My Vicky died today.
She was the ugliest dog I had ever seen, black and brown brindle, a Pitbull body with a Labrador head, a crooked leg but the clearest, most beautiful brown eyes. I trapped her in a live trap at the local landfill four years ago. The guys who worked there had picked the trap up and placed it under the awning. It was a cold and wet November afternoon.
One of them said, “You ain’t gonna take that dog out of that trap, are ya?” I said I was. The other said, “You’re braver than I am, lady.” I opened the trap, spoke to her softly and slipped the lead over her head. She hobbled on out of the trap and allowed me to pick her up and place her in a crate in the bed of my pick-up. I have rescued a lot of dogs but never one so obviously grateful.
Vicky, named after Victor, the manager of the landfill, had been dumped like refuse by her former owner, just another piece of garbage. I don’t know how long she had lived there—eating trash, scrounging for food—but it was long enough to have had a litter of pups. It was one of these pups that attracted my attention. My large wooden doghouse had bitten the dust and I had hauled it to the dump.
As I shoved it off the back of the truck into a brush pile several stories high, something yelped in fear. I looked over and saw a small red pup caught under some tree limbs. There were several other puppies, too, mostly black, but they quickly disappeared back into the brush pile. I managed to catch this one. Nearly three months old, she had never been touched by a human hand and she was terrified. I put her in the truck and drove home, with “Lottie” clinging to the dashboard as far away from me as she could get.
That night I began to obsess about the other pups—how long could they survive at the landfill? So I called and got permission to set out the live trap. I didn’t catch any of Lottie’s siblings but that first night, I caught the mama dog, Vicky. By the third day, it was business as usual at the landfill and they had bulldozed the huge brush pile, killing the other puppies.
I took Vicky to a local vet. He said the broken leg couldn’t be fixed; she would always be lame. She was also heartworm positive. Getting her spayed was another matter. She had had so many heat cycles and borne so many puppies, her reproductive organs were like mush and came apart in the vet’s hands during the spay. By that night, she was in shock from internal hemorrhage. I sat on the floor next to her in the kennel at the vet’s office and begged her to live. Poor Vicky had to have another surgery to stop the bleeding and save her life.
By the time she was up and around, she had discovered what it was like to receive a bowl of dog food on a regular basis. Vicky made up for lost time, becoming so roly-poly she looked more like a manatee than a dog, especially with her waddling, lame-duck walk. She was always trusting despite the rotten hand of cards she had been dealt in the game of life. She would run to meet me whenever I went out to the kennel. The little red pup, Lottie, had grown into a 90-pound Pitbull/Rottweiler mix. Lottie and her mom were tight. They didn’t care much for the other dogs. But Vicky’s only real flaw was an absolute terror of thunder, fireworks, and gunshot, gunshot being the method used by the landfill to eliminate the stray dog population. For this reason, I forgave her when she chewed a hole into the side of the garage, thereby making her own “doggie door;” she was that desperate whenever there was thunder or fireworks. Yesterday, Vicky didn’t come out of the doghouse while I was feeding, unusual for her. This morning she wasn’t sitting up. Vicky was at least 10 years old when she died this evening. The vet speculated heart or liver failure to be cause of death. She was one tough cookie, though. She had survived starvation, a broken leg, an infected uterus, heartworms, and abandonment by her former owner, not necessarily in that order. Despite all that, she was loyal and loving to the very end. Lay in the eternal sunshine and rest a while, Vicky—I’ll be along soon.