January 14, 2008

Just Like a Person


My kids asked us for a dog again this past Sunday morning. The only objection I have to getting one is that no one will be around to care for the poor thing while we’re out all day. My wife isn’t a big fan of dogs, or cats for that matter; and that is another factor to consider. My family had two dogs when I was growing up, and my dad has a chubby, little beagle. Yet, this morning when my son and daughter pleaded their case for a puppy for the umpteenth time while my wife and I read the Sunday paper together, I remembered another dog I encountered a long time ago.

Back in the summer of 1991, before we had our first child, my wife and I were visiting friends in their new home. It was early Saturday afternoon and we were seated in the living room at the front of their home. Our friends, Debbie and Dave, had a large bay window, which overlooked their front lawn and offered a view of their quiet, suburban street. I was seated on a sofa facing the window, next to me was my wife, and they sat on the couch by the window. We chatted for a while, enjoying our conversation and Debbie asked us to stay and share and early dinner with them.

I was the first person to notice that there was some sort of commotion across the street. A middle-aged woman was screaming, running across the yard of the house directly across the street with a broom in her hand. She came to a tall, wooden gate leading to the backyard, heaved it open, and disappeared from view.

Dave stood up and turned around. The woman’s shrill voice was loud enough to be heard above the air conditioner and my wife and her Debbie heard it too.

Dave and Debbie were still new on the block and hadn’t been introduced to everyone on who lived on the same street as they did yet, but Dave knew the folks across from them.

Something’s going on the Dawson’s house.” He said, and then he looked at Debbie. In a second, all of us were peering through the window and we watched as a man ran into the backyard of the home where the woman fled, and then more neighbors, apparently husbands and wives came from the surrounding homes, all running to see what was going on.

You’d better go.” Said Debbie. She held Dave’s arm, but she looked at me. I was the cop, and it made sense that I go investigate. She didn’t have to tell me twice and I headed out the front door with Dave in tow.

Hon, be careful.” My wife called after me. She always calls me “Hon”, short for “Honey.”

Part of me was peeved for having to deal with some off-duty nonsense. The other part of me hoped that it was nothing serious and I can do my best “Nothing to see here, folks, go on home” routine and get back to my beer, which was getting warm.

As we approached the gate, the same one the woman charged through, I could hear the collective sounds of a lot of people chattering. The woman’s screams were the loudest, and it pierced through the clamor of the others. I rounded the corner of the house and saw a group of about ten or so people standing in a half-circle by a five-foot high stockade fence, looking grim. Many had come from the homes on the other block over the back fence. A woman who looked to be in her sixties had taken the woman with the broom who was screaming aside near a screened-in porch. The older woman was holding her hand, comforting her as she sobbed.

Dave said something to me and I waved him off. Without thinking, I stepped through the crowd saying “Excuse me, excuse me” in my deepest, most commanding voice. The people stepped aside. What I saw at the center of the throng was a large German Shepard laying on it’s side, lifeless.

A man spoke up when I approached. “She took off after a cat, jumped the fence, and her collar got hooked on one of the fence posts.” He was tough looking; a hard working type, with weather worn, tanned skin, which comes from toiling outdoors for decades. His eyes were moist, and whoever I was to him, he was asking for help.

I kneeled beside the dog and touched it’s side. The animal wasn’t breathing and I moved it’s front leg and put my ear to the dog’s chest. Everyone was staring, watching, and they fell silent. What could I do for this poor dog? I didn’t know, but I could still hear sobbing, muffled, barely audible crying coming from that porch to my left. It was her dog.

Katie, oh Katie,” said the woman.

No heart beat. No breathing. I picked up the dog’s head and cupped her snout in my hands. I puffed into her mouth with my lips pressed against my thumbs and I saw her rib cage expand. “My God it works,” I remember thinking.

After some klutzy maneuvers, I developed a rhythm of giving one breath to every fifteen chest compressions which I managed to do by moving the front leg up and pushing down on where I believed her heart to be, one hand over the other. It didn’t take long to become winded, and soon I was dripping in sweat.

Katie, oh Katie” I could still hear the woman.

Then, someone tapped on my shoulder. I stopped and looked up, the sun blinded me momentarily, and I saw a woman dressed in surgical scrubs standing over me. Her nametag, which also had her photo, said “Nurse.”

Is it just like doing a person?” she whispered. I nodded. “Yeah. That’s how I’m doing it.

She kneeled beside me. “I’ll do the compressions,” she said.

Apparently she’d been watching me because she placed her hands like I had mine and waited for me to breathe into Katie’s snout again.

We kept this up until I couldn’t breathe any longer. At one point, I took my glasses off and tossed them on the ground by Katie’s head. The man who first spoke to me was on his knee on the other side placed his hand on my shoulder. “It’s okay, buddy. Take it easy.” I looked at him. What he wanted to say was “I think you did all you can do.

The nurse looked at me, I poked my head up and saw the woman by the porch. Her hands were clasped together, and the older, gray haired woman who comforted her was watching me.

Could you go a while longer?" I asked the nurse. “Yeah, just tell me when to stop.

I tried. I tell you I breathed and gasped and cajoled young Katie, but she was gone. My heart raced and I had beads of sweat dripping into my eyes. Finally, I gave the nurse a nod. It was over. I remember the nurse saying something like “We did everything” and pursed my lips. Using the fence for support, I stood up, pulled my tee shirt down, and found the distraught woman at the back of the crowd.

Her eyes said it all: “Go back, try again, and keep going, why aren’t you doing something?” I could read her mind. As I drew near, her shoulders sagged and she wept aloud.

I’m so sorry Ma’am. We did all we could do. I’m afraid she’s gone.” She fell into the arms of the other woman and I turned and walked away. As I did so, I was stunned to see two, solemn looking Suffolk County police officers stationed near the dog. I learned later on that the older, gray haired woman called them while I was doing CPR on the dog.

Hey, what happened?” One of the cops asked. I told him about the cat, the fence and her collar hanging up. It was the man’s yard, the woman’s neighbor who found Katie dangling there and took her down. He called the dog’s owner and told her what happened and she ran over, screaming, with her broom still in her hand. That’s where Dave and me came into the picture.

You’re a better man than me, doing CPR on a dog,” said the other officer. I eyed at him to see if he was being sarcastic. But, he wasn’t. He looked down at Katie’s body and shook his head. There was to be no investigation. No crime scene. There would be no notifications made to any other agency. The officers weren’t even required to write a field report. It was a dead dog. They could call in the job to the dispatcher and go to lunch. In the background, a woman could be heard wailing.

Back at Dave and Debbie’s house, my wife and her friend waited by the door.

What happened to you?” My wife looked frantic.
It wasn’t good,” said Dave.

Oh my God. Go, go the bathroom and look at yourself in the mirror.” My wife put her hand over her mouth as I walked past her. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I was too dazed to argue. I could hear Dave tell them what happened as I walked into the bathroom and turned on the light.

The whites of my eyes were filled red dots, as well as my face, which was covered with them. I looked like I was beaten with a sack of quarters. All I could think about was I had to report to work the next day and explain my complexion to my superiors and tell the story of how I performed CPR on a dead dog. I was in for a lot of teasing, and I’d be dishonest if I didn’t regret doing what I did at that moment as I gazed at my startling appearance in the mirror.

I never saw that woman again, as much as we still visit Dave and Debbie. Yet, every once in a while, such as when the kids tug at my wife and I for a puppy, I see Katie.

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30 comments:

Jack Payne said...

Wow, Mike, your past experiences seem to add up to some memorable stuff. CPR on a dog? Incredible.

Seems like we're dealing in a new world here--like needing a hunting license to catch mice.

Kathy said...

I'm fighting off tears to post this. Mike, you are amazing. What you would do to help people. What you would do to help people and their loved ones, human or not. I'm in total awe of both your writing and your compassion. Riveting story, although I was hoping for a better outcome.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Jack,
I've been so busy the last couple of weeks with registration here at the college where I work in full swing that I have little time to visit my favorite blogs. Yours is one of those blogs I've neglected. This week is calming down some and i'll get over to reading your very educational posts.

When I saw the dog, and heard the woman crying helplessly, I felt like someone needed to do something. I had no real idea of what I was going to do when I reached the dog, but I thought I'd give it a good show to make the woman feel better. I looked like I had a rash for about a week after that, and I know the nurse who helped me was drained by the experience too. Still, looking back, I'd do it again. Thanks Jack.
-Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Kathy,
I'm sorry I made you cry. I felt bad for the woman and I thought that someone needed to do something. If Katie did come back, it would have been a miracle because I think she broke her neck. At the time, all I knew was that she stopped breathing. I'd done CPR on humans a few times in my career, and maybe three or four times before the dog incident. In those cases I had what they call a "BVM" or "Bag, Valve, Mask" which you hold over a person's mouth and squeeze a back to input air. When I approached the dog, I remembered a TV reality show where they showcased a fire chief who save a family dog from a fire and managed to resuscitate the animal using CPR. He cupped his hands around the dog's snout and breathed through the space between his thumbs before giving the dog oxygen. For him it worked, and like you, I wished for a different outcome than the one poor Katie suffered. Have a good day, Kathy. Thank you. -Michael.

Lynda Lehmann said...

A wonderful human interest (and pet interest) story, well written! Your efforts were heroic, in spite of the loss of the dog.

I always wondered how I would deal with the possibility of doing CPR on a stranger. Hopefully your technique of blowing between fingers or thumbs would work.

Thanks for an interesting and inpiring post!

Sleeping Beauty said...

Geesh, you are sure makin all the ladies tear up with this one, sniff sniff.... My cat got out of the house once, it got hit by a car and half eaten by a pitbull and lived to tell the tale. The emotions I felt, was if it was my own child, was hurt.... Yeah I know.. Its just a cat... LOL... Last year, we found one of our other kitties laying on the ground dying. Me and my husband were crying hysterically, we were freaking our kids out. The kitty died in our arms at the emergency vet. After these cats are gone, I want no more animals. I can not handle the heartbreak lol...

AntiBarbie said...

That was a very touching and compassionate thing that you did for that Lady. I applaud you for it.

This story gave me a flashback. When I was about eleven, we let my kitty, Joy out one morning and she never returned later that evening and she always came back home like clockwork every night.

My Mom and I went to look for her and I spotted her two houses down where they were building a bank. Her throat had been slit and it looked as though her body had be unceremoniously tossed in with all the debris against a tarp covered fence.

I had bad dreams about it for years.

1st Lady said...

That brought tears to my eyes, I so wanted the dog to have lived. I know the heartache in loosing a dog, I've lost a few to old age in the last couple of years. If you do ever decide to add a dog to the family, well, I always go with seniors, and Petfinder.com is a wonderful source for wonderful dogs.

Lisa McGlaun said...

You made me cry. I'll wipe away the tears after I write this. What did the other cop say..You're a better man than me? I have to agree. You are a better man than most.

Kudos. I hope you let your kids get a dog..wink, wink.

Lisa

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Lynda,
Thanks so much for the comment. I did not feel heroic. In fact, I was saddened by the fact I that both me and the nurse could not save poor Katie. I was made fun of for a while by some friends and a few of the cops I worked with, but each one of them privately said I did the right thing. I had no idea how far gone the dog was, and actually, I performed CPR because I thought someone should do something other than stand around. I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment, Lynda. -Mike.
P.S. Your artwork is wonderful. I'm going to show your blog to my Mother in-law, she will love your work.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Sleeping beauty,
I feel terrible making everyone cry over this post. Your cat was not "just a cat," as you are aware. The kitty was a member of the family. It hurts when we lose a pet because they care more for us than some of our human family members do. Your poor kitty who died in your arms at the vet was loved until the moment it died. You did the right thing trying to save your baby cat. BTW, I just read your latest post about your "Project OCD" moment, lol, cleaning you desktop. It's good to see that your husband is a techie, just like me. Did you ever find out what the "funk" was? hehe. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'll see you over at your blog. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Antibarbie,
Your story almost made me well up, but i was at work when I read your comment (don't tell anyone i was reading my blog comments at work, hehe) and i hope the miserable bastard who did that to your baby cat fell down an icy set of concrete steps. I hate people who needlessly kill helpless animals. I'm sorry for what happened to your kitten. Thanks for your comment, Antibarbie. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi 1st Lady,
I wanted that dog to live too. The nurse and i worked for a while to try to save her, but she was too far gone. I think she broke her neck. Thanks for the tip about Petfinder and adopting older dogs. However, if my wife and I ever do adopt a dog, and that is a very big IF, it would have to be a puppy because I would want an animal to grow up and learn to tolerate my children, instead of getting an older dog which may have been abused by children and have an aversion to them. Thanks so much for the comment, and I am sorry for making you weepy. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Lisa,
Aw, you're making me blush. At the time, i did not think I was doing anything which someone else wouldn't have done with the right training. If the young nurse who came later on and did the chest compressions arrived first, I'd have a very different story to tell. Still, I appreciate your kind words. I had no way of knowing how far gone poor Katie was, I believe she broke her neck. But, I would do it again if I had to. Good luck with the campaign, Obama's my guy.

Bob Johnson said...

Just awesome, your da man, beautiful story Mike!

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Bob,
"...your da man"

Like that TV commercial used to say in response "No no no...YOU da man!" lol. Thanks Bob, I appreciate it.

-Mike.

The Uneasy Supplicant said...

Excellent story Mike. As a owner of two dogs I can understand where you're coming from. Would I have done it? Probably. Considering the fact that my daughter is a Veterinarian, I'm sure she would never forgive me if I hadn't made the attempt.
Great story!
~JD

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi JD,
You're a former military man-a man of action- and it is natural for me to assume that you would have taken command of this situation. For me, I saw this woman, helpless, and everyone standing around with their hands in their pockets not knowing what to do, or if anything should be done. So, I jumped in and did what I was trained to do. It wasn't heroic, I couldn't save the dog, and as I tell the story, i can still recall how it felt to force air into the dogs mouth, and I can see her lifeless eyes gazing at me as I tried. Yeeesh, I'm eating a sandwich as I write this and I just creeped myself out. Thanks for the comment, JD. -Mike.

Elaine said...

Cops and firefighters do amazing things! As a dog lover I would do anything to save him/her. Kudos to you!

What's the ending to the story? Will your kids get their dog? You will never regret it and your kids will love it! Especially in adolescence. Total unconditional love.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Elaine, thanks so much for the kind comment. Remember, there was a nurse with me helping too, and I know she wanted Katie to live as much as I did. Nurses are courageous and tough folks in my experience.
As for the kiddies getting a dog, I am afraid that is out of the question. The dog will be home alone all day while my wife and I are at work and our kids are at school. That is just unfair to any little puppy we bring into our family. I had two dogs and a cat growing up, and they will be subjects of plenty of blog posts. Thanks, Elaine. -Mike.

teeni said...

Hi. I found you through AntiBarbie and I love all animals although I'm not an extremist. I do think it was wonderful of you to have done all that you could for that dog and for her owners. It's really sad the way it ended but you did all you could and for that you should have no regrets. We all should live more like that so we have no regrets. Nice act of kindness and nice post.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Teeni,
Thank you so much for your kind words and for leaving a comment. Right now, I have no regrets for the actions I took, but I was slightly reluctant to tell my story to the group of callous cops I worked with. All of those officers would have done the same thing, but they wouldn't have let it go without some good natured ribbing. I've seen your comments on Antbarbie's site. Isn't Antibarbie great? I am going to read your blog. It's nice to meet you. Have a great weekend. -Mike.

Kimchihead said...

Mike, that's a great thing you tried to do for that dog. I'm sorry you couldn't bring her back.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Kimchihead,
Thank you. I appreciate your comment. It would have been great to have saved the dog, but I don't think I knew what to expect when I started CPR on the poor thing. Thanks for stopping by and reading. -Mike.

footiam said...

There shouldn't be any regret for doing something good.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi footiam, I'm glad to hear from you again. I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to visit all of my favorite blogs, including Beautiful World. I agree with your comment here. Thanks for stopping by. -Mike.

Spirit said...

You are just way too awesome. You know this, right? Not many people would do that. Not many people would 'keep' doing that as well as everything else in their power. I can understand why you might be a little more than a little sketchy as to getting your children a ddog. Not only must everyone have the time for the creature but you also have to be prepared to accept them as a member of the family, another person, and when something happens as it's bound to, you have to be prepared in a way that nearly no one can be. I wish you the best, my friend, mayhaps you will get a pet someday mayhaps you won't either way you are an awesome person and there need to be more people like you out there even if you did regret it for a moment there or even if you still do. Honesty is another one of those good traits that we all could use a little more exposure to.

Susan Sonnen said...

I'm in tears.

For what it's worth, I'm glad that you tried. You demonstrated compassion for the dog and the woman. Thank you.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Spirit,
You are way too kind. I gave the dog CPR because I thought someone should do something. As for getting a dog, it's too much work. I grew up with two dogs and they lived a long time and had good lives. In fact, their stories would make entertaining blog posts. But, they way our lives are right now, we wouldn't be able to give a dog our full attention and that is not fair to the dog. I don't regret what I did now, though I only regretted doing so for about a day or two. Agai, you are way too kind in calling me awesome. Though, I must admit it is nice to hear. Thanks so much for your comment. I have to get over to your blog and catch up on my reading there. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Susan,
Thank you so much for your kind comment and for taking the time to stop by and read my posts. I am glad I tried too, but I think that poor dog was gone before I got there. I am sorry I made you cry. It's nice to meet you. -Mike.