“Gosh, he’s the biggest Doberman I’ve ever seen,” I turned on my camera.
“And the most handsome one too,” Cindy tore a double-quilted paper towel from the roll.
The two-year-old 32 inch tall Doberman felt his way around the new house and stumbled towards me. His burnished-copper rust coat was dry and rough, his eye crusted over by mucus secretions. He turned his head to peep from behind the infectious growth in both his eyes.
He bent his head in front of me, nudging his head in my hand. “This is the way he greets all strangers?” I caressed his head.
“Yep.” Cindy rushed at me with the paper towel held out, “Inder, mind the snot.”
My hand snapped to my nose but Cindy was gunning for the dog’s nose.
“I’m sorry, Inder. Rambo’s infection is terrible.”
“Rambo? Did I hear you right?” I held his face in my hands. “Nobody will use the word ‘Rambo’ and ‘snot’ in the same sentence, unless it is ‘Rambo punched the snot out of the bad guys.” I laughed.
I touched his nose. The sand-paper grit texture of his nose was crusted over by dried mucus. His eye-sores, his ears, even his penis has minor secretions of mucus.
“What is wrong with him?” my voice faltered.
Cindy sighed and slumped in her chair. “These are symptoms of Ligneous Conjunctivitis. He’s been abused badly and was kept tied to a tire for two years. He has been denied food and water…” Cindys lower lip quivered. “He’s never been a puppy. He’s never had human contact, he’s…” she choked on her words.
I followed Cindy and Rambo into the yard. Cindy tucked her coffee to her neck allowing the warmth to grow into her body. “The vet is trying his best to save Rambo’s eyesight but he might have a bigger problem.”
I shivered in the hot summer Texas sun A two year old dog that’s fighting for his eyesight is not the biggest problem for the dog?
Cindy continued, “He might have Ligneous Conjunctivitis and need plasma replacement therapy. That can be very expensive and it will fix the problem but won’t cure it. He’ll need annual treatments.”
“Does that mean he’ll be put to–”
“–That’s the worst case.” She cut me off before I could use the dreaded word. “I hope it doesn’t come to that but it isn’t looking good” Cindy wiped the fresh lot of mucus Rambo had gladly rubbed against her blue shirt. “The woman who reported him will be devastated. She spoke to the owner, secretly fed him, thought about stealing him and finally called the SPCA.”
“Why didn’t the SPCA take him away sooner?”
Cindy squinted her eyes. “There’s more cruel people out there than you can imagine, Inder. They are overworked and under-staffed, but thank god for them; they finally got Rambo. The abuser’s previous dog wasn’t so lucky.”
I splayed my arms, “What? He’s done this before?”
“Yes. His last dog was a boxer that died of thirst.” Cindy shook her head. “But now they have him black-listed. He won’t e able to abuse again. Let’s just hope we we’re in time for Rambo.” Her peridot-green eyes softened with love she has felt for Rambo in the one week she’s been fostering him.
Rambo walked around with a toy in his mouth. That was the first toy he’d known. As a puppy he’d never played. He wasn’t sure what he should do with the toy. Cindy’s other foster Doberman, showed him how to play but Rambo was just so excited about having a toy that he didn’t want to give it up.
Rambo’s personality had just started shaping in the past week. He was not living before- he was breathing yes, alive yes—but he never lived. He is a two year old puppy. My heart bled imagining that he might be put to sleep in another week. A three week old, two-year-old Dobie. A life truly extinguished. I asked my own departed dog Speedy to put in a good word for Rambo to Speed’s good buddy; God.
Just then the bell rang and Rambo perked up. He dropped his precious toy and actually trotted to the gate. The woman who secretly fed him and showed him the only affection he’s ever known was at the gate. She dropped to her knees and Rambo dug his body into hers. She held his head and kissed his rheumy face. She apologized to Rambo profusely and he was stuck to her like he were velcroed to her.
Tears stream down her face and she cried for Rambo openly. The tears she had shed for him secretly for two long years were unleashed. Cindy, after having fostered several abused dogs and the ones she’s been unable to save from euthanasia lists is hardened to pain. Even she couldn’t help shed tears for Rambo.
Rambo’s fight had become personal to her.
I pulled my face out from behind my camera and wiped the lens. The scene still looked hazy. Then I felt a big fat tear trickle down my cheek.
Rambo’s fight just became mine.