Three weeks ago, my friend Jos was driving to work when she noticed a dog on the side of the road. It was raining, 26 degrees, and the dog was lying in six inches of standing water. She stopped, assuming the animal had been hit by a car and that she would drop it by the vet as a mercy, but upon hearing a voice, the dog slowly made its way to Jos’s car. She took her home.
I got a desperate call following an unanswered email. Jos knew that we’d been considering getting a pup (and that Butch would kill her if he came home to find a fourth dog in the house), and she’d cleaned up the stray thinking it might be a good fit for our family. Two days later, I picked up nameless-female-dog and took her to the vet. The vet told us the dog was lucky to be alive. Jos had pulled well over sixty ticks off her, and she had obviously suffered some trauma. Her blood work came back good enough, though she had the early signs of heart worms and was a bit anemic. The vet told me to put her on some antibiotics, give her two weeks and bring her back to be spayed when she was in a little better shape. I brought her home and we named her Frances.
She’s a weird dog, for us anyway, but they all seem weird to us. We’ve never had a dog, only cats, and we’ve always assumed dogs needed more attention than we could give. She’s a bassett/lab mix, short and long, all black, floppy-eared and lab-faced. Over the following two weeks, she moved right in. She paid no attention to the three cats or unlimited piles of toys, dishes, and other detritus that gets moved from place to place in a house with three homeschooled kids. She was perfectly behaved inside and a rowdy puppy outside. Perfectly housebroken. Perfect in the car. Just perfect… you know, except for the dog-smell.
This past Friday, I put her in the car and took her to get spayed. I dropped her off around 8am and expected to pick her up around 2pm. I got a call around 9:30am:
Hi Chris… I’m not sure how to explain this, so I’ll just say it. We’ve run into a problem with Franny. When the doc began the surgery, she noticed some hair in Franny’s body cavity, and after looking further into it… um… she found a wrench.
A wrench. Ok.
Yeah, I don’t know if you’re missing any tools or anything, but we’re going to try and take it out. Needless to say, this is going to be a bit more extensive than a normal spay.
Uh… ok. I guess. So what’s the plan, then?
As you can probably guess, either by knowing me personally or even merely through the blog, I’m not really a wrench-using kind of guy. It’s not that I don’t own a wrench. I own a few. But they’re not things I have out and around, or even handle all that often. The last wrench I used was for putting trucks on a skateboard. I’m more of a banging around the Net, playing a lot of board games, horsing around with my kids kind of guy. Most of my time spent in the garage involves pulling vehicles either out of or into it. Given all that and my complete lack of dog-knowledge, I was more than a little confused. At that point the tech explained to me that wrench was at least a foot long.
Yes sir, and it appears to be caught in her intestines. The doctor’s working on her now, but we needed to call to let you know this will certainly be more expensive than a routine spay.
Right. She couldn’t have eaten that, right? Dogs don’t just eat foot long pieces of steel, do they?
No sir. It was likely fed to her.
I’m sorry, what??? It was… Uh… Ok… Well, I guess do whatever you need to do. We’ll figure out the money, just do what you can and let me know what’s going on as soon as you know.
At 3pm we called back and spoke to the vet. Someone had apparently force-fed an eighteen inch ratchet extension to Franny and dumped her on the road at least two weeks prior. The surgery was successful, considering the complexity of the situation, though Franny was still a long way from healthy. The extension had punctured her stomach and had been inside her long enough that some of her internal organs, including her intestines which had tangled around the bar, had begun to adhere to the extension and the sides of her body cavity. There was nothing the vet could do about the organs, but given that Franny had been eating and pooping regularly, the vet was hopeful that she could recover and that all organs would continue to function. Obviously, we needed to watch her carefully. The vet would determine the next day when Franny might be able to come home.
On Saturday, we got a call in the morning and the tech explained that Franny had broken out of her cage the night before. She was very upset, and the vet thought we should bring her home. Connor and I had a JrFLL competition that morning, so we couldn’t be there, but Tiff picked up Franny around 11:30. We were very worried about the money, having no idea what the surgery might cost, and Tiff launched immediately into a rehearsed monologue about what we could pay immediately and how we would make good on this debt given a little time. The receptionist cut her off. It seems a local pet charity had contributed heavily toward the debt, and the clinic had forgiven a large portion of it. In the end, we wrote a check for a little over $100 and took Franny back to the house. She whined all morning and afternoon. After I got home, we spent most of the evening coddling her and trying to get her to eat. We fed her pills and brushed her. And she whined and whined. By 10pm, I made a palette on the floor in the living room and fell into a fitful sleep with dog-breath in my face.
Today, I took her back in. The vet is pleased with her recovery so far, though she warned me that it was still touch and go and encouraged me to be vigilant. Franny is bored around the house, whining mainly because she wants to get out and play, and is eating much better now that we mix her prescription food with chicken. My children are in love, even though they’re having to deal with some of the stark reality that often accompanies such love. It’s a tough lesson. My dog is sleeping soundly in her bed with a full belly. And for the first time in 72 hours, she’s not whining.
There’s a lot of suffering in the world, you know. Animals and people. And there are people out there who cause suffering. I was pretty angry there for awhile, and I’m still utterly confused as to what could drive a person to do such a thing. But there are bound to be things we won’t understand — how a man could force-feed a dog a wrench and how a dog so brutalized could live long enough to make it into a cat family. It’s strange, but there it is.
So to the staff of Countryside Animal Hospital and especially Dr. Windle — thank you. What you accomplished on the table was amazing, I’m sure more amazing than I’ll ever know. And you’re compassion and understanding will have our gratitude and friendship forever.
To the folks at Paws and Claws Rescue — thank you. You gave to help a rescue dog that you never rescued or even saw. You’re compassion and understanding will have our gratitude and friendship forever.
To the friends, family, and acquaintances who wrote in heartfelt words, prayers, and wishes to our facebook pages and other Net portals — thank you. You’re right, she’s a great dog. And we do feel very honored to have her with us. You’re compassion and understanding will have our gratitude and friendship forever.
Finally, to the man who committed a cruel and savage act of brutality against a defenseless little pup — We’ve got your dog. She’s part of our family now, and that’s where she’ll stay for as long as she chooses to be here. I can’t offer you gratitude or friendship, but I can say we have your ratchet extension. You can pick it up whenever. I’m always home. And I imagine we’d have a lot to talk about.