Little did I know at the time that my walk in the woods would bring my heart near to breaking, that a portion of it would be broken irreparably, never to be fully mended, and that my mind would be absorbed with guilt and pain because of my over-active mind…who could have done this to such a beautiful animal? A moment of anger soared through me. A hunter, I surmised. Damn the hunter all to hell! Could I have walked faster? Gotten there sooner?
So many questions and denial assailed my mind as I stared into that tangled brush and saw an animal in pain, its body moving only slightly in spasmodic barely noticeable jerks.
Then, I heard his low whimper carrying doubt and fear. In that instant, all that mattered was saving his life. In that brush of broken tree limbs, rocks, and blood-stained earth was a beautiful Golden Retriever, now more audibly moaning in long painful gasps, somehow sensing my presence. The Golden’s hair was matted with a slow ooze of blood coming from an ugly gash to his lovely head. The eyes were half-opened, pleading, rolling lazily up and down in my direction, as if saying, ‘please, no more, please’, perhaps his mind considering me the enemy who had attacked him. How long had he been lying there in terrible pain? I could only guess. Quickly scanning the area, I saw no other people in sight.
My heart sank at the sight, and, despite his suffering, he was so beautiful lying there in the brush, his body atremble with the uncertainty of my appearance in the dense woods. A tear owned by me came and fell to the ground. Call me, wimpy, it’s okay, because it was instant love, seeing that beautiful creature moaning in distress and so much agony.
As I gingerly pulled away the tangled mess to reach him, he moaned so desperately. With my voice as soft as I could make it, I tried to console him. “It’s okay,” I muttered gently, softly, “I’m going to help you. Don’t be afraid. Please, lie still while I remove some of this knotted mess around you. I’m here to help you, not harm you.” I gently stroked his middle back. He seemed to understand my words and his eyes closed for a moment as he emitted a barely audible sigh. The gash appeared to be his only injury, but it looked menacing with its emission of blood.
For a moment, as his breathing became fainter, I thought he might be dying, but as I reached him, touched him, he reacted with new yelp. As gently as were my arms enfolding him, he still gasped in with every move I made. I talked to him as I worked to get him out of the brush. “I’m taking you to the vet hospital, to someone who can stop your . I won’t hurt you, and I won’t leave you. I promise.”
As I carried him to my car, I could feel and hear his soft labored breathing with little gasps of more discomfort when I had to make an adjustment with my grip on him. I also prayed for the lovely Golden in my arms. At the car, I carefully opened the back door of my sedan and with tedious care placed him on the back seat.
We made it to the Vet hospital, and, Thank God, the Golden was saved. A hunter’s misplaced shot had ricocheted and caused the gash and his near death. He had crawled to the brush for safety, to avoid the danger of which he had no knowledge.
Julie Anne and I named him, Toby. He was with us for eleven years before we had to put him down because of a cancer, bringing an agony hard to bear and memories laved with tears.
Those tears can still easily come when I think of my beautiful friend, now long gone, but never, ever, to be forgotten. He is buried under a peaceful and aged oak tree in the east valley of Phoenix, Arizona.
Rest in Peace, Toby, we will always love you….one day, we’ll be together again.
BR Chitwood – June 11, 2019
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