I had every intention of taking his picture. The dog lay quietly on a blanket in Alice’s car when she pulled into the driveway. Alice was hoping I would shoot a “before” picture of him -- just off the streets -- a picture capturing the full force of his tormented life. This, side-by-side with an “after” shot of him on the mend, would present our newsletter readers with a glimpse of our work’s reward; the thrill of a happy ending for one who has been relentlessly beaten down. We’re always eager to share this contrast to the hard reality of life in the alley’s that lands on the pages of our newsletter with every issue.
As it was, I didn’t have the time necessary to photograph the boy at his worst; I was just hurrying off to meet someone donating a large amount of food for us to use in the alleys. To keep the person waiting with a truck load of food would have been highly inconsiderate. Alice stood by the car and accepted my apology. She nodded toward the dog and said, “I think we can find him a home.” I peeked inside the car for a look at the weary one resting on a pile of soft blankets.
He demonstrated neither fear nor aggression toward me, an intruding stranger, only his eyes moved to greet me. I knew he was hurting and that his life had been a series of painful experiences, many of them at the hands of humans. The multitude of scars striping his large head and face more than hinted that he’d been used in dog fights, but facial scars were the least of his current problems.
Alerting the veterinary clinic’s staff, Alice had called ahead with what little information she knew about the dog she was bringing to them. He was a large dog with a badly broken hind leg; the foot on his “good” hind leg was missing two toes but he was able to lean on it in order to walk, though his walking was labored. Life’ hard knocks had taken their toll, his injured body could no longer carry him in flight from strangers. This was how Dee was able to approach him, put her arms around him, and lift him into the alley car. She then called Alice with news of the rescued dog needing immediate medical attention.
Since I hadn’t time to photograph him before he received emergency assistance, I offered to arrange a visit to the clinic where I could take pictures of his road to recovery. Alice agreed. The dog’s physical deterioration would take time to reverse, at the very least he would need surgery to repair the leg and a lengthy stay in the hospital until he was on his feet again. There would be time for taking pictures of his healing process. So Alice left with out boy for whom we had high hopes; they drove to the veterinary clinic where she left him in good hands.
Late that afternoon we got the call. The doctor said the dog’s worse hind leg was smashed and splintered beyond repair. We asked about amputating it -- we’ve worked with handicapped animals in the past, including those with an amputated hind leg. Unfortunately this was not an option. The “good” leg had been badly damaged as well -- x-rays showed evidence of several breaks that healed poorly on their own. And, the foot we believed to be missing two toes was itself gone underneath, pads and all. We didn’t realize he’d lost the foot because, in order to spare him unnecessary additional pain, we did not handle or examine him. This dear boy’s life had been one painful ordeal after the next. If all this weren’t enough, other complications menaced his condition, unfavorable blood test results topped the list.
She knew how much we wanted our noble boy to get better, but the doctor did not waiver in recommending a painless euthanasia as the humane thing to do for him. She admitted she hadn’t a clue as to how he lasted this long on the streets. All day at the clinic, she wanted us to know, staff members visited the dog who was grateful for the attention. They offered him treats and sat with him, they made sure his bed was clean and soft; they stroked his scarred head and comforted him.
When it was time for her to give the injection, the doctor assured us that his last experience would be in the arms of a competent and caring technician. Though he deserved so much more, at least he wouldn’t die alone or terrified, he wouldn’t be tortured to death, at least his final day was one of kindness from others and now he is forever out of harm’s way.