The Sugar at the end of my day

The SPCA ambulance had no air conditioning. And it was HOT. It was like driving a giant, puffing, stinking, diesel-powered furnace. There was no cage in the truck we normally used, and we needed one for this last call of the day. We were on our way to pick up a dog from an owner who could not afford vet care, and this dog desperately needed it. The SPCA’s law enforcement had given the owner several days to get the dog to a vet, but he claimed financial hardship and had agreed that the SPCA should take the dog, see that it had proper care, and put it up for adoption.

We arrived at a row-home so typical of the city. The owner’s grandson motioned us to the alley, which ran along the tiny rear courtyards. This dog had never been out of the man’s backyard. He had never been on a leash. We had no idea whether he was friendly or ferocious. He turned out to be simply scared.

It was almost comical to watch the dog outwit every attempt to catch him in the tiny courtyard, hiding under tables and ducking our leashes. When we finally managed to slip a leash around his neck, I noticed the horrible condition of his coat and skin – barely any fur remained on his body, and open sores were visible on his neck – a secondary skin infection, for sure. But I felt immensely sorry for the owner, an elderly man who stuttered and hobbled with the aid of a cane, and told us the dog was about nine-years-old, and his name was Sugar. There had been a car accident. And bills to pay. I could tell he cared, but there just wasn’t enough money to go around.

Sugar did not, under any circumstances, want to leave that yard. That was the only environment he had ever known. We finally managed, with the help of the elderly man’s grandson, to get the dog into the back of the ambulance. He was docile, but scared to death.

“M-make s-sure you t-tell them that he-he’s a good g-g-guard dog,” the elderly man said sadly, as we prepared to leave. I had a lump in my throat. It didn’t seem fair.

If Sugar was resistant to leaving the yard, he hated that ambulance more. I could hear him barking and crying on the way to the shelter. I knew his fear must have been almost unbearable. He fairly flew out of the holding carrier when we finally arrived, but had absolutely no idea how to walk on a leash. He bit and ground the leash to tatters. The officer and I tried pulling on the leash, but to no avail. Sugar had put on the brakes and that was that. I couldn’t bear the sight of his legs stretched out in adamant refusal, and thought how much it must hurt to have the leash digging into those oozing sores on his neck. We called for a cart, and wheeled him to the shelter hospital.

Frightened and away from the only family he had ever been exposed to, Sugar bravely allowed the vet techs to administer shots and Frontline for his fleas. We scooped him into a cage in the hospital where hopefully he could survey his new surroundings and calm down. I talked to him through the bars of the cage and told him it would be okay.

That night I was sadder than I had been in awhile. I thought about Sugar and his owner on my ride home and wished there had been a different option. I visit Sugar every chance I get now. He is still a resident of the hospital, on medication and recuperating. I try not to think of what will happen – an older dog on the adoption floor, with most people wanting to adopt cute, cuddly puppies. But there are lots of success stories, and that’s what I have to keep in my mind.

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