Originally this was written in 1998, late in the year. Reposted in several places including LJ
Current mood: melancholy
On January 28, 1998 a young man came to us asking that we examine a female Pit Bull he was looking to purchase from the current owners. He told us that she had a skin condition and that he wanted to know how much it would take to “make her right” before he purchased her. So we put the young man in the large exam room with the dog to wait as he filled out his registration forms and so on.
Upon entering the room some minutes later, I was struck with the intense odor that was coming from this poor dog. There are several odors a person who works with companion animals never forgets once experiencing them. One is the odor of a dog suffering from Canine Parvovirus Enteritis (parvo). That is the smell of rotting fleshâ€¦ such as bad hamburger coupled with the smell of fecal matter and other assorted nasties. The other is something I call the “skin smell”. It is the odor of infected and rotting flesh on the outside of the body of an animal. Usually this is caused by secondary staph and bacterial infections brought on by something else. THIS is the smell that hit me.
There on the floor of the exam room, as I entered, wanting nothing more than to be loved and wanted, stood Missy. A tan and white American Pit Bull with the most beautiful green eyes I had ever seen. Friendly as could be, she wobbled over to me and sat down with those wonderful eyes staring up at me as if to say, “hello, will you love me?” I wanted to cry and scoop her up in my arms all at once.
This poor, beautiful, suffering dog was covered head to tail with sores. Open, weeping and bleeding in many places, and in fewer-scabbed over but weepy still. There was almost no fur on her body save her immediate face. It was the most horrid skin case I had ever witnessed. The amount of time she had been left alone and untreated for the primary cause of this plight had to be extensive. Several months to at year probably. Most likely, Missy had contracted Demodectic Mange as a new puppy and it had been left untreated all this time. What sat at my feet before me this day was the result. Holding back tears I could do nothing but love her. Though her condition was so ugly that it hurt to look at, Missy was a beautiful dog. On top of all this, Missy was also terribly thin. More than likely she had internal parasites and poor diet loaded on top of this neglect. Amazingly, she still wanted people. She still sought love and affection. It was amazing and completely alien to me how any animal could still have that capacity after this kind of life.
To treat Missy, and get her back to reasonable health would cost several hundreds of dollars in medications, medicated baths and special diets. It would be months before she even got her fur back if we treated her. The young man contemplated this for several minutes. This young man, with all his kind intentions, did not have that kind of money. Neither did I. Had I the money or the means, I would have taken Missy and treated her here at the clinic. The young man then stated flatly that he couldn’t take her back to the owners, since he knew they would only tie her back outside in the cold and leave her to die. He then did the only thing he felt he could do. He asked us to put Missy to sleep.
Of all the things I do in my job, putting an animal down is always the most difficult. I feel some of those for days. This one will haunt me for the rest of my life. Knowing this poor tortured animal had reached outside its pain and suffering, yet gone beyond her horrible treatment to not hate all humans, made this decision seem so damned unfair. Many times, when I think about it now, it still seems that way.
I stayed in the room and held Missy as we administered the overdose of barbituates which would release her from this life. I looked into her beautiful green eyes and told her it would all be okay. It would soon end and she would not hurt anymore. Then she slipped into her permanent sleep. As I laid her head down, white-hot fire shot through me. My skin burned so hot I choked back a startled scream. I gripped the exam table to stay upright and closed my eyes. Then, as fast as it hit, it was gone. I knew then that this had been the right decision for Missy. She gave me the gift of releasing me from guilt as we had released her from her horror.
When the client left the office, he’d asked that we take care of Missy’s body for him. I had her privately cremated and her ashes returned as the only gift I had to give her. I still see her in my dreams and in my mind’s eye from time to time. She follows me as a reminder that sometimes, that which makes us feel sorrow, also makes us human.
Being human is the most difficult thing sometimesâ€¦â€¦.
Note; Missy is the reason I have the dog I have now. I swore on her ashes that I would not turn down helping another dog if I had the means to do so when one came along. About 3 months later, Phantom and his whole litter were dropped at the doorstep of the shelter with a bottle of milk. I bottle fed him, adopted him out, he came back to the shelter, and I came to get him and took him home. He’s 11 years old now.
Today is March 1, 2011Â I put Phantom down in September of 2009. He had cancer.Â I still cannot bring myself to write more than that about it … He touched me that much.Â We Acquired Tonks the Beagle when Phantom was about 4.Â She is 5 or 6 now.Â I love her, but she’s not Phantom, and I’ll never have another Beagle……