|in my own words|
|--by Mike Murray|
Hardly a week goes by without my wanting to contact Fran and Steve, the people most responsible for saving Janna's life. I want to tell them -- again and again -- how grateful I am that they took "J-Bear" in, that they nursed her back to health, and that they patiently fostered her for months until an adoptive family could be found.
Janna is such a sweet pooch. And she has become so very precious to my wife and to me.
Janna's story is all-too common in the world of animal rescue. She'd been abandoned while pregnant and sick (she had heartworm). It's not clear that the person or persons who dumped her knew that she was ill, but they surely were aware that she was "with pups." After she gave birth and her offspring were adopted out, her real trouble began.
That's because the moment she was no longer a nursing mother the clock began to tick in earnest. Resources are in short supply at public facilities like the one at which she was being housed, and new strays arrive daily. Once she was no longer needed to care for her puppies, Janna became simply one of many adult dogs competing for limited space.
As so often happens in cases like these, a private rescue group stepped in and saved her in the nick of time. The group had no shelter, instead relying on volunteers -- fosters -- to care for the critters in their own homes. Fran and Steve welcomed Janna into a pack that was already large.
Jan (which is what they named her, based on her January arrival) had finally achieved genuine rescue. Because, had no permanent arrangement materialized, she was free to stay with Fran and Steve for the rest of her life. After seven months passed without placement (J-Bear has a rambunctious side -- a side she had a tendency of displaying on "adoption days"), it looked like it might come to that.
I'm glad it didn't. Because Janna came along at just the right time for Pam and me.
Having recently lost Maggie, we were beside ourselves. Maggie was (next to Pam) my best friend. I've said it on many occasions and I'll say it again here: she was without doubt the kindest, gentlest soul -- human or animal -- I have ever known. An angel. She changed my life in ways too numerous to mention.
Losing her hit me harder than I've ever been hit. Nothing, not the death of my father when I was twelve, nor the passing of childhood friends, relatives, or Army buddies hurt me more. It's hard for me to explain. You just had to know Maggie; she was that special.
Maggie took ill during what should have been the first third of her life. She plunged quickly, nearly expiring within a very few days. There was a moment when I was certain that she had reached the absolute end. But she managed to hang on. And then, having barely survived the first critical week, she embarked on a long and difficult road to recovery. After a year, we were hopeful that she was finally safe.
It wasn't to be. Just when my wife and I were beginning to relax, the other shoe dropped. Maggie's symptoms returned with a vengeance. There was no second miracle. This time, she simply went. Despite the heroic efforts of several fine Northeast Ohio veterinarians, she went.
Many people refer to their companion animals as their "children." I'm normally not one of them. Even though I haven't been blessed with kids of my own (odd, since I come from a large family -- I have 8 siblings in all), I've always considered the canines in my life to be pals. Sure, I talk the silly baby talk with them that others do with their pets. But my dogs have always been my buddies. (Now with my wife, it's a different story. She's always the "mommy dog." It's a woman thing.)
Nevertheless, I have to admit that there is a definite parent / child dynamic at work. When we humans tamed wolves and turned them into pets, we established rules in order to make the relationship work. Canines suppressed a degree of innate wildness for the benefits of domestication; we, in return, agreed to care for them as we would children. We treat them as members of the family. We feed them, we play with them, we pamper them.
And in cases like mine and my wife's (where no kids exist) dogs become even more child-like. Their affection is never distracted; they never develop interests outside the family that compete for attention. They are children who never grow up and move away. We "parents" are lulled into a false sense of security.
Oh sure, when dogs reach something in excess of ten years of age (less for some large breeds), we become more aware of the passage of time. Though we dread the eventual, we usually have reason to be hopeful for protracted postponement. But when the critters are younger and stronger, mortality is not on our radar screens. It's not even a consideration for most of us.
Which is why Rex's situation jolts. Rex is one of those sweet dogs that everyone likes. Even our somewhat picky "Miss Janna" goes for him. (Janna is a 50 / 50 kind of gal: she likes about half the canines she meets. And she really likes Rex.)
I haven't had much contact with Rex, but Pam has. She thinks he's truly special. She ran into Rex's "mom" (Kim) the other day, who revealed the awful truth. Rex has cancer. And he is dying. Kim doesn't understand why this should be happening; Rex is only four years old, after all. It just doesn't seem fair. In the telling, Kim wept. Pam wept, too.
Kim and her husband (Jim) have been doing all they can for their dear companion. They've seen him through two surgeries and chemotherapy. At one point, things looked promising. But as was the case with Maggie, the condition returned unexpectedly and with terrible force. Poor Rex has suffered much physical discomfort. And his "parents" have endured emotional trauma nearly beyond tolerance.
They know what has to be done. They're planning to do what is in Rex's best interest, no matter the pain his absence will bring. At this writing, the fateful day is almost at hand. Barring a miracle, Rex's date with destiny is only a few days away.
I will be hoping against hope that Rex is the beneficiary of divine intervention. And I will be wishing the best for Kim and Jim. But I know that it is probable that nothing will stem the tidal wave of grief that is headed their way and that threatens to engulf them. I hope it helps them a little to know that others sympathize.
We all know the inevitability of such things. The price of admission into loving relationships is heartbreak at their conclusion. Whether you're losing a loved one who is human or animal, and whether you've enjoyed that friend's companionship for many decades or for a period much shorter, it is hard to say goodbye. When that loved one is a child, it is nearly impossible.
Copyright © 2006 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.