The Messenger of Death

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Death;

That’s the final frontier.

Nothing is more definite.

Nothing is more final.

Nothing is more irreversible.

Then why do we take a life?

Why do I?

If Dr. Kevorkian can be punished for human Euthanasia, what is my punishment for killing sixteen cats and nine dogs with reasons ranging from upper respiratory infection to perceived aggressive to simply – “un-adoptable because they’ve been at the shelter too long” scribbled clear across their charts.

A red tag around their collar as I walk him to his final walk. The chocolate brown big-pittie wags his tail wildly as I pet his pretty face. He jumps up and down the weigh-scale ready to play his game with me.

  1. The amber read-out of the scale flickers. That would mean 8cc of the Blue-juice. My gut tightens.

The vet-techs check his vitals and I tranquilize him. Then we put him in the cage and the vet techs cover it with a blanket.

“Why do we do that?”

“So he can’t see what’s going on outside.” He says to me and re-starts his banter with the other vet-techs.

Having been here for a week has taught me how to read between lines. Having worked in rescue for years has taught me how we veil our fears and feeling. It’s not because we don’t want them to see outside. It’s because we don’t want to see inside.

So I peek behind the blanket. My pittie is swaying his head from side to side like Stevie Wonder does when he sings. Drool is dribbling out of his mouth.

I can barely hold his chart up with my trembling hands. There must be something wrong. He is so healthy and happy. I go over every line again. It still says Upper respiratory tract infection. I could’ve sworn I never heard a cough or anything.

They pull him out and lay his limp body on the table. His muscles are quivering involuntarily. He must’ve figured out what’s coming.

“Why don’t you do this one.” My supervisor points to me.

“Me?” I look behind me. Nothing. Gosh.

My mouth runs dry. I gulp a few times and pick up the syringe. I draw 8cc’s of the blue liquid and grab the pittie by the elbow and twist my wrist slightly.

His big vein pops up willingly, eager to please me very much like him. Always obliging. Always ready to give happiness, joy, love and now even his own life; The true spirit of a dog.

And the true spirit of man.

I point the beveled end of the needle up and dig into his skin, feeling the vein. I draw out a little blood to ensure I’ve hit the vein and then I plunge the syringe as deep as I can.

A sudden urge to vomit overpowers me. I’ve just pushed death into the body of an animal that I had sworn just to give life to. I had chosen death.

“Good job, officer.” My supervisor spins on his heel and leaves the lab.

My knees hit the floor. I run my hand over the pitties head repeating the words SORRY SORRY , Please forgive me. I am so sorry, big guy.

His eyes glaze over they are staring into nothingness. I put my face right in front of his eyes. I want me to be the last thing he saw. I pet his head and kiss his nose till the heart jab injection tells me he has passed.

I force myself not to cry in front of the vet techs. I force myself to appear professional but my heart broke into a million pieces today. But it has broken several times before and it will as long as I work in this field.

Today I am the messenger of death. We in rescue call this by different names- we try to ease the pain and cutify death. Lab Limbo (stalling going to the lab by doing menial things to delay killing), The Rainbow Bridge, Going to meet Jesus, Going night-night… It’s still death; Final and all encompassing.

I trudge over to the wash-basin.

Boraxo, Industrial strength hand-wash. An orange bottle over the basin reads. Removes paint, grease, tar, ink and oils.

I pump some on my hands and scrub the grainy gel as vigorously as I can. Yes but can it remove DEATH too?

Another one licks the dust … Pound for Pound

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Have you seen a big un’ go down? That’s what I did today.

NO, I didn’t kill any dog. It was a black and white coloured pit-bull that I tranquilized because he was being aggressive when I cornered him.

NO, I didn’t tranquilize him because he was aggressive but because he is a stray and not neutered. He must’ve been used to produce more pit-bull puppies to be sold for profit. These are the puppies that finally show-up back at the shelters as abused dogs and do end up on euthanasia lists.

So had him pegged with my catch-pole when he gave up the chase and I had to shoot 1cc Tranquilizer into his dense hind-leg-muscle.

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He stood there; defiant. The effect of the Curariform skeletal muscle relaxer was winning the battle. In a few minutes his anal gland released and urine dribbled down his leg, involuntarily. His front paw bent inward as he struggled to keep his eyes open.

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Then the drug started affecting his muscles and his trembling legs could no longer hold up his massive body and down he went like The Titanic.

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His big snout was on the ground and his heavy breath blew away blades of loose grass, he struggled to keep his eyes open. Five minutes later I realized my predicament of taking him to the truck by myself. The anesthetic would wear off in 15 minutes and I needed to secure the big-guy in the truck.

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At this point I had an audience of around 20 people. I wrapped my arms around his back, lacing my fingers around his chest and heaved him up in my arms and–, and…

–My eyes welled up. His body weight was about 80 pounds. It wasn’t the weight that hurt me but the fact that several years ago I used to lift another dog of the exact same weight.

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Speed. My Speedy; the big Doberman who was on the last stages of his joyful life. He suffered from Laryngeal Paralysis and on walks around the block he would have breathing episodes. I would carry him back to the house cradled like a baby and he would rest his muzzle on my shoulder. A part of me used to think he did it on purpose because he enjoyed those rides back. The wily old ba*****d.

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Here I was today carrying this dog to my truck 30 meters away, to the cheer of the audience. Some were concerned about the dog, some thanked me a few were angry.

But the giant pit-bull is safe. He’s at the shelter and is well-fed. I’ve taken him on several walks now and I can safely say we are friends from the way he wags his merry tail every time he sees me.

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Today my own Speedy would be smiling at me from somewhere behind the clouds for having picked another eighty pounder and given him a ride in my arms.

My chiropractor be happy too sending me bills- If I keep on doing this stuff.

The Baby ‘Coons

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“The policy is clear on Raecoons.” My supervisor’s voice is firm.

“But he’s just a baby.” I hold my phone to the shivering three-week-old mammal clinging to the concrete with his sharp little paws. “Can you hear him wailing?”

Cheeeeeeeeerpppp, Cheeerp, Cheeerp.

“Inder, they carry the Rabies virus.”

“Rabies? He’s just calling out to his mommy? She’s got to be around here somewhere. She’ll be back looking for him tonight. Surely.”

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“How come you’re so darn sure about everything?”

“—because I know animals.”

“–that’s what you said about the Diesel engines too, Mr. Engineer.” His voice has a hint of irritation in it.

I lower my voice. “Those wails are for his mommy. Trust me on this one.”

“Okay, so what are you proposing?”

I lay my hand flat. “Let me call the home-owner and ask him to let the Raccoon stay in his yard for 2 more nights. If his mommy doesn’t get him, I’ll pick him up.”

“Okay. Just make sure the home-owner feels satisfied with it. Remember that we work for the city government and the citizens are our–”

“—customers. Yes I will. Thank you.” I flip my city-phone shut.

How can I forget the most important lesson I’ve learnt working for the government in the US. You guys treat your citizens as your customers whereas in my country government workers treat the citizens like vermin.

Fifteen minutes later I return to the yard. The home-owner is kind enough to let the raccoon baby live and give the mother a chance to take her baby and nurse it. He tells me that there were three babies and the mother took one away last night.

Now my task is to find the second baby raccoon. I crawl on the ground with the grass tickling my ear inches from the ground. I strain to hear it. Finally I hear a weak squeal from behind a board. A weak, feeble baby ‘coon is trembling like a reed, calling out.

I reunite the brother and the sister and they stop squealing right away, indulging in a wrestling match. Their squeals get louder as I walk back to my truck. But these are excited squeals of play.

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Today three adults saw combined passion in their hearts to allow 2 babies to live and my faith in my journey from an engineer to an animal control officer is restored.

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Just a little.

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