Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Dog that Found a Home and Love Before Death

I was inspired to write this by a touching post by Ashley Owen Hill, Before You Go to Heaven, reposted by Maria Goodavage on her website. Hill tells of fostering a fatally ill dog (Annie) from a shelter for a short period, to give her a home and the love that she had never gotten before, and only after giving her as much as possible taking her for the inevitable final trip to the vet, and seeing how happy and unafraid Annie was. What a kind heart.

Reading Hill's reposted entry reminded me of an event that took place years ago, about one year after I had adopted Shauna. We were out for our evening run (Shauna running, me riding my mountain bike) in the industrial area around my biz. Shauna slowed down and alerted on something across the busy street. Ears up, looking, sniffing the breeze. I tried to see what she saw or heard or scented, but at first I could see nothing (it was a four lane street-- wide). Then I heard what sounded like a dog wailing. We crossed the street, and found a dog lying in the gutter on the other side. She was trying to get to her feet, but couldn't move her hind legs to get them under her. She sank back down, but looked very frightened and panicky. I was in a bind, because I didn't want to leave her to go get my car, but I couldn't carry her, handle Shauna's leash, and push my bike at the same time. So I attempted to flag down a car, waving my reflective orange vest and pointing to the dog. Cars slowed down, then sped up. No doubt they thought I was a lunatic. I even walked out into the center of the street; but it was useless. So I returned to the dog. I could see that her back was broken. Also, she was bleeding from the mouth and nose, probably from internal injuries. My decision was to give up trying to get her to a pet emergency hospital, and just be there with her, to calm her and at least let her know that she was not alone. I cradled her head and stroked her face and neck, and she sighed and relaxed. I talked to her (I know, I know-- dogs don't understand a word you're saying, according to some; I disagree, but more on this in a later post). I want to think that her last moments were moments of peacefulness, dulling the pain.

As an aside, I believe that dogs easily pick up on a tone of voice, and a soft and reassuring tone can calm them. A little sharper tone can remind them. They can even detect a question, with its rising tonal pattern at the end.  I'm a big believer in talking to a dog, but in a low voice meant only for his ears. No need to talk as as we do with humans; dogs hear very very well.

I think that Caesar Millan (see his book, Caesar's Way) believes that we tend to talk (verbally) to dogs excessively, and that we communicate our state of mind best through our body language and movements. I don't disagree at all with the second part of that statement. And I agree with the first as well, if he means by "talking excessively" (my words, not his), a whole lot of heaping of praise when the dog has only done what he knows he's supposed to do anyway, or a lot of excited baby talk, and so on. But talking is as much a form of behavior as our body language, and dogs can sense our state of mind when we talk to them in a low, even voice. But hey, I'm not an expert!

happy dog

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