Wednesday, December 25, 2013
The call came just like every call for help.
Desperate. Pitiful. Injured. Starving. Urgent.
In Wedgefield, S.C., two stray dogs made their way to the community store on the rural highway, unwanted and considered a nuisance by most of the people there.
One person can’t possibly rescue all the strays. The logistics are overwhelming, demanding time and finances. And once a stray is caught, what then? Residential laws limit the pets at your home. No-kill facilities are full. County shelters are a death sentence — but so is staying on the streets.
A pastor, explaining which of God’s own is intended for us to help, said to help those whom God puts in our path. If true, then my goal was to step forward and help. And while some say, “It’s just a dog,” my response is, “It may be... but it’s God’s dog!”
Columbia trapping friend Greg Whisennant responded to the call for help and sat for hours in the afternoon heat at the four-way stop that connects the Wedgefield area, seeing neither stray. After his watch, devoted friend Traci Richard drove the 45 minutes to Wedgefield with me, and we trapped one stray in record time. Sadly, the other had been killed by a car earlier that week.
Without hesitation, Shannon Prouty and Allison Gillespie at All4Paws Rescue on Waverly Road in Pawleys offered assistance and welcomed our captured stray. They began the same life-saving mission with her that they perform for each of the hundreds who come through their non-profit, no-kill rescue doors — to medically treat, rehabilitate, love and re-home this precious dog, now named “Wedges.”
Externally, Wedges’ body was covered in mange — a skin disease that causes severe itching, hair loss, scabs and lesions. Internally, she was infested with internal worms. Her rear leg had been shattered by two gunshot wounds; unable to search for food, she was reduced to scavenging in her starved state. Emotionally fragile, Wedges was terrified by sudden moves and noises.
Where was the person responsible for this precious yet helpless and dependent pet? Unfortunately, as is too often the case, indifferent and absent.
Days turned into weeks and Wedges’ condition improved. Among the dedicated volunteers at All4Paws, Vicki Dent connected with Wedges, and her generous gifts of love, tenderness and attention were soon reciprocated. Vicki and her husband Jim considered fostering the little rescue in their home after Wedges’ remarkable acceptance of Jim’s kind touch. Alert and making emotional progress, her physical health continued to improve. Her life held promise.
And then it happened.
On an outing with her handler, Wedges spooked, slipped from her harness and ran through Pawleys traffic, tourists and congestion. Like vapor, she vanished.
Frantic to inform and be informed, neighbors, joggers, landscapers, plumbers and other service-oriented personnel were interviewed who might be traveling the area. The entire community was needed — and it responded.
Forty signs with photographs were staked throughout the area. The community took note; calls came in. After a week of no sightings, Wedges appeared for three feedings between 8 and 11 p.m. behind Pawleys Wine and Spirits. Rushing to confirm that it was Wedges, a short, motionless visit reminded her of my scent and hopefully reassured her of my love. Rather than spook her further, and fairly certain that she would stay close by, it was decided to wait and attempt capture during daylight, although nothing is predictable with frightened, traumatized strays.
A trap was set the next day with prayers that she would enter the trap a second time. Parked in the vacant lot across the street, the clock ticked painstakingly slow until midnight. No sighting. Where was she?
Signs and more signs
Hundreds of fliers were printed and distributed to retailers and vet offices. Then came the next lead.
“Food Lion? Are you sure?”
Wedges had crossed Highway 17 on her injured leg, traveling almost a mile away from her last location.
More signs were distributed throughout Food Lion’s neighborhoods. Imagining Wedges’ pain intensified my own anxiety; dear friend Tammy Cox dropped her professional and personal life to join the search.
Julie Floyd at the vegetable stand on Ocean Highway kept a lookout for Wedges. JP’s Auto Sales, Get Carried Away, Frank’s and many other retailers in the area promised to display the flier and call with information.
“Are you the one looking for the lost dog?” Calls from Will, Amy, Deb, Sally, Dick and more who spotted her and wanted to help.
Caledonia golf course. Waverly four-way stop. Inverness Drive. Hagley Estates. Founder’s Club and Highway 17. One caller said that Wedges had spooked, jumped into a lake and swam across it, missing the resident alligator. Where was she now, though?
“She’s at Prince George,” reported Rhett Tison as he drove up Highway 17.
Matt Balding at Arcadia Plantation and Johnny Avant at Prince George responded to my frantic calls and promised to watch for this frightened dog traveling a merciless highway.
Then Lomax Brit Myers called.
He’d seen one of our signs — a dog matching Wedges’ description had been killed by a car while crossing Highway 17. When no one claimed her body, he buried her.
Was it Wedges? There was only one way to find out. Tammy and Brit undertook the painstakingly gruesome task, unearthing the body, then sweeping the microchip scanner across the lifeless neck and back.
Beep... beep... beep. The microchip device sounded.
“Please Lord, don’t let it be her.”
A phone call to compare and confirm the recently embedded microchip number. The same number that registered her as a living being now registered that life as over.
Her life, what we know of it, ended full circle. Deserted on a highway. The middle of nowhere. Away from everything she had known. No comfort or companion. Noise and confusion. Injured and hungry.
Dear friend Gerald Owens and my husband tenderly relocated Wedges to our beach backyard, where I believe that, despite all over-our-limit pet obstacles, she should have been all along.
“Where was God? Why didn’t He intervene?” one new friend asked.
God did intervene.
He didn’t give us our desired ending, but He did intervene. He intervened with an entire community who helped weave together leads to try to locate this little dog. He intervened with telephone calls from friends never met, who comforted with concern and compassion. He intervened to highlight that more than 17,000 strays are abandoned and neglected in our communities each year. He intervened by touching both human and canine lives with Wedges’ short life and death.
The calls still come. “Don’t see the signs. Have you found her?” An entire community was captivated and united by one small life force.
Despite my piercing grief over Wedges’ death, one person searching for a lost dog multiplied into many more, and a community was connected. Together, we make a difference. A powerful difference.
More than just looking for a lost dog or reaching out and connecting with someone in pain, we make a difference by volunteering our time. We make a difference by donating much-needed supplies and money. We make a difference by fostering or adopting a dog or cat that needs a loving home.
The community response to Wedges reinforces how these dogs — these gifts from God — influence our lives with their unconditional love and acceptance of our flaws, their forgiveness for our cruelties and unkindnesses to them, and their ability to bestow unparalleled, faithful devotion and affection.
We make a difference… because they make a difference.
So… is it just a dog?
It may be… but it’s God’s dog!
Emily Lumpkin is a Columbia resident with a beach home in the Waccamaw Neck area. The story of Wedges relates the love and compassion that brought many people together in their effort to help this stray dog.
South Strand News is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. We expect our readers to engage in lively, yet civil discourse. We do not edit user submitted statements and we cannot promise that readers will not occasionally find offensive or inaccurate comments posted in the comments area. Responsibility for the statements posted lies with the person submitting the comment, not South Strand News.