Wednesday, July 27, 2011
In a series of fast and unfortunate events I was the first to arrive on a scene in which I knew I would be the last to extend a little kindness to a life known as Shadow. Shadow -- a small black dog -- lay in the road with a halo of blood around his head, a heaving chest filling with fluid, and two miserably mangled legs. Bloody, muddy, and growling in pain his scared eyes told me the end was near.
As my horror-stricken children watched, I frantically called the number on his tag and delivered terrible news to the shocked and shaky voice on the other end. "Come quick your dog's been hit and he doesn't have long."
Then in my heels and skirt I kneeled in the road and sobbed as I stroked his dirty little back. I didn't pray he'd survive; I knew he was too far gone. Every breath he took was racked with the rattle of sure fate. But I hummed and I cried to him and I held his head. In minutes his momma came with fear in her eyes and the confused look of predictable circumstances -- knowing her dog would never come home, again. She took one look at her Shadow and sighed, "Oh Shadow, what have you done."
My heart couldn't hold the sadness of the moment. So I did what all good mothers do. I pitched in my strength with hers. She had come -- just as I'd instructed -- quickly, but unprepared. So she had no blanket to wrap him in. My mind went straight to the brand new picnic tarp I knew was in the back of my car. After all, I'd just enthusiastically selected it for it's lively red color. Though I knew I'd never get to use it if I offered it, I gladly handed it over and helped her move little Shadow onto what would be his last bed.
I had never met Shadow or his owner before this day, but the scene of his last afternoon plays over and over again in my mind. It even makes me gasp with emotion and begin crying in remarkably off-putting ways. I suppose it's the thought of the end that upsets me so. That and the raw need for unconditional love. Any of us who approached Shadow in his last minutes could have chided him; told him it was his foolish choice to run in the road that got him killed. In fact, I suppose I could have grimaced at the sight of all the blood and foaming saliva, even the grubbiness of his coat. But that is not what Shadow needed. All he needed was love.
While I am not a dog, I think I might be a simple creature. Despite the choices that make me, me -- when my last breaths are counted I hope someone rubs my back and says, "It's OK, little one. Close your eyes and relax. I'll stay until your people come."