Monday, June 25, 2012

Keeping our hearts open in the face of loss and tragedy

I know i'm not alone when I say I feel like i've been on a major rollercoaster ride of emotions these past 10 days. I walk this journey with many others, of advocating and doing our best to be a voice for the animals and for those who often have no voice. With so much loss these past 10 days, I find myself needing to consciously work to keep my heart open. My heart hurts for the animals we have lost, and also for my fellow rescuers who work tirelessly, day in and day out, allowing themselves to remain vulnerable to the hurt that inevitably comes in the work of animal rescue.

On June 15th, we lost little Doug, an 8 week old puppy who was shot 3 times with one bullet lodged in his spinal cord leaving him permanently paralyzed and his lower organs not functioning. Jenny and I were there with him, holding him as he crossed over Rainbow Bridge. We got a text yesterday that his ashes are in .. Jenny is going to pick up little Doug's ashes after work today. I will keep his ashes along with the ashes of others we have lost.

And yesterday at 7:47, Jenny and I received an email from Karen Good of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue. I will always be indebted and grateful to Karen Good for rescuing and leading me to my sweet Ahnung.

Hi Marilou and Jen :

We just concluded a neuter/spay clinic yesterday and when we were leaving the warehouse (vet had left) a boxer/pit mix (we named Hope) was brought to the warehouse  who had been in labor 2 days sitting in the back of a truck in the rain.  She had green slime seeping out of 2 holes in her mammary glands.  She had 2 pups that were dead previously the owner said.  
Hope before the c-section.

Poor Hope was surrendered in very serious condition and we went to the emergency vet in Gonvick MN where the vet opened her up and removed 4 dead puppies and there were 3 still living. Her embryotic fluid was green and foul smelling.

Hope is malnourished and after the pups were taken out- she is VERY skinny.

Hope remains at the vet on antibiotics IV and fluid IV this morning.

We are hoping hoping to find a place for Hope and her 3 surviving pups who are now being syringe fed and have a strong desire to live.  The vet thinks that if Hope lives she may be able to nurse them if

Hope is a very sweet girl.  She is a miracle and we hope you can take her.  

Jenny reached out to Jean of Carver  Scott Humane Society about the possibility of taking Hope and her 3 surviving pups, and without hesitation Jean said YES! Jean and her husband have been angels for so many of the animals. Hope and her 3 surviving pups are loaded up immediately and are transported to the cities by volunteer Heather who has just spent 3 long days up at Red Lake Reservation volunteering at a spay/neuter clinic. She stops every 2-3 hours to feed the puppies. 
Hope arrives at Jean's house

Jenny and I head over to Jean's house and around 6 pm Heather arrives with Hope and her 3 pups (Faith, Wendall and Leonard). Jean immediately takes the less than 24 hour old pups into her house and she and Jenny begin syringe feeding the pups some goat's milk. I'm hanging outside with with Heather and Hope ... her ribs are protruding and a couple of her mammary glands are wide open and it looks like her insides are coming out. Despite all she's been through, her calm, gentle, loving spirit was all I could feel. Once inside the house, she lays like a perfect angel on a blanket. After her babies have had some goat's milk we bring them over to her and she kisses them and cleans them off. What a kind, gentle mama. 

Dr. Vicki of Act V Rescue offered to come over and check on Hope and the pups. I call her and she immediately comes over to Jean's house. The pups are not doing so well. Their bodies are cold and we do everything we can to warm them up. Hope's IV needs to be replaced as she is also dehydrated. Dr. Vicki tells us we need to head to her clinic. Shortly after arriving at her clinic we place Faith, Wendall and Leonard under blankets and a warm air blower. Heather is rubbing them and trying to warm them up and whispering to them to keep fighting! Vicki told me at Jean's house that she was very concerned about Wendall. Less than 5 minutes after we arrive at the clinic we lose Wendall. Heather holds him and kisses him and tears start flowing. She brings Wendall over to Hope so she can say goodbye ... Hope kisses Wendall. Ten minutes later, we lose Faith. Hope kisses  Faith to say goodbye. 
Hope cleaning off Wendell and Leonard after
they had some goat's milk

All this time Hope is laying on the table and being a perfect angel and not even flinching with all the poking and prodding. Vicki stitches up her gaping open mammary gland ... while Vicki is working on Hope and cleaning her wound, Hope calmly rests her head on my right hand and arm. I start to feel my hand vibrating and moments later I hear Hope snoring. She's sound asleep (without the help of any drugs). She has got to be beyond exhausted after being in labor for more than 2 days and after enduring so much pain and suffering. 

At this point Leonard is still hanging in there and Hope has been stitched up and a new IV put in and given fluids. It's almost 9 pm. They head home with Jean who will ensure Leonard is fed every 2-3 hours. Leonard ate at 1 am this morning. But it is with great sadness I share that Leonard passed away at 4 am to join Faith and Wendall, and their other 6 siblings.
Faith being syringe fed by jean

So now, as Jean shared this morning, she must focus her efforts on helping Hope get well. It's hard for me to even comprehend the level of suffering Hope endured, and despite what she endured, has such a loving, gentle spirit. Many hearts are hurting for the loss of Faith, Wendall and Leonard. My only consolation is in knowing that for their brief 24 hours that they were surrounded with love and that Hope is now free of a life of suffering. 

I remind myself as well, that for all the losses, there are many happy endings. While waiting for Heather to arrive from Red Lake, we got to meet Lance, one of four puppies Jean took in from Morrison County Animal Humane Society a few weeks ago. Jean graciously opened her heart and home to foster these four puppies as their siblings had gotten parvo and did not survive. 

Lance ... defied the odds
and escaped parvo and is doing great!

Thank you Karen, Heather, Jean, Dr. Vicki, Jenny for all you did for Hope and her puppies. 

I found a beautiful prayer from "Prayers for Healing" ..

May our eyes remain open even in the face of tragedy.
May we not become disheartened.
May we find in the dissolution
   of our apathy and denial,
   the cup of the broken heart.
May we discover the gift of the fire burning
   in the inner chamber of our being ~
   burning great and bright enough
   to transform any poison.
May we offer the power of our sorrow to the service
   of something greater than ourselves.
May our guilt not rise up to form
   yet another defensive wall.
May the suffering purify and not paralyze us.
May we endure; may sorrow bond us and not separate us.
May we realize the greatness of our sorrow
   and not run from its touch or its flame.
May clarity be our ally and wisdom our support.
May our wrath be cleansing, cutting through
   the confusion of denial and greed.
May we not be afraid to see or speak our truth.
May the bleakness of the wasteland be dispelled.
May the soul's journey be revealed
   and the true hunger fed.
May we be forgiven for what we have forgotten
   and blessed with the remembrance
   of who we really are.

~ The Terma Collective

Heartfelt thanks to those who risk being vulnerable and having their hearts broken, over and over again.  Please continue to keep Hope in your thoughts and prayers ..... 

For more photos of Hope and her puppies:

Heather and Hope :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Continuing to Celebrate Ahnung

With my sweet Ahnung at her Celebration of Life
party on April 22, 2012
Photo credit: {lmj} photography
It's been exactly 2 months today since Ahnung's Celebration of Life party on April 22, 2012. On April 13th she had surgery to remove a tumor on her neck. It was major surgery with the surgeon having to go into her muscle to remove the tumor and to ensure deep margins. She was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer, invasive adenosquamous carcinoma, and took almost 6 weeks for the massive incision on her neck and back to finally heal. This was Ahnung's second round with cancer ... nine months earlier in July, 2011 she was diagnosed with mammary cancer and had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor.

From a western perspective there's not much we can do except to monitor her closely. From an eastern and holistic perspective there is a lot we are doing. She is on chinese herbs, wild mushroom supplements and fish oil supplements. She is on an anti-cancer diet and I am doing everything I can to boost her immune system and to ensure we create an environment in her body that is NOT conducive for cancer cells to thrive. Two months later she is doing incredibly well. She is happy and full of life and she is back to playing and rolling around with her brother Legacy.

So today, Friday, June 22nd, exactly 2 months after we gathered with friends to Celebrate Ahnung's life, not knowing what the future held, I continue to celebrate her magnificent and precious life. She is a wise spirit and every day I have with her is a gift. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Little Doug: Forever in our Hearts

Once again, my heart feels like it’s been through the shredder. I’m haunted my Lil Doug’s face. This is his story.

Little Doug arrives at Animal Care Clinic
Last Wednesday, my partner in crime (with Leech Lake Legacy), Jenny F, gets a call from the animal control officer up at Leech Lake Reservation. He got a call that a puppy was laying on the side of the road and had been hit by a car. He wanted our okay to take the puppy to the vet clinic up in Bemidji. Jenny immediately calls the clinic to give authorization to take the puppy in, evaluate him and administer whatever pain meds necessary. We get a call later that they think he may have a broken pelvic bone. He is unable to walk and move the lower part of his body. They are needing to express his bladder. We ask the clinic to take x-rays to confirm if Doug, the puppy, has a broken pelvis. Meanwhile, Jenny reaches out to our contact Jen F at the Animal Humane Society about Lil Doug. There is a transport coming down to the cities from Red Lake Reservation and our volunteer up north Nancy O works to coordinate transport so that Lil Doug can hitch a ride to the cities on Thursday. The vet at the Bemidji clinic shares with Nancy O on Thursday morning when she comes to pick up Doug that it appears that Lil Doug has been shot. He doesn’t have any broken bones. He has 3 bullets all close to his spinal cord. The sweet little 8 week old puppy is unable to walk and to move the lower part of his body.

Lil Doug hitches a ride to the cities with Denise who is transporting cats and kittens from Red Lake Reservation to be placed with rescues. Doug gets to ride in the passenger seat in an open crate and keeps Denise company on the 3 hour ride from Bemidji to Golden Valley AHS. Denise shares with us when she arrives at AHS that she’s been talking to him and giving him lots of love.  It breaks my heart to see this tiny puppy, unable to move and get around. Jenny picks him up and holds him and he doles out lots of puppy kisses. How is it that a puppy who has been shot, possibly paralyzed, been through hell still trust humans and is full of love? How could anyone just shoot a puppy and leave them on the side of the road to suffer and die? I’m struggling to not be consumed by anger and rage at the injustice of this all – at the harsh reality that humans inflict pain on such innocent, trusting beings!
Lil Doug arrives on Thursday, 6/14 - he rides
in style in an open crate in the Denise's passenger seat

We carry Lil Doug into AHS. He is held, given lots of kisses and doles out lots of kisses to Jenny, myself and the AHS staff who are there to welcome him. It was almost 6 pm before Doug arrived from his journey. The shelter vets were gone for the day so Doug’s x-rays couldn’t be looked at till the next morning when he would also be checked out. Anne J, the site manager of Golden Valley AHS, was there along with several others to ensure Doug was well cared for. Melissa (animal care tech lead at AHS) heads off to get Lil Doug’s luxury accommodations set up J She comes back to get the little squirt who has just snarfed down some wet food and continued to give kisses to anyone who got close enough to his adorable puppy face. Jenny and I follow Melissa and Lil Doug back to Ward G where he will be spending the night. Nice comfy, cushy fleece blankets are set up for him. Since he’s unable to get around on his own we place the water bowl next to him so he can get a drink. My heart breaks, once again, as I look into the eyes of this incredibly sweet puppy as he struggles to move. I am hoping and praying for a miracle.

Early the next morning I texted Melissa to see how Lil Doug was doing. His kennel was full of poop and he was covered in urine. She gave the little guy a bubble bath, and fed him a very yummy breakfast which he once again, snarfed down. I’m still praying for a miracle. I’m praying the bullet can be removed, that he can some day walk again, and that he can tear around open fields and back yards, chew on toys and shoes and whatever else puppies get into, and go for long walks with some loving new mom and/or dad.
Doug's x-ray show the 3 bullets

Around noon I get a call on my cell phone as I’m leaving Lake Harriet Veterinary after picking up a refill of Chinese herbs for my girl Ahnung. I answer the phone. It’s Dr. Josh from  Golden Valley AHS. “I’m sorry I don’t have good news for you about Doug.” I have this sinking feeling in my stomach. He tells me one of the bullets is in Doug’s spinal cord. The 2nd bullet is right next to his spinal cord and the 3rd one is close by. He is paralyzed – permanently paralyzed and the organs in the lower part of his body aren’t functioning. His bladder isn’t working and leaks urine and will need to have his bladder expressed 3-4 times a day. He has no control over his bowel movements. I’m hearing words .. but they’re just words and they become background noise and my heart feels like it’s on fire and can’t take in any information … as Dr. Josh gently shares more information, it’s like the time I heard my vet tell me ‘I’m sorry, Ahnung has cancer, and it’s an invasive aggressive cancer.” After a couple minutes, I ask Dr. Josh … “I know it’s probably not fair for me to ask you this …” He interrupts me, gently saying, “ask me anything.” After a short pause, “What would you do? We want to do the right thing for Doug. We don’t want him to suffer, but we also want to give him every opportunity.” I know in the end that Jenny and I will have to make the decision. “If Doug were my puppy, I would let him go.” And in that moment, my gut was saying the exact same thing. But I needed to see little Doug again, to be with him, in hopes that he would tell us what’s the right thing to do.
Little Doug in his kennel. Poor baby is unable
to move to even get a drink of water.

Jenny and I met at AHS later in the afternoon. Lynn H, vet tech supervisor at AHS, was there to meet us. Over and over again as we have worked to rescue and rehome the animals up at Leech Lake Reservation, in partnership with AHS, Lynn has been there for us on so many levels. As we walk into the intake area, she walks up to Jenny and hugs her tightly. She then comes to me and gives me a huge, tight hug. “I am so sorry” she says. I can feel Little Doug’s spirit. He is there with all of us. There’s still a part of me that refuses to accept we can’t save Doug. We go back to Ward G. Dr. Josh joins us - he says it’s time to express his bladder again and he goes over the findings of the x-rays with both Jenny and me, the results of his exam and shares with us the severity of the spinal injury. “It will never get better … I am very sorry.” After a year of working so closely with us, Lynn knows that Jenny and I want to spend time out side with little Doug; we need to talk about it; and we need to be as sure as we can about any decision we make. I’ve been holding Doug tightly and giving him lots of kisses. Lynn tells us she’s been carrying him around at work and he’s been getting lots of kisses and love all day. It makes me smile to know the little boy has been feeling love since he was rescued from the side of the road. As I hand Doug off to Jenny my shirt is all wet with urine. We sit down on the grass outside and Jenny sets him on her lap. He can’t get comfortable. He also decides to leave a little poop surprise on her lap … it doesn’t bother either one of us, but the reality of the severity of his injury is apparent. He’s calm when he’s being held against your chest. When you set him on your lap on even on the ground he struggles to find a position that’s comfortable. It broke my heart to see his frustration. Jenny and I both knew in our hearts that the most humane thing to do was to free little Doug’s spirit from a body that had been damaged (by humans). My heart physically hurt. I was angry. I wanted to scream and to curse, and quite frankly, inflict pain on the individual who would commit such a cruel, heartless, act on an innocent puppy. The other part of me kicked in … the part of me that strives every day to fill my heart with love, compassion, understanding, patience, non-judgment. The cycle of violence can’t be broken with more violence. I looked into lil Doug’s eyes and all I could see was love. Dear sweet lil Doug … help me be more like you.
Spending time with Lil Doug on Friday, 6/15

Friday, June 15th, 2012: Jenny and I make the heart wrenching decision to be with little Doug and to hold him and love him as he crosses Rainbow Bridge. I push all feelings of rage and anger aside. I find some comfort in knowing that little Doug did not have to die alone, by the side of the road, and would never be subjected to any more abuse or suffering. And I return to the moment. What matters in that moment is Little Doug; what matters is that he knows he is loved; what matters is that he knows he is safe; what matters is to hold onto that pure, innocent, trusting love that Little Doug carried despite all he went through …

Lynn and Jen F of AHS and Jenny and myself surround Doug with love. Jenny holds him as I stroke his face. Tears are falling and I whisper to him, “Now go run and play in the field.”

Little Doug was a survivor. His story must be told. There is good that has to come out of this. The cycle of violence and abuse must stop.

Sweet lil Doug … you have touched the hearts of so many, and you will forever be with us ….

Thanks to everyone who helped make Doug’s last 48 hours filled with love and as much comfort as possible: to Rory (Leech Lake animal control officer), to Animal Care Clinic in Bemidji, to Nancy and Tom O for picking him up from the clinic and meeting the transport from Red Lake Rez to the cities; to Karen G for making sure little Doug had a place in the Denise’s passenger seat on the transport to the cities; to Dr. Josh, Anne J., Lynn H., Jen F, Melissa C of AHS for your support and kindness and care of little Doug; and to Jenny F for walking along side of me, and your tireless devotion to these precious animals.