I never had the chance to meet her, or even see her face. Gertie’s picture was sent to me through Facebook, and she only had a day to live without a rescue organization coming to her rescue. Her posture showed timidity, fear and uncertainty.
It showed defeat.
This older shepherd mix had been brought into Chicago’s Animal Control as a cruelty case and was clearly neglected. She had an untreated neck lesion and was losing her hair. Despite all this, she had a sweet, gentle temperament.
Animal Care & Control treated her neck sores and x-rays confirmed she had cancer.
I wondered if this senior had ever experienced real love. Had she ever snuggled under the covers, sleeping in on Sunday morning? Had she ever been showered with kisses and scratches under the chin? Had she ever relished in a tasty bite of steak, or a big yummy bone?
Pets teach us so much. About really taking pleasure in the simple things in life. About taking time to enjoy the moment. About smiling at the people around us and approaching each day with vigor. Gertie deserved these experiences. I called and our PAWS Chicago intake team was going to take her in the next day. We would find her a hospice foster home where she could experience these doggie pleasures for her remaining days.
Dr. Kompare, one of PAWS’ shelter medicine veterinarians, examined Gertie the next day and found her to be in a tremendous amount of pain. The x-rays showed that cancer had spread everywhere. It was not treatable or able to be maintained so that she could be comfortable. She was in such bad shape that euthanasia was the most humane alternative.
Instead of being surrounded by family in her last hour, Gertie had been living on a cold, hard floor in a small cage. Instead of hearing soothing words and receiving light kisses and gentle strokes of affection, she was surrounded by dozens of barking and stressed dogs, unsure why they were confined in such a stark and scary place.
Gertie broke my heart without even meeting her. She reminds me of the animals that we are unable to save. Sometimes, they are too sick or we are too late. In her memory, we are setting up Gertie’s Fund, which will be reserved for saving senior pets who so deeply deserve to experience the wonders of life for their remaining days.
- Alexis Fasseas