Imagine losing your parents when you are just a few months old, with no one to love and care for you. No one to snuggle up to and keep you warm. Imagine not knowing where to find food, living in fear every day, constantly afraid of being attacked.
For Benjamin, this was his reality. Each day of survival was a struggle.
He had lived this life for the past two years, with not a day going by that he did not fear for his life. He was always afraid and spent most of his days hiding under planks and beams, where he thought no other dogs could see or attack him. His days were long and lonely.
He hardly came out of hiding. He would rather starve then to come out in search of food and risk being attacked by the alpha dogs. Pain and hunger was so much a part of his life that it felt almost normal.
|Trying to muzzle Benjamin in the car|
Looking at Benjamin, you wouldn't think that he would harbour such a great fear of being attacked, as he is not a small dog. At the time of rescue, he was skin and bones, but weighed in at a hefty 20kg. Imagine if he had been properly fed, how big, strong and handsome he would be.
A stray feeder had spotted him in a construction site when she went to feed some dogs there. He must have been lured out by the smell of food and when she saw the gaping wound on his head, she felt faint. She spent a few hours trying to trap him and finally with the help of some workers, managed to get him into her car. She covered his wound with a towel and contacted us for help and advice.
We met her and Benjamin at the vet and drama unfolded as it was near impossible to put a leash, collar or muzzle on Benjamin and get him out of the car. He lay quietly on the car seat, exhausted from his years of living on the streets but like most street dogs, they were not used to being leashed and to some, having a noose around their neck evoked tremendous fear. No amount of coaxing worked and Benjamin tried snapping each time we even got near his face with either a leash or muzzle. He was not aggressive, not the type that would lunge or attack, but just warning snaps. It took almost an hour till we finally decided that we would call the vets and have him sedated in the car and then carried into the clinic.
The vet nurses and Dr Chan of The Animal Doctors were very professional in the way they handled Benjamin. They managed to cover his head with a towel and quickly jabbed him with the sedative. While a nurse was waiting for the sedative to kick in, the other nurses were in the clinic preparing the operating table for Benjamin’s arrival.
He knocked out within 3 minutes and two vet nurses hurriedly bundled him with a towel and carried him in. They lay him on the table and quickly muzzled him while he was still under sedation. They also gave him oxygen and as he lay there, two doctors and three nurses worked on him. It was extremely well-managed and professional as they calmly cleaned his wound, while another held him down, and yet another monitored his heart rate. As I stood there watching, Benjamin tried to struggle to get up and was held down by the nurses. His cry pierced through the room. It wasn’t a whine, but a sad, sad cry and at the instance, I felt his pain and loneliness.
|A bag of bones and his body was scar ridden. More than once the nurses commented on how many scars he had. Life has not been easy.|
I often feel street dogs live a really hard life. They spend their entire lives in search of food, shelter and love. Some die on the streets, never ever finding that fulfillment, not even a pat on their heads...
When do we notice them and give them a second glance? When we see them limping or injured? Why is it that we only notice them when they are hurt? Why do they have to “sacrifice” themselves to be noticed? Why can’t we give them food, shelter and love when they are well and unscathed?
|Monitoring his heart rate|
What happens to dogs like Benjamin? They get rescued and taken to the vet, where they spend a week or two in the clinic. Some like being there, others don’t. For those that enjoy being there, it would be for the security of being in a cage, where no other dogs can attack them, where they get regular meals amidst some prodding. For others like Benjamin, being in such places are all too scary and foreign to him. He is not used to so many humans showing him love, because he doesn’t know what that is. He is afraid of being touched and patted too much, afraid of sudden movements, and most of all, he has no idea where he is and what his future holds. All he does like is the food that our volunteers cook for him daily; he gets three huge meals a day and he loves every bit of it. He has a huge appetite!
Dr Chan reckoned that his wound could have been caused by a dog attack and she commented that it was even bigger than Beano’s injury. It may have been about a week and there were some maggots in their early stages of flesh feasting. Fortunately, Benjamin tested negative for tick fever and heartworm, although his blood count was very low, possibly from all the blood loss. It was late at night by then and Ben’s surgery was scheduled to be carried out the following day.
|Scheduled for surgery the next day|
The surgery took three long hours where Benjamin’s blood count fell dangerously low and we were called to have on standby some blood donor dogs. Owner, Desiree, and her dog, Blessing, answered our plea and Blessing was at the vet on standby should Benjamin require a blood transfusion. Blessing’s sibling, Favour, had previously donated blood to Prince and saved his life as well! Fortunately after some hours, Benjamin’s blood count started to rise and he no longer required a transfusion. One tough dog he is.
|Blessing, a blood donor dog, on the right|
Benjamin’s wound was cleaned, maggots removed and Drs had to pull the skin from both sides of his neck to stitch the wound closed. Certain parts of the wound was tight and there was a risk that the stitches would open from the tension. The stitches and scar was long. I shuddered at the sight of it. It ran from the top of his head all the way down to the top of his back. Dr Chan had kindly taken a picture of his post-op wound for us after his surgery.
|Post-op photograph courtesy of Dr Cathy Chan|
For the next few days, Benjamin lay quietly in his cage, catching up on his rest. He was on strong pain killers.
He has been at the vet for 5 days and is still getting used to humans and being prodded. He will be discharged when his wound dries completely, most likely in about 5 days or so. He is healing well and getting stronger again.
Benjamin, rescued from the wreckage, given a week or two of reprieve and then released back to the wreckage, to spend the rest of his life hiding under planks and living in fear till his next attack to be noticed again?
Why must life be so hard for street dogs? Why can’t HDB ease their rulings and help give these dogs a second chance? Whatever happened to empathy, compassion and human kindness?
Buy a HOPE 2013 calendar. It's just $10/- each but it gives HOPE to our rescue dogs and helps with our vet bills.