Friday, March 6, 2009

Big Doggies go BOOM!

I can still see the poor frozen thing swinging back and forth in the noonday sun, like a grizzly scene from Edgar Allan Poe's 'the Pit and the Pendulum' ... but I'm getting ahead of myself ...

One of the saddest, but also most rewarding periods of my life was when I worked at a large Midwestern Humane Society as part of my college work-study program (yes, I picked up dog poop to put myself through college AND carried a hot potato in my pocket to keep my hands warm on cold days). I really LOVE animals. Unfortunately I got to see how badly humans mistreat animals. Believe me, in most cases, it's the HUMANS that should be caged and put to sleep, NOT the poor animals. I also had the EXTREMELY disheartening task of handling the carcasses of animals that had to be euthanized.

But as with any profession that has to deal with death (medical, law enforcement, etc.) you learn ways of coping with it. I'm not sure that I ever accepted it, but I learned to cope with it. It was either that or go nuts. And sometimes one of those methods was finding humor in situations that others not IN that profession may not understand or may even find tasteless. But as you read this, please trust me, we treated those animals with GREAT respect, dead or alive.

So with that in mind – I give you the Frozen Saint Bernard Story (This really happened and it's been trapped in my twisted mind for years trying to work its way to the surface and escape. Today, it finds its freedom so it can leave me and go and bother someone else. Sorry.):

After euthanization, the carcasses were always bagged and kept in a freezer until they could be transported. But a Saint Bernard doesn't fit in a bag. And we couldn't lift the rigid, 175 pound, frozen Saint Bernard into the truck so we had to use a front-end loader to pick it up. We did NOT like doing that, but there is NO way to pick up that dog by hand.

But at the same time that this was going on, a tour group of grade school kids had just arrived to tour the facilities. Generally, we didn't schedule tours and body transport on the same day. There's a damn good reason for that:

The kids shouldn't have been able to see anything, but as the front-end loader began to lift the Saint Bernard, the bucket kind of jerked and the dog slipped out of the bucket into plain sight and was dangling by its frozen back legs for the entire world to see. At that exact moment, the kids started getting off their school buses.

I looked at the dangling dog. I looked at the kids. And everything went into slow motion in my mind. As the bucket went higher it jerked more. The dog began swinging back and forth, back and forth, like a clock pendulum. I was praying to myself, "Please God, please don't let the dog fall." And at just about that moment the bucket gave one last little jerk and the frozen Saint Bernard began it's earthward plummet (in slow motion). Oh, CRAP! This was going to get ugly.

It didn't just go THUD when it hit ... it SHATTERED ... BLEW UP ... like a Saint Bernard Bomb. Saint Bernard shrapnel flew everywhere.

And of course, the kids were watching. The teachers, who also looked on in horror, yelled, "LET'S GO SEE THE KITTIES, KIDS!" and they hurriedly shuffled them away from the carnage and into the cat house (as we lovingly called it, actually that's what the big wooden letters above the door said CAT HOUSE, see what I mean about humor?).

Can you imagine the conversations that went on at home that night? "Mommy, I saw a BIG doggy go BOOM today."

"Now, now Timmy, doggies don't go BOOM."

Yes they do. I saw it too.