on Wednesday, a lovely family from Long Island came in to get him. We were stunned. What would they say when they smelled him? We went over all his medical problems, and they seemed unfazed. The whole family (parents and two teenage daughters) came to collect him and take him back to Long Island. Crane stood with them, looking confused as they all leaned down to pet him and tell him how handsome he is.

Yesterday we got pictures of Crane in his new home. His large luxurious bed, another Bulldog to be his friend, and a family that adores him. For all of his years of being ignored by an owner who left him in a cage at our clinic, he now has a family. They gushed about how much they love him. The email read, “We can’t wait to make his golden years absolutely golden.”

I kept thinking today how happy I am that Kristina exists and that I have the honor of being friends with her. I often think of her as too soft-hearted, too effusive with affection for every patient we have. But she never fails to remind me that there is never too much love to be given. It isn’t possible to be too soft-hearted. Being strong and being soft-hearted are not mutually exclusive.

Three years ago, I wrote

“Somebody has to love and take care of the messes of the world. Right?”

Yeah, somebody does, and with a little determination, somebody will.

All Creatures

21 Oct

The last couple of months, my roommates and I have developed a problem with mice. There are mice in our building, and in the 3.5 years I’ve lived in my apartment, I’ve seen them two or three times running into my room and upon finding nothing, leave. However, one of my less-than-tidy roommates had bags of oatmeal and trail mix in our kitchen that a small family of mice decided was their own personal buffet. It took weeks of me and my other roommate telling her to clean her shit up and move her perishables before she finally did.

But mice have excellent memories and have decided that they would like to make my kitchen their home. I’m terrified of my kitchen at this point and eat almost all of my meals out. I hate that I’ve seen mice scurrying around. Even more frustrating is both of my roommates continue to throw leftover food out into our small kitchen garbage where these mice have easy access. I’ve made a strict rule of throwing nothing edible out in any garbage in our apartment, but they have not been good about following this. They’ve bought little glue traps and whatnot, but that makes me even more terrified to go in the kitchen, because I’m afraid I’ll find a squirming little carcass.

One evening last week, I was heading out. I was already running a little late when I walk past my kitchen to hear that familiar rustling. Mouse in the garbage. Frustrated, I clap my hands inciting the creature to scurry. I take the garbage bag out with me, but being in a hurry, I don’t replace it. I figure, my roommates can at least take care of that.

About seven hours later, I return home. Tipsy, if I’m being honest. But instead of hearing that rustling, I hear a stranger sound. I peer into my kitchen to see our green garbage bucket with a small shadow bouncing around inside. I creep over and look in to find a mouse, running up the sides of the bucket, trying to escape. Once it notices me, it freezes and hides its head. My little mouse enemy was trapped.

“Ha!” I say into the bucket. I head to my room thinking to myself, “Let the little thing starve.” A couple of minutes later, I start to think deep thoughts about starvation. It’s a horrible way to die! It’s painful and mentally draining and that neon green bucket must be terrifying. Maybe I can throw it out the window or down the garbage shoot? It’s small enough that the impact of landing might not kill it. But what if it breaks something? And then it has to hobble around in pain? Then it’ll probably starve.

“Dammit Wilson!” I tell myself. “You can’t cohabitate with this mouse!” But there’s something in me that can’t contribute to its death, something about even killing a pesky, disease-carrying rodent that would bother me. I work with animals for a living. I contribute to their health and well-being. Something has grown within my soft heart that won’t let me do it. It’s something that has evolved in me in the work I do. It’s easy to love the cute puppies and the sweet kittens. But, they’re not the only ones I’ve pledged myself to. Give me your ugly, your aggressive, your drooling masses. I have to take care of them all, and I feel a responsibility to do just that, as hard as it often is. As weird as it is to worry this much about the well-being of a rodent.

So still in my high heels, I took the neon green garbage pail in my arms, while the mouse jumped around in panic. I descended the five flights of stairs and walked outside my building. I lowered the bucket and watched the mouse scurry into some bushes. I know it’s foolish. I know it’s weak and crazy. But it’s all I could do at that moment. Before I went back inside, I whispered, “Just please don’t come back.”

My Earl

5 Feb

20140205-233755.jpgOur clinic works closely with a house-call vet in Manhattan. Since she doesn’t have an office, we take in a lot of her patients that need inpatient care. About two months ago, we took in a rescue dog that one of her clients had told her about. A 3-year-old pug named Earl who had been found in South Carolina, emaciated and covered in fleas. We took him in.

After he was with us a week, he began having violent seizures. Two to three minutes long, full-body convulsions, foam seeping out of his mouth. It all became clear why such a beautiful dog had been thrown to the street. With a combination of medications, we got his condition regulated. But they had left him a little handicapped, mentally. He just wasn’t smart. He’d sit in his cage, kind of staring off into space. He’d chase his tail for a long time, getting to the point where he’d grab it with his mouth and stand still, unsure what to do next.

Over the last couple of weeks, we let him out of his cage more and more, to the point where we set up a little bed for him in the treatment area, and we kept him out with us all day. Every once in a while, he’d have a day with clusters of seizures, but for the most part, he seemed fine.

This last weekend, it was a little bit slower, and we all spent so much time playing with him in the slightly warmer weather, cuddling with him indoors. He had one of the best Pug temperaments. Docile and loving, content to just be held. I fell head over heels in love with him. Even though I don’t live in a situation where I could have a dog, I fantasized about adopting him, taking him home, making him my own. At the end of my shift on Saturday, I held him in my lap, petting him, and I whispered to him, “You’re such a good boy. I promise we’re going to find you a good home.”

Then yesterday, on my day off, I get the staccato texts from Dr. L. Earl isn’t doing well. He’s having so many seizures. His temperature is 108. He looks bad. And finally, the one I was dreading, they had euthanized him. I sat alone in my apartment and wept for a dog that was never mine, but who I loved as much as if he were.

Today was a difficult day. It was busy, but in our down time, we’d look to Earl’s empty corner and talk about how much we all missed him. We do this to ourselves over and over again. We let ourselves get attached to them. I don’t understand how we keep doing it.

It’s easy to build up a wall against this sort of pain, to distance oneself from the possibility of getting attached, to falling in love. But then there are special souls out there who know how to find their way in to a blocked off heart. Earl was one of those.

20140206-000456.jpg

Roger

20 Oct

Our clinic has a client that I’ll call Mr. F. He’s a kind man who prefers to adopt Jack Russel Terriers (JRT). He became our client during a time when he owned two great dogs. The kind of JRT of myth. JRT’s tend to be hyper, aggressive, not the ideal breed. But under Mr. F’s loving care, his JRT’s were loyal, happy, and loving. After one of his JRTs passed away, he went to a shelter and adopted a new one. He named him Roger.

He has owned the dog for a year, but I hadn’t dealt with Roger until Wednesday when Mr. F brought him in for a dental and wart removal. The dog was strange. That’s the only way to describe it. A large “B.C.” was emblazoned on the record. It stands for “Be Careful” and is our clinic’s tactful way of saying the dog or cat is aggressive and for lack of a better term, bad. But Roger wasn’t your typical snarler or swipe biter or growling pet. He wouldn’t bite when placing a catheter or during restraint. The dog would stand there and turn to bite without rhyme or reason. He would do it in a slow, nonlogical way. The more I worked with the dog, the more it seemed less aggressive, more neurologically compromised. It reminded me of autism.

I’ve read a couple of books on autism and what fascinates me about the condition is how we don’t understand it. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the spectrum and figure out how the autistic brain works. Of course, if it is present in animals, we would understand it even less as the animal brain is even harder to interpret.

Last Spring, I spent some time volunteering with autistic children during horseback riding lessons. The variety of the conditions and their reactions to different occurrences and stimuli was fascinating. Something about the look some of them would get in their eyes made me so curious as to what they could be thinking and feeling. Roger would get a similar look. Staring at a corner of his cage or looking right at me without reaction. At home, he is difficult. He will bite people randomly, cries as soon as he goes outside and is fearful of certain toys and people. When I mentioned to Dr. L that the behavior reminded me of autism, she began to agree. But how are we to know for sure?

When Mr. F came to pick up Roger at the end of the day, I witnessed one of the most heart-wrenching acts of love. The dog meandered up to the front waiting room, looked at his owner and had no reaction. I have never seen that before. Not a tail wag, not a faster pace to the owner, nothing. Mr. F crouched on the floor, his arms directed toward the dog. “Roger, it’s daddy. C’mon, Roger, didn’t you miss me?” But the dog just stared at the walls. I felt his frustration, and I admired the love and attention this man could put into a dog that simply doesn’t respond, doesn’t return affection. It was fascinating.

Any vet techs out there seen anything similar?

Shalimar

15 Jul
My girl sleeping. I didn't want to open the cage and wake her.

My girl sleeping. I didn’t want to open the cage and wake her.

Shalimar started coming to us last winter. She’s a pom-mix, less yappy lap dog, more fox. She’s also a rescue from Arizona that around the office, became known as the foot dog. No one knows exactly what happened to her. The shelter that took her in found her wandering the desert streets, her paw pads scalded by the heat. But the radiographs we took show significant bone loss, and some have theorized that someone tried to declaw her by ripping out her nails. Either way her paws were severely infected with oozing drainage tracts on the tops and the bottoms of her feet.

Radiographs of her back paws, with distal bones missing.

Radiographs of her back paws, with distal bones missing.

The one blessing in this mess was that she seemed to have nerve damage to the point where she couldn’t feel her paws. She also happened to be the most stoic dog I’ve ever met. NEVER tried to bite, would only quietly cry in pain. Since her feet hurt, she liked to be held like a baby, feet up. Most dogs are hesitant to look you in the eyes, but she would focus her big brown eyes on yours. I adored her.

We treated the paws the best we could, but the infection was aggressive and not responding to antibiotics. They’d get better, then they’d get worse. Her owner was particularly patient and loving toward Shalimar, never complaining to us about our inability to fix the problem. That only makes the situation harder for us as good clients are hard to come by.

She deteriorated at a faster rate the last couple of weeks and Dr. L decided to admit her for heavy rounds of antibiotics and intensive nursing care. I took on a lot of her treatments and would hold her whenever I had some free time (which was not often this week.) Doing foot soaks can be a pain as animals flop around, splash water, want to escape. But with Shalimar I would hold her in my lap while her sad paws sat in the Epsom solution. She loved it and would often fall asleep as I held her paws in place. With gloves I would massage her feet in an attempt to reduce the swelling. One of the most disturbing things I’ve experienced as the paws would crackle like bubble wrap in my hands.

A part of me wanted to title this post “Delusion.” Too often I see owners who keep their pets alive too long. They selfishly refuse to accept that their pet is suffering and only getting worse. It makes me angry. But over the last week I realized how natural that feeling of hope can be and how hard it is to let go of something you love. I held Shalimar so many times and felt her labored abdominal breathing (a sign of pain). I watched her struggle to walk, refuse to eat. But because I loved this dog so much, I refused to see it. It wasn’t until Saturday night when Dr. L upped her pain meds that I realized she would have to be euthanized, and soon. She was conked out from the morphine and finally feeling a little peace. It was so hard to be pulled from that delusion and see what was really in front of me, an animal in a lot of pain. I started to cry and ran into the bathroom to try and contain myself.

I can’t say enough about how wonderful the owner was, how much she loved this dog and how reasonable she was. They euthanized my girl last night. I’m so sad about her being gone, but in that sadness I have to search for a little bit of happiness that we did the right thing.

Frankie says Relax

6 Oct

image

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.