Sunshine - The Loving Dog with a Broken Leg
I was feeding the stray dogs near the apartment in Azogues, Ecuador, when I saw the stranger approach. She was all bones, her fur was matted, and hobbled with a pronounced limp. I set food for her, but the other dogs wouldn't let her near the group. She was terrified, but hunger won so she attempted another approach and this time the dogs brutally attacked her despite my attempts to stop them. She was so weak that even if her leg wasn't broken she wouldn't have been able to defend herself. All she could do was watch them eat from a distance and cry. I was angry at the group, I won't deny it. I had been feeding these dogs for a little over a week and was incensed at their reluctance to share when there was more than enough food to go around. Then I remembered that they're operating on instinct and lack the benefit of reasoning we enjoy. Besides, humans can be just as vicious toward each other, so it was all forgiven.
I approached the new dog and she started wagging her tail immediately. I don't mean to anthropomorphize, but she seemed genuinely happy to see me. I led her into the front porch of the apartment building, where she'd be safe from the pack of dogs outside, and set her a bowl of food and water. I sat on the floor to watch her eat; every few bites she'd come lick my face. After eating, she curled up next to me and relaxed. I took this opportunity to check her for other injuries and when I parted her fur noticed that she was infested with ticks and fleas. Her skin seemed to stretch tightly, like a canvas, over a frame of bones. I wanted to do more for this dog, but I had just rescued Suri and it would be impossible to take two dogs with me. I ran countless scenarios in my head and every time came up to a dead end. There simply was nothing I could do. After she had a chance to rest, I got up and led her back outside. She didn't want to leave and whined when I turned my back to go inside. Telling myself that hers was an impossible cause didn't make things any easier, but helped me move on.
A few days later I was out for a run when the dog saw me and started hobbling beside me. I stopped to pet her and have a little chat, then continued with my run. Most stray dogs have no problem walking away after they've had something to eat, so I figured she'd stop after a couple of blocks and go her separate way. Not this dog. She kept on hobbling along and by mile five she was visibly tired. At this point, though, leaving her behind was no longer an option. I slowed to a walk and led her toward the vet's office, Le Peluts. Though I knew rescuing her was impossible, I thought it'd help to have her spayed and vaccinated, and to look for someone who would adopt her.
The folks at Le Peluts -- Jorge Luis and Adri -- got to work on the dog. They did a thorough evaluation and after reviewing her x-rays determined that the problem with her leg is likely the result of a car hitting her. They treated her for ticks, fleas, and worms, and applied the needed vaccines. They also spayed her and provided the after care. We reached out to several people, but given her condition, the needed surgery, and the prohibitive cost of her treatment, no one would adopt her. Once again I was left with only one option: put her back on the street. I had done this once and doing it a second time wasn't any easier. She had trusted me and I would have to let her down. Again.
Rescuing Suri had delayed our departure from Ecuador three times and I was now pressed against a tight deadline. We needed to travel over a thousand miles and cross the border into Peru within a matter of days. In addition, the type of care this dog needed, unlike Suri's, would require weeks or maybe even months -- I had one day to spare. Lastly, the cost involved could jeopardize my ability to responsibly continue on this adventure and Suri's rescue. As is the case whenever I face a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle, I called Karie and explained the situation. If I truly wanted to do something about this dog, my only alternative was to call off the adventure and focus my remaining resources on her rescue, surgery, and travel. Could I sell the motorcycle quickly enough? Though it was the compassionate thing to do, it seemed like a rash decision. Maybe I could just walk away and hope that someone would adopt her. Karie listened patiently until I closed with, "I've done everything I can."
"Hoping that someone will adopt her is the easy way out," Karie said. She explained that I wouldn't be able to accomplish anything about this dog if I took the passenger seat on compassion, assuming that others would do it for me. They won't. It's all in my hands. "Well, I guess I've reached my limit in compassion," I replied. Karie didn't think so. "It's not a limitation in compassion," she said, "but rather a limitation in imagination." Surely there was something else that I could do. Most importantly, I didn't have to do it alone. Reinvigorated by my conversation with Karie, I recruited Jorge Luis' and Adri's help and devised a plan to move forward with the dog's rescue.
First, Jorge Luis said, we need a name for the dog. I thought about it for a few seconds and came up with Sunshine. This dog has endured unthinkable atrocities at the hands of humans and yet she continues to greet us with nothing but love. She's happy to receive whatever little attention anyone is willing to give her. Sunshine, I believe, represents her personality. Second, we had to deal with my tight deadline. My departure date from Azogues, Ecuador, was unmovable, so I needed someone to represent me in Azogues when it came to Sunshine's treatment and care. Jorge Luis and Adri agreed to take her home and foster her during her treatment and travel planning. I can't thank them enough for what they're doing because they don't have the additional space for another dog -- they're doing this because their compassion for animals is boundless. They truly want to help. Lastly, we needed funding for her surgery and eventual transportation, and for that I created a GoFundMe campaign.
The road has been filled with uncertainty, but finally we're breathing a sigh of relief. Sunshine has received the best possible care in the hands of Jorge Luis and Adri. Thanks to our friends and family, we successfully raised enough funds to finally move forward with Sunshine's much needed surgery. The surgery was a success and Sunshine’s recovery went as well as could have been expected. Soon after she began physical therapy and once she was well enough to travel, Karie and I went back to Ecuador to bring her to her furever home in Gresham, Oregon.