“I can’t find her vein.” Dr. Collins glances at the amber oval wall-clock. “ The anesthesia is about to wear off. Its time to stitch her up.“
My eves are transfixed on pitch-black blotchy skin on the 30 pound dog on the operating table. A purple tag around her collar reads ‘Rielley’. Her leg is swollen up to three times the normal size. The monochromatic surgery lamp is focused on it leg- lying split open with the doctor poring deep into it.
“Forceps” the doctor squeals. I hand him, the cold metal instrument.
“Where do I put it?” I hold up my gloved hand.
“Just wipe my forehead.”
The large beads of sweat that I have seen on the Vets forehead for the first time almost drop into the dog. He wrinkles his nose at the P.A system playing Ticket to ride. “Ashley, this loud music is very distracting.”
You’re the die-hard Beatles fan, Doctor.
He continues to complain, “There’s no god damn skin to suture the wound. I don’t see how this dog can make it.” He pushes back his surgery goggles with the back of his wrist.
Inner strength doctor inner strength.
Dr Collins peels off his blue gown-“I think we should have put her to sleep.”
“I’d never seen anything like it, Doctor have you?
“People are sick. “ He tears off his face-mask. “Somebody picks up a stray with mange and puts her in a vat of motor oil .”
“Motor oil? Why?” I whimper.
“It’s an old wives tale. Motor oil doesn’t cure mange. It burnt this dog. The motor oil seeped through her legs and they swelled to three times the size. Her belly, face and legs are 90% burnt.”
“But she has spirit” I run my hand over her soft, bald head.
“That she does” His frown turned upside down. “She has more pain tolerance than any dog.”
I’ve seen bad-ass Dobies with Harley Davidson collars being dragged through that door” I point to the sliding door with the reverse image of Shadow Creek Veterinary Hospital for nothing more than a rabies booster shot. And then there’s Rielley- she traipses in every time. Greets each and every one of us- her mouse like tail wagging in glee. She’s just so happy to be alive.”
“Amazing.” He runs his finger on the bandaged legs. “We’ll be using an old method of treatment called wet-dry compress for these wounds.”
“An old wives tale almost killed her and now an old method of treatment will save her.”
“Last week I didn’t think she would make it. I recommended euthanasia but she wouldn’t take NO for an answer” Dr. Collins raised his eyebrows towards a woman sitting on the bench. Her arms folded in prayer- her soft eyes watching over Rielley like a mother-hawk. Her hopeful smile revealing her crow’s feet as she negotiated with god to save her girl.
“Yes, Angela, her foster from S.A.V.E rescue helped her. And this time it was the real help. She’s spent hours dressing her wounds, cleaning her suppurating pads.” I nod in familiarity. “Doctor, how long before Rielly will heal?”
“Well after the wounds heal we have to treat her for her original problem; mange. “
I put a hand on Angela’s shoulder. “So when the person who poured motor oil on her to help her caused her most harm.”
“Yes, life-threatening injuries. What’s worse is that when they saw the horrible results they abandoned her. All of you have really helped. Rielley responds to you because how much you care.”
“No Angela. The inner-strength that she shows while enduring the painful treatments gives us the strength to help her.”
“She’s quite a trooper, isn’t she?” Dr. Collins kisses her nose.
She gives me belief doctor. She gives me strength to face my own fears. It’s strengthened my resolve to educate everybody about the plight of animals.
Today I took Rielleys collar off six weeks after I first saw her. Today she lifted her paw without any pain and shook my hand. Today we beamed over the first patch of peach fuzz she has got on her almost healed body.
Then the Beatles song started on the P.A system-
When I was younger, so much younger than today.
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
Today our help has paid off. This has been the roadmap of her journey.
The roadmap of my own journey has been made clearer by a path an abandoned stray has shown. I run my fingers over her almost dried wounds.
The gift of inner strength that a 9 year-old mutt abandoned in the dark and dingy underbelly of Houston gave me that beats any story, any parent or any preacher’s help.”
One day someone will give you a home, Rielley and you will help them in ways they don’t even know yet.
Won’t you please please help me,
Help me, help me, help me, oooooooo