Sunday, March 01, 2009
Goodnight, KobeOne of the first things I learned in my employment here at the EBSPCA was the motto "you can't save them all." As pessimistic as it sounds, its something that we all have to accept to avoid overexerting ourselves emotionally. None of us would last more than a few months if we didn’t accept the fact that there are some things that all the compassion in the world can't accomplish.
Its been a few months since she left us, but sometimes my mind turns to a dog named Kobe. She was a black lab/cattle dog mix, about two years old, who came into our Oakland shelter as a stray. When I first looked at her in her kennel, I wondered if she was sitting at an odd angle, or if she was just unusually flexible, because her back legs looked very small.
I hate to admit it, but I was a little horrified when she got up to greet me, and I saw the reason why she looked so strange... Her back legs were atrophied to about half their proper size, and fused in a crumpled position behind her torso. When she got up, they didn't even touch the ground; she walked entirely on her front feet.
None of our staff knew what had happened to her, or how she managed to survive on two legs. But it seems like someone must have cared for her at one time, because she was quite loving, if a little scared (even with her disability, she tried to escape several times when she first came in.) The first time I formally met her, I kneeled down next to her and held out my hand so as not to scare her. Her response was to scoot right past my hand and lay her head on my knee with a world-weary sigh. I almost cried.
Because she had such a nice personality, the shelter higher-ups decided to have her looked at by a specialist to determine her prognosis. Undoubtedly she would never walk on four legs again, but many dogs with paralyzed or amputated rear legs function quite well when strapped into specially made wheeled carts.
While the results of these evaluations were pending, Kobe was busy loving shelter life. She seemed to know that people felt sorry for her, because she took every opportunity to snuggle in close to someone and get some love. She seemed to relish being the center of attention.
Unfortunately, Kobe's was not the Cinderella story that shelter workers crave. It turned out that her back had been broken, and because of the way her spine had curved, it was likely that she would suffer from painful bowel and urinary tract issues for the rest of her life. She had already become severely incontinent during her stay with us.
We did have to say goodbye to Kobe, but I know I speak for more than one employee and volunteer when I say that I take comfort in the fact that her last weeks were spent being loved and pampered. She may even have received more love and affection in her short stay with us than she had gotten the entire rest of her all-too-short life. "You can't save them all" may hold true for all of us at the EBSPCA, but in terms of compassion, our reach will always exceed our grasp.