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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tears for one. Tears for many.

As an animal rescuer, there are always those animals you can not or could not save.  Regardless of the reasons, the rescuer becomes powerless in the fate of that animal, and the animal is lost. 

Meet Kitty La Rue:

Kitty La Rue was one of our puppy mill rescue dogs.  She was quite timid due to her lack of socialization.  She had to be completely shaved down because her fur was matted, and urine stained.  The hair on puppy mill dogs retains the odor of urine and feces even after multiple baths.  This is the same odor they breathe into their lungs, day in and day out for a lifetime.  Shaving them down provides the most relief for the dog, and the caretaker. 

Kitty LaRue was adopted by a family in April.  We received this touching update from her new Mom within a week of her adoption,

"I took Kitty to the Vet Saturday for a wellness exam and suture removal. Here is a copy of the vet record of that visit to comply with the adoption guidelines.

Kitty is doing very well and has adjusted to all of our family members. She is over coming her shyness and will allow you to approach her from a standing position. She is starting to obey the come and stay command and readily obeys the outside command. She has done very well with house training and hasn't had any accidents in 4 days. She enjoys the outside backyard and gets along well with the three cats. She is enjoying chewing things up thus I think she has been making the transition to becoming a real dog!"

After a few short months, in mid-July, we were excited to see another email in our inbox from Kitty's new family.  But the contents were not what we were expecting.  It read,

"On Monday morning Kitty LaRue had gone missing with what appears to be that she was stolen. Our fenced in back yard had a wooden plank removed with evidence of tampering. I have contacted our local vets and if she does not return by tomorrow will be contacting the local police. I did not know it until now but our local county has had a rash of stolen pets. I am contacting you in the event that her chip is scanned and for some reason or another your shelter is contacted.
We are sick about this as Kitty LaRue had made such great progess in trusting us and had become one of our family."

We began Facebook groups, and shared emails with other local rescues.  We notified police, shelters, veterinarians, the microchip company, the neighbors.  Signs were made and posted.

But the fact is, there was a rash of curious dog disappearances in that part of Iowa during those months.

Here are a few links to different stories that covered the topic of dog thefts during this time in Iowa:

We still have no news on Kitty LaRue.  I hate to think of what her life could be.  I dare to hope that perhaps it wasn't a theft, and that she has become someone else's beloved pet.  If she was someone's knew pet, the microchip would certainly be discovered, right?  Perhaps it was a few neighborhood kids playing a prank, making an obviously bad choice.  But the fear of the unknown still exists.  What if she had been brought to a research facility?   What if she had been taken to a breeding facility for her body to be used again.  She is spayed, so she can no longer produce puppies.  What would have become of her when this was discovered?  I dread to imagine.  I wish I knew.  I wish her family knew.

Meet Lucky:

Lucky  (read more about Lucky here ) was a puppy mill dog as well.  She first presented to us so severely matted and covered in fleas that we treated her arrival as an emergency.  She was immediately examined then sedated for an emergency groom.  Her front legs were literally matted together.  In the photo below, her ear flaps sit almost straight out from her head due to the large matts that occlude her ear canals.  Her eyes were also matted over impairing her vision.

Emergency Groom Procedure

Lucky in her cage days after her arrival, still hiding and cowering in the corner, still avoiding eye contact.

Lucky months later on her ride home with her new Mom.

Lucky was one of our few untouchables.  She had fear issues of people, including all the people on my staff who cleaned her and cared for her daily.  To Lucky, people in general were a thing to fear.  As a result, we could not cuddle her.  We could not pet her.  She would snap and run, hide and cower.  It was never an aggression issue in the sense of  "I am going to bite you", but more of a "If you grab me I am just going to have to grab at anything with my teeth to get myself loose". Even the most unsocial mill dogs will rehabilitate beyond this point, but there are those few like Lucky that are extremely difficult.

A woman saw Lucky's picture and knew Lucky was right for her.  We explained the situation, and she still wanted to drive four hours just to meet Lucky.  When she arrived, we caught Lucky and brought her into the room.  To our surprise, Lucky walked up to this woman, this stranger!  Lucky proceeded to lick this stranger's hand, then sat down and let her pet her!!! Let's just say there was no way we were going to let this woman leave without that dog. It was a deal whether she liked it or not!

Eleven short months later, while Lucky's new Mom was on vacation, and with her parents dog sitting, Lucky escaped the confines of the house.  She ran for several weeks, well fed by well intentioned neighbors, but no one was able to catch her.  Her body was discovered next to a field. 

Here are two very different losses of two sweet angels who had little time to enjoy the good life.  One dog has a resolute end, a final means of acceptance.  While Lucky's family grieves their loss in the usual way, Kitty's fate lies unknown.  Thoughts of Kitty linger and haunt the minds of all who knew and loved her, even for a brief time.  Both scenarios leave us unsettled, and wanting answers.

We wonder why, after all that both dogs have been through, after finally being rescued, after being truly loved by their new forever families, why do things like this happen?!  I sometimes feel sad, and sometimes quite angry.

Thoughts of Kitty and Lucky surround me tonight because I read a similar story in the book  The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption .  Sweet Jasmine's tale can be read in this revealing book which I highly recommend. 

As I read Sweet Jasmine's story, I could not stop the tears.  I cried for more than just Jasmine.  I cried for more than just Jasmine's caregivers, her new family. 

After reading Jasmine's story, I felt the pain and grieving of all the animals that despite our greatest efforts,  we have lost.  Animals I have lost in rescue.  Animals owned by clients that despite my greatest efforts, I could not save.  Animals I have lost of my own.   I cried for a dog I did not know.  I cried for animals I did know, but wanted to know better.  I cried for the animals I will never know.  This pain stayed with me most of the day.  But I know it will subside.  It always does...until next time.

I know deep in my heart and mind, that despite the fact that their time with us was so short, that we made that time special.  These animals felt love in a way that they never had before.  But still the question lingers.


Is it because we cannot save them all?  I don't care for this statement.  While I cannot save all the animals that need help in this world, I can dedicate myself to providing a safe place to all the animals that I can put my arms around. 

Is it because their purpose in life has already been served?  I choose this one.  I do believe we all have a purpose in life.  By doing animal rescue, I believe I am following my purpose or perhaps finding my purpose.  But if the truth be told, no one knows what their purpose in life is.  My purpose may not be animal related at all.  Perhaps, on my death bed, I will whisper some nonsensical saying to the nurse tending me, and those words will create a domino effect in her life that serves my purpose.  Perhaps these stories, these lost animals, served their purpose with me, with my staff, or with their new family.  Even though the time was short, obviously the impact was great. 

Whatever my purpose truly is...
I will continue to do animal rescue as long as I am able.  

I will save lives. 

I will lose lives. 

I will make wise decisions.

I will make mistakes. 

I will be surrounded by people who understand what I do and how I feel. 

I will be criticized by those who do not understand.

I will rejoice when each homeless huggable finds a new forever family.

I will continue to suffer through days like today, when I cannot get the lost rescues out of my mind. 

On these days when I am reminded of the lost, I will remind myself, that for each day that I continue to move forward, I can help keep more from being lost. 

Perhaps animal rescue is not my purpose in life, but it is certainly how I will continue to occupy my time until my purpose is served. 

In addition to Kitty and Lucky, here are just a few of the many special souls that occasionally reach into my heart.  The photos are in no particular order.  They all touch my heart in my own special way.  Their stories are all different, some are young, some are old, but for all, their time was too short, at least in my opinion.  They will not be forgotten.  While their time was short, their impact on our hearts will last forever.

In Loving Memory of Leiya

In Loving Memory of Shyla

In Loving Memory of Capone

In Loving Memory of Cracker

In Loving Memory of Immy

In Loving Memory of Tito

In Loving Memory of Pugsley

In Loving Memory of Coco

In Loving Memory of Hancock

In Loving Memory of Chance

In Loving Memory of Cluck

There are more, but these are the stories whose photos were easily accessible.  We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words...

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Luckypaws said...

Brilliant post. I too am having a day today where I cannot get the lost rescues out of my mind. It sucks.

Tammy Hartwig said...

To be honest, this is the first time I hesitated to even open one of your blogs. For me, the very hardest part of rescue is accepting that we cannot save them all!

I was the child that brought every sick &/or injured animal home; I was going to save them all! In reality, I saved very few but, it did help to prepare me for the rescue work that I do today. I don't give up easily but I also know when it's time to let go.

It NEVER gets any easier!! Try as I do, I know that I cannot save them all but this knowledge/realization does not make it any easier. Each one lost is equally heart breaking.

Thank you for letting the world know that we do the very best we can!

Anonymous said...

Yup, I'm having an Izzy day and I have many but you found a home for her, that doesn't ease the guilt and pain on my part for giving up. I wanted to be a vet since I was 10 years old but realized later in highschool that wasn't a plan I could accomplish. At times I read your sorrow and grief over the losses and I'm glad I didn't because the grief of personal pets I've held through their last moments can put me under on any given day. We all just do the best we can and somehow I believe the pet just knows that. The thing about failing my Izzy, it just makes me so very afraid to ever try again. Why one failure would overshadow all the other successes, I don't know but it does. We have to forgive ourselves and maybe giving one more a happy life can atone in some way.....
...I love reading your blogs even when they do make me cry. :( Sharon Houser

Anonymous said...

Lesson for all guardians; do not leave companions like Kitty La Rue unattended outside alone, ever!

This is common sense folks!

Kathy Hayes said...

I love this blog. She really knows what rescuers feel. Please take some time to read all the way to the bottom of the page.