The (abridged) tale of a beagle

Kirby (click for larger)

Who couldn't love these sad eyes?

Meet Kirby.

Kirby is a 6-year old beagle in the Bertrand home. As a puppy, he was rescued from an abusive home in Tennessee. He’s had some socialization and other personality issues with strangers and certain dog breeds, but anyone who’s met him more than once knows that he is a loving animal and warms up quite quickly.

I finally figured out how to combine YouTube and WordPress. Here is a video of Kirby and Nicole playing the other night (there is another one at the bottom of the post of Kirby dreaming during Monday Night Football). I can’t wait until we have this Kirby back.

After about a year, sensing that he needed some non-human companionship, I procured Kirby a makeshift brother: Quigley, a beagle puppy rescued from Kentucky, who was found abandoned in the woods, no tags, starving to death. For the first good portion of their time together they were okay friends, fighting over food occasionally, normal dog stuff.

Then the trip to New Hampshire happened. Nicole and I rented a house in the mountains, just for a weekend, and brought the dogs. The first morning, I brought the dogs outside with me to do their business. No leashes, just walked right beside them and then walked them back inside. A couple of hours later I was taking a shower, and Nicole decided to do the same thing. They got the scent of something (I said they were beagles, right?) and they were gone. We searched the woods for them until it got dark, at which point we were just as likely to get lost. Never mind freeze to death : at its coldest, the thermometer went to 8°F. Helpless, we hung a couple of our shirts out on the deck, hoping our scent would lure them back (without luring bears or other less desirable animals). I fully believed that the dogs couldn’t have survived the night – either the cold got them, or some animal. At right around the 24 hour mark, my cell phone rang. A local number. I was ecstatic to hear that the person on the other end had one of our dogs in the garage (this turned out to be Quigley), and could see Kirby lurking at a safe distance. (Both of our cell numbers are listed on their collars.) They were in rough shape but alive. On the drive home they were huddled together on the back seat like Siamese twins, which I imagine they must have done for warmth throughout the night. And they’ve been similarly inseparable ever since.

Kirby & Quigley (click for larger)

Flash forward to yesterday afternoon. I let the boys out into the yard. As soon as I opened the door, they went absolutely nuts. I looked around to see what was going on, and there was a rafter of wild turkeys just on the other side of the fence. I grabbed my phone to text Nicole, because we had never seen wild turkeys in this neighborhood before. I looked back up, and saw the dogs running on the other side of the fence – in a matter of seconds they had dug their way out and were chasing the turkeys. Note that I have never said our beagles were smart. So, I chased after them, which proved futile after only about 5 minutes. They were gone. I ran back to the house, jumped in the car, and trawled the neighborhood beyond the woods behind us, which is where they usually end up when they’ve broken out of jail. I stopped at the end of the nearest cul-de-sac, killed the engine, and listened. Usually if they’re on the prowl, you can gradually hone in on them because they sound like, well, a pack of hunting beagles. But for good reason, I saw them before I heard them.

Kirby was lying down in a backyard, by some bizarre coincidence not 40 feet from where I had arbitrarily decided to park. I called to him but he didn’t respond. I jumped out of the car and ran over. Quigley was there too, marching laps in a tight circle around his big brother. When I reached them, my heart absolutely sank. Kirby’s face was bloodied, and he seemed unwilling or unable to move. One of his hind legs was curled up under him in a position that could only be described as uncomfortable. I was hesitant to try and move him, but for lack of a dog airlift approaching, I didn’t really have a choice. I bundled him up in my arms and ordered Quigley to follow us. I laid Kirby down in the back seat of the car, ushered Quigley in behind him, and sped to Ocean State Veterinary Hospital in Warwick.

I can’t even come close to describing that drive to you. I’ve driven from North Bay, Ontario (yes, the one near the Arctic Circle) to places as far away as Atlanta, Georgia. At least 3 times a year, I make the 12-hour trek home over a long weekend. But yesterday’s 30-minute drive was easily the longest in my life, even though I took a few liberties with speed that I don’t think I’ve taken in a decade. Kirby was making gut-wrenching noises that I had never heard before, and all I could do was wish that there was something I could do.

I got to the hospital and they took some initial X-Rays. A couple of broken ribs, but otherwise he seemed ok. They asked me what happened, and I said I wasn’t sure, I didn’t see it. We went back and forth about whether he was hit by a car, attacked by the turkeys, attacked by the jerk dog they leave tied up on a chain all day in that other neighborhood, or possibly some combination – since there seemed to be evidence of each. They took some more X-Rays from different angles and raised their estimate of two broken ribs to five. Serious lung trauma, possible pelvic and forearm issues, difficulty breathing, and signs of pain that were obvious to everyone in the hospital. Things were not looking good at all, and I was expecting to have to make the ultimate choice.

I remember quite vividly the few times I’ve cried as an adult. When my grandmother passed away. When Wayne Gretzky retired. And then yesterday. It really is quite amazing how “human” a pet can become, how tightly woven into your life, and how much you can care about an animal that someone else decided deserved to be beaten or abandoned.

As it turns out, barring any complications that may be revealed through further testing (they can’t test thoroughly yet because of the pain), Kirby’s ribs should heal in about 6-8 weeks, and his life should return to relative normalcy. He is under 24/7 hospitalization right now, and I feel much better about his prognosis than I did a mere 16 hours ago. I can’t visit with him until noon, and I feel pretty useless in the meantime. In fact I’m a little worried that Quigley is traumatized by the whole thing, even though he escaped the entire incident unscathed – he seems quite lethargic and perhaps confused that his brother isn’t around.

Don’t worry, Quigley. Kirby is coming home.

UPDATE 2011-12-09 3:10 PM EST

Nicole and I visited Kirby at the hospital at lunch. It’s quite unbearable seeing the pain he’s in, but the doctor is confident that it will subside and that he will have a good chance at a full recovery, so we have to stay positive.

Nicole took a great shot of me trying to comfort him, though there really isn’t a whole lot we can do:

Kirby & I (click for larger)

We brought one of my T-shirts to mix in with his bedding. I hope this gives him at least a faint sense of our presence, because even though we can’t be in the hospital with him all day long, our hearts are certainly there with him.

There’s definitely an issue with his left hind leg (though X-Rays are negative), and he hasn’t been able to urinate yet without the catheter (they suspect potential bladder rupture). Though they do admit that some of these things could just be symptoms of the pain caused by the 5 fractured ribs.

Stupid turkeys.

Testing video embedding:

14 responses to “The (abridged) tale of a beagle

  1. Ugh, that’s gut wrenching, and glad he’s OK. We lost a dog this year to a car accident and everyone was crying for days. My wife took months to recover.

    Glad he’s OK and hope you’re OK as well

  2. Thanks for the kind words guys. He’s sitting up today, but he’s not out of the woods yet. A lot more evidence now that a car was involved, and there could be more complications. Going to see him now.

  3. Whaaaaattttttt? Poor thing! Please let us
    know if we can help out in some way. So
    Happy to hear the prognosis is better than
    initially expected.

  4. Ouch, my heart sank reading through this post. So glad you recovered them and that Kirby is under care. Thanks for sharing the tweets on his progress. Stll keeping you guys in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. I was raised with beagles – step dad being a hunter and all. I agree with Grant but he may have over-estimated their intelligence. They are, however, wonderful pets. I’m glad to hear that he’s on the mend. While I didn’t cry when The Great One retired I do remember losing it when I had to make that “ultimate decision” for my first cat, Hobbes. Hope the healing is quicker than expected!

  6. Very touching story. I know the pets I’ve had have been part of the family, just like you describe. I don’t think it was coincidence that you ended up that close to him. People and pets do have a connection. You can’t explain it, but I believe it’s there.

    I’ll pray Quigley recovers fully

  7. They’re pretty dumb, but pretty smart. Let me explain.

    Kirby is very cautious, tentative, and always looks worried. He can see dogs on the TV and barks at them frequently. Sometimes we put it on one of the animal channels just to f with him. When the garage door opens he does not run to the door and jump on whoever is there – he stands way back, head to the ground, to make sure it isn’t a stranger or, worse yet, someone from his distant past in his old life. Once he realizes it’s someone he knows and loves, he’s like a different dog, demanding for affection – you can ask anyone in the family about that.

    Quigley, on the other hand, doesn’t care who you are, he’ll jump right on you. Very friendly and not even looking for pets or food, just excited to smell you and greet you. He is oblivious to most animals, can’t see anything on the TV to save his life, and is obsessed with shiny things. He goes nuts if my watch or ring passes through sunlight in the window and reflects somewhere, and even worse when an iPad reflects onto the wall or ceiling. If anyone ever brings a laser pointer into my house, I will chop their hands off. 🙂

    They’re both pretty dumb about digging out of the yard and getting themselves into trouble. Quigley is usually the ringleader, and Kirby is just along for the ride. Quigley has absolutely no sense of direction – on more than one occasion, they’ve escaped the yard and ultimately been split up. In those cases Kirby always finds his way home, and Quigley is still out chasing the scent of something.

    That all said, they’ve both been very easy to train for most things. There are a few issues we haven’t come around to dealing with through training, but we’re confident they’ll adopt those habits as well.

    So all in all, they’re kind of like most of the people we know : smart about some things, dumb about others.

  8. Aaron and Nicole,
    i’m so sorry to read all this but comforted that Kirby’s outlook is good. Our dogs are just such a huge part of our lives and family, I really feel for you. Hang in there and a speedy recovery to Kirby. And a big pet to Quigley, too.
    Bettina

  9. Oh, man. Sorry to hear of Kirby’s pain. I don’t know if it helps at all, but when I was young, we had a cat that got hit by a car and fractured her spine. The cat got back about 80% function, and was able to take down pigeons again within a few months. (I think pigeons must be particularly stupid!) She seemed happy and got back to most of her routine (apart from the leap onto the kitchen windowsill from the fence).

    Pets can have awesome powers of recovery, just like humans. Hang in there.

  10. Pingback: A few unrelated updates… | the musings of a bertrand…

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