A Borrowed Angel

I have struggled and struggled and struggled with this blog post for several days now and I’m not sure there will ever be enough time to put distance between my heart and these events. Just the thought of putting down how my emotions ran the gamut from sickened to cautiously optimistic to complete despair is bringing tears to my eyes, choking my throat, and leaving my heart aching, anew. Please be forewarned that some of the images in this blog post are very graphic and disturbing.
In late January or early February of this year, pictures began to fill my newsfeed on Facebook of a young, sable and white collie who had been shot multiple times in the face and left for dead in a roadside ditch in Kentucky. He was no more than seven or eight months old when he was so hideously abused and dumped into that ditch like yesterday’s garbage. The fear and pain in his eyes still haunt me.
immediately upon admittance to vet hospital
Around the world, collie lovers, collie fanciers, and even just dog lovers rallied for him, offering prayers, healing energy, and financial support. We, the collective collie world, claimed him as “our” collie, because he was one of us. He could have been any puppy any one of us brought into this world and placed. He was named “Lad”—and the name fit, because one of the most moving tributes ever written for a collie was written by Albert P. Terhune when he had his Lad’s headstone carved. That Lad was immortalized with the epigraph of “thoroughbred in body and spirit.”
Because of the damage done to him when he was repeatedly shot in the face, there was no other option but to remove most of his lower jaw. I am not here to question any of the medical treatment Lad received because I believe it was all done with his best interest in mind, and being married to a veterinarian, I trust his judgment. When my husband saw the x-rays that had been posted on a Facebook page of Lad’s injuries, his response was there was no way to save the jaw.
a few days after surgery, being tube fed

Learning who had perpetuated this horrific abuse on this sweet, young dog was not my priority. I am a very firm believer in Karma. She is a BITCH and She will visit the animal who committed this violence in Her time, in Her own way. I am also a very firm believer that there is a special level of Hell reserved for those who abuse the most helpless and defenseless among us. My priority was following Lad’s story and praying for his recovery and doing what little I could to assist with what I knew were going to be astronomical veterinarian expenses.
A Facebook page was set up so we could all follow Lad’s progress. (There is a Flicker account that followed his progress, as well, found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thearrowfund/sets/72157640806884844/) And, what progress he made! 
playing with one of the many toys sent him

From a frightened but still trusting, emaciated and abused baby to a vibrant, happy, loving playful young dog—the pictures often brought a huge smile to my face and were shared on my Facebook page for my collies, often with the simple tag line of “Good boy, Lad! Good boy.”

carrying another of his toys

Then came news that the veterinary medical school at UC Davis was interested in Lad’s case. As UC Davis is at the leading edge of creating synthetic prosthetics in animals, cautious optimism was allowed to creep in. Maybe, Lad could have a life with a lower jaw again. Though, many of us who saw the pictures of him drinking from a bucket, patiently waiting for his “meatballs” to be made so he could have his meals, playing with and CARRYING his toys in that play felt that Lad could and had adapted to his altered life. Yes, life without a lower jaw would have required a very special forever home, but I know I would have been one of the first ones in line to take this boy into my home. I’d already taken him into my heart.

drinking on his own
patiently waiting for supper
Lad was flown by private jet through a charity that does just this very thing for animals to California. The pictures of him at UC Davis were beyond heartwarming. Lad won the staff at UC Davis over as thoroughly as he had won the worldwide collie community. The initial news from UC Davis was mixed. Since being in the care of The Arrow Fund, Lad had gained weight, he was very healthy, considering what he had gone through, but he had osteomyolitesis—a deep, deep infection of the bone that remained of his jaw. An aggressive course of IV antibiotic therapy was begun and he was closely monitored. When he ended the antibiotic therapy, all the signs looked good to attempt to rebuild his jaw.

winning over the hearts of the UC Davis veterinary staff
He was surgically fitted with a prosthetic jaw and the complications began. He had to be kept sedated. He began throwing blood clots into his lungs. He was placed on a ventilator. And, his young body couldn’t keep up the fight. Lad couldn’t fight off this last trauma.
Almost immediately the recriminations began. “The surgery to fit him with the artificial jaw was too soon after ending the antibiotic therapy.” “He never should have been subjected to that.”
I don’t know where I fall with those recriminations. I know the thought of seeing Lad—perhaps not whole—but with a functional lower jaw to ease his ability to live a “normal” life had a very strong pull. I also know that Lad, as collies and most dogs will, had adapted to his changed life. He could function with his lower jaw missing. I also know that EVERYTHING the veterinary staff at UC Davis learned while treating Lad will benefit another animal and will move them so much closer to being able to restore normalcy and functionality to another animal, and perhaps, translate into human medicine. However, I am still left with the question of just because you can do something, does that mean you should do it?
I just know that someone once said that there are very special angels here among us and they are borrowed angels. We are allowed only a brief moment in time with them, but they deeply touch our lives, our hearts, and our very souls. The last months of his life, Lad was showered with so much love, treated with so much gentleness and kindness, that those things are what made his spirit shine like a beacon in the darkness. I like to believe, that somewhere in that sedated state Lad was in for the last few hours of his life, he heard a Voice that called with love and compassion, cutting through the fog of sedation, “Lad, come.”
Lad ran to that Voice and crossed the Rainbow Bridge to be enfolded into the arms of the Creator.
And, for the very last time, I will write:
Good boy, Lad! Good boy.

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