The Dakota Situation

Ann Harris and I have a running joke about my notion of a rescue "plan." As I continually struggle to maintain efficiency and order in our rescue missions, Ann continually reminds me that the plan will not resemble the outcome. I don't want to call Ann a pessimist, but it is true that she no longer listens to the plan unless it is within an hour of execution. And once the plan is set in motion, she waits for her update call to learn how badly the plan is screwed up.

I like to call it "living on the edge." And I like to think that I am "adaptable." And so, by noon, yesterday, I made the inevitable update call to Ann because never, ever had a plan been so completely derailed. You see, the plan was as simple as a plan could get. I was supposed to make a three hour trek from Boston to Fairfield, Connecticut, for our Frosty's adoption. Then, I was supposed to go home. That's it…one simple task….do Frosty's adoption and then be home in time for General Hospital. I was so confidant in the plan that I had not even set my VCR. This was not a typical plan with multiple stops, twists and turns, fraught with margins for error….this was a one shot, one stop, simple plan. This is why the Angels from God were not invited. I had brought Frosty, and also, my foster boy, Nemo, to give him a break from Nikita, who has lost his mind. Nikita hates Frosty and Nemo so much that he has moved to the top of the crate in the laundry room because he doesn't want to breathe air that his houseguests have contaminated.

Poor Nemo...a victim of circumstancial evidence.

I suppose the fact that this errand was to have occurred the previous day, and that its delay had loused up all my plans for the current day, had foreshadowed the horrific events to come. And also, I suppose that Nemo dumping my Dunkin' Donuts ice coffee into the driver's seat could have been a predictor of future events…..but I was too caught up in the moment to recognize the pattern. I was about half an hour away from meeting Frosty's adopters, when I received the fateful phone call.

Now, it is truly the cruelest joke on me, that I have the public relations responsibility for our group. Lots of rescue volunteers argue among themselves about titles, and tasks, and such, but not us. Rather than giving ourselves fancy titles like "Director," or "Co-Director," we occasionally pass around the ubiquitous title, "Queen of Crap," according to who is supervising the latest outbreak of canine diarrhea. But, as far as the tasks go…the public relations responsibility falls on me…when ironically, I would rather be boiled in oil than relate to the public….especially on the subject of dumping an Eskie.

And, yet, I spend most of my cell phone minutes talking to an endless stream of owner dumpers who have a litany of trials and tribulations which have brought them to the necessary evil of dog dumping. Not to cast aspersions on the ten percent of surrendering owners who have tragic dire straits that force them to give up their dogs…but, in ninety percent of the dog dumping instances, I just have to wonder "what the hell are people thinking?"

Nemo has often wondered "what the hell are people thinking?"


Nonetheless, I have learned to tone down my bitchy judgmental attitude for the sake of the unfortunate dogs, but I found myself gritting my teeth as I talked with Dakota's owner. The facts of the Dakota Situation began to pile up like a plate of pulled teeth. When I answered the phone with a cheery, "Hello!" …the first thing I heard was a thin, weak, garbled voice alerting me that she has ten children and can no longer take care of "IT." Okay....I asked the usual questions…Is IT a boy or a girl? Did IT bite anyone," What is IT's name? IT turned out to be a year old female Eskie, named Dakota…who, in my opinion, is a saint for having survived life with ten children.

I agreed to take Dakota into our rescue and gave her owner a three week timeline in which I would pick her up. After a pregnant pause, the woman said, "Well, the real reason I am calling is because IT might need some medical attention." Ah, therein lies the rub. "What kind of medical attention," I asked. "Well, IT was hit by a car on the road last night."

And so IT turned out to be my lucky day. As I pieced together the puzzle of the Dakota Situation, she had been mowed down by a car and was taken to an Emergency Vet, who, after minimal examination and NO x-rays quoted a price of $2000. No sale. So, the vet referred Dakota's owner to the local Humane Society that conveniently had my number on hand for just such emergencies. Dakota's owner called me on my Boston cell phone, but, as luck would have IT, I was half an hour away from her in Fairfield, Connecticut. I told this woman to get in her car NOW and bring Dakota to me.

The Malamute could smell trouble. He put his paw down when he got a whiff of Frosty.

And, then, I shifted my attention to Frosty's adoption, which was to occur at a rest stop on Route 95, which was an equidistant locale…albeit not an optimal one for the introduction. Frosty went about making a spectacle of the breed, as he tormented Laura and John Sarcone's beautiful, and well-trained Alaskan Malamute. The Sarcone's kids were treated to Frosty Kisses, but Frosty brought out the worst in the Sarcone dog…who they claim made guttural throat noises that they did not recognize. Honestly, an Eskie can screw up a one car funeral …not to mention the best laid plan.

The adoption meeting was a bust…but, Laura, who is a fan of the Angels From God Chronicles, presented me with a bottle of Pinot Grigio, which I knew I would need later. I expected to be one dog down, now, I was one dog up, as I spied Dakota's owner cruise into the parking lot. I invited Laura to meet Dakota with me, but warned her that I could snap at any moment. Dakota was handed to me in a bloody towel…and as an after thought…her owner noted, "I didn't bring IT's leash…will that be a problem?" Well…I couldn't suppress myself. I said "Boy, you are just making my day…thankfully, IT is too crippled to lope around my car, so we'll just set IT on this pillow and hope for the best." Thanks to Laura Sarcone's spare leash, we were able to secure Dakota in the car.

I was sitting in the McDonald's parking lot on the verge of binge eating… asking Nemo what to do with this bleeding, broken dog, when, Diane Gonzalez called. There is nobody better in a crisis than Diane. I could drop the atomic bomb into the middle of her day, and she would steamroll over it in time to make dinner. Diane said, "The only thing you can do is bring her here." So, I headed toward Philadelphia, and within the next half hour, Diane had scheduled an emergency vet appointment for Dakota at 5:30 p.m.

By the time Diane got home from work, I was perched on her doorstep with a bloody Dakota wrapped in the bloody towel. I hopped in Diane's car and we rushed to see Dr.Christopher Keefe, who has taken care of Diane's Eskie, Lady, for six years. This was my first time meeting Dr. Keefe, who shocked me by squatting to give Dakota a nose to nose greeting. And, he got kissed. I was looking for signs of Labrador retriever in Dakota, but found none. We were all amazed at Dakota's composure under stress and great pain. In anticipation of the worst, we muzzled her, and then did not hear a peep. Not even during her rectal exam…. After which, Dr. Keefe noted that she was not even in shock! Dakota is an amazing dog. For heaven's sake - Toot requires a morphine drip and a bottle of valium to prepare for her pedicure.

We discovered during the exam that the bleeding leg was the good leg, and that the real injury was in her left leg. Dr. Keefe surmised that her hip was dislocated, and he was slightly optimistic that he could pop it into the socket without surgery. And so, Dr. Keefe treated our Dakota after office hours, and spent almost ninety minutes maneuvering her hip joint back into position. It took three tedious tries, but he finally succeeded. And then, he clipped her bleeder and stitched up her wound.

In the meantime, Diane and I went back to her place where I collapsed in the kitchen chair and said, "Di…ya got any liquor?" She handed me a bottle of Chianti that was sitting on her counter, and as she tossed me the corkscrew, sniped "Can you open the bottle?" Well, indeed, that is one domestic task that I have mastered, because I learned it from Ann. Then, Diane started dinner…a whirlwind of activity…sautéed chicken in lemon sauce, yellow squash with olive oil and garlic, broccoli….and then, as I looked over, Diane was extricating a fully cooked turkey from the oven. I had missed most of the cooking spectacle while I was on the phone with yet another owner dumper. As I negotiated the dump details, I spied Nemo pooping grass water on Diane's kitchen floor. Quickly, I snagged Frosty and Nemo's leashes to keep them out of it, and motioned to Diane to alert her to the situation. She covered the substance with paper towels and politely waited until I finished my phone conversation before she yelled, "Denise, you have to clean that up, I can't cook dinner and clean crap too." Talk about underestimating one's capabilities. If there is anyone who can multitask in this manner, it is Diane Gonzalez. Somewhere between the chicken and turkey entrees, Diane made bran muffins with fresh blueberries, from scratch. I was so weary from watching Diane work, that I could barely lift my wine glass.

Diane kept busy while Denise dealt with the latest Eskie dumpers.

James Gonzalez was a snap for Dakota. She had lived with ten kids!!

Our Dakota fared well in her procedure, and was lively when she woke up in the morning. So lively, that she ditched her splint and had to be re-x-rayed to be sure that the hip had stayed put. After her splint was reapplied, and the E-collar was adjusted, our vet tech, Darlene, took Dakota for her morning constitutional. When they returned, Dakota hobbled into her crate and thanked Darlene with a growl and a snap. She must have been feeling better.

I subscribe to the Native American reasoning that animals are our spirit guides, and I surmise that Dakota must be a very important spirit guide, indeed, to have run into such good luck on this particular Thursday, in August. She is now on vacation with the Gonzalez family at their deluxe camper on the Jersey Shore. And, what she wants to know is…"What's for Dinner?"

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© 2003 Eskies Online/Denise Gareau