All of a sudden... I went from fine and dandy... to lightheaded and weak.
I needed a break.
I needed to sit.
And I needed something to drink... stat.
Of course, as luck would have it, there was nothing drinkable in my fridge.
So, I decided to drive over to the Chevron for a Gatorade.
I pulled up at the store, walked inside, and grabbed the biggest Gatorade they had. Before I even made the purchase, I cracked that baby open, and chugged at least half the bottle.
As I walked toward the register, I saw that my favorite gas station buddy was working behind the counter.
Every time he's there, I stop for a minute, just to talk to him. He's a really sweet man, with a super-cool accent, and he calls me "Miss Ashley."
He said: "Working hard again today, Miss Ashley?"
I said: "Damn. What gave me away? The sweat? Or the dirt?"
We both laughed.
Then, we had our usual chat, and I turned to leave.
|Delilah, as a Lucky Dog|
There was a Pit Bull... just standing there... right next to my car.
I thought: "You gotta be kiddin' me."
The dog was in awful condition. She looked broken and pitiful... underweight and malnourished... with scars covering her body. She was also wearing this massive, terrible collar around her neck, with these huge metal clasps... that had clearly been used to chain her.
As I slowly moved toward her, she didn't try to run away. She didn't even move. She just stood there, looking up at me.
I bent down, offered my hand, and asked:
"Who did this to you, baby?"
That's when I looked over, and saw my gas station buddy, watching us through the window. He was smiling... because he already knew what was about to happen. This wasn't my first "rescue rodeo" at the Chevron.
So, I re-opened the door, and asked: "Know anything about her?"
He shook his head: "It's the first time I've seen her. She just showed up, right as you walked in."
I replied: "Of course she did."
He chuckled and said: "You taking her with you, Miss Ashley?"
I smiled: "You know me too well..."
Without another thought... I turned, picked her up, and loaded her in the car.
Then, I waved goodbye to my buddy... as we drove away.
I named her Delilah.
From the moment I saw her, I knew that Delilah was sick.
But it wouldn't be long... before I'd find out just how sick she really was...
Shortly thereafter, Delilah went to the vet for her spay, rabies, and heartworm test. Of course, as I already anticipated: she's heartworm positive.
Sadly, heartworm disease is alive and well around here. This is Mississippi. Nearly every neglected dog in Mississippi has heartworms. That's just the sad reality for many rescue dogs in the South.
So... as the story goes with most heartworm treatments, I started Delilah on doxycycline, and scheduled an appointment to bring her back to the vet in 30 days, to start official treatment.
In the meantime, Delilah was doing great here. Sure... she was a sick girl, but you'd never would've known it. She was loving her new life... always smiling and happy... outgoing and fun.
Her favorite activity? Making a massive, ridiculous, unnecessary (yet, funny) mess in her kennel. It was kinda "her thing." She liked to spill food, tip bowls, potty and then step in it... all with this big, mischievous smile on her face.
While her kennel etiquette had slowly improved, she still enjoyed a good mess every now and then. She seemed to really have fun with it, which made all the extra-cleaning on my part... totally worth the effort.
But this past Friday... all of that changed.
That morning, it took just one glance at Delilah's kennel... for me to realize that something was very, very wrong that day.
There was a massive mess, of course... but not the usual kind...
Instead, I saw vomit... and large puddles of blood, which came from her urine.
Then, I saw my sweet Delilah... far-removed from her usual smiling, happy self.
She was weak. She was hurting. She was very, very sick.
Immediately, I called the vet, loaded Delilah in the car, and headed toward the clinic. When I got there, I explained the situation, and they asked me to leave her for a bit, while they ran some lab work, etc.
An hour later, I got a call from the vet tech.
She said: "Hey Ash. Hold on for a second. Doc needs to talk to you."
Hearing those words... my heart stopped.
I get lots of calls from the vet...
But the words: "Doc needs to talk to you" almost always mean: "It's bad."
I said: "Oh my God, Amy! Is she okay???"
She replied: "I'll let him tell you about it. Here's Doc."
Then, I heard the devastating news... the news that would change Delilah's future:
Delilah has entered the most severe, life-threatening stage of heartworm disease. She's in critical condition, due to multiple complications from advanced heartworm disease, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), and organ malfunction. Basically... her body is shutting down, and much of the damage... is irreversible.
He said: "We're doing everything we can, but I just want you to be prepared. There's a chance she may not make it. And even if she does... she doesn't have much time left."
Suddenly, tears were streaming down my face. I could honestly feel my heart... breaking within my chest.
I knew what he was saying. I've heard this many times before. He was basically saying: Prepare yourself. Your baby is dying.
And in that moment, I wanted to scream: "Nooooo!!!!!"
Instead, I choked out the words: "Can she at least come home... for the weekend?"
He said: "We've given her 2 injections today, and we're keeping her as comfortable as we can. I'll be sending her home with several medications for the weekend, and we'll just plan to reevaluate on Monday. Then, you'll probably have a decision to make..."
As I hung up the phone, I buried my face in my hands, and sobbed uncontrollably.
I cried for Delilah... for the sad life she'd been forced to live... for the torture she'd endured... and for the promising future... she'd likely never have.
I cried for the promises I'd made to her... for the life I'd wished to give her... and for the heartbreaking realization that those dreams may never come true for her.
I cried... because I knew the harsh reality within all of this:
Delilah has suffered through every day of her existence. Before me, she'd only known unimaginable abuse, neglect, and life on a chain.
But even now... and from now on...
There will never be another day... when Delilah doesn't suffer.
She will never be a healthy dog.
She will never have a heart that allows her to run and play.
She will never know a life without pain.
I cried... because "the decision" I'd have to make for her... was a life-or-death decision.
I cried... because no matter what decision I made... one way or another: Delilah will die from this.
I cried... because her heart has been wounded --in every possible way-- and now, a broken heart... has become her death sentence.
As I drove back to the vet, I was inconsolable. When I got there, I didn't want to walk inside. I didn't want to see anyone. I didn't want to face reality.
But... my baby was in there... and she needed me.
So, I wiped my tears, and walked inside... to take my little girl home.
The vet tech looked at me and said: "I'm so sorry, Ash. But please remember... no matter what happens... she needed you, and you saved her. That's all that matters."
I didn't want to cry again, but tears quickly filled my eyes. I said: "Thank you. But we both know... she deserved more."
Then, I paid the $400 vet bill I wasn't quite prepared for, helped Delilah into the car, and drove her home.
|Delilah on the couch|
Initially... upon return, she wouldn't eat at all. But soon, I learned that "people food" was enough to entice her.
So... instead of dog food, she's been sharing people food with me. Actually... it's more accurate to say that I've simply been giving her all of my own food, and taking none for myself, which has honestly made me insanely happy. She needs it... much more than I do right now.
She's enjoyed our bedtime snuggles and her own naptime on the couch, but she's just not able to do much else. She's too weak to go for walks. She's too weak to play outside. Many times, she's too weak to even lift her head.
And honestly... today... it hit me, like a ton of bricks: Delilah is just too weak to go on.
When I look into her eyes, I can see... that my Delilah has given up.
In my heart... I know that she's ready for me to make the decision.
The decision that I'll never be "ready" to make...
The decision that will take her from me... forever.
But it's a decision that I'm willing to make... for her.
She needs me to make that decision... for her.
It's the right decision... for her...
Each time I rescue a dog, I intend to save their life... no matter what.
But there are certain times when saving a dog... means letting them go.
Times when it's all they need from you... and no matter how much it hurts... you owe them that much.
So today, I looked at Delilah, in her broken state, and simply said:
"Okay, baby girl. I'll do whatever you need me to do...
Even if that means breaking my own heart... so that yours doesn't have to hurt anymore.
Tonight, you get whatever you want.
Tomorrow... the pain is over. I promise."
As I said those words... the tears filled my eyes, and the pain overtook my soul...
And before I knew it, I was sobbing again...
But then... I stopped myself...
Tomorrow... I can cry all I want.
Today... is about Delilah.
And I'll be damned if I'll spend her last full day on Earth... crying because I couldn't save her.
Because in my heart... I can feel her saying: "You did."
Tomorrow's pain could never compare to the joy of today.
Because today... I still have... my Delilah...
If nothing more... than to share one last song...
Hey there, Delilah
What's it like in New York City?
I'm a thousand miles away
But girl, tonight you look so pretty
Yes you do
Times Square can't shine as bright as you
I swear it's true
Hey there, Delilah
Don't you worry about the distance
I'm right there if you get lonely
Give this song another listen
Close your eyes
Listen to my voice, it's my disguise
I'm by your side
Hey there Delilah
I know times are getting hard
But just believe me, girl
Someday I'll pay the bills with this guitar
We'll have it good
We'll have the life we knew we would
Hey there, Delilah
I've got so much left to say
If every simple song I wrote to you
Would take your breath away
I'd write it all
A thousand miles seems pretty far
But they've got planes and trains and cars
I'd walk to you if I had no other way
Our friends would all make fun of us
and we'll just laugh along because
We know that none of them have felt this way
Delilah I can promise you
That by the time we get through
The world will never, ever be the same
Hey there, Delilah
You be good and don't you miss me...
You know it's all because of you.
We can do whatever we want to.
Hey there, Delilah
Here's to you
This one's for you.
Delilah, Thank you for spending your last days with me. It's been truly amazing. If it were up to me, I'd never let you go. But since it's what you need from me... I will. Please give my love to all my babies in Heaven. Tell them I sent you.
*Update: If you'd like to donate in memory of Delilah, please click below: