This is a story of one dog that didn't make it. As much as we wish and as hard as we try, not all of these stories have happy endings. Most of the unhappy endings could have been avoided if the guardians of these dogs would understand that heat can be a killer, that heartworm can be avoided through medication. Uncaring humans kill the most. How do we teach these people compassion? We have had dogs die in our arms. Each time it is never easy, but each time we at Stray Rescue become more determined to end these avoidable, heartbreaking tragedies like Butkus.
The July 4 weekend was particularly busy in terms of rescues. Stray Rescue opened its shelter doors to 15 more dogs, including eight puppies. We drove to the East side the morning of July 5 for the usual rounds of feeding the strays. At the end of one of the streets, we saw a dog lying in the road. It's really not unusual to see dogs asleep in the middle of the road or off to the side. Typically when you get close to them, they move. But as we got closer, this guy remained motionless. I parked the car and got out. As I approached him, I could see that he was still breathing and his eyes were moving. I knelt down and started talking to him. He did make one attempt to get up, but was so weak that he just fell over. I knew he needed immediate help. As I tried to figure out how to get him in my car, a police car pulled up. However, the officer neither stopped to assist nor asked what was going on through the open window in his car. With indifference like that, it's little wonder why the area remains so depressed. We put a large towel down, each grabbing a side and lifting him as if he were in a hammock. His body was very limp, and I didn't have a good feeling about his chances for survival.
The 15-minute-or-so trip to Hillside Animal Hospital seemed to take hours. I hoped he would hang on until we got there. Dr. Ed and his staff immediately worked on him. Despite their efforts, he didn't make it. X-rays determined that Butkus - the name I'd given him after arriving at Dr. Ed's - had advanced stages of heartworm and probably was in respiratory arrest when we initially found him.
On a positive note, at least Butkus was able to spend his last moments with people who cared instead of dying alone on the hot pavement. Hopefully, he was able to sense that.
Photos by Donna Lochmann.