he stares at me with dark brown eyes
Champ has been with us now for about a year and a half. It was in late February 2004 that one of my street friends came to the bookstore, hardly able to speak. "There's a hurt dog, down by the hamburger place". The dog had been thrown about 300 feet after being hit by a truck. The truck never stopped, but the next car did. And those folks checked with the nearest vet, who said, well, it was a weekend, she didn't want to come to the surgery, and anyway, the dog was just a stray. (No, that vet does not treat my critters). Since my elderly yellow lab and I walk all the town streets, and greet all the town dogs, I felt certain I would recognize the hurt dog and be able to reunite it with its family. So I walked down to where it lay, curled up in a patch of grass, stunned. Looked like one leg had been shattered. He looked up at me with his dark eyes and feebly wagged his tail. I sat down beside him and talked to him.
I had never seen the dog before. Close to sunset, a storm coming on. I asked around. Anyone know the dog? Anyone seen him with a person? Lots of head shakes and "sorry, never seen him before". One woman said she'd seen him, running loose, for about a week. There was another dog kind of like him in the next town, a couple miles away. She thought they'd been abandoned.
He was thin, in obvious pain, and still gently, hopefully wagging his tail. I went back to my shop and got my big yellow lab. There was no way I was going to bring the hurt dog in if he and Buddy were going to fight or have problems.
Buddy walked up to the hurt dog, and they touched noses. Tails wagged. The hurt one laid his head wearily back on the ground. Buddy circled and lay down, back touching the hurt dog's back. It was as if he was saying "Okay guy, I'm here, and I am no threat to you".
A friend helped me get the dog into the back of his car, and to the bookstore. As I carried him inside I handled him awkwardly, and he cried out in pain. "I'm sorry" I told him. He licked my hand.
I gave him some Arnica to help with the trauma while we tried to get a vet to see him. The first night he was here I ended up staying with him, sleeping next to him on the floor, patting him when he whined in pain or fear.
My vet told me the hurt leg, which the dog didn't seem able to use at all, was not broken but rather nerve-damaged. In such cases, he said, the usual thing was amputation. The dog and I stared at him. He then said, well, with care there was a small chance--maybe 2%--that the nerves could heal a little. But the dangers were many--gangrene, injuries, infections. He did know someone who'd made a kind of split for her dog's leg, and that helped...but he didn't hold out much hope.
With medicines to help prevent infections and ease the pain we came back. I put out ads, seeking the dog's family. No one replied.
So it was doggie arts and crafts time. I made cardboard splints, padded with fabric, wrapped in vet-wrap (a nifty invention a horse owner told me about--it is used for racehorse's legs). Every scrape or wound was salved. Bandages were changed sometimes four times a day.
Champ runs now, although with a limp. Nerve function has returned to most of his leg, but not to the bottom of his foot, so he still wears a small, bright wrap over his pads. He and Buddy are great friends. The store cats sleep with him. For perhaps the first month with us he was "my foster dog" but after that month we knew he was in fact one of our family. That's when my daughter and I sat and called a list of about a hundred possible names. We had hoped for something very poetic, but he answered to Champ, and Champ it was and is.
We've gotten more information about him, at least rumors. He may have been part of a group of pits being trained to fight. He would have been very bad at it, which may be why he was abandoned. My partner sometimes calls him Ferdinand the Pitbull--Champ would much rather lay his head in your lap than fight anything or anyone.
He curls up in the best chair in the store, pretending to be one of the bookstore kitties. He loves to greet the customers.
And yes, every so often someone less naive than I was says "Omigod, it's a pitbull". If they are very uncomfortable I'll let Champ go back into the back room to watch the goldfish a while, or sit with his human pal, my youngest son. And yes, they tell me he is dangerous, by breed.
Don't believe it. He's watching me type now, with the big fluffy cat Destiny sleeping curled up next to him. She blinks her blue eyes and settles back.
Champ has been, as have all my animal friends, a great teacher. He has taught me hope and perseverance and determination. He has taught me that 2% odds might sound bad, but that nothing is truly impossible. When I am struggling with long tasks, when I am tempted to give up hope, Champ dances over and stares at me with his luminous eyes. He's put me in touch with the pitbull in my heart.