Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Angel of Mercy

Ten years ago, I met my angel of Mercy. She did not come in the form I expected, no hail of glory, no white wings and glowing halo, but she was an angel and she saved me, none the less. We were introduced by a friend while I was still grieving deeply over the loss of Isabeau, my first Rottweiler, who had lost a long and horrible battle with cancer. Although I swore I would never put myself through the sorrow of losing another dog, my friend knew I was in need, and she happened to know a dog who needed me, too. Mercy was the angel I never saw coming.

One of the best things about Mercy was that she simply loved everyone. If you gave her a cookie and a pat on the head, she would help you carry the TV and anything else you wanted to the car. She loved kids, and often put up with whatever they could dish out. Five minutes after meeting my four-year-old cousin Grant, pictured above, she was wearing his Pirates hat and his blanket and playing Superdog without complaint. She seemed fine with helping Katie, who is two, get over her fear of big dogs, too.

When we met,she was named Mercedes and she was in serious need of help. I went to her house skeptical that I was not ready for another dog, that I could not handle the emotional attachment. But, when I saw Mercy at two years old, weighing nearly 200 pounds and suffering greatly from obesity, I knew I had to take her home with me. She was a sweet and lovable klutz who was badly in need of a health overhaul, not unlike myself. We dieted together, but she was much more successful at it than I was perhaps due to the personal trainer. I could be so regimented with her and am still unable to keep myself in line. Go figure. Anyway, she lost enough weight to make up a whole second dog until she was down to the normal 120 pound mark. In the deepest hours of my depression, helping Mercy made me stronger. She was a loving friend who pulled me back into the land of the living.

Mercy did not just rescue me, however, she rescued another, or actually we rescued her together. One day, on my way to work, I found a female Healer / Terrier mix in the middle of the road nursing a litter of puppies near the back gate to the zoo where I worked. About half of the puppies in the litter, there were a lot of them, resembled the male pure bred rottweiler, so they had their tails docked. Since the owner of the dogs had already been caught several times selling half breeds as pure, and since I was a member of the local humane society, we chose to confiscate the puppies. Later, all of the other dogs were removed from the owner and he was fined, as well.

The first puppy I picked up from the pile in the road burrowed under my hair and began to make a soft, whimpering noise. After helping the humane society volunteers who came out to help pick up all the dogs and capture the mother, I was still holding this one puppy under my chin, and I literally could not put her down. I so did not need a second dog, having just taken Mercy home and feeling like she was not even settled in yet. But, I took the puppy home thinking I would just elect myself in charge of finding the one pup a good home.

Mercy took immediate charge of the tiny, little thing, cleaning and protecting her. They romped and they played and their famous freedom races at the end of each day probably aided Mercy in losing that last pesky pound or two. My favorite game, however, started on the first day they met. Mercy would play tug-o-war with the puppy, offering her the favorite toy, and after tugging for a bit, she let the little one win the game every time. They laid together with the puppy tucked safely between Mercy's front legs every night to sleep. I found several friends with farms who were interested in giving the puppy a home, but when they came over to meet her, Mercy placed herself between them and growled. Nobody was taking her baby away, least of all me. So, I named her Cinco de Mayo, after the day I found her, and we call her Cinco for short.

Mercy, Cinco and I became a family, a pack if you will, and we have been the best of friends. Sadly, and most likely due to Mercy's obesity in her youth, she contracted both thyroid and cushings disease, both of which are endocrine diseases. She was diagnosed about a year ago. Although the thyroid was treatable, there is nothing much to do for cushings except treat her symptoms and keep her comfortable. Even the cutting-edge, best drugs for the disease are questionable and do nothing to cure the animals. In the end, it is degenerative and eventually shuts down the internal organs due mostly, I'm told, to an excess of steroids in the system.

Mercy was amazing all the way to the end. She never complained, and she always stayed in the best frame of mind. Even a trained observer like myself had a hard time telling when she suffered. Most dogs become depressed, stop eating, stop grooming, or show signs of hurting, but Mercy stayed stoic, eager to please, eyes bright, and happy to be alive even as her kidneys were shutting down. After the tremors began to cause her to flop around and kept her from walking well, and she started having trouble standing up and laying down, even when she stopped processing food well, and started flinching whenever she was touched, she was never depressed. She would just shake it off and move on as if nothing was wrong. But, after it became apparent she had made it to the acute renal failure stage, we finally made the decision today to prevent any more suffering.

Right up until the end, Mercy was giving me kisses and hugs and panting with her big, sloppy smile even as she splayed out on the hospital floor and was unable to stand back up. She seemed more concerned about me and why I was upset than the fact that she could not stand up on her own. Once I sat down on the floor beside her and gave her another hug, she seemed happy to just stay where she landed and let the doctor work on her. She let me hold her and gave me kisses right up until the very end, and I know that if any dog has a special place in heaven, Mercy does. I told her I thought St. Francis probably had another assignment for her already, some other lost soul who needs rescuing. Mercy literally saved me, and although I can't really speak for her, I'm betting Cinco would say the same. We already miss her more than words can express.

Thanks, my Angel of Mercy!

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