December 17, 2010
One Broken Heart Leads To Others
Boomer- Number 97 of the Bedford Rescue. I was told that he was sitting in the front window when animal control officers arrived at the double wide trailer that housed over 100 animals. I often wondered if he had been waiting to see if anyone would ever come and save them all, and if so, how long that wait had been.
As the fateful day last September progressed, we waited for news of how many animals were coming to Angels of Assisi- first the number was 25-30, then over 40, whoops- make that 75, no they just found 10 cats under a bed. Oh boy... now 5 more cats in kitchen cabinet. And a final number of 102. (The next day one more cat was found, for a total of 103).
We were also anxious to hear about the condition of the animals- after all, one can get wrapped up in the number, the volume, the magnitude of what was happening. But in reality we were taking on the awesome responsibility of 103 heartbeats- living, sentient beings- that had ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. That needed to change.
As the day turned into night, we heard that there were no emergency situations, except for one dog. Number 97. He had a bad heart, and probably needed to be put down immediately.
When he arrived, he was all ribs and a big belly. Dr. Shelley examined him, and decided to give him a few days to see how he progressed. We housed him upstairs in the clinic, where staff could keep a close eye on him and make sure he was comfortable.
Boomer stabilized in those next few days. Yes, he had a very bad heart, but along with it he had an incredible appreciation to be alive. He loved to be with people, knew how to sit and shake, and offered his paw to anyone that would take it. His damaged but pure heart captured all of ours.
The staff would take him outside to go potty, and discovered that he really wanted to go for a car ride. In the first few weeks, due to the pending court case, he was not allowed to leave the property. So he would sit in Dr. Spangler's parked car. The car was not moving, but I guess in Boomer's mind he was going for the ride of a lifetime, far, far away from the cramped doublewide he had spent so long in.
In working out a plan for Boomer, it was decided that a good foster home would do him well. We knew he did not have much time left, but a comfy couch, a loving family, and a chance to be a real dog seemed fair and reasonable to all.
Boomer did find a wonderful foster family, who were very patient with his special food needs and accidents that were beyond his control. Our wish was for Boomer was to live his last days cared for, loved, and to be more than a number. And it was a wish that came true.
A few days ago, the family called and said things were not good with Boomer. His weight continued to drop, and he could not hold any food down. They brought him back to Angels of Assisi, and Dr. Emily and Dr. Shelley agreed that the broken but pure heart had had enough, and it was Boomer's time to go.
We waited until the end of the day, when the clinic was empty and quiet. We gave Boomer all the treats and food his heart desired- mostly the types that were not included in his special diet. We shook his paw. Then we sat in a circle around him, and cried. As Dr. Emily sedated him, he had 6 pairs of hands on him. Brittany held him in her lap as the sedation slowly kicked in. We cried some more. Boomer became totally relaxed, but I hope he could sense the love that surrounded him. Then Dr. Emily administered the medicine that would put his bad heart to rest for the last time. I know a piece of her heart stopped when his did.
We sat there for a few moments after Boomer died. Then slowly people got up, hugged, cried some more. I was mostly proud of Tim, our kennel attendant. He can be a little gruff on the outside, but underneath he has a real a soft spot for the animals in his care. During our last few moments with Boomer, he went and got the tissues and cried with us. When it was time to deal with the awful task of taking care of the body the heart had left behind, Tim handled everything.
Many special thanks are in order- first of all to Boomer's foster family for letting him be a real dog, and loving him through his last days.
Second, to the Angels of Assisi staff, for always going the extra mile. Thank you for not only loving Boomer, but for giving him the dignity that every living and sentient being deserves.
And last, but far from least, a thank you to Boomer, Number 97, Boom Boom. Thank you for representing those animals who are in the wrong place at the wrong time, through no fault of your own. Thanks for showing us that each of you has a unique personality, and may even know how to sit and shake. Thank you for opening our hearts. Our love for you brought us closer as a staff; we needed that. We're still grieving for you, but that will turn into a resolution to keep fighting the good fight, being the voice for those who cannot speak.
Boomer, I hope your journey to the Rainbow Bridge was in a car, with all the windows down and the wind in your ears. I hope the radio had Sugarland's "These Are The Days" blasting. I hope you had some of those treats you like so much waiting for you.
We miss you, Buddy. Know that you left us closer as a group, and we've got a piece of you embedded into our hearts and our mission is stronger because of you.