I write this now to fight a path out of the abject disconsolation and grief washing over me, because of the passing of my dog of 7 years. Her name was Honey, a dog which a friend had turned into the "shelter" saying that she had bit another dog in her house, not aware that this was a death knell for a pit bull in Santa Fe; she was crying to me on the phone, so I demanded that she go immediately to pick her up, as only she could rescue her from being gassed that night.
So at five minutes before they closed, a mere five minutes to hold off the Grim Reaper on a dog who was about 3 then, the prior owner rushed in to the Animal Shelter to make the arrangements to get back her own dog, which she then gave to me. I believe in getting dogs off of death row that no one else wants; thus you are truly saving the animal's life; the animal knows it, or comes to know it, and always appreciates it.
I have the profoundest appreciation and respect for Best Friends in Utah; they joined into the Michael Vick Prosecution/Resolution, adopting 22 of the dogs that were supposed to be the most violent and incorrigible of his 76 dogs. Best Friends puts out a great magazine, and a few months ago put one of Vick's pit bulls on the cover, a female covered with scars who, because she had been bred so often, had had all of her teeth removed, so as not to bite the inseminating male.
These 22 dogs had never once in their lives been hugged, and the magazine for two great issues was full of photos of these dogs lounging around on their care givers, clearly gentle and loving their new owners, as they had never been loved or cared for when they were part of Michael Vick's fighting dogs.
Honey was a difficult dog at first but immediately learned how to ride along side of a bicycle, my mode of transport then. I have seen too many dogs in Santa Fe die of cancers which often begin from actinic causes, or solar exposure, then drive their way into the lymph system, the spleen, or the liver.
The prognosis for cancer in dogs is no better than it is in humans, although humans have access to more sophisticated technology and treatments. I was always happy to spent the extra money to buy the best non-carcinogenic dog food brands: Wysong, Millennium and Paul Newman's brand.
Honey liked being in my gallery, and particularly loved to greet people to quickly determine if they were "dog people" or not, and for those, she had a way of wagging her tail so that the whole back half of her signaled a greeting.
Within six months, I rescued another pit bull dog from Death Row in Albuquerque, and Honey welcomed and nurtured him as he was badly wounded. I often wonder if dogs and cats can sense the danger of being dumped or rounded up into the so-called "Shelter," or whether they sense doom much like the European Jews must have sensed doom in being put in concentration camps.
Face it; for thousands of dogs in Santa Fe, the "Shelter" becomes a Death Chamber. They must sense it, and are vastly relieved when they are freed from these concentration camps/death chambers. The culture in Santa Fe is difficult for a pit bull, even a gentle one, as both of mine always were. Never got into a fight in 7 years, either of them, but we were frequently followed by Santa Fe Animal Control Officers, who grew up believing that pit bulls were "mean," and that those who owned them must be some kind of criminals deserving of their civic scrutiny.
This is a kind of canine racial profiling that has never been adequately addressed in our courts, and so it goes on and on, ending up in whole litters of pit bull puppies being gassed and killed in that so-called "Shelter." Santa Fe Animal Control never makes it easy to own a pit bull, or American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, their proper kennel club name.
Several times, I had to react when they showed up or drove by like a Warsaw grandfather in the Ghetto in 1944 when the National Socialists officers drove by, looking for Jews to kill. It pains me to remember that incident, especially the Officer's tattoos. That incident would have turned out really badly, except for the advice and some key language luckily given to me by my friend on the New Mexico Court of Appeals.
One time crossing Paseo de Peralta a guy in a van pulled out of St. Francis school, didn't see us, struck me with a direct blow in the temple with his rear view mirror, drove over the bicycle, and dragged Honey under his van for about fifteen feet. She got up, all scratched up, especially a big wound in the face, and ran away as fast as she could, and I had to race to catch up with her. That was in 2003.
Move forward five and a half years, to mid-September, 2008. I noticed a blood blister on her underbelly. I thought about what I knew about blood blisters, or hematomas, in humans. They are usually not too serious, unless they start changing or start leaking or start growing; such blood blisters often come with aging to humans. I didn't know that in a dog they are much more serious, and all I would have had to do back then was google, at which point within seconds I would have been reading numerous articles about a quick and deadly kind of cancer called Hemangiosarcoma.
These tumors start in the spleen where a rich flow of nutrients allows the tumor to spread out quickly and firmly entrench itself, perhaps an inevitable site because the spleen function is to filter out toxicities from the blood, and maybe the toxicities themselves cause the DNA breakdown in the spleen that results in a rapid cell division and growth of malformed cells building malformed and flawed blood vessels. These unneeded blood vessels eventually break and pools of blood accumulate, causing first mild then fierce internal bleeding. Vets call it the "silent killer," as usually people never notice it until it is too late, with at least 80% mortality and even higher if it has spread to other organs.
A few weeks later at the beginning of October, Honey suddenly had vomiting and one blackened bloody stool. Then about October 15, she collapsed like I had never seen before, but was up and about in about an hour, moving a little slower but not much. That night, and it was over a weekend, I notice the blood blister was bleeding.
Then and only then--not a month earlier had I been a more astute dog owner--I stayed up late and read 40 articles on the internet, all easily accessible, just googling as I should have done a month earlier.