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Our Spirit
--Written by Tiami L. Coleburg
--Contributions by Donna Brantner & Dr. V. Johnson

The couple hiked through the remote swampy area, listening to the quiet. As they walked in stride, the loudest sound was the gush, gush of their boots on the spongy ground, accompanied by the buzz of insects. They both hear a noise just off the trail. They paused to listen and looked and see if it was possible to get a glimpse at the creature that made the faint sounds. They never expected to find the little being they had come across. In the dank swamp water, lay a little creature, obviously in distress. They sloshed out to see if they could help it. It was a small 15 pound wirehaired Dachshund mix. They scooped the muddy, wet, blood covered dog and they wrapped him up in a temporary cocoon made out of a shirt. They then started the hike back for help.

Animal Control was called and the officer responded immediately. She peered into the box the couple had placed him in. The little dog wagged his tiny tail and looked up with gentle brown eyes. She could sense his relief, that he was safe and warm. He had the look of a little hobo. Even without removing the mud that encased him, you could tell he had been not well cared for, for some time. How he came to be in a remote swamp, many miles from any home, will never be known. He had severe injuries, probably, inflicted by a wild animal that thought he was meal. He some how had escaped his attacker, but not unscathed. The officer called in, letting the shelter know the dog needed immediate assistance. The shelter staff called R.E.D. to see if we could help save him. Donna, a R.E.D. transport team volunteer, made the run to rush him to medical care.

As Donna drove, she would reach over into his box to comfort him, with a pat on his head and scratch behind his ears. He would look over at her gratefully. Her only real thought was getting him to medical care. She sang every song of survival and love that she could think of. At one point he gave her a little kiss on the hand and from then on, they were connected. She wanted to give him a name just in case the worse happened. Nobody should die without a name. If the best happened and he survived, (and she was praying mighty hard for that), she wanted his name to reflect how hard he was trying to live. She chose Spirit. When she would stop singing, Spirit, would try to move around, but with his severe abdominal and shoulder injuries he had to stay still. The singing made him peaceful. So, Donna sang and sang and sang.

When they got to the hospital, Spirit was still alert and looking at his rescuers with trust in his eyes. Dr. Johnson knew this was a bad combination of injuries and delay in treatment. It was estimated, Spirit, had been in the swamp several days, prior to being found. She also saw his strength and spirit and felt he should be given a chance. He under went three and a half hours of surgery. He was fighting for his life, but unlike in the swamp he was now surrounded by comfort and love. Jeanette, from the vet clinic, stayed with him all night to comfort and support him. He indeed was looking stronger with each passing hour. On Sunday and Monday, he seemed to improve rapidly. He ate, stood up and walked on his own. He wagged his little tail, in thanks, to all that gave him attention. Everyone was lifted up by his success. Discussions on who would be the lucky one to foster him were bantered about. We were so sure, our Spirit was on the mend.

We let our hopes fly to high. So, the descent to reality, on Tuesday morning was fast and hard. The vets noticed that he had quickly taken a turn for the worse. He seemed to just fade like the setting sun. He left this world shortly after he took this turn back. His last breath was while held with love by some of those that had given so much of themselves to save him. Donna reached his side right after he passed on. She scratched his ears, told him that she loved him. She spoke softly, "I will pick you up at the Rainbow Bridge. Until we meet again my sweet, brave little Spirit...

We feel pride in the fact we succeeded in helping this gentle being. Some would question our definition of success. We do these rescues knowing that sometimes we will not win the prize of life. We do them because someone has to help animals that are hurt or abused or hungry or afraid. We win sometimes and we lose sometimes - like Spirit. We must try because we don't know which we will win and which we will lose. We accept this as the reality of our rescue work, and know that sometimes our hearts get broken by the injuries and injustices that we don't have enough time, skill, love, money or magic to solve. If Spirit had lived, we would have all rejoiced in his new chance at life, but we can rejoice in the fact that we tried and gave him love. Instead of dying in a cold, wet lonely swamp, he died surrounded by love and caring, warmth and tenderness. For myself, rescue is not always about the length of the life, but the love and kindness that life sees, while in our care. It is sometimes the gift and the dignity of a gentle ending. Our Spirit had all of those. Fly free sweet Spirit.
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