There comes a point in the life of anyone who owns an animal, whether it be pet or food or servant, that they face the end of that animal’s life. The circumstances are varied and reactions differ from person-to-person. Yesterday was just such a day for us.
The dogs had been pretty wound up after spotting deer in the yard tonight, and wanted to go back outside to get the wiggles out. Mere minutes later (ten? Fifteen?) I hear crazy yipping from the backyard, and my IMMEDIATE thought is of Roxie jumping the gate again like she had earlier today and two days ago, and the packs of coyotes that are frequent travelers through the yard and prairie. I flew to the door, threw it open and called them.
There is a panicked snarling and whining and yelping from the yard. No dogs. It is ten o’clock at night, and pitch black. I start shouting.
“HEY! Hey!! Hey!”
I am fairly certain that the coyotes will flee at the sound of my voice. Nothing changes, the yelping intensifies. Steve comes flying out the bedroom door and around the corner to the yard. Time condenses to a thick bubble around just my head. I flee back into the house for light. The flashlight batteries are dead. Matt miraculously produces a head lamp with bright lights, and I tear down the deck stairs into the yard, where Steve and two dogs struggle. Just two dogs. No coyotes. What the HELL is going on? Steve is in the mud in his bare feet and underwear, so it is serious, and I do not hesitate to run into the fray. What I see takes my breath away.
Griffin’s jaw is clamped around Roxie’s neck and his face is crazed.
What? This is not Griffin! What is he doing! I rush in and seize him; Roxie is limp and unresponsive, and I shout at him to “Drop!” Steve has his hands on both of them and he says, “She’s dead. He is caught on her collar by his tooth and I need a knife to cut the collar. Just a terrible accident.” Griffin is not crazed, he is panicked. And now I am panicking and cannot control it. Roxie’s dead!! No! She’s dead!! I race back up the stairs shouting for a knife, and my panic catches me. “Take the knife to dad,” I say to Matt. He is confused, unaware of what is happening, and Jeanette is in total distress. Matt runs away with the knife and I let it go. “Roxie’s dead!”
“NO!!!” I shriek. This is my husband’s beloved dog, and the feeling was mutual for her. Velcro-Nose would follow him with her nose practically velcroed to his calf, wherever he might go. As much as I have grown to love Roxie I could not even bear the thought of my husband losing his Baby.
“Oh God, no! Please! It can’t be true!” I am full-out melting down at this point. I plead, begged God to spare her life.
Steve walks in the door with her in his arms. Her eyes are open, but she is glazed over. I cannot even tell if she is breathing. I have never whipped out a phone so fast in my life, dialing the vet’s emergency number. While I am waiting for the call to go through I look at her, where she was laid in the middle of the living room floor. Her 85-pound puppy body looks so small and vulnerable in the vast ocean of carpet. She lay flat on the floor. Not moving, only gasping like these are the last breaths she will ever take. By the time the vet answers and I manage to get enough coherent words out to convey that my dog is in dire straits, Roxie is the tiniest bit responsive. Dr. Albano graciously agrees to meet us at the clinic, where I have told her that she will need to treat Roxie…or put her to sleep.
Little by little, life returns to Roxie’s body. I don’t want to believe it and be floored with grief and panic again, so I just drive; keep driving, mind the stop signs, set your cruise so you won’t speed. Steve keeps a hand on Roxie; he is sitting beside me in his jeans now, but in his stocking feet.
By the time we shut off the car at the clinic door, Dr. Albano is turning on the lights, rushing out a slipleash, and Roxie is…sitting up! Praise God!!! She is wobbly, her head is covered in saliva from Griffin’s panic, her body is filthy where he drug her unconscious body through the mud, and her hind end is covered in feces where her own body gave in to panic and released its stress in the last way it knew how. But she is ALIVE!
Watching her walk into the clinic under her own power, I broke down again, thanking God for hearing the pitiful cries of a human over a beloved pet. I could still hardly believe what I was seeing!
Roxie checked out remarkably well. Her heart rate was normal, her lungs sounded great, her capillary refill (used to measure blood pressure and oxygenation) is excellent. She is most certainly wiped out from her struggle to free herself from her critical entanglement, her journey to the brink of death and her subsequent resurrection.
She was not dead, she was unconscious. She was not dead, but she was within a hair’s breadth. Another minute, maybe two, and it would have been all over for her. As it is, it is a miracle she survived, that we even heard the distress calls through closed doors.
Griffin and Roxie are both young dogs, big dogs, and they play hard. In one of those freak accidents you believe only ever happens to other people, his tooth caught underneath her collar as they presumably wrestled or bear-hugged. His efforts to free himself choked her off, she passed out, he dragged her, panicking. I can’t help but understand that if this had happened in the daytime, when they were turned out together for a time we were not home, she would have died. No two ways about it. Mere seconds after cutting her collar and releasing Griffin, and at about the moment I am pleading to God for her life, she drew a deep, gasping breath. Steve shook her body, calling her name, and she breathed in what might still have been “agonal breaths,” or what are essentially death throes. He picked her up and cradled her against him and carried her into the house. You know the rest of the story.
It occurred to me how quickly our lives can change, in a split second and when we least expect it. I understand this was “only” a dog, but I can much more easily see how it could happen to lose a loved one in just the same way- quickly and without warning. A warm bath and some pain relievers will send Roxie into a deep, healing sleep, but there are families out there who do not have that same comfort. Their loved ones are gone, and there will be no bringing them back. I hope this incident with our Roxie will help me to be empathetic with those who grieve.
I know in the grand scheme of things it is just a little mercy, but it is a mercy nonetheless, and I give thanks to God for it.
Here are Griffin, aka "Reddog" and "Box o' " Roxie, our buppy dawgs: