The phone rang early on July 4th. It was a number I didn't recognize. The first words were, "I found your dog on College Parkway. He has been hit by a car. He is dead." I was confused. Not "my" dog. I asked where, what state? "Maryland," he said. I have sent many dogs to VA and MD wearing one of "my" ID tags. I always ask the other fosters or adopters to send them back, but that doesn't always happen. I do get "I found your dog" calls from MD and VA on occasion. But this call was different.
I asked him about the dog, and when he told me he had "old scars" down his back, I knew...it was Paxton...one of the sweetest, most amazing GSPs to ever grace my home. Paxton. The special one. The amazing one. The gentlest one. No, please, it CAN'T be...please, please, NOT PAXTON!!!
It all started with an e-mail in the Fall of 2007. I heard from a volunteer with a rural KY shelter. She said they had a "brown dog" there. They thought at first he was a Chocolate Lab, but with the docked tail, they thought maybe he was a GSP. She told me he had "injuries" and that she would send pictures. I wasn't prepared for what I saw. This boy had a zig-zag pattern down his back. Pink skin, no hair. It was obvious he had been burned. The pattern looked like someone took lighter fluid, and sprayed it on his back, side-to-side. He also had some spots on his face. The hair was growing back, white (not liver), but at least the scars had healed. This sweet, innocent young boy had been intentionally set on fire. No one knew where he came from, so the perpetrators would never be found. Of course, it's Kentucky after all, so even if they were identified, they would receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist (and probably a pat on the back from their buddies). That's how things are in rural Kentucky. It's a reality.
I made arrangements to take Paxton for a few weeks, until we could arrange transport to a foster home in Maryland. I drove to Lexington, KY, and I met the shelter volunteer in the Petsmart parking lot. Poor Paxton. He was so sweet, so scared, so stinky! I took him into Petsmart and purchased a new collar, and an ID tag with my phone number on it. I contemplated having them give him a bath, but decided it was a waste of money to pay for a bath for a shorthair, so I decided to do it when I got home.
We arrived home after our 3-hour trip, and we went straight to the bathtub. Paxton was a bit hesitant, but he gave me that look like, "I trust you. I'll do whatever you think it best." You know that look. He put faith in me, and he seemed to know I would take care of him.
After his bath, he met the "pack" and even the dog-grouchy Pete wasn't bothered by him. Paxton just had that way about him, that easy-going, I'm not a threat, I'm up for anything kind of vibe. He was so low key, it was impossible for him to do anything that even remotely resembled threatening behavior. So, all of the dogs simply accepted him from the start.
We enjoyed our time together. I took him to interesting places, we visited family and friends, and he fit in well. To say I fell in love with him at first meeting would be an understatement. I love them all, temporary or otherwise, but you know, some of them just have that extra something special, that look in their eye, a gentle spirit, that just touches you a bit more deeply than the others. And, when they have been injured or mistreated, I feel an even stronger need to protect them.
Paxton only stayed two weeks. I must admit, when I dropped him off with his transporter, I cried the entire way home. He was a very difficult dog to part with. I knew I would never forget him, and I never had.
He spent only a short time in foster care. Despite his scars, he found a loving family quickly. They accepted him just the way he was.
Last Fall, I was sitting in the chair having my hair cut when my phone rang. It was a woman from MD. "I found your dog," she said. "He's been abused. He has scars all down his back." I knew...it was Paxton. I scrambled to find out his adopter's phone number. I called Faith, the rescue president. She dug up the number and called Paxton's owner. She explained he had escaped the back yard, and he was now safely home. Faith told her she needed to get a new ID tag with "her" number on it. She agreed.
That was the last I had heard of sweet Paxton until yesterday morning. Independence Day. Ironic in many ways. Paxton achieved a level of independence. He escaped the yard, through an open gate. No one knew it was open, so when he was let into the yard, he saw his chance. "I'm FREE," he thought. I'm sure he was running with reckless abandon...here, there and everywhere his little heart desired. Then, he reached the Parkway.
I don't know if he was killed instantly. I pray he was. I can't bear the thought of him suffering there alone, on the side of the road. So, I will continue to tell myself it was quick. Instant. No pain. No suffering. No fear.
Paxton's death was an accident. His family loved him. This is not the way Paxton's life should have come to an end. Please, if you love your pet, install a lock on your gate. Better yet, install a lock AND a spring hinge. That way, there will NEVER be another accidental escape from the yard. No open gates. Never again.
"Pax" is the Latin word for "Peace" so rest in PEACE, sweet Paxton. You were loved.