I knew I was going to be writing this, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be for a while… a few days, at least.
Harley is gone.
He was dying, already, when he got to the shelter. His abdomen was full of tumors, his heart was failing and his lungs were full of fluid. He struggled with every breath he took. I knew it was bad, but I was hoping there was something the vet might be able to do to keep him comfortable, at least for a few days.
But he was suffering, and we couldn’t fix it.
And I wish I had a more eloquent way to put this but… it sucks.
It’s not fair. I look at my dogs, with their glossy coats, short nails, white teeth, bright eyes, with the finest of food and grooming and vet care at the first sign of trouble… and I think about Harley, with scabs and dandruff and lumps and warts, nails curled under his feet, teeth decayed and breath sour, a badly infected and injured eye, dehydrated and starving and desperately thirsty. Who knows the last time he saw a vet.
Why did his life have to end like this, being held by a stranger after leaving his home in a metal cage in the back of an animal control truck.
I cried today, from sadness and frustration, and I found myself shaking with anger as I drove down M10 toward River Rouge.
But… just because his life did not follow the path I choose for my own dogs, does not mean he was not loved.
When I said his name, he perked his ears up and turned to look at me. He knew how to sit, and he knew how to use the puppy dog eyes to beg for treats. When I pulled up at home today with him in the backseat, I opened the door to pick him up and carry him inside, and he jumped out of the car by himself, waddled across the lawn, up the path to the porch and waited at the door for me, looking back as if to say, “Let me in already, willya?”
Someone loved him, and it’s not up to me to judge them for what happened to him. I just try to believe that they did the best they could, with what they knew and what they had. I hope, if they ever see his story, they will know that their dog was loved deeply by many people, and that he enjoyed his last day, and he was hugged and kissed and told “we love you” as he slipped to sleep, content.
I am glad he had somewhere to go when his owners could do no more for him. I am glad his photo was shared on social media, and that I happened to see it. I am glad that I have a patient husband and even more patient dogs who routinely accept fosters of all shapes and sizes and ages into their home.
I’ve always had a soft spot for seniors… they all have something to teach us. Harley has reminded me how much people care, even for an old dying dog sitting in an animal shelter. He was not alone, not for a minute.
So thank you, on behalf of Harley, to all those who have offered encouraging words and prayers and who stopped for a few seconds out of a busy day to care for this old Beagle and how he spent his last days. I did my best to help him feel the love from the entire community of animal lovers that heard his story. And there may be another Harley, someday, a pet abandoned in a way that makes the heart ache. But I take comfort knowing that he was not just a statistic, another homeless dog to die in a shelter – even if I only made a difference for his last few hours, it made a difference for him, and that tail wag, that contented sigh as he laid his head on his arm and took his last breaths… that makes it worth it.