Two wrongs

2013-04-23 00:00

THE call came through at 9.30 pm.

“Are you a vet?” No introduction, straight to the point.


“A dog has been hit by a car. He is badly injured. Can you help?” The voice of a young male, a teenager perhaps.

At this stage his airtime runs out and the phone is silent.

Twenty minutes later and he is back on the line.

After some discussion, I arrange for him to bring the dog in. He is well-spoken, but appears distracted during the conversation and there are voices in the background. I get the impression that this might be a prank call (it happens!) and I allow my voice to betray my irritation. He tells me that he will call me back when he has got the dog in the car and rings off. I sit back and idly channel hop with no real interest, the possibility of the call-out in the back of my mind. I find that Real Madrid is giving Man.U. a football lesson on SuperSport so I watch until the end of the game and then slip quietly into bed.

11.15 pm and I have just drifted off when the phone shrieks its unwelcome presence.

“I have got the dog into the car and I am on my way in to the hospital.”

I drag myself out of bed and reluctantly make my way through the deserted streets, still thinking that he might not arrive.

They are waiting at the gate, however, and I let them in.

It is a nice clean car, a burgundy Corolla, I think.

The driver stays in the driving seat. A gogo and the teenager are standing at the open boot. Inside is a large dog, an aged Doberman. Even in the darkened parking area, it is obvious that he has been seriously damaged, but is well enough to bare his fangs in response to my examination. I manage to slide an anaesthetic injection into that part of him furthest away from the sharp end and after some time I carry him into the examination room. The boy and the old woman offer very limited assistance. The driver remains in the car. My irritated attitude gradually recedes as the stark reality presents itself. The car had crushed the entire hindquarter of the dog, mangling the pelvic girdle and rupturing the bladder. An ugly, malignant lump on its side also extends into the abdomen. The dog is 12 years old and it is obvious that euthanasia is the only option. I take time to assess the situation. The boy is concerned. The gogo says nothing.

“I am afraid that I will not be able to repair these injuries,” I eventually tell them. “I must give him an injection to put him to sleep.” She says nothing. He looks extremely uncomfortable and I assume that he is very attached to the dog.

“Do you understand what I am saying?” I ask when no comment is ventured.

“My uncle is going to kill me!” His voice is quiet and quivers with the anxiety. “I took his car without him knowing and drove over the dog when I was leaving the yard. He loves the dog.”

The silent gogo eventually contributes to the discussion.

“He really is going to kill him and I am not going to stop him!” she says, with a conviction and a cutting finality. “This boy, this Godfrey, has been out of school for a year. He is lazy and has not got a job. He stole the car from his uncle. And he has no money, so I am going to have to pay your fee and I am just a domestic worker!”

I am shocked at the malicious intent. Sleep deprivation is now an irrelevant concern. I not only have the unsavoury responsibility of killing the dog, but I might also be party to the owner performing the same procedure on his relative.

I speak to the youngster. “Accidents do happen,” I say, attempting to diffuse the situation. “The dog is old and has cancer. We would have to make the decision sooner or later anyway.” I repeat the sentiment to the old woman and wander out to confront the driver.

He sits quietly, staring straight in front of him. “I love that dog!” He is blatantly distraught and I am not sure if my efforts at brokering peace have the desired result. I do my best, however, and they eventually leave and I complete the unpleasant task.

That night, I struggle to sleep and dream disturbing dreams in which blood flows freely and frequently.

I can’t concentrate on my work the following morning and eventually pluck up courage and phone the number on the client application form.

I am extremely relieved when the boy answers. “Hey, Godfrey, I am so glad to hear your voice!”

I attempt to insert some levity to counteract my concern. “Where are you? In heaven?”

“No, I am in Pick n Pay.”

Not even close to heaven, Godfrey, but under the circumstances, I’m pretty pleased about that.

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