Sunday, June 3, 2007

Not an On-Purpose

For those of you who don’t know, talking about what happened to Bama on May 9 is painful. Many of my family, friends, and colleagues have expressed interest in following Bama's story, so I thought would start a blog to share her progress toward recovery. Her fight to survive is remarkable.

I have three dogs: BigDog, Buster, and Bama. (This picture is from my 2006 Christmas card. Bama is the smallest dog. All three are loveable mutts. I'll share Bama's rescue story in a later post.) My father also lives with me. Dad and I were making a quick trip to to pick up a belt for the tractor. The dogs love to ride, so we put them in the back of the van. We have blankets and a water bowl that's designed not to spill when I drive so they travel in comfort. We are careful to leave the air conditioning or heater on when we leave them in the car, if the weather dictates. To prevent Bama and Buster from jumping out of the van when we open the latch, we attach their leashes to the seat belts.

On this particular afternoon, I put BigDog in the back of the van in front of Bama. I closed the hatch with the remote. When we came back from the errand, Dad said, "Where's Bama?" I looked down at his hands, and he was holding Bama's leash and empty collar that were caught in the hatch. I did not realize she had jumped over BigDog and out of the van before I closed the hatch. The seat belt extended enough that she was able to land on the ground but not get away from the van. I had dragged her behind the van without realizing it. We had no idea what had happened to her. We didn't see any blood on the road, and I hoped she slipped the collar before she was injured.

It took us hours to find her. After driving up and down the road calling for her, I took the other two dogs out to look for Bama, but they were soon panting heavily from being unaccustomed to temperatures in the low 90's. I had to take them inside to cool them off. I became concerned about Bama having heat exhaustion, along with other injuries.

I quickly made a lost dog poster and plastered the area with it. A kind person at a nearby trailer park found her and called me after seeing the poster. Bama was lying on the driveway in front of the trailer when we finally located her over six hours after we ran the errand. When I called her name, she dragged her back legs trying to get to me. She had serious road burns all over her body. I was devastated. Thank God she had finally slipped the collar.

We rushed her to the emergency vet clinic. When they took her in a room to examine her, I stroked her head and kept blubbering, “I’m so sorry, Bama; I’m so sorry, Bama.”

One of the technicians smiled gently at little Bama and said, “Tell her ‘That’s why they call it an accident instead of an on-purpose, Mom.” Yes, it was an accident, but I kept wishing there was some way I could go back in time and undo it.

The emergency clinic gave her fluids to stabilize her until the next morning.

When we picked her up from the emergency clinic and took her to the local vet hospital the next morning, the vet was honest with us that saving Bama was going to be an extensive investment of time and money (thousands of dollars). It was going to be a lot to put her and us through. She had lost over 25% of her skin, and wounds on her side, stomach, and thigh were extremely wide and deep. Bama also had extensive wounds on her legs and feet.

I did not make the decision out of guilt, although I felt plenty of it. As difficult as it would have been, if I believed the best thing would have been to euthanize Bama and end her suffering, I would have made that choice. I thought about how Bama managed to live those hours in that heat with those injuries. She had tried so hard to come to me when she heard my voice, despite her pain. The look on her face said, "You are finally here. I've been waiting."

It is incredible to think that a creature would love you so much that she would fight so hard to stay with you. I told the vet, “If she fought so hard to live, how can we do anything but fight with her? We will find a way.” Despite the fact that I had just lost my job, I knew what I said was true.

I am so proud of this little dog. In the blogs that follow, you will understand why. I believe that good will come from this tragedy. Her determination has already deeply affected my life. After 16 years of chronic pain from a car accident—often excruciating pain, I was ready to give up and go on disability rather than try to start over with a new job. But in my heart, like little Bama, I know that I have more to give. She has inspired me to try again.

Thanks for your good wishes for her recovery!

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