18 years ago there wasn’t a lot in Smyrna, GA but that is where our company, IBM, built a Sales Center in the middle of a forested area. What we discovered on our first trip to the building was a pack of roving dogs that were evidently dropped off to fend for themselves. Evidently that was something people did back then — turn their dog “free” rather than take care of it.
This pack of ragtag dogs was skiddish around people. Why wouldn’t they be? People hadn’t been so nice to them. People hadn’t loved them or fed them or taken care of them.
But among these new people there were a few that wanted to help these dogs, me being one of them. We started leaving water bowls out and bringing extra kibble and treats. The dogs were smart and knew who the people were doing this. They started to recognize the sounds of the engines of our cars and would stalk us through the parking lot looking for the treats. At first we would have to throw them to the dogs but as we gained their trust they would come closer.
One afternoon in October, the sun was beating down and the temperature was especially warm, I saw a little dog in distress in the weeds on the side of the road. She was staggering but still her hackles went up and I heard the low growl as I approached her. I always keep water and bowls in my truck and i poured her a drink and sat down in the grass. I could see her tongue was flat and she really wanted the water. Her nose twitched as she smelled the treats I had in my lap and she licked her chops.
I slowly pushed the water toward her and then went back to my spot about 10 feet away from her. She inched closer to the water little by little. At this point, I stayed still except for tossing the soft treats to her. She finally had the courage to drink from the water bowl until she was sated. Then she inched toward me and the treats. Little by little she got closer and closer until I could touch her. When I put my hand on her I felt her whole body release the tension and she collapsed as I pulled her into my lap. She weighed nothing.
She had a red, nylon collar on with no tags. The collar was so tight I could not get any fingers underneath it but finally managed to unbuckle it. Now that I had her, I was not sure what to do with her so I brought her to the animal shelter we adopted our second dog, Riley from a year before. At least she would have a chance to be adopted, I thought, but I would not deliver an animal to its death and left my name and phone number in case she didn’t and they promised to call me.
The next day I had a message from the shelter that this girl had tested positive for heartworm. I gave my two labs a monthly dose of a heartworm preventative but I didn’t really know what heartworm was and how it was treated. I thought it was a death sentence if a dog contracted it. I went to the Internet to find out and was horrified to find out that the treatment was a shot of cyanide directly into the heart — very painful and stressful for the animal and very costly to administer. But, the animal shelter told me I had to come and get her before they closed for the day or they would be putting her down because they couldn’t afford to treat heartworms.
I left work early and went and got her. Andy and I discussed it and we would get her treated. In 1997, $1,000 seemed like an insurmountable amount of debt for us but we were willing to go into it to save her life. I then took her straight to our vet who confirmed the heartworm test and vetted her as otherwise healthy although underweight. I also got her bathed and flea dipped so she could come home.
Murphy and Riley, our two chocolate labs were curious about this newbie. They were so used to charging around the house chasing each other that they had no objections bringing in another dog to the pack. Beatrice immediately loved Riley, our boy, and he was a big brother to her. Murphy, our girl, and Beatrice were indifferent to each other. But for now the three dogs, Andy and I made up the Litt pack.
In the next installmant I’ll talk about the treatment of Beatrice for heartworms.