Yesterday’s patient arrived in the back of one of those monster king cab vehicles. Luckily, we’re talking about the cab itself, not the swimming pool-sized cargo bed. Still, the patient was hard to corner, slippery to get a hold of (all that blood!) and delirious with fear. (I wasn’t so sure he wouldn’t take my finger off, given half a chance.)

Delving carefully under the seat back with a thick towel, we managed to extract the mere thirteen-pounder with relative ease. Resigned to his fate, shocky, or physically traumatized? He was all three, by my measure. And, I reiterate, all that blood!

In case you’ve never had one, nose bleeds are the worst. And this little golden-hued min-pin had a bad one. Though he’d sustained bruises over his whole body and was exhibiting a pneumothorax (free air restrictively surrounding the lungs is not uncommon after this kind of blunt trauma), his head injury was my primary concern.

Horizontally dancing eyes (nystagmus), lateral recumbency, a head tilt, and an abnormal mentation whose origins I found impossible to convincingly deduce. Was it the head trauma, the pain, or the shock of it all? Again, all three seemed reasonably plausible ingredients in the mix.

No matter. Tincture of time would tell.

Trouble is, this here’s a stray. And the "owner"? He’s a good Samaritan who watched the dog get hit by the car ahead of him. He’s a dog owner, but he’s not even a client of ours. He lives far away in North Miami and looked us up on the fly since the incident occurred nearby.

This man now had no idea what to do, seeing as he’s never been in a similar position before. His humanitarian instincts — as yours or mine surely would have been — drove him to seek veterinary help. But now that he was here he was becoming aware of the myriad issues surrounding good Samaritanism with respect to pets. And none of his options were proving easy to take.

  • Should he take the dog to the shelter, as his wife is (by phone) telling him to do? Or does the prospect of certain euthanasia prove unbearable?
  • Maybe the dog should be euthanized anyway? I mean, he looks like he wants to die. In which case, should he just take him to the shelter or have us euthanize him quickly so his suffering is short?
  • But maybe he’ll live and be a great pet. He’s cute and young and the doc (me) says she has a pretty good feeling about his survival but can’t promise anything on the long-term function front, given the head trauma.
  • Then there’s the money thing. How much is he being expected to pay to save the life of a dog he scooped in the middle of the road? His wife is going to kill him! 
  • And then there’s this important fact to consider: Maybe this dog even belongs to somebody. After all, he’s a purebred with cropped ears and a docked tail. Someone must have loved him at some point, right? 

Somewhere in the midst of this preliminary conversation a cool-headed technician arrives with a microchip scanner in tow. Lo and behold: a microchip! So call the 1-800 number! Contact the owner! Find the resources needed to save this dog’s life!

What we need here is an owner, an invested party, someone who really, really cares about this dog. Because it’s not just about the money. After all, rehabbing a head trauma case is always a labor of love. Consider:

Who’s going to carry him out several times a day to coax him to urinate and defecate out of doors? Who’ll rinse off his backside several times a day if needed? Hand-feed him? Patiently wait for function to return, knowing it may never. What kind of special person would it take to learn to provide (or pay for) the kind of physical therapy this guy will likely require?

Back to the microchip:

Sadly, the device was unregistered. Which means no one took the trouble to attach their digits to this dog’s life. Indeed, nothing says, "impulse pet shop purchase" and "throwaway pet" more succinctly than an unregistered microchip. It’s way worse than no microchip, even.

In the end, I produced a super lowball estimate (we’re talking $400 on what by all rights should go for $2,000), and the guy and I decided to split it. He'll take care of putting up the "found" signs. I'll take care of posting the dog's details in the paper. And if things don't work out that way, the guy agreed to foster the dog — or maybe even give him a permanent home. Right now things are too fuzzy. He needs to think.

Fast-forward a day later and “Little Man” min-pin still has major trouble ambulating. But he can walk. It’s a great sign. His "owner" has called, visited, and taken an interest beyond what I would ever have expected. But then, this was a guy who let a tiny, unknown dog bloody the back of his beloved truck. I should have given him more credit.

So what do lost dogs who have been hit by cars, good Samaritans, and microchips have in common? All together, they conspired in this case to prove that humanity really can redeem itself. Just when I get to thinking all people suck, someone steps out of the crowd and proves me wrong. Gotta love that.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: "Peewee" by Me