On Jan. 28, I was having breakfast at a Pine restaurant. The waiter looked out the window, saw a dog running along the highway and said, "That poor pooch is going to get hit."
The words were barely out of his mouth when that is exactly what happened. A car came along at that moment and hit the dog. When I got to him, it was clear that he was seriously injured and in shock. Several of us gathered around, wondering how we would get help for him. The man who hit him stopped just long enough to look at the dog and say, "He needs to be put down. I hit him pretty hard." Then he was on his way.
Someone called to find a veterinarian that was open on a Saturday morning and notified Payson Pet Care that we were on our way. Someone else contacted the Gila County Sheriff's Office.
I don't know the names of the people who helped, but several people got involved in one way or another. A woman who was passing by donated a blanket (which I still have), a man who had been having breakfast came out and handed over $20 to help with expenses, saying only, "You're going to need this." A county sheriff deputy soon arrived, and he (along with another man) helped to lift the injured dog into my truck.
At Payson Pet Care, Dr. Sandra Snyder took X-rays and determined that the dog had a broken leg as well as several pelvic fractures. She could not perform the surgery, but recommended Sonora Veterinary Hospital in Phoenix. Hearing what had happened, a kind woman I spoke to in the vet's office donated $100 toward the bill. I didn't get her name, but I did get her dog's name -- Huckleberry.
After looking at the X-rays, the surgeon in Phoenix, Dr. Mark Soderstrom, had good news. There was every reason to expect a complete recovery. The surgery went well, and he was able to come home with me a few days later.
Unfortunately, the following week, he had bladder trauma so severe that he was in terrible pain and I had serious doubts that he would make it this time. There was a very real possibility that his bladder was shutting down completely. So, back to the hospital he went for further observation and treatment. Once again, he pulled through.
That was two months ago. And the good news is that Huckleberry Finn (for that is what I named him) is well on his way to recovery. He still has a bad limp, but I am hopeful the limp will diminish once the steel rod is removed from his leg, which should happen next week.
The other good news is that he is a smart, friendly, and loving dog (a Queensland heeler) with a lively and playful personality. Through research, I learned that a Queensland heeler, also known as an Australian cattle dog, is one of the smartest breeds around. But, even more importantly, Huck doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and he wants everyone to be his friend. The vets have told me that he is around 2 years old, and I can easily believe this because he still has a puppyish way about him.
It wasn't in my plans to get another dog, and I was worried that my dog, Billie, would be jealous and upset, having been the only child for the past four years. She did growl quite a bit at first, but the growls have gradually decreased. Huck is the type who refuses to believe that anyone could dislike him and does his best to ingratiate himself to everyone he encounters.
As Huck's health has improved, he and Billie have even started playing together, and I've even caught them curled up next to each other on several occasions.
Fortunately, Huck's story has a happy ending, but there are far too many dogs whose lives do not have happy endings. When I first started calling rescue groups in search of an adoptive home for Huck or financial help (the vet bills came to more than $6,000), it was clear that every group out there is already overwhelmed with too many dogs and desperately needs more financial help themselves as well as more volunteers.
I also made every attempt to locate Huck's family, including putting up signs, placing an ad on the local radio station, and contacting every agency I could find. But no one ever came forward.
I am writing this today to thank those people out there who helped Huck on that terrible day. You have our undying gratitude. I want those people to know that Huck is happy and well. But I also wrote this letter to urge everyone to donate to the Payson Humane Society. If each of us would make regular donations, we have it in our power to save the lives of homeless dogs and cats. We should also urge our town council members to provide more financial assistance.
Think of your own beloved dogs and cats, and think of how much they mean to you and how much they add to your life. And then think of the dogs and cats that are less fortunate. If we all joined together, we could turn our local Humane Society into a no-kill shelter. Individual citizens came forth to help in getting a new library for Payson, and we could all join forces to build the best no-kill shelter in the state.
As an English teacher, I place a very high value on books and public libraries, but I place an even higher value on the lives of these innocent animals. If individual citizens could find the money to build a new library for Payson, then surely we have it in our power to build a no-kill shelter. So, I urge each and every one of you to find it in your hearts to make a donation -- large or small -- to make this dream a reality. Call the Payson Humane Society at (928) 474-5590.