She Picked Me
1974. New York City.
The East River and the hospital flank the highway. There is a small tunnel that goes under an apartment building just south of the hospital alongside the river. The roar of the engines inside the tunnel was unnerving and ominous. The wind off the tires of the vehicles moving quickly was chilling, dangerous. Debris flew into my eyes which makes crossing the road very forbidding. When it was snowing or raining, the tunnel provided shelter but there was no room for error. Moving an inch in the wrong direction could end my life.
I would go to work with her when she worked the graveyard shift. Security was on the second floor, not where we were seated on floor one, at the first line of defense. I loved my job because I love all animals and I love her, my protector, my nurturer. She greeted the wounded or sick with open arms and advised on how she could help. She sat there all night long from midnight to 8:00am dedicated to the those in need. I would sit at her feet under her desk, facing out, waiting for others to enter with my nose pointed and alert to all sounds and smells. I knew when I would be needed to defend her.
Occasionally the two-legged variety would reach under to say hello, but I was not positioned there for that. I would hiss and growl letting them know that any touching of any sort will not be tolerated. The unsuspecting would jump back and I knew I was successful at my job. I was only poised to scare the humans, as my kind was not there to do any harm, ever.
I was born as a sheep herder. I love to work, and I am loyal to my heritage. I gather and protect and direct. Whether my calling is to be on a pasture in Scotland or in a Manhattan animal hospital, I take my work seriously and with great pride.
Incoming. A gunshot wound to the belly. He’s sitting up on the gurney in shock. She rushes him up the ramp for immediate help sounding the alarm for all to assist. We must enter through the large room filled with others where they wait for help that isn’t urgent. The shepherd mix looks around but sees nothing. His blood loss is significant, he is stilled and quiet. Too quiet. No sound of pain. Just a silence with a stare, allowing everyone to tend to him without objection. His owner, no, a good Samaritan runs behind the gurney, hoping for a positive outcome but not this time, his wounds too serious and no one to claim ownership, so he must pass on. Dogs frequently a victim of the city environment.
This makes the night sad and long. I want to retreat to my home where I can be blind to such injustices. Where I can protect from a place of safety and comfort. This place is not that although I know the humans here are good. We retake our position. First floor where she makes the assessments on how to proceed for all visitors as I remain vigilant, always at her side.
Later, a frantic code yelled out as they rush her in. “Hi-rise.” A feline has fallen from a very high floor, crashing into our world. The cat brought to us housed in a cardboard box. She is standing. The doctor gingerly lifts her out of the box to a horrific end. Her gut ripped open with her parts hanging by threads. She is put to sleep immediately, sparing her anymore suffering. This has not been a good night. Maybe one of the worst.
At break, we take a walk and I smell the violence of the city, remaining prepared. Fumes, urine, people, scents all distinctive and I take them all in to understand my whereabouts and who has been here and who is coming. Our abilities are different than humans, yet together we complement one another with our innate talents making for a loving team. Pure acceptance and pure love, no judgments.
Morning sun rises with each day unique, and I am grateful to go home, have my breakfast and cuddle into my soft, warm, secure bed, where I can go off duty and just sleep. But those plans are interrupted with, sorry Charl, we must pick up another shift; just a few more hours till someone can relieve us. Hang in there, girl. A kiss on the head and a rub makes me ready for more.
Our position changes as we move upstairs to the clinic. The clinic manages all services. The wait to see a doctor is usually 2-3 hours. My place is now behind a large counter and under a desk where I do not see visitors, but I hear all that is going on around me. Human feet rushing, many of them. Numerous voices talking above me, my kind, barking, cats meowing, music playing, interrupted by a PA system, making requests for doctors and services. Night sounds are so different then day sounds. All this merges to becomes a hum, which makes my eyes heavy as I fall into a sleep.
My slumber brings memories of my days living inside that tunnel. I can’t recall the exact day I arrived or even how I arrived, but I do clearly remember the misery of life inside that tunnel. I hid with 2 of my litter mates in a void space under the curb. I knew I had to listen very carefully for danger before emerging. I knew I was living minute to minute. Maybe not in the sense that a human might know but I was acutely aware of my surroundings, and I understood that letting my guard down for a second might be my last.
One beautiful sunny morning, when the rain poured, my shining star pulled me out from under my space in the roadway. She then pulled out my littermates. They were in terrible shape suffering injuries and barely surviving. She frantically brought us to the Animal Hospital ran up the ramp with the three of us on that gurney alerting all to the emergency.
And then…she picked me. My mates were not able to leave the hospital just yet, but they were expected to survive. She was going to search for loving homes for them, but she picked me.