Have you ever saved anything? I'm not talking about newspapers, buttons, or empty containers. I am talking about the kind of save where someones or somethings life was dependant on you. It could be as small as the bug you found in your living room and relocated back outside. Perhaps it was as big as another humans life. Either way, that person or thing was dependant on you, and you alone.
My journey to save a life began on a cold, rainy afternoon in October of 2007. It was early morning and our family was waken up to the sound of rain beating on the windows. Oh great, another day indoors, with nothing to do, I thought as I opened my eyes. I crawled out of bed, searched for my Mickey Mouse slippers and made my way to the coffee maker. There is something about a dark, gloomy morning that makes coffee taste that much better! As I poured the kids their cereal, I had noticed that they were already getting bored. Their energy level was rapidly exceeding my tolerance, so I had to come up with a game plan...or risk losing my mind today. I pondered the possibilities; a movie, bowling, play a board game, or hours of endless video games. Hmmm, what to do? I thought it would be best to let them jump, run, and scream, in an environment other than the house. So, we loaded up the kids and my husband and I headed over to a local indoor play center.
We pulled into the plaza parking lot, that housed the play center. With windshield wipers going full speed, I quickly went over the evacuation plan. Why is this necessary, you ask? Because, every time it rains my children strive to locate every possible puddle from the van to the store. With umbrellas in hand we darted for the play center entrance. As we stood under the awning, shaking the rain off the umbrellas, I noticed something moving out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look toward the shop next door and there a large, gingersnap-colored dog stood. I gasped, as I handed my umbrella to my husband and started to walk toward the dog. "What are you doing, Jenn...oh no...Jenn," my husband said as he quickly noticed where I was heading. Brief history: I have a passion for stray animals. My husband on the other hand, does not. I have been known to pull the car over, get out and chase strays for blocks!
With my husband beckoning me from behind, I continued to move slowly toward the dog, with my hand outstretched. "Hey there doggy! Come here...c'mon girl," I said as I lowered myself to the ground. With tail wagging she greeted me, with sadness in her eyes. I reached over to pet her and noticed she was soaking wet from all of the rain. I ran my hand down the middle of her back, where her ribs and hip bones were easily visible. She was excessively underweight, suggesting she didn't have a source of food. I turned back to my husband, "Ooohhh Honey, look at her." I waited for the expected response, as I continued to pet the stray. "No Jenn, come on, let's go inside," he replied on cue. I turned to face the dog again. She looked up at me with her deep brown eyes, and black face, almost to say, "Don't leave me." Pathetic, I know, but it broke my heart to walk away from her.
I entered the play center with my husband and kids and for the next hour I sat by the window, watching as the dog walked up and down the plaza. My guess was, she was trying to stay dry and possibly look for food. Score! Two construction workers parked in a truck decided to toss some chips out the window. She ran over as fast as she could, retrieving her only meal for the day, I suspected. I whirled around to face my husband, "Look at her out there. It is so sad and just breaks my heart. No food and no warm bed to sleep in." I had the look in my eye, and he knew it. "Jenn, you know we can't take her in. We are leaving in two days for vacation," my husband tried to reason. I decided it was time to go to bat for the homeless dog. "She needs us. She's going to die, just look at her! I really think we should do this." Now, don't misunderstand me here. It's not like I am a 'pet hoarder' or anything. We only had one other pet at home, a small Lhasa Apso named Maddie.
I slowly rose from my chair and headed toward the door. As I pushed the door open, the stray ran over to greet me again, looking for more food I suppose. She had a kind, yet broken spirit about her. I knelt down again and began to pet her some more. You could tell she didn't get a lot of affection, and loved every minute of it. Just then, the door to the shop next to us opened. "She's around here all the time. Doesn't appear to have a real home," the store clerk said, as she lit up her cigarette. "Oh?" I responded. The clerk continued, "She's a sweet dog, just needs a little cleaning up." I nodded in agreement, as my husband walked over to join us. After discussion back and forth, my husband reluctantly agreed to let me take her home. He gathered up the kids, and made the dash in the rain to the van. He pulled up to the curb, and opened the sliding door. Almost as if the dog knew she was heading to a better place, she gladly hopped in on command.
As we drove home, with a stray wet dog in the backseat, we all tried to come up with a name for her. After many names, we settled on "Ginger", as she was the color of a gingersnap cookie. I called over to my vet to get the dog in to be checked out. Luckily, she was able to see the dog immediately. After a thorough examination, the veterinarian entered back into the room with Ginger. "Well, Mrs. Van Dahm, it looks like Ginger is about three years old. She has a bit of a flea problem and some ear mites. She is only 55 pounds and should be at 80 pounds for her build. But, she appears to have something else going on as well," she said as she sat down on her stool. "Ginger tested positive for heart worm. To cure her level of it will require a two month treatment. Think of it as Chemo treatment to a human." I stared at her, not quite sure what my 'other' option would be. There is always another option, right? She continued, "Without treatment, the heart worm will eventually add enough strain to the dog's heart and will end up killing her." Now stunned I asked, "So, what you are saying is that either the dog gets the treatment or dies? How much money are we talking?" The veterinarian started to click her pen (not a good sign), "Yes, that is correct. She is in the early stage of the disease, so I feel we could cure this. You're looking at about $1,000 to $1,500, when all is said and done. I would need to keep her here for a few days, as she needs to remain confined. To much excitement could increase her blood pressure, dislodging the worms during treatment." She must of heard me gasp, as she then threw in there, "I know you just found her, and I completely understand if you rather hand her over to the Humane Society." I sat in the chair, speechless, that out of all the stray dogs in the world, I took in the one with a costly disease. "Will they cure her at the Humane Society?" I asked innocently. She shot me a 'are you serious look', and professionally replied with, "No, they can't afford the treatments. They would most likely put her down."
There I sat, tears welling up in my eyes, a dog staring up at me, and a veterinarian waiting for a life altering answer. Talk about pressure! "Let me give you a few minutes to think about it," the veterinarian said as she walked toward the door. As the door closed, my eyes fell upon the dog. Her face softened as she lay on the floor, with her head on my foot. "What do I do girl?" I said to her softly. I sat in silence and went over my pros and cons. I had a tug in my heart that I couldn't shake off. Do I pay the price, so that she might have life? It would be a sacrifice for us financially, but I will of saved her from death. I had made up my mind, this was going to be Ginger's lucky day!
That was years ago, and I am happy to report that Ginger is still with us, healthy, happy, and overweight! She has been a true blessing to our family. Sure we had to pay a debt, in order to give her life....but the reward was definitely worth it! I guess you could say I was her "savior". I know of a man who paid a much larger debt, thus giving ME life. Like Ginger, He took me in, even though I needed some "cleaning up". He saved me from despair, and one day, he too will bring me home. I call him my Savior, Jesus Christ. Do you know him?
"I have come that they may have life, and they may have it more abundantly." John 10:10 (NKJV)