In doing animal rescue there are sometimes great highs and sometimes great lows. We relish the happiness and the success stories, we struggle through the hard times and the horrible things we sometimes see. Without mincing words, today is not a high, today is a low. And I’m writing to ask for your help. Here is the story so far…
I am following the blue dots to Angeline. I have been instructed to follow the blue dots on the floor which will lead me to the ICU unit of the U of M Small Animal Hospital. The memories flood back from the last time I made this trip, to visit another Safe Hands kid named Minnie who’s condition was similar to where Angeline finds herself now. As has happened before I breathe deeply to be strong for this strong little girl.
I first met Angeline less than 48 hours before when she arrived on the latest transport of dogs from the high kill shelter we work with. We knew she was “thin” and we’d been told she “doesn’t feel well” with the only details that she lay curled up in a ball in the shelter – a behavior as likely to be anxiety and fear based as anything else. I had, in fact, been told it might just be her nerves. So nothing really prepared us for what we found when we found Angeline.
I had set up a wire kennel for her in a quiet room with a bed and blankets. I wasn’t there when she was let into it so when I first saw her she was, as described, curled up in a ball on the bed. I could tell she was mighty thin. She was also mighty scared and resented any intrusion into her new soft, safe space. I set about gaining her trust and making friends. Then, finally, it was time to gather her up and take stock.
When Angeline’s tiny body unveiled itself, well there are no words really. I want to write something beautiful about this beautiful girl. I want to be clever but my heart just aches and I am not sure I’m over the shock quite yet. I’m not sure I ever will be.
It was immediately clear that Angeline needed more than we could give her at home. I wrapped her in a blanket and held her close. I could feel the fear melt as she leaned into me, relaxed and rested her head on my chest. Her relief at being held, feeling the heat and the heartbeat of another revealed the vulnerable little girl underneath the tough, scared exterior. In an instant I understood how strong she is, how strong she’d had to be, and that she needed someone to take over now. She entrusted her life to us.
I can tell you this: Angeline arrived very alert, very aware of all that was going on and very interested in preserving her life. There is clearly a spunky, sweet spirit inside this girl. Some may question the wisdom or audacity of trying to save Angeline. As I held her in my arms I questioned that too. But Angeline wants to save Angeline. She’s worked really hard at it. I can’t be the one to take her life away or to deny her the chance to see the fight through to victory. I thought about how much I love the name of our group, how much I love to say “you are in safe hands now” because once they are in Safe Hands that is true. And so I told Angeline that she was in safe hands. That we would support her fight and give her all that we could give. I do not lie when I tell you she looked into my eyes and gave me the softest kisses before snuggling her head back under my neck.
So Angeline is at the U of M in ICU. She is fighting to live. There are no good answers yet about what is wrong. There are possibilities, some with better prognosis than others. The doctors try to support and stabilize her while they figure out the what and why of how she got to where she is now which is not much more than skin covering bones. It is amazing she is still alive, still alert, still trying to save herself. She has a nasal-gastric feeding tube supplying her with a special liquid nutrient rich diet and an IV tube pumping in fluids, antibiotics and pain medication. She still watches everything when she is awake and remains alert to her surroundings. She sleeps a lot and she needs that. We hope and pray that her body can heal.
I visited her this evening and was shocked all over again at her condition. They handed her to me, a quivering mess of skin and bones wrapped in a faux sheepskin blanket. As before I took her in my arms and held her to my chest, the quivering stopped, she breathed deeply. I stroked her head, she loves this. Her eyes got heavy, she laid her head down. I sat in a chair. leaned back and let her rest on my belly. I told her that we all love her. I told her, over and over, that I love her. I told her she was brave and strong. I told her we were all pulling for.her. And I also told her that if she needed to go she could go, that it was up to her and we loved her no matter what. Then I just held her while she slept. I could feel the whisper soft exhale of her breaths against my arm. I became entranced in the rhythm of the tiny puffs of air and thanked God for them. When it was time to hand her back I stuff my face inside her cone and kissed her head and she rested her forehead against my cheek. I managed to hold back the tears until the moment her tiny body left my arms.
I want to put her in that bubble with the boy that will keep her safe from everything. I want to cast a spell of healing and protection. To meet her is to feel the overwhelming desire to make her world right again. I want to hold her close and roar the mighty roar of momma Lioness that will chase all the Bad Things away. I want this to be enough. Of course it is not.
And so Angeline is in the ICU with a team of doctors that can hopefully give her what I cannot. I’m told she has not deteriorated since she got here, however, there are no major improvements either. I’m told that if Angeline survives it will be many months before she is fully recovered and to expect her progress to be slow. I’m told she remains interested in food and that she continues to have a will to live. They try to keep my expectations realistic and my spirit optimistic.
We should have more test results Monday morning which may give us clues that will help the doctors help her. Tonight I try to find the words to tell you about Angeline and to ask for your help. Times are so damn tough. Everyone is struggling. It’s hard to ask anyone for anything. And yet, Angeline’s life depends on it and so I’m asking. We can keep her in the hospital another couple days with the funds we have (her medical bill is already over $1200) but she is going to need more than that. Our ability to provide what she needs depends on the generosity of others. I know many people really don’t have anything to give but healing thoughts and prayers and those are also gratefully accepted.
As I sit here and write a cover version of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time plays on the radio. I listen to the words, “if you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting, time after time”. Angeline was falling, I want Safe Hands to be able to catch her in a net of security and bring her safely home. Please help us help Angeline if you can.
Donations can be made via paypal by clicking the link on this page:
Checks can be mailed to:
Safe Hands Rescue – P.O. box 19623 – Minneapolis, MN 55419-0623
For now I will follow the blue dots to Angeline and I will pray that when Angeline is feeling lost she can look and she will find us, the Safe Hands family, standing strong behind her, to bring her home.
Thanks for listening and best to all of you in these hard times. I will post updates on Angeline to our blog which can be found here: