“Look Dad!” Chuck exclaimed, pointing out the window of the car.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and Chuck and his dad were on their way to the little league baseball fields near their home to take some batting and fielding practice before the season got underway. Chuck’s dad, Dr. Carson, was a veterinarian and the drive from their home to the baseball field happened to take them right by the veterinary clinic that he owned. Chuck’s dad turned his head just in time to see a bicycle lying on its side in the grass in front of the clinic and a young boy standing outside the front door. On Sundays the clinic was closed and locked up tight. The only people that came in were the technicians who took care of the sick dogs and cats that were staying over the weekend. The young boy, however, was standing on the front stoop pounding mercilessly on the door of the building. In his arms, seemingly lifeless, he cradled a small beagle puppy.
“Aw, Chuck…” Dr. Carson started to say.
“I know dad, practice can wait for a few minutes. We can’t just drive off and leave that kid with the sick dog back there.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that.” Chuck’s dad agreed. “But, from the looks of that little puppy he’s carrying, there may not be very much for us to do.”
“Maybe it’s not dead” Chuck added optimistically. “Maybe there is something you can do to help it.”
“We can always hope,” responded Dr. Carson – less optimistically.
Dr. Carson pulled into the very next parking lot, turned around and headed back to the clinic. As they drove into the drive, they saw the little boy getting back on his bike with the sick little puppy stuffed inside of his jacket. His dark brown eyes were swollen and red from crying, and his tears had left wandering wet streaks down either cheek.
“Wait a minute son,” Dr. Carson called out. “I’m the veterinarian that works here. Maybe I can help you out. Why don’t you come on inside so we can have a look?”
The boy’s face showed a faint glimmer of hope when he heard those words. He leapt off his bike leaving it, once again, in a heap on the front lawn and rushed awkwardly toward the front door. He carefully cradled the puppy as it bounced to and fro inside his jacket. Dr. Carson held the front door open for him and motioned toward the open door to their left that lead into the first exam room.
“Let’s see what you’ve got there,” Dr. Carson offered.
The boy opened his jacket and laid the limp little body on the table. It was a little female beagle, probably not over five weeks old. The outline of her ribs and the regular bony prominences of her spine were easily visible through the thin skin that covered her body. Her eyes stared blankly straight ahead, unblinking and half-open. Periodically, her chest would rise to take in a breath of air then slowly return to its resting position as she exhaled. Chuck’s dad lifted the little puppy’s lip and pressed his finger against the white flesh inside her mouth.
“Well. She’s still alive,” Dr. Carson observed. “But barely. When did you first find her like this, son.”
“Yesterday she seemed fine,” the little boy answered. “I dunno. Maybe last night she started to get sick, and then this morning she couldn’t walk. She just lay there in the box. The other puppies were crawling all over her, and she never moved. She has always been the smallest, but I feed the mama dog everyday and give her clean water.”
“I’m sure you take great care of her, son. What’s your name?” Dr. Carson inquired.
“Bobby,” the little boy answered.
“Well, Bobby. Your puppy is very sick. Let me run some tests and we’ll see if we can figure out what’s wrong. Chuck, could you please get me a purple top blood tube and a 3cc syringe with a blue-capped needle on it? I’m going to need your help.”
“Sure, Dad.” Chuck had spent enough time in the clinic to know where most everything was, and what a lot of it was for. He hopped off his stool at the counter in the lab and grabbed up the supplies his dad had requested. As he entered the exam room and moved into position beside the table, he handed his dad the syringe and needle. He kept the blood tube and slipped it into his pants pocket where he could retrieve it quickly when his dad was ready for it. Chuck cupped the little puppy’s head in his hand and gently extended her neck. Using his left hand, Dr. Carson slipped a couple of fingers under the puppy’s neck and applied pressure with his thumb to a little groove at the point of her shoulder. Chuck could see the vein in the side of her neck fill slowly with blood. He watched his dad gently slip the tip of the needle under the skin and into the vein. With the thumb and forefinger of his right hand Dr. Carson pulled back gently on the syringe plunger. The barrel of the syringe filled quickly with blood. Not wanting to take too much from an already very weak patient, Dr. Carson stopped as soon as he had enough to run the test.
“Let’s see what we can learn from this,” he said as he carried his samples into the lab for analysis.
Bobby watched from the exam room as Dr. Carson and Chuck scurried around the lab with the samples they had taken. He stroked the little puppy’s head gently with the tips of his fingers as he waited. He heard machines whirr and click as they analyzed the blood. He saw Dr. Carson peering into a microscope then looking up to scan the results on the printer. Bobby couldn’t tell what they were doing, but he hoped whatever it was would help his puppy. He looked away and tried to think positive thoughts. A second later Dr. Carson stepped back into the room.
“Well, Bobby. I can tell from the samples we took that your little puppy has a terrible infestation of hookworms. It has made her blood very thin. There are barely enough red blood cells left to carry oxygen to all the organs in her body. That’s why she’s so weak. We should be able to save her, but she’s going to need a blood transfusion.”
“Take mine!!” little Bobby exclaimed, holding out his arm and rolling up his sleeve. “Can’t you take some of my blood and give it to her ??”
Dr. Carson smiled and tussled Bobby’s hair.
“There won’t be any need to donate blood today. People blood wouldn’t do a dog much good. I happen to have some blood in the refrigerator left over from another case this week. I was getting ready to throw it out, but now I’m glad I saved it. Although, please understand Bobby, your puppy is still very sick. She needs the new blood, but we also need to kill all the worms inside her. Sometimes that can result in complications. Sometimes the blood can cause them to have a reaction. We’ll do everything we can, but there are no guarantees of success.”
Bobby nodded his head.
“Alright then. Let’s get started.”
Dr. Carson left the room for a couple of minutes then returned with four syringes in his hand.
“I need to give her some shots, Bobby.” Dr. Carson explained. “One of these will make it less likely that she’ll have a bad reaction to the blood. One of these will kill the worms that drained all her blood. The other two are vitamins and iron that will help her body make new red blood cells.”
The little puppy hardly flinched as Dr. Carson gave one injection after another. Then, Bobby looked on as Dr. Carson clipped the hair from a patch of skin on his puppy’s front leg and washed it with some brown soap. He watched in amazement as Dr. Carson threaded a tiny plastic tube with a long thin needle going through the middle of it into the vein in her leg. With white tape Dr. Carson secured the little tube in place and screwed a little rubber cap on the end.
“There. That, Bobby, is an intravenous catheter. This way we’ll be able to give her medicine, or in this case blood, right into her blood stream without having to stick her over and over again with needles. Chuck, will you hand me that bottle of blood we got out of the refrigerator earlier?”
Dr. Carson attached a long clear plastic tube to the bottle, gave it a swirl and hung it from a hook in the ceiling. Bobby saw the blood drip from the bottle into a chamber with some sort of filter inside. The chamber gradually filled up. When it got about halfway full, the blood started to fill the rest of the tube and ran quickly toward the end. Just as it was about to drip on the floor, Dr. Carson turned a little wheel on the tube with his thumb. The flow of blood stopped right at the end.
“Chuck, will you hold this leg for me?” Dr. Carson asked.
Without saying a word Chuck reached over and stabilized the little leg by gripping it behind the elbow. Dr. Carson unscrewed the cap from the catheter and inserted the fitting on the end of the tube in its place. He then reached over and used his thumb to turn the little wheel on the tube in the opposite direction. Blood once again started to drip from the bottle.
“Well, Bobby. It’s a waiting game now. After she’s gotten all the blood she needs, we’ll fix her up a spot in our kennels for the night. She should have a lot more strength then. By tomorrow afternoon we should have a much better idea about her chances of survival. Why don’t you just stop back by tomorrow after school and check in on her. We’ll look after her for you until then.”
“Ok,” Bobby answered with a worried look on his face.
“Can we give you a ride home? I’m sure your bike would fit in the trunk.”
“No, sir. Thank you, though. I’ll come back tomorrow after school. Thank you, again.”
Bobby turned and walked back through the lobby to the front door. He strained against the weight of the heavy glass for a second before it yielded to his pressure and allowed him to go outside. He picked up his bike and rode slowly down the street.
“Do you think she’s going to live, Dad?” Chuck asked. He knew better than to ask questions like that in front of clients. He had waited until the coast was clear before raising any additional doubts about the outcome.
“She’s got a good chance now. We’ve done all we can do. I think she’s had about all the blood she needs. Let’s disconnect that line and get her set up in a kennel.”
Chuck and his dad had enough daylight left to get in some good batting practice and shag some ground balls. They were worn out from all the excitement that evening when they finally got home. Chuck’s mom listened intently to the details of their encounter with the little boy and his puppy. They all openly expressed their hope that their efforts with the puppy that day would lead to a complete recovery. At the evening meal, Chuck offered a little prayer on the puppy’s behalf as an addendum to his normal blessing.
The next morning when Dr. Carson walked through the back door of the clinic he heard a high-pitched series of yips coming from the kennel room.
Sandra, the veterinary technician, met him in the hall. “That sure is a lively little beagle pup you took in this weekend. We can hardly hear ourselves think back there.”
“Wonderful!” Dr. Carson exclaimed. “That’s fabulous. You wouldn’t believe how she got here.”
He filled them all in on the events of the previous day. Everyone was touched at Bobby’s devotion to the little puppy. They wondered how far away he lived and at how many veterinary clinics he had stopped before Dr. Carson happened to see him. They eagerly awaited his arrival that afternoon to tell him the good news about his dog.
At exactly three thirty that afternoon the front door opened and in strolled a young boy that none of the staff recognized.
“You must be Bobby,” Deidre, the receptionist, exclaimed. “My name’s Deidre. Dr. Carson has been waiting for you. Let me see if I can find him.”
Deidre disappeared through the double doors that lead to the treatment area. She found Dr. Carson writing on a patient record in the lab.
“You have a visitor!” Deidre sang happily.
“Is it Bobby?” Sandra quickly inquired.
“It’s Bobby. Who wants to give them the good news?”
“I think I’ll talk to him,” Dr. Carson stated plainly with a little grin, as if there was ever any question. “Sandra, why don’t you get Bobby’s dog for him and meet us in the first exam room.”
Dr. Carson walked into the lobby and saw Bobby slouched down in a chair against the wall.
“Bobby! It’s good to see you again. I think I have some news that might make your day just a little bit brighter. Your puppy has made a remarkable recovery. She’s doing great. I think she’s ready to go home.”
Bobby jumped up from his chair.
“Can I see her?” he asked.
“Of course. Sandra is bringing her up to the front room as we speak. Come on back.”
Bobby walked cautiously into the exam room and glanced around. A second later Sandra came through the other door to the room holding a squirmy, impatient little puppy. Bobby’s face became alive with joy. He reached out and took the puppy from Sandra. The puppy climbed up his chest licking his ear and cheek furiously and clawing at his shirt. Bobby laughed and scolded her playfully as he dodged one lick after another. Dr. Carson and Sandra witnessing the reunion couldn’t help but smile. The bond they witnessed between a little boy and his dog filled their hearts with warmth and threatened to fill their eyes with tears.
“I should have asked you this earlier, Bobby. But, does she have a name?” Dr. Carson interrupted.
“Sally,” Bobby replied. “I call her Sally. Thank you for what you did.”
“No thanks necessary, Bobby,” Dr. Carson replied. “Seeing you two together is all the thanks I need.”
Bobby reached deep into his front pocket and retrieved a wad of crumpled up money and gum wrappers.
“I can pay you for what you did,” he offered.
“No thanks,” Dr. Carson insisted. “Keep your money. Use it to buy Sally some food or toys.”
Everyone in the clinic looked at each other and smiled. It was heartwarming to see such a joyous reunion. Even Dr. Carson sensed an extra measure of satisfaction from his efforts with Sally.
As Bobby was leaving to take Sally home, Dr. Carson held the front door open. “Bring her back in a week or so for her first set of shots!” he called out as Bobby was arranging Sally in the front of his jacket for the trip home.
“Sure thing!” Bobby answered. “See you then!”
Bobby pedaled off down the street with his puppy. As he began to disappear from sight Dr. Carson turned toward the clinic.
“Alright. Let’s get back to work,” he chided playfully. Everyone groaned in unison and shuffled their feet as they headed back inside to resume their activity.
That night at the supper table Dr. Carson recounted the events of the day to everyone in the family. Chuck was especially interested and pleased with the outcome. It was though his prayers from the night before had been answered. He listened intently to his Dad’s story. Then he began to think. He had seen his dad come home many nights with stories about things that had happened at work, but this time it was different. Chuck could tell by the way his dad talked and by the expression on his face that he had been very deeply touched in his dealings with Bobby and Sally.
“Hey, Chuck!” his dad called out. “Whatcha thinkin’ about?”
Evidently, Chuck had a funny expression on his face as he sat there motionless over his plate with these thoughts running through his mind.
“I dunno,” he answered. “I guess I was just thinking about Bobby and Sally. It sounds like Bobby was awfully happy to see that Sally was better. And, the way you tell the story it sounds like seeing those two reunited made you almost as happy as Bobby! I guess that’s the good thing about doing something nice for someone. It makes the giver feel almost as good as the getter!”