An icy numbness gripped my heart as I heard on the telephone the words I dreaded. Polly, our foster dog, had passed away during the night. I’d been expecting it, and thought I was steeled to it, but no one can ever prepare for the shock of a profound loss like this. As Carolyn’s words echoed in my head, I thought of the Polly of a few days ago– a happy ten-month-old chocolate Lab pup cavorting on our lawn, squeaking stuffed toys, chasing tossed balls.

I thought back another day, to my first sight of her, when Carolyn brought her home. I was shocked and appalled by her emaciation. The prominence of her ribs was eerily reminiscent of news photographs of famine victims. Her owner had starved her. Not content with that, he had mistreated her in other ways. He mercilessly beat her in public, for all the world to see. A city employee witnessing this could bear no more, rescued her, and delivered her to the animal shelter. That’s where Eric, a fellow SCLRR volunteer, found her.

So far as I know, the day we brought her home was the first day in her young life that she was free from hunger and mistreatment. It was the first day that her love was returned by human beings. It was the first day of what we thought would be a long, healthy, happy life. It was the purest joy to watch her in her ecstatic play and to take part in that play. She was for the first time a truly happy dog. It was impossible to imagine that anyone could mistreat such a sweet girl. Yet we knew it had happened. We fell in love with her. She deserved the best home we could find and we were determined to make sure she got it.

Suddenly, cruelly, the bright future we saw for her was taken from her and from us. Unknown to us, her owner had committed the final atrocity by failing to vaccinate her against Parvovirus. The shelter had vaccinated her, but there hadn’t been time enough for resistance to develop. We took her to the emergency Vet at the first sign of symptoms, but even then it was too late. She began to recover after a few hours, but her emaciation had depleted her energy reserves. Her condition began to worsen by slow degrees in spite of intensive care. After a few lingering, agonizing days, pneumonia delivered the final blow. She died during the night at the clinic, before we could get to her side to comfort her and say a final goodbye.

An inconsolable sense of loss dwells in my breast alongside the bitterness I bear toward her uncaring, unfeeling owner. I suppose I shouldn’t assume malice on his part: it was probably ignorance. Even so, he had killed her just as surely and senselessly as if he had driven a knife through her heart. In time, I’ll get over the bitterness, but never the loss … never the loss.

I take what little solace I can in the memory of the two short days of joy we shared with her. Between the tears I remind myself that she’s finally been released from the cruel hand fate dealt her. Godspeed you on your journey, Polly, Godspeed. We who loved you will keep your memory close to our hearts.

In memory of Polly,

Larry and Carolyn Mittell
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