SHAMEFUL, WRONG, UNIMAGINABLE and WORTH HELPING PLEASE

SHAMEFUL, WRONG, UNIMAGINABLE and WORTH HELPING PLEASE

When there are stars out at night that are distinctly bright, I know one of my dogs is watching over me. Trillium has her own light tree just outside the front door that burns constantly in her memory. A small tree, just off to the side of our road, holds bells and crystals that represent the dogs we have loved and lost. Trumpet, Will and Mabel lend their strength and support always. Still, at this moment in time, none of the tender tributes, memories of other lives saved or warm noses nudging me gently will help right now. The anger, disbelief and horror I feel will not be quelled easily this time. Sixteen hundred dogs have not prepared me for the casual cruelty and complete disregard shown to this young dog I named Birch.  

Birch was flown out of Attawapiskat just hours before he would have been found dead amongst some rubbish piled behind a garage. All his ten months of life gave him was the misery of a shrunken stomach and shrivelled intestine. This pup knew only the suffering of starvation. He was not abandoned, he lived amongst a family and shared their home. He watched teenagers’ snack often and parents eat well. The family was not impoverished, they could have fed him, they just didn’t care to. Birch is a pretty boy so maybe he was kept simply as a trophy or a pleasing distraction. His protruding spine and exposed ribs did not diminish his appeal as he has a sweet disposition. The infection in both his eyes caused a squint that to most, would make him look needy. Not to the family that lived with him though, they were still able to ignore him. His sinus infection caused an unpleasant nasal drip so that may have given them reason to turn away from him. Birch would have tried to reach for food himself I am sure but when he rises to place his paws on a table or counter he simply slumps to the ground because he has no muscle mass in any part of his body.

The most disgusting neglect did not dishearten this dog though.

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A DOG'S CONFUSION, HURT AND DISAPPOINTMENT

A DOG'S CONFUSION, HURT AND DISAPPOINTMENT

There have been far too many times when I had cause to imagine how a dog felt after being abused, neglected or abandoned. I thought I was only able to imagine because somehow, dogs suffered differently than humans. Until recently, I believed they reacted and perceived acts of meanness and abandonment differently than we did. I was wrong. I have come to understand that dogs feel emotional pain just as we do, they simply carry themselves differently through it.

For over a year now I have struggled. On good days, I consider the physical and emotional pain to be an opportunity for personal growth and on bad days it is simply a journey of suffering. Hope, too often, has been discouraging and belief has, at times, become disgust. I tire of trying harder, of striving to overcome and thoughts of gratitude make me sad.

It is not the brain tumour that causes my days of darkness. It will not be physical pain that defeats me.

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DULCY, GLORY & GRACE

DULCY, GLORY & GRACE

I wasn’t surprised that it was Dulcy who led me to a moment in time I will remember always. She was born in Moose Factory and her story broke my heart. The life that followed her rescue mended it though. Dulcy spent her first years confined outside and she was fed when the people who lived in the house she was chained to remembered. When in heat, she was vulnerable to the packs of male dogs that roamed the community so her pregnancies were of no surprise. Dulcy had a kind and generous soul though, so she welcomed her pups with love.  

The chain never left her neck so, after giving birth, her challenges were great. All mother dogs are protective, but northern dogs need to be vigilant. In addition to the bitter cold of winter, constant threats loomed over Dulcy’s shoulder but she was unable to shelter her pups because her chain kept them all in plain sight. She would travel the full length of her chain and circle her pups if she felt fear or move the full distance she was allowed when her bodily functions demanded she do so. She would not have wanted to scent near her pups.  

Dulcy’s pups were just days old when she moved away from them and her chain became too tangled for her to make her way back. A fallen tree branch had become encrusted in snow and acted as an anchor holding her in place.

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MEMORIES SHARED

MEMORIES SHARED

In a quiet moment, when I am alone I am often lulled into a state of sensibility. I see things as they should or need to be and I understand, logically, what must happen. It was during one of these moments that I came to accept how time had changed me and altered my abilities.  All I had once done was no longer possible. The will and the want were still there but I needed a new way.  

The September 22nd reunion gave me hope. The 76 dogs in attendance rejuvenated my soul and the kindness of almost 100 people warmed my heart.

In an attempt to say goodbye, I gave a presentation highlighting MPR’s accomplishments and shared our moments of laughter, joy and awe.  I remembered Callie, whose name was short for calibre because she came to us with a bullet lodged in her neck. She had been left for dead at the dump in Moosonee but managed to drag herself out and away where she was found by kids who saved her. I spoke about Hepburn, the first dog to come to us so injured she might have lost her leg. The thought of amputation was horrific to me so we spent much of our personal savings so she could keep it. Little Hobbs, the pup whose lower leg had been cut off with an axe just because he had crawled into the wrong dog house one cold winter night was not as fortunate. What was left of his leg did need to be amputated but he taught us that it mattered not a bit to a dog with joy in his heart. Martha was the first dog to come to us pregnant and I spent twelve hours in the whelping box with her keeping her calm. Together we delivered eight remarkable little beings and I witnessed the first breath each one took. Only once did I unknowingly place a pregnant dog. The woman who adopted Eaton was a first-time dog owner so only I found the situation funny. The task of naming 1,500 dogs was certainly something to remember. The Christmas litters were especially challenging so one year we had a Jewish litter in order to expand the name choices. Yetta, Latke, Temple and Saul will forever be favourites.    

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PLEASE BE THERE

PLEASE BE THERE

It was good to discover that, while a brain tumour crowds’ part of my head, wonderfully fond memories are able to push it aside so I can remember the many dogs who have come through our doors over the years. In preparation for the upcoming reunion September 22nd, I worked my way through the adoption binders, recording the sequence of each dog’s arrival. I paused at number 29, a pup I named Buffalo because he looked liked the tiniest miniature of one. I can still feel his little body sitting in the palm of my hand as I worried that I had overdosed him on worm medication. I hadn’t, but there was much to learn in October of 2003. Cally, number 59, was named after the calibre of bullet that was lodged in her neck. She had dragged herself out of the dump, where she had been left for dead, and was found by kids who knew what to do. No matter her sufferings, Cally was a sweet and gentle dog. Forgiveness had released the burden of her struggles. Number 66 surprised me because it seems I am still bothered that her name was changed from Hattie to Bones. I loved the name I gave her and it suited her. Letting go never became easy.  Garth and Dorsey, numbers 191 and 192, were the first set of twins to arrive. They were Yellow Labs that had been used as breeders at a puppy mill in Quebec. It took time for them to learn independence from one another because one had become overly responsible and the other utterly dependant. In time though, they each found their own way. Coach and Iris, numbers 498 and 499, also came from a puppy mill and it took them three days to come out from under a table.

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IT'S BEEN A WHILE

IT'S BEEN A WHILE

I felt sorry for myself a bit. This surgery didn’t feel right. I wasn’t ready for it but there was no choice. If I wanted to rid myself of some pain and walk freely I had to show up. So, I did. But I didn’t want to. I felt depleted of fortitude and the necessary will to overcome. Personal situations had caused months of doubting what I had once believed about myself and life had shifted drastically. Worry over my brain tumour paled in comparison to recently lost relationships.

I had endured the death of Stillwater, my great white bush dog from the Mile 26 rescue as well as the passing of Lady Rose, the wildish dog that had taken me a year to gentle. Huck, our mighty male, was diagnosed with bladder cancer and there is nothing to be done for him other than love and comfort. This was the dog that had been given a life expectancy of eighteen months due to a heart murmur that was supposed to defeat him. Instead, we will lose Huck in his twelfth year of life. I told myself what I needed to in order to keep going. There were rescue dogs that needed care and I couldn’t let them down. It wasn’t their fault they had come in our sixteenth year of work when we were tired and worn. I reminded myself of what Mission, a German Shepard dog, had taught me about endurance - “give all you can, then all you thought you couldn’t.  

It was the death of Ruth, my angel of light, that finally broke me though. She was the first rescue dog we kept for ourselves years ago and she was mine. When I was lost, Ruth knew the way. The light of her spirit guided me to where I was meant to be and she went with me.  

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