Friday, February 09, 2007


Written by Gilles

Cruel twist of fate--Stella

Who knows why our paths crossed that day, surely the gods knew that Lynn and myself were not the kind that would just keep on walking by and do nothing to help this poor animal, or maybe that was his "plan" after all.

As we were walking towards the Mendoza Zoo I spotted a dog in the corner of my eye sitting awkwardly in a ditch of cold fast running water. You could tell something was wrong with her right away, she had the saddest little eyes and that "I don't know what to do now" look on her face...I had the same look on my face. Lucky Lynn was there and took a little better control of the situation while Stella and I sat with our stunned faces. Lynn checked for broken bones which apparently there wasn't any but Stella's breathing was laboured and a little worrisome. We wouldn't be sure about her condition until we got her to the Vet Clinic a block away from our apartment for X-rays. Stella's rear legs wouldn't support her and she yelped and stumbled as Lynn picked her up to put her in the cab. At this point I'm reminded why I'd never make it as a Vet (apart from the obvious--brains!) I don't have the internal fortitude that Lynn does to even watch this poor little pup suffer without wincing from the uncertainty of her fate. Perhaps my lack of animal medical knowledge explained my complete uselessness at that point.

We got Stella to the Vet Clinic where we met Juan Carlos, a Mexican born and trained Vet who is just the kind of person you'd want to meet in this situation. Helpful, kind, caring and most importantly working on the case of getting Stella adopted asap. Juan gave Stella a couple of pain shots to get her through the night but unfortunately his clinic didn't have an X-ray machine on site so we would have to wait till tomorrow until the mobile X-ray machine showed up. We still weren't really sure what we were going to do with Stella, we were hoping to take care of her at the apartment for a couple of days then send her to her new home. Juan did come through with someone to take her in a couple of days but we still didn't really know all there was to know about Stella's condition until we got her X-rayed.

At this point I guess you should know where the name Stella comes from, with all our running around and worrying at the time the money for her pain meds cost 40 pesos and for that money in Argentina we could have bought 20 beers!!! (originally it was Heineken but that proved to be to masculine so we called her Stella after the Belgium beer Stella Artois).

Obviously the money was better spent on her....

So we carried her home, built her a bed with a blanket and covered it with garbage bags since she still was a dirty slightly smelly street dog. Now she was in our intensive care 24 hours a day until we could deliver her to Juan Carlos who had indeed arranged an adoption for her but the adoptee could only take her on the problem for us. We made her as comfy as possible, we feed her all sorts of good little treats, rice and sausages, leftovers and of course puppy food. She was really sore still but seemed to be getting better with each hour that passed, she'd whine a little bit and struggle to try to get up when she had to pee. We had to lift her up and support her around the yard for the first couple of days until she started to get up on her own. I slept downstairs with her for 4 nights with one eye open getting up when she need to go out or wanted some water and food, sometimes she'd sleep inside by the door and other nights I'd put her outside where she seemed more relaxed.

By day 3 she seemed to be getting much better, and I was at least thinking things would be all right for her. Her demeanor was good, she wagged her tail every time she'd see us and respond with a friendly look, we were petting her constantly and calling her by her name, she was going outside and enjoying the sun like any good hearted street dog would. She was even trying to flip over for a well deserved belly rub. She was eating and drinking well and even going to pee by herself standing up which I took to be a great sign of recovery.

We had to find another clinic to get X-rays since the mobile machine didn't show up at Juan's clinic, it wasn't too far but carrying little Stella around was hard on the arms after 10 blocks of walking. Finally in to get X-rays and they were pretty cheap about 90 pesos for 3 X-rays, however they didn't give Stella anything for the pain and laying her out on the table for the photos was a bit painful to watch as she was still really sore. Lynn started to think at this time that something more serious might be going on with Stella, her breathing was still laboured and she thought she probably had a diaphragmatic hernia, which I guess is common with animals that get hit by cars.

The X-rays proved Lynn's assessment to by right, she did indeed suffer from a tear in her diaphragm as well as a fractured pelvis. We were definitely caught in a dilemma and a bit off guard, she would need an operation and intensive care for a couple of weeks after and we were leaving in a couple of days. At first we had just decided although we didn't want to that the best thing to do since no one would be there to take care of her was to euthanize her. By this time our attachment to her was growing and the thought off having to put her down just because we couldn't sort things out due to lack of time to sort out all the details of her operation, post op care and adoption wasn't really acceptable to me but the reality was saying otherwise.

Unfortunately and fortunately for Stella, Argentina had just passed a new law that states you can only euthanize animals if there is an existing medical condition. We thought for sure that Stella would have qualified but the attending Vet didn't seem to think so! Surely Stella could not go on without medical intervention but apparently he had some ethical problems with putting her down. He did however give us a number for the society for protection of animals in town but we'd have to call and make the arrangements our self. We didn't get the warm and fuzzies from this clinic and hoped for a little bit more from them since we were doing everything we could as tourists for the little girl.

We carried Stella home once again and consulted with Juan about her medical problem and the remaining problem of what to do with her. At best, Mopra (animal protection) would take her, we'd pay for the surgery and they would have someone do post op care for her. At worst Juan Carlos had said he would not having a problem euthanizing Stella since she would be suffering and needed the operation to survive.(Juan's clinic didn't have the equipment for such a surgery but once again Juan was most helpful and patient with us and our poor Spanish).

We finally spoke to Mopra that night and had arrangements put together for Stella the next day all we needed was a price for the surgery from the Vet that we agreed to pay for and everything else would be taken care of, Thank God, finally!! By now it was Thursday night and we were leaving on Monday morning to go to Santiago, it couldn't have been any closer time wise.

After another night on the couch and being woken several times by Stella's whimpering and need for some attention, and food of course the morning came and my shift was over. Lynn came down from her lovely large air conditioned bedroom and comfortable bed I might add to relieve me of my dog duties and Stella went outside to enjoy another beautiful sunny day in Mendoza.

I went up to bed upstairs and what only seemed like minutes when Lynn came up to tell me that Stella had just died. I couldn't believe it and needed to see for myself but unfortunately it was true. Stella died outside in the hot sun, on the green grass, where she felt the most comfortable.

She lived a good last week with us, she got off the streets and knew what it was like to have a home, what being completely spoiled was like, to actually have a long overdue bath and to finally have people to care for her. It was a long week with her and we did the best we could, of course our attachment grew over the days as were our high hopes for her recovery and a positive outcome: it was cruel ending for out little story. We poured what we had into her and her recovery and she repaid us plenty with a wagging tale and a happier face then when we found her.

I still wish we could have saved her......


Bernie said...

Gilles & Lynn,

What a sad (and yet wonderful) story about an abandoned stray left to die. You did everything you could (and then some!) so you can take solace that little Stella is now in puppy heaven, playing in the warm sun -- and that its final days were filled with a lot more warmth and love than she had ever known .

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