If I ever needed confirmation that I’ve got a strong enough stomach for this work, Monday provided it.
The call was fairly vague. A dog was bleeding. There was a tumor. There was already an appointment to see the vet later that afternoon, but the bleeding was alarming enough to make it an emergency. Contact was made with the vet to see if they could take the dog right away. We drove to the house not knowing what to expect.
What we found was a very large, very sweet dog (likely a boxer mix), with a huge mammary tumor and a very shaken owner. (Who turned out not to be the owner.) The dog had been biting at the tumor overnight and now it was bleeding. While the bleeding wasn’t life threatening, the dog was clearly suffering, the swelling was infected, and she likely had a high fever. The woman explained the horrible horrible situation to us. The chronology was a bit confusing to me, but it was clear that she and her children were victims of domestic violence. The dog had been her ex’s. She hadn’t seen either of them in almost a year. Recently, ex had shown up again, dropped the dog off with her, then proceeded to smash in a bunch of windows in the house. The police were involved. The woman was alarmed to see the state the dog was in and had immediately made a vet appointment but it clearly couldn’t wait.
WARNING: Squeamish readers should probably skip this next paragraph.
We transported the dog and the women to the vet just a few blocks away. While walking from the ambulance to the office, something happened the sight of which I’ll never forget. A wet clump of tumor the size of an orange dropped from the dog onto the pavement with a sickening splat. Suddenly what had been a relatively modest flow of blood turned into a gushing faucet. I pulled on a pair of latex gloves and picked up the warm bloody tissue while my partner ran ahead into the office to get a plastic bag to contain it. The women went from shaken to distressed. We calmly but urgently led them into the vet’s waiting room where the blood pooled on the linoleum underneath the poor dog and a metallic odor filled the seating area. Needless to say, the vet saw us right away.
The vet confirmed that the dog was running a high fever. We were all amazed considering the fever, the infection, the bleeding, and what must have been a considerable amount of pain, that the dog still remained sweet and affectionate. The doctor said that surgery was possible but it would have to be extensive and include spaying the dog (without which she’d be guaranteed to have a recurrence sooner rather than later). Sadly the cost of surgery plus post-surgery care would come to more than the woman’s monthly income. She had enough love to heal the dog but she just couldn’t afford it. It was heart-wrenching to watch her realize that not only her and her kids had been affected by abuse; this poor dog – a dog that wasn’t even hers but that she clearly cared about – was also a victim. It was decided that the kindest thing would be to put the dog to sleep. Waiving the standard ambulance fee, we left the women there to say goodbye to this sweet animal that clearly deserved a lot better than she’d gotten in life.
We moved on to our next call.