Saturday, December 3, 2005

Of Warm and Searching Heart - Jezzie's Story

Of Warm and Searching Heart -- Jezzie's Tale

The ad on read as follows:

"Jezebel is a very spirited, loving and enthusiastic red Chow Chow, despite being picked up as a Bronx "stray." We don't know whether she was actually a stray or someone's neglected junk yard or garage dog.  We also don't know her true age. While Jezzy is responsive, loving, and peppy with a "strong heart," the vet tells us she is an "older dog." But, we think Jezzy much younger than her bedraggled appearance would belie.  Jezzy could have gone down at the shelter like so many other neglected and cast away dogs. But, something about Jezzy told us she wanted to be saved. She stood in the front of her cage, demanding to be noticed. "Save me, save me! I need to get out of here! " she seemed to say. This dog wants to live.  Chows are very devoted to their people and we are sure Jezzie will be the same to you if you if you are kind enough to adopt her." 

But, nobody called about Jezzy. The warmth and love showing through her eyes in the pictures of a bedraggled dog on the internet apparently reached no one. Was I the only one to see it?

I remember the first time I saw Jezebel.

She was in a back ward at AC&C. There was no name on her card as she had been picked up in the Bronx by one of the AC&C Rescue Drivers. I named the scruffy dog, "Jezebel" (after the famous Bette Davis character) because of her deep red, passionate color. 

Jezzy awaited her "stray hold" to be up, after which, she was scheduled to be euthanized. Her status was a "5T" (for "severe temperament") with a notation on her cage card that she tried to bite the catch pole used to drag her into the shelter.

There was also blood in the cage as Jezzie seemed to be bleeding from her mouth. Perhaps she had suffered some injury?

Jezzy stood in the front of her cage barking frantically. Everything in her message was, "I need to get out of here!"   Shelter handlers were afraid of her. But, there was something in Jezzy's soft eyes that told me there was nothing to fear.

I begged AC&C staffers to let me take this dog. But, first we needed to get her out of the cage in order to evaluate and hopefully change Jezzie's "5T" status. This could not be done immediately. One of the more experienced handlers would have to deal with her. A memo was put on Jezzie for me with reluctance.

"Are you sure you want to take this dog?" I was asked, repeatedly by several staffers.  "She's not nice and may be sick."

Nevertheless, I insisted. I was able to pet Jezzie through the cage. "I will take her to my vet." I told staffers. "I am sure she will be fine once she is out of here."

Some days later, I was allowed to take Jezzie. One of the handlers and I were able to carefully take her from the cage and walk her. Once out of the cage, Jezzie wagged her tail in delight and relief. She was going to be a good dog, I could tell!

My assistant, Dave Ambrosio waited in his car to help me take Jezebel to our vet. Jezzie sat in the back seat quietly looking out the window as we sped to "Dr. G."

Jezzie was caked with filth, mud and feces. Her once beautiful coat was a mess of tangles and dirt. She smelled horribly. We had to open the windows in the car despite the near freezing temperatures outside.

"Oh my," said Dr. G when we walked into his office with the grungy, smelly, skinny stray dog. "This is the worst you have ever brought me."

Dr. G checked Jezzie's mouth, heart and vitals. Her teeth were very bad with several infected teeth. He theorized that a severe mouth infection caused the bleeding in her mouth, along with a sinus infection.

"At least three of her teeth should be pulled," Dr. G pronounced. "We can put her on antibiotics for the infections. She also has an inverted eyelid which causes pain. That will require surgery to fix it. But, we will have to work on that later. For now to get the mats shaved off and deal with the teeth and mouth."

"The good news," Dr. G. added, "is that she has a strong heart."

I agreed to the treatments and left Jezzie with Dr. G.

"I hope my landlord doesn't complain about the smell," he joked.

The next day, I picked up Jezzie, now somewhat cleaned up, but funny looking. She was still fluffy in the front, but her entire backside, legs and tail had to be shaved. She looked like an bizarre combination of Red Chow and Poodle.

Since I had no foster home for Jezzie, I brought her to Run Spot Run, a dog boarding facility on the Upper East Side. I took some pictures of her and bought some canned dog food for her. I imagined after having three teeth pulled, it would be difficult for Jezzie to eat hard food.

Later that night, I wrote the ad for Petfinders and put up her pictures.

Over the next few weeks, I went each day to walk Jezzie, along with the three other dogs we had in boarding. Jezzie seemed to be doing well -- except for the occasional, heavy sneezes, sometimes spraying small droplets of blood. I hoped the antibiotics would take care of the sinus infection.

On her walks, Jezzie was enthusiastic and always took the lead. She seemed forever "on a mission." Always trying desperately to get back to where she once was and once belonged. She looked at every person on the street, trying to find in one face, the one of familiarity and devotion.

But, it was never to be.

Unlike the other dogs, I had to coax Jezzie back to the boarding facility. She would frantically try to pull away, as if desperate that she had not completed her mission! She had not found her home. Had not found her person. I always had the feeling that if I let the leash go, Jezzie would run for however long or far it took, to find her way home again.

No matter how bad or how neglectful the former owner(s), it did not matter. Jezzie still loved and still wanted to return. I petted her, hugged her and offered her treats. But, always her gaze fell yonder.......The soft, yearning eyes, searching far beyond my face.

"Beware, the Ides of March" a character in a Shakespeare play says to Caesar.

So, it was in the early days of March, I noticed, what seemed to be a swelling near the top of Jezzie's muzzel, giving her face the appearance of slight distortion. The sinus infection did not seem to be getting better. Yet, Jezzie was eating well and gaining weight. Her personality was chipper and determined. She was still the dog with a mission!

I too, was determined to find a home for this wonderful, devoted dog. If not, an adoptive home, then a foster.

One day, a woman contacted me seeking a nice older dog who could do well in an apartment while she and her husband were at work. "I have the perfect dog for you," I told her. "Can you foster Jezzie while we work on her medical needs?"

Jenny and her husband arranged to meet me at Run Spot Run on the evening of March 5th to meet Jezebel with the intent of fostering her.

But, when I went to walk Jezzie earlier in the evening, I noticed that the swelling on her muzzle seemed much worse and additionally, she was sneezing a large amount of blood.

I immediately rushed Jezebel to Dr. G.

Dr. G. was very concerned when seeing Jezzie. "I will need to do an aspiration of the lump and run some tests. Leave her overnight." "This doesn't look good," Dr. G cautiously warned me.

Seemingly, not hearing his words, I hugged Jezebel close to me.

"Its gonna be all right, Jez, don't worry! There are wonderful people who want you! There is finally light at the end of the tunnel!"

I then returned to Run Spot Run to meet the lovely young couple who had come to take Jezzie home. With apology and embarrassment, I told them, "We have a slight setback."

The next day, around 5PM, Dr. G. called me.

"I have very bad news for you," he told me, somberly.

The "swelling" was not swelling at all, but rather an aggressive malignant tumor that was eating away the bone on Jezzie's muzzle. Dr. G had also done X-Rays which showed a tumor already growing in her lungs.
I couldn't believe the news.

"But, she gained weight!" I said. "But, she was peppy and always walked briskly and led on the leash!" "She ran up the stairs!" "But, but, but.....I could find a hundred "buts" and yet no explanation for the brutal and cruel irony which was confronting and opposing all of it. Knocking, tearing down hope.

"I know, " Dr. G said sadly. "She looks good, but this is something that is not going to go away. It is not treatable."

In the end, I had no choice but to voice the inevitable words. The words which, though, so painful to say, would somehow send Jezzy back to the only home she seemed to have known and sought. The one I could never provide or find for her again.

It was time to let go of the leash and set Jezzy free.

One of the basic tenets of rescue, is that "You cannot save them all."  But, those of us in this work never truly believe that for those we have chosen to save. The ones who "speak to us," the ones we fight to save.

But, though Jezzy spoke to me in her desperation to get out of the shelter, it was not for me to find what she really wanted. There was only one home for Jezzy and one way or the other she would find it again. It was her sole mission.

I hope I was able to give Jezzie some small comforts in her last days. Some good meals, some care, some hugs. But, in the end, I was not the face she sought. The one she wanted so desperately to get back to

Sometimes, in the end, we have to admit, we are not God.

In the arms of an angel, I hope Jezzie finds....


No comments: