He is a terrier mix, with an under bite suggesting the influence of a breed like a Shih-Tzu. He is currently being fostered by one of our practice managers, who reports that he is “absolutely perfect.” He is quiet, house-trained and is perfectly content when placed into his crate. He is about 7 months old, and loves people and other dogs, alike.
Dogs were domesticated and bred to serve many purposes for the good of man, not the least of which is companionship. From all indications, Steve has held up his end of the bargain. The ease with which he has assimilated into his new surroundings indicates that he has been in similar surroundings before.
So how can we explain why Steve came to us as he did? He was found in a roadside ditch in Georgetown. He had a broken leg and a bag of food tied to his neck. When the Good Samaritans rescued him, he was wagging his tail.
When I (Henri Bianucci) arrived at work on a recent Monday, our practice manager, clearly trying to enlist my aid, began to tell me his story. I was in a hurry, and I cut her off short, simply saying, “You had me at fracture.” The stories all are a little different, but the essential ingredient is that there is a dog or a cat who, by no fault of its own, is now sitting in our hospital depending upon us to treat its wounds or repair its fracture and give it a second shot at life, and perhaps a first chance at a nice one. The answer always is yes.
These are my favorite cases. I don’t have to deal with estimated bills, detailed reports or numerous follow-up communications. The decisions are all mine. It’s just me and that little animal. I get to use my skills for the pure purpose of helping an animal in need as well as righting a wrong.
These animals are only in this situation because of someone’s irresponsibility. These are among the most fulfilling cases I do. Steve had a fracture through the growth plate. This is a thin line at the ends of immature bones, where cells are rapidly dividing, allowing the bone to grow in length. This area represents a weak spot, and in puppies, this is where bones frequently break. This can be from severe trauma, like being hit by a car, but often occurs when a puppy is dropped or jumps down from high places. With a new puppy, one should always keep in mind that these bones are much more subject to fractures than those of adults, so handle puppies with care.
Steve’s fracture was repaired that morning, and his recovery is going well. His prognosis is excellent both for a functional leg, and a great home, as a long line of potential adopters already has formed.
What’s missing in cases like this, and this piece is seldom revealed, is what actually happened. Sometimes these cases indicate abject cruelty, but not here. Steve had a bag of food tied to him. I suppose this could have been some kind of mocking gesture, but somehow I don’t think so.
Steve seems like a dog who had been loved. When did he break his leg? Is that why he was discarded? Or was he injured as he roamed around with his little bag of food? The possibilities are endless, and likely never to be known.
It’s easy in cases of animal neglect and cruelty to lose a little faith in mankind. But I recently saw a documentary on Fred Rogers, of “Mr. Rogers” fame. He recalled, as a child, talking to his mother about all of the bad news and bad things that people do to each other. His mother would tell him that whenever you see bad news, look for the helpers. She said there are always helpers, and that’s where you should direct your attention.
In Steve’s case, and so many like it, I look at the Good Samaritans, those who stop to help. There are the rescue organizations like the Charleston Animal Society, Pet Helpers and innumerable smaller rescues that are operating selflessly and often on a shoestring budget. I recognize that there are so many who work and donate to support them, and there are so many who choose adoption over purchasing a dog or cat.
I often hear comments like “I hate people” when a case of animal cruelty or neglect is seen. But these incidents show that those responsible for them are actually a tiny minority. Their numbers are dwarfed by “helpers” who actually define our collective character.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.