Lucky Dog

Lucky, aka 'T-Bone', the day he was found cowering in Capers Steakhouse parking lot.

Call me a wimp, a softie, it doesn’t matter.  I can’t recall feeling better about myself than after what happened on April 15 of this year.  No, I didn’t pay extra taxes, heaven forbid.  I saved a dog……a great dog who didn’t seem to start out that way.

While turning into the parking lot of my Detroit restaurant, Capers Steakhouse, to tackle some paperwork, a brownish Tiger-striped streak dashed in front of my car and ran toward the back kitchen entrance.  Often, stray animals run around but I hadn’t seen one in a while.  As I pulled up to the back door, my kitchen manager and chef Jon and my security guard Greg were shooing the now-identifiable stray dog away.  Tail tucked and frightened, the small dog limped over to the guard shack and collapsed in the corner of the fenced-in parking lot.

I parked my car and defied security protocol by not immediately heading inside with my purse and keys.  Do understand that my restaurant is in a high crime district in Detroit, but we’ve battled on and have been successful for almost 30 years by maintaining strict methods of safety procedures.  Nevertheless, I ventured over to the lump of fur by the fence.

A dog lover from way back to my first pet, Stranger, obviously a stray my parents adopted in the 60’s, I have a huge soft spot for canines.  I don’t recall much about Stranger except that he was a mixed mutt, greyish black, and followed us everywhere.  I remember when he died:  Mom was holding him and crying, as we all were.

Looking at this sorry heap, I wanted to cry too.  He was small, skinny, terrified, and lethargic.   I knew it was a ‘he’ because he had fallen almost upside down on his back and when I got close, he wet himself, which I thought was strange.  Don’t animals normally avoid messing where they lay?

“Be careful, Boss Lady…..” warned Greg, “you don’t know if he’ll bite.  Do you want me to bring out some steak scraps or something?  Maybe something to drink?”

Hmm, good idea.  Street dogs are likely starving, so I had Greg bring out a nice pile of meat scraps and a dish of milk.  We put them on a parking bump figuring the dog would get a whiff, get up, and tear into them getting his fill, then move on.  At least that’s what we hoped.

Nothing.  Not a move, a look, a whimper, or one spark of interest in the feast before him…..or us.  This too was strange;  most dogs would frenzy-feed, keeping you at bay.

I carefully went to pet the dog – very carefully – because he appeared to be a mix of shepherd, boxer, and pit bull and a bite on the hand was definitely not something I was seeking.  He was young, probably not over 8 or 9 months.  But he withdrew even more, looking away, and wet himself again.   I then realized that this dog was probably a victim of some unspeakable horrors, though I knew not what.  Bait dog?  Not really too scratched up.  Fighting dog?  Too young and too small.   I left him with Greg and went in to do my work, thinking the pup might perk up if we left him alone.   During the next hour, I must have come out and checked on him four or five times.  Nothing.  No change.  No hint of life in him at all, though there was some evidence of a nasty vomiting spell with asphalt, concrete bits, paper wrappers, and unidentifiable bits of mystery foods pooled in bile, piled next to him.

Greg asked, “Do you want me to call the humane society?”   I knew what was in store for this poor creature there.  Any shelter would certainly have put him down immediately:  an injured pit bull mix street dog.   A lost cause.   In the news last spring, there had been a story about the rapper Hush who picked up strays and found homes for them.  I contacted the rapper’s number and was referred to another number, answered by the Anti-Cruelty Association.  “Do you work with Hush?”  I asked, and the receptionist replied that they did.

“Are you a no-kill facility?” I inquired.

“Sorry, no, we’re not,” the receptionist replied, apologetically. “Hush tries to find homes for the animals but when he can’t, he brings them here.”

There was no way I’d take him there or leave him alone where he was.  I just couldn’t abandon him, show up the next day and find him…….well, you know.

I went back outside and realized that the dog could not get up.  Funny, he had run in front of me an hour ago, but now was totally  immobile.  I asked Greg to get a steak box, which is big enough for about five 0r six 12-lb. loins – plenty big to transport the dog, who I now dubbed ‘T-Bone’.  He was filthy from road dirt and vomit and I could not put him in my new car.  I planned to take him home, even though I have other dogs, and was not sure how they would react to this interloper.  Nor did I know what was wrong with him or what I’d do when I found out.  There was a strong possibility he’d have to be put down anyway if his injuries were too debilitating;  but if that was the verdict, at least his last moments would be off the streets, far from harm’s way and in a safe place with someone who cared.

Greg picked T-Bone up ever so carefully, though he whimpered and yelped in pain, but Greg got him in the box and in my car’s back seat.  As I drove I kept checking my rear view mirror to see how he was doing, not really expecting anything beyond sleep.  Within about 10 minutes, I heard a familiar thumpa-thumpa-thumpa;  he was wagging his tail against the box!  Then, he lifted his head above the sides and looked around to see where he was, sort of a ‘Wow, what-up with this?’ look.  It was the first sign of anything positive.  I believe he knew he was finally safe.

Arriving home, I could not lift him out of the box and into the garage without cries of pain.  Finally, I rolled him out, onto an old comforter, covering him with a blanket.  He laid down and didn’t move.  That is, until I came over with some ham and turkey, which I hand fed him.  Now, he was hungrily eating!  I brought some water right up to his mouth and he drank that as well, another good sign.  I called the vet to see if he could stop by and take a look, since I didn’t really want to move T-Bone.  I live in the country and the vet, Dr. Saunders, is used to making (dog)house calls…or barn calls, as it were.  Not knowing what his injuries were, I couldn’t be sure they weren’t internal and that he might possibly bleed out. He could not see the dog until the next morning, so T-Dog (and his temp Mom) had to gut it out overnight.   So far, there had been no evidence of bodily evacuations;  whether he could even get up to do so was questionable.  I let him sleep, but did hear some whimpering.  When I checked on him, he obviously had gotten up because his blanket was elsewhere, and there were some ‘jewels’ left on the floor.  Good!  His digestive system was working.  I covered him up and he began wagging his tail again and now was licking my hand. I just wanted him to survive the night.

Lucky, newly named, lounging leisurely on the deck.

The next day, I raced into the garage – and so did Starr and Pudge, my German pointers – to see how he was.  Still alive, still wagging his tail, and very curious about these other creatures.  They made friends, Starr somewhat reluctantly, but Pudge excitedly….someone else to play with!!  He still couldn’t move easily but I fed him, he ate, and when 8:30 rolled around, it was off to the vet.  I picked up the comforter with T-Bone inside.  A few x-rays later, along with a bit of speculation, the Doc determined that T-Bone was OK internally, but had suffered a broken pelvis in two spots, probably from being kicked, and that he was about 6 or 7 months old because he still had his baby teeth.  Doc prescribed some meds for pain, to reduce inflammation, and to knock him out a little in order to keep him down.  There is no repairing a broken pelvis:  it has to heal on its own;  however, for a young dog, it is fairly quick – about 6 weeks –  if you can keep him inactive so as not to irritate the fractures.  It was a wonder he was able to walk  or run at all.  Recalling how I first saw him, limping along, we figured that it was probably T-Bone’s last run and that he had likely retreated into the fence corner to find a place to die.

I left him alone, renamed him ‘Lucky’ because he was really lucky I had found him instead of someone else.   After a couple hours, I went into the garage to check on him.  Amazingly, he was walking around.  In two hours!!  After that, his recovery was remarkable.  Within days, he was running around, negotiating the pond in my back yard, racing with the dogs, challenging their domain over various toys, eating like a horse, gaining weight, and stuck like glue to my side.  He even began to respond to his name and obey commands.  Pudge, my male dog, and Lucky were two peas in a pod, though Starr, a female and a few years older, was all too happy about that.   The next couple weeks were a whirlwind of discovery for Lucky – and for me, too.

Lucky and his buddy Pudge.....let sleeping dogs lie.

Now came the decision about what to do with Lucky.  I really could not keep 3 dogs, though I have a 1200 square foot fenced-in kennel equipped with a comfortable heated and lighted barn-doghouse, and covered food cabana;  in fact, many have said that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, they want to come back as my dog.  It is hectic enough with two dogs and my schedule.  But I knew I had to find a home for such a great and loving dog who had survived so much.  The offers were slow at first, but when word got out about how cool this guy was, they came flooding in.  Finally, another dog-loving friend suggested an elderly mother and her son who lived in her complex;  they had just lost their dog a few months ago, were mourning, but could give this pup a loving home.  Sadly, I was not anticipating Lucky’s departure at all.  In fact, I was dreading it because now, he was developing such a great personality, capable of tricks and, well, some naughty behavior.

Case in point: Lucky’s breed should not really be fond of water.  But after watching Starr and Pudge fetch the training ducks in the pond, he decided he might have a go at it as well.  But every time he’d set foot in the water, he’d pull back, not quite sure what this was.  Very likely, he had never even seen a pond before.  One day, he did walk in and swam a few yards.  But again, he was still healing and I didn’t want to encourage him to be too active, though it was difficult to discourage him.   A few days before I had to turn him over to his new owners, I took him out to the pond and put Starr and Pudge into the kennel so Lucky could have the pond to himself.  I decided to see if he would ‘fetch’ the training duck, though I figured he probably wouldn’t.  I tossed the decoy in a few feet so he could walk in and retrieve it…and he did.  I threw it out a little farther, where he’d have to swim a little to get it……and he did.  Then, I flung it into the center of the pond, some 30 yards out….and he dove in and swam out to fetch it up, bringing it right back to me and dropping it at my feet.  After a few of these tosses, I thought I shouldn’t tire him out or aggravate his injuries, so I took the decoy and placed it on the tall BBQ grill on the deck, hiding it behind some chairs, which I have to do with Starr and Pudge or they”ll take it themselves when they aren’t supposed to.  Imagine my surprise when I left, briefly, to check on the dogs in the kennel, and came back to find the scene pictured here………apparently, Lucky hadn’t had enough.  And to think that, in order to even get to the decoy, he could not jump on the chair due to his bad pelvis.  Instead, and I watched him do this, he put his front paws on the chair and pulled himself up, like an overhead ‘pull-up’ to propel himself high enough for the steal!

Caught in the act, 'stealing' the fetch dummy though it was placed far beyond where he should have been able to reach it.

Oh, it was going to be painful to give this pup up.

But, I also knew it was the best thing for him:  to have ‘Grandma’ home with him all day, and her 50-ish son, who loves to walk and hunt, and who has a cottage up north – to give him all the love he missed out on for the first few months of his street-wise life.

I made the exchange on a Saturday.  I put Lucky in the pick-up truck and he rode along in silence, looking at me, then outside, then at me.  Tears were sneaking up.  When we got to the house, he didn’t want to get out of the truck.  I finally had to pick him up and take him out.  But this time, I could pick him up, not roll him out as I had done before.  No whimpers, no pain.

His new family thought he was a beautiful Brindle, a gorgeous Tiger-striped pup.  Certainly a handsome specimen!  They took to each other immediately.

I stayed awhile but then had to leave…. I wanted to take him back.   My friend said she’d act as ‘Godmother’ (Dogmother??) and keep me posted with reports and camera phone pics.  At first, there were many pics, but in the last few months, the contact has dwindled a bit.  But that’s OK, because I figure that no news is

Lucky's thoughts, "And what will YOU do the next time you find an abused or stray animal?

good news.  And, the last I heard, Lucky is huge.  One day I’ll go over and see him, which I’ve been invited to do.  But, I’m not quite ready yet.

Until then, I’ll just do what I’ve been doing:  every time Lucky (now, renamed ‘Bear’) comes to mind, I simply smile, knowing that because someone cared, this fine dog was spared.

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