Here is the thing about being a veterinarian – every day is a surprise. When you lock the front door and climb into your car at the end of the day, likely your day ended up being very different from what you had planned when you walked through the same door earlier that morning. And that was true on this one sunny Saturday in the summer of 2001. We had all just finished lunch and were about to dive into our afternoon when my receptionist came into the treatment room. “Hey Shelley this guy out front wants to euthanize his 8 month old puppy.” Surprise! When I walked into our small animal hospital in Abbotsford that morning, I had no idea that I would be driving home with a new puppy.
After being informed of this latest client request, I walked into the waiting room and there sat this handsome puppy with a skin infection that involved the entire top of his head. Griffon had the head of a Rottweiler and the reddish brown colour of a Chow. But what this shy puppy needed was two weeks of antibiotics and not Euthansol. After spending thirty minutes trying t explain to the elderly gentleman that Griffon did not have a terminal disease, that I would not euthanize him, and what all the possible options were, I walked back into my treatment room with one nervous puppy in one hand and signed papers surrendering the dog in the other. I never planned on adopting Griffon, rather my plan was to clean up the boy and find him a perfect home.
With our hospital being closed on Sundays at that time, I figured no need for the dog to be kenneled for the rest of the weekend, and since it was suppose to be a nice, we might as well take the dog with us on our Sunday hike. That was my first mistake.
On that first Sunday Morning we were heading down the freeway and had passed Chilliwack and were now out in the country. It was one of those perfect mornings, warm, blue skies with just a few white clouds floating by; we had a picnic packed and music playing as we took a road trip to explore the Othello tunnels. A client had told me about the tunnels some months earlier during an appointment, and I thought it would be a great way to spend our Sunday. We had driven about 45 minutes when my husband said “Oh no.” as he looked in his side mirror.
“What?” I could never have guessed what he was about to say.
“The dog jumped.”
“What?” I can still feel the anxiety of that moment. The new dog, that I had had for less than 24 hours, had opened the window to the canopy of the truck, and jumped out onto the busy freeway. “Pull over! Pull over!”
As we came to a stop on the side of the freeway I jumped out of the truck and watched as Griffon crossed the two lanes of traffic. Cars slowed and cars swerved but luckily no cars hit him and he did not cause an accident. I ran along the gravel shoulder calling his name hoping he would come to me, though I was still a stranger to him. He was still 10 feet away when he paused, looked at me and headed up the on ramp and into the bush. Now what? A dog who doesn’t know me and won’t come to his name. No tattoo, No microchip. I had thrown an old collar with a Fraser Valley Animal Hospital’s rabies tag on him before I loaded him into the truck, so if someone found him perhaps they would call the hospital on Monday. Would he find his way back to his old home? Would they take him elsewhere to be put down? My mind was racing, my heart was breaking and I was a mess, upset, stressed; you think of an adjective to describe how you feel when you are in the middle of a nightmare and I probably felt that emotion that day. We spent the next 8 hours wandering the area between the two freeway exits. We gave our name to people who were packed on the side of the small road next to the freeway all out enjoying the day hiking with their dogs. “He is a new dog. A rescue. Yes he has a nasty looking infected head. No he is not neutered.” I was starting to sound like an irresponsible pet owner. “Really I have had him less that 24 hours.” I would tell people hoping not to be judged, after all what kind of vet has an intact male dog with an infection the size of a dinner plate on the top of his head, but really I was not sure that made me sound anymore responsible. After 8 hours of calling his name, walking through bushed and culverts, leaving messages with strangers, the SPCA and the local animal hospitals we were about to give up and head home when there sitting on the side of the road, looking like he had the best day ever, was Griffon. We pulled over and he came to me and jumped into the back of the truck. “Man Griffon you stink where have you been?” I asked the dog. But he just turned, laid down and closed his eyes. We never did make it to the tunnels but I knew then at least one surgery that would be taking place on Monday. Besides a bath, Griffon was now scheduled to be neutered, tattooed and microchip first thing Monday morning.