A little Holiday “Spirit”

A little Holiday “Spirit”

By Dr. Ed Mapes
Stonebridge Animal Hospital
McKinney, Tx

A worn, tattered cardboard box appeared, seemingly from nowhere, onto the reception desk counter. Two small hands could be seen grasping the sides of the box, and then the shy face of a young girl peeked up from below. The eyes spoke their message clearly, they said: “Help me”.

A weak but persistent whining could be heard from inside the shoe box. Wiping the tears that flowed down her face, the girl said, “I just found this puppy in the K-Mart parking lot. Somebody just left him there and his leg is hurt. Can you help him please?”

I had noticed the girl entering the front door all alone, and went to find out what had made her look so sad. Opening the box, I saw what appeared to be a Labrador retriever puppy, not more than 12 weeks old. I knew there would be no refusing to help this little girl or the orphan that she had rescued.

“My mommy won’t let me keep him, but maybe you can fix his leg and get him a good home”, she said, and with that the tyke turned and ran out of the building.

Helen Ames was about to face her first Christmas alone in 44 years. Her husband of 39 of those years, Ben, had succumbed to cancer the past spring, leaving Helen and their 14-year old golden retriever, Matthew, on their own. Since the passing of Ben, the faithful dog had proved a lifesaver to Helen with his unconditional love and constant companionship. Although the memories of Ben never left her, Helen had gotten through the pain and loneliness with the help of her best friend.

Earlier that summer, Helen had lost Matthew as well. He had long been afflicted with a spinal condition that finally robbed him of the use of his rear legs. Helen had Matthew euthanized rather than watch him suffer any longer. Now though, she was truly alone, and the Christmas season brought no joy for the grief-stricken lady.

We had taken the orphaned puppy into the hospital, and soon named him “Spirit” because he had so much of it. X-rays confirmed my suspicion that the left distal femur was fractured just above its juncture with the knee joint – making it one of the more difficult fractures to repair.

Fortunately, this did appear to be his only injury, so after the morning appointments and surgeries were completed, we set about repairing the mangled little leg. Two hours later, Spirit lay in his recovery cage, an assortment of hardware in the leg and a dressing almost as big as his body.

We kept Spirit for over five weeks. It was truly a labor of love as the whole staff pitched in to clean, feed, medicate, and love the puppy. He soon figured out how to maneuver about in spite of the cumbersome bandaging, and did his best to eat us out of food. After a month, I removed the tattered bandaging, and X-rays showed the pins and wires holding his fracture in perfect alignment. Our biggest problem was preventing too much activity lest he do harm to the leg.

Janet Widman was a friendly, giving lady who was a long-time client at the hospital. She was there a few days before Christmas, picking up her cat Tigger, who we’d treated for a bite wound. As we waited for the technician to bring Tigger to the exam room for release, the conversation turned to the upcoming holidays. Janet talked of her excitement and anticipation awaiting her daughter’s arrival from the university and how special Christmas was going to be this year.

Then she mentioned that her grandmother would join them for Christmas morning, though the season would be difficult for her since the recent loss of her beloved dog.

Two days later, Christmas arrived at last. Janet Widman had been awake since the very early working on the holiday turkey. In the peace of the early hours she gazed at the beautiful tree surrounded by its assortment of colorful packages; a single thought persisted in her mind– that special anticipation of giving the perfect gift to one that would appreciate it the most.

Later that morning after the family had greeted the day and opened their gifts, Janet took down a card that had been placed in the tree. She handed it to her grandmother, Helen Ames. Helen had enjoyed the morning with her family, and was even embarrassed to receive something else; Christmas after all is mostly for the children. She opened the envelope and removed the picture of a young puppy. A message was written at the bottom of the picture, and she read it aloud:
“I need your love”.

Just then, Janet’s young son ran from the bedroom, doing his best to follow a bounding young Labrador retriever. Helen Ames had regained the Spirit that was missing from her life.

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