Friday, July 10, 2009

Annika To The Rescue (Or, How I Spent The 4th Of July)

Holiday weekends are bound to make you nervous if you subscribe to Murphy’s Law and work at an animal shelter like I do. Despite being an optimist at heart, I must confess that I was apprehensive when July 4th rolled around. Although I anticipated an unforeseen predicament or two, I had no idea that I was going to encounter a full-blown crisis involving a sick puppy, a courageous pit bull, and a life-saving midnight mission to an emergency clinic.

The day stated out quite normally at work, with cleaning and animal care taking all going according to plan. It wasn’t until after lunch that a member of our canine team noticed that one of the 9 week old “Dinosaur” puppies named Pterodactyl was bleeding. A closer examination reveled that his neuter incision had opened up. Since the SPCA clinic was closed for the holiday, there was no choice but to take Pterodactyl to an outside animal hospital for treatment. Several hours later, the little Shepherd mix was bandaged up and ready to return to the shelter. Still, I decided to take him home with me that evening just in case…

Fast forward several hours: “Just in case” turned into a life or death emergency. I was holding Pterodactyl when I realized that my shirt had become stained with blood. Looking down, I discovered that his bandage was completely soaked and he was hemorrhaging at an alarming rate. As fireworks began to illuminate the sky, we abandoned our BBQ and raced the tiny pup back to the 24 hour vet clinic where he was immediately whisked into an operating room. When it came time to give a prognosis, the doctor on call didn’t mince words; Pterodactyl was dangerously close to death and would need a blood transfusion in order to survive. He might make it if we could round up a 50+ pound donor dog – fast.

Within 15 minutes, I was back at the shelter racing past kennels of sleeping dogs in search of one who could save Pterodactyl. When I caught sight of Annika, a good-natured pit bull curled up on her Kuranda bed, I knew she could rise to the occasion, and she did. Despite being groggy and slightly confused, Annika donated blood without sedation like a true champ. The clinic staff declared her to be “a genuine sweetheart” and rewarded her with a hearty midnight snack.

Exhausted and knowing that I had done all that I could for the time being, I headed home to get a few hours of sleep before I was scheduled to reopen the shelter in the morning. At around 3:00 am, Michael nudged me awake with news from the vet: Thanks to the transfusion from Annika, Pterodactyl had pulled through surgery and was in stable condition. I was far too tired to adequately express my joy, but I was flooded with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and relief.

Earlier today at the shelter, we set aside some time to introduce Annika to the little shepherd pup whose life she saved. They were nuzzling within seconds like long lost friends! Although the dogs can’t fully comprehend their connection to one another, they are now inextricably linked. The name Annika has Hebrew roots and means “grace” or “graceful one.” This seems especially appropriate in light of her unexpected heroism on the night of the 4th.

Fortunately I won't have to contend with anymore holiday weekends for a while, but I'm bound to have dramatic work stories to share. Stay tuned for more adventures in animal sheltering!


VickiT said...

Wow, what a moving story. That pup is alive not only because of Annika but also because of you, Katja. Thank heaven for your decision to take him home. The photo of Annika kissing the pup is precious!

Mary A. Shafer said...

This is such a wonderful story of compassion, commitment above and beyond the call of duty, and most of all -- love and just plain decency. Thank you, Katja, for caring enough to disrupt your holiday. Thank you, Annika, for your selfless donation. Bless the beasts and all the maker's children!

b8akaratn said...

OMG, this totally brings tears to my eyes... What a wonderful story, and wow, THAT is a 4th of July to remember!