by Kathy Coy and Becky Loyd
Bullet's legacy began with one of those phone calls that breaks your heart. It was suppertime when the phone rang and I could tell by the half of the conversation I could hear that it was someone from the Kennel Club. I finally realized what was going on, when I was asked, "do we do rescue"? My heart sank. I figured someone had dumped a black cock-a-poo, somewhere, and we were the lucky ones, who were home that evening, so it was determined to be 'our' breed.
I asked the club member, Teresa, if it really was a Lab, and her answer was very diplomatic. "I don't want to insult you or your breed", she replied, "but he looks like a Lab, probably not a good one, but I think he is a Lab ... He's a yellow male, about a year old, that has been hit by a car." Teresa is a Corgi breeder, and a Doctor's wife, so I knew the medical part would be accurate. She reported that his front leg was shattered and the shoulder appeared to be out of the socket. He also had what appeared to be animal bites on the bridge of his nose. The dog had been down the road, at a farmer's house for a couple of days, in this condition. Every time she went down to see about him, he had wandered off. Finally, the two of them crossed paths, and thus the phone call.
Needless to say, dinner was over so we scraped the plates, checked to make sure there was bedding in the crate in the van, grabbed some Rescue Remedy and the cell phone, and went out the door. Forty-five minutes later we pulled up to the house, and then drove down about 1/2 mile to where the dog was. We got out of the van, and walked around to the back of the farmer's house. Laying on the ground was a skinny, but full grown, yellow Lab. He was one of those poorly bred ones, with the thin skull and longer nose, but he was a Lab. He seemed to be just about worn out. His right front leg, was three sizes bigger than the left. The bridge of his nose, was swollen to about the size of a tennis ball. There were two big puncture wounds, right in the middle of the swelling with some very nasty looking green goo coming from his nostrils. It was at that moment, I knew I wouldn't be taking him home. I couldn't risk the danger to my own dogs, not knowing the reason for the nasal discharge. I approached him cautiously, and slowly bent down to get on his level. When I reached for his head to put some Rescue Remedy on his tongue, he showed his true Lab spirit. As much as he was suffering, and as much as it hurt to open his mouth, he wagged his tail.
We took the crate out of the van and set it in front of him. Once he was in, we picked him up, crate and all, and put him in the van. We then drove back to Teresa's house to discuss our options. Although the sheriff in our county was contacted, the only help they offered, was to come out and shoot the dog. Teresa had also called the Humane Society in the neighboring county and they said they would come out and pick up the dog. We all agreed that this would be the best thing for him and us. They showed up 15 minutes later. They had no problem with taking him, however, they couldn't guarantee what would happen to him. The Humane Society employee assured us that nothing would be done, until I had a chance to talk with the Director, first thing in the morning. I went home depressed, and spent a sleepless night.At 8:00 sharp I was on the phone with the director. She said they had just come back from the Vet's office who had confirmed that he had a shattered leg, and the injury was a few days old. They believed the holes in his nose were caused by a shotgun blast to the face. Probably buckshot. I was astounded. That possibility never dawned on me. Then the first shoe dropped. The Director said because his injuries were way beyond their $30 to $35 per dog budget, the kindest thing to do would be to put him down. That's when the guilt set in. If I had known the nasal discharge was an infection due to being shot, and not some terrible disease, he would be at my house right now, not on death row. My brain was racing, which at 8:00 a.m. is no small feat. I asked if they could put off the euthanasia for a couple of hours to see if I could raise some money. She said yes, with just a hint of skepticism in her voice.
I tried to reach the members of my kennel club, but only four of the thirty were home. Trying to buy some time, I called the shelter and lied. I told the Director I had raised almost $100. She replied that would be enough to go ahead and start the surgeries, with the hope that more could be raised when people came home from work. She said that Dr. Kathy Ross and Dr. Dennis Gardner of the Indian Creek Veterinary Hospital, estimated his medical expenses at around $150. She then told me that including the out of county pick up charge, the pup's expenses would total around $400. Then the other shoe fell...the leg was going to have to be amputated.
I couldn't get this dog out of my mind and I was having a hard time sitting around and waiting for people to come home from work. Then I remembered that in the wee hours of the night, I had shared my plight with an e-mail news group I belong to, and decided to take my mind off waiting by checking the mail. I had expected a few replies of moral support. Once again, I was dumbfounded by the sensitivity and the caring among this group of Lab lovers. I had a multitude of "well wishes" and "you did the right thing". That's when I decided to go very public with the thought of raising money to pay for this dog's medical expenses. It wouldn't take but just a couple of dollars from each of the hundred or so people I thought might respond. I also belong to another pet list that I thought harbored a few softies, so I sent the plea out to both lists.
Within one hour, my first pledge came in. It was from a man who was getting ready to leave on vacation for a week, but pledged his support and $100. I will never forget Jack Arnold's words before he left. "Don't let them put this dog down for the lack of funds to pay his medical bills". That was only the beginning of the storm. For the next 3 days, we answered e-mail messages from all over the world. We started an accounting system to keep track of the pledges and the people. It was non-stop, way into the night for 3 glorious days. Every time I received a message from someone, I would start to cry. The Lab world now knew this dog as the "Sad little man". Then I started getting pledges from the natural pet list I belong to. Then came the Golden list. Then the Canine list. People were forwarding my message of the "sad little man" to every dog list on the Internet. The amount of mail was overwhelming.
Then it happened. Two members of the list, one in Wisconsin and the other in Washington, DC suggested that a fund be established to allow anyone, even those without the financial resources to pay medical bills out-of-pocket, to do rescue work and save dogs' lives. The funds raised over and above Bullet's medical expenses became the seed money for Labrador-L Emergency Medical Assistance, or what is now known as LABMED.
Bullet had the surgery to amputate his leg and went home with us to recuperate and await adoption. After spending seven months recuperating and thriving, Bullet was adopted by Dranda and Clarence Whaley, fellow Labrador-L members from Nashville, TN who had been following his story since it first appeared on the Lab-list.
Coincidentally, August 1996 when Bullet was rescued was the same month the Whaley's yellow lab Hessi died at age 13. Hessi was Clarence's retired Seeing Eye dog. When the Whaleys were ready to start looking for a dog to add to their household, it became clear that Bullet was the dog for them. In fact, it felt as though Bullet was being saved for them for when they were ready.
Sadly, Bullet (who was renamed Buddy shortly after his rescue) is no longer with us, but his legacy lives on, and those who met him in person can not possibly forget the indomitable spirit he had in enjoying life to the fullest and being a tremendous inspiration to those of us who assist the rescue process for these wonderful dogs.
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Last Updated: Fall 2015