“There’s a raspberry behind you.”
The words entered my brain and translated into an image of a small, vibrant fuchsia colored fruit and I pictured it laying incongruously on the dirty cement floor of the shelter we were in. The idea unable to fit with the reality – “What?”
“There’s a raspberry laying behind you” Jennifer repeated.
The small fruit popped up in my head again. I struggled to accept that a raspberry was indeed laying on the floor behind me. I could only assume she wanted me to know so I would not step on it. It seemed absolutely absurd. I believe I stammered some words to that effect and Jennifer looked at me with slight exasperation. “No,” she said, “the dog…there is a Raspberry dog behind you.”
The knowledge of what she meant slammed into my chest like an airbag that threatens for a moment to suffocate. Fighting the fear that threatened to take the air away I turned to see. Indeed, there she was, a skeleton covered with bare skin the color fuchsia, a frame that appeared much too small and frail. This “Raspberry” was curled tightly,shivering in the slightly chilled air and the damp of the shelter just after cleaning. Moments felt like eternities as my brain struggled to find the solid ground of anything that made sense in the madness.
Here is where words fail. There is no possible way to convey what those moments felt like. The horror of her condition unspeakable simply because there are not words invented that get to the heart of it. No words invented to explain the feeling that moment in my heart. I went in the run with her and knelt down. The words that came out of my mouth were soft and soothing, the voice inside my head was screaming. Her body had no hair from the neck down. Her skin was red and raw with painful open sores. Her eyes squeezed tightly shut. Every bone jutted painfully just underneath the skin. I was afraid if I touched her she would crumble.
This is how we found Celeste. There would be no leaving her this way. No leaving her behind. I was not sure if she could be saved but I was absolutely sure she deserved to have someone try.
We moved quickly to survey the rest of the shelter’s inhabitants. Just a few yards down the way we stumbled on the next heart breaker. He lay curled in a ball of dirty, matted, gold colored fur. His face was crusty and raw. Even with his long hair it was evident he was no more than skeleton and skin. As I peered in he raised his amber eyes my way, I saw a soul weary from the fight. I saw suffering and pain. I knew my lap would not be empty on the ride home. Leo was exhausted so we would take up the fight for him. Leo had a ticket to ride.
There ensued a flurry of activity, a call to the hospital for Celeste, a crate and soft blankets, emergency fluids given to both, lifting the fragile bodies that felt like lifting marshmallows – mostly air. They weighed so little it was as if even their bones were hollow. We were afraid our touch was painful on their raw bodies. We did our best to be careful and slow and to speak soft words of comfort so they might know good things were to come.
We brought them both to the hospital where Celeste remains,much too weak to make the trip.
In the absence of anything contagious Leo was cleared to travel. We began the long trip home as Celeste and Leo began the long journey back to health and happiness.
Epilogue: Celeste remains in the hospital. She is stable but has been dealt another blow when she tested heartworm positive. Dr. Tevis at Advanced Animal Care came up with a treatment plan that we hope will work to heal her skin and body so she can be strong enough for heartworm treatment. She will remain in the hospital at least another two weeks before she can travel.
Leo arrived weighing just 22 pounds. Twenty two pounds on a frame that should carry at least forty. He is eating well,sleeps round the clock, waking to eat and get a little bit of love before closing his heavy eyes again. Each day he is a little stronger and today he jumped up and greeted me standing for the first time – one week after his arrival.
Big thanks from Celeste, Leo and me. It is because of this amazing rescue family that Celeste and Leo get their chance at healing and happiness. Time and time again, when angels fall you catch them.