Lesson 5- A Lesson in Caring. Thanksgiving 2013 is one I will never forget. And it all started with a dog named Boe (short for Beauregard)
Mom and I were in the kitchen with our hands tied while everyone was arriving. And by everyone, I mean close to 40 of our extended family members. This is a tradition all of us look forward to each year. Thanksgiving 2013 was different for me, though. This time it was tinged with sadness, hope, and another life lesson.
The oven was being opened and closed as the house started filling with warm company. I tip toed over to the sink to refill the water pitcher, and gazed out of the kitchen window to see what was going on. Did Sue get here with the mac and cheese yet? It was my aunt Nancy, swiftly appearing from the next house over. Ever so carefully, she made sure the pies she had just baked wouldn’t slide off onto the crisp November ground. My eyes shifted downward towards her side, and suddenly spotted a dog, limping. Nancy had no idea who the dog was, or why he had followed her. It was as if by the grace of God he clung to her as though she was his angel. Either that, or it was the food. It was probably the food. He could practically taste the meal that our warm house promised.
I had to find out more. I was trying to gather all of the information while casseroles and family members were being shoved through the door. He had no collar on and had what appeared to be a broken leg. He couldn’t set it down on the ground for even a second. He was wearing old, ragged white sheets tied around his body. It looked as though someone had tried to make him a sling, which made no sense to me. He was skinny, and looked as though he hadn’t eaten in days. As my family was taking the tin foil off of the green bean casseroles and sweet potatoes, I dug into the pantry to get some dog food. I didn’t speak much to my relatives who had just arrived. oops. (sorrrrry! I love you guys!) Call me a bad host, but I was on a mission.
Soon I discovered that it was more critical than I had thought. His left shoulder had a deep gash. Probably the deepest gash I’ve ever seen in person. It wasn’t bleeding- but you could tell it had been that way for days. Instead, it was gray and oozing and smelled terrible. I’m not a vet, but….. I knew it was infected.
I really wanted to fight for this guy. Despite his injuries, he had such a friendly spirit. His sandy colored face was a mix between a terrier and a golden of sorts; uniquely lovable. His cholocate brown eyes would gaze up at you, as though he was trying so baldy to say something. He would wag his tail, eager to greet you- terribly pleased to meet you. He approached us like we were his own family. Did he have a family? He wanted that. He wanted to be warm and loved. That’s what killed me. He then tried to follow us inside the house. But we couldn’t let him. He was too badly hurt.
The timing was horrible; just as this was happening and we were trying to process what to do, it was time to say grace. Everyone then lined up, plopping turkey onto their plates, scooping mashed potatoes, and drizzling gravy. They had what they needed to feel warm and loved that day. But Boe didn’t. I had my back towards my family while I was setting spoons inside the dishes. And I started to cry. I couldn’t control it. I looked over to my mom and managed to spit out “whh-hhat’s going to hhhhapen to Boe?” I left. I couldn’t eat knowing that he was out there in the cold suffering.
Luckily my dad stepped in. He put Boe into the outdoor storage room, so that he would at least get some shelter and remain close to us while we tried to get him help. No one was around, though. Animal control was closed. It was Thanksgiving day, afterall. People were sitting down with their loved ones, eating turkey and pie, just as they should. I mean that made sense.But the sudden love I had for this dog didn’t care what day it was. What were we supposed to do? What any rural citizen with a problem would do: call the Sherriff.
Three hours later, the sheriff made it to the house. He assessed Boe, and realized that it was bad enough of an injury to get him seen today. He ordered animal control to come pick him up. They had to eat Thanksgiving dinner first, of course. I understand that now, but the 8-year old girl in me didn’t want to rationally see it that way. So we waited, and waited. In the warmth of the house while Boe was out in the cold. For 7 HOURS.
It broke my heart to check on him one last time. His little head poked out of the room. He gave us that same look …as if to say thank you. Thank you- even though I didn’t have the skills or resources to fully save him. When the animal control personnel arrived, he greeted them with that same, gentle spirit. They were simply shocked. How could a dog that has been through that much still be so completely friendly and able to love those around him? He was finally whisked away…to an unknown fate. The vet had to decide if he was “worth” saving.
If the circumstances were different, and say…I had a steady job and an apartement of my own…I would have stayed with Boe. I would have adopted him. And loved him. And would have bought him an expensive squeeky toy. And he’d have this great story behind him. I’d take care of him for the rest of his life, making sure he’d never suffer again. But this is real life, and I don’t have that right now.
[update: The vet decided to save him because he was such a sweet boy. He’s now recovering! ]
So besides the obvious, how does this connect to people? Well…it certainly confirmed something that I’ve been considering non-stop this past month. Something big. I’m too afraid to talk too much about it right now, but be looking out for it in the future. And yes, it has to do with caring.