Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Few Hours of Human Kindness

Background fact you need to know: it's about 96 degrees Fahrenheit here with humidity above 70%. This results in a heat index (how hot it feels) of somewhere around 105 degrees F.

And now for what happened.

We were driving home in the early afternoon when I spotted a small dog under a tree by the side of the road, just a block away from our house. The way the dog was sitting, something just seemed "off." And in this heat, no dog could survive for long without water. I encouraged Husby to go back and stop.

The dog turned out to be a puppy, about 3 months old, and obviously dehydrated. No collar, no tags. He wouldn't put weight on his hind legs, but there were no obvious signs of injury or other distress. We thought perhaps he was simply too weak.

We brought him home and helped him to cool off gradually, so as to avoid shock. We gave him water, which he drank thirstily. Husby ran off to the store to pick up a bag of puppy food. Our two cats and two boys were very curious about this newcomer who lay in a tired heap on our kitchen floor.

We called the vet but the office was closed, and we figured we'd watch the pup to see if his symptoms changed at all. He fell asleep for about half an hour, then woke and seemed curious. Husby picked him up and the puppy curled up and snuggled in his arms. Husby and I wondered sadly if the puppy had been abandoned.

I took the opportunity to shoot a few photos while the puppy slept. Here's my favorite:

Not long after this, we noticed a swelling on the puppy's abdomen, in front of his hind legs, which he still wasn't using. Husby carted the puppy off to the emergency pet hospital, where they gave the puppy an exam and a series of x-rays.

And then confirmed our worst fears.

The puppy had apparently been hit by a car, badly enough to rupture his abdominal wall. There was no way the puppy could use his hind legs, so the driver of the vehicle must have stopped long enough to move the puppy to the side of the road where the driver left him to die in the heat.

According to the vet, surgery on a ruptured abdominal wall, after the intestines have started spilling into the abdominal cavity, is risky at best with a very poor prognosis for recovery. There was no solution except to have the puppy put to sleep.

The puppy was only in our lives for a few hours, but I can't stop thinking about him and wondering if there was a reason he was in our lives beyond his need for humane treatment. I'm saddened by the loss, thinking about what might have been if the puppy had survived, and thinking about death and loss and grief in general.

Meanwhile, the boys are asking if we can get a dog, Husby's all for it, and for the first time, I'm thinking about not saying no.
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