A 'Tail' of Hope
by Richelle Gruber
When I looked into the puppy's eyes that Saturday,
I had no idea he would turn out to be not only a miracle,
but a hero.
I only saw the sadness, pain and confusion
in his eyes. He had been running stray, hit by a car, and
lain injured on the road until a kind citizen called an Animal
Services officer to pick him up.
The kind animal shelter staff could not do
much more than make him comfortable, as pain-free as possible,
and pray that his family would come to claim him very soon.
But injured animals come to the shelter every
day. There simply isn't enough money or homes to care for
them all, and often their owners simply do not come for them.
This puppy's eyes said he knew that. He appreciated
the kindness shown to him, but he seemed to know he was not
I looked into those deep brown eyes and an
overwhelming sadness laid its heavy hand on my shoulder. I
knew from many years of shelter work and fostering that I
simply could not save all the needy animals out there.
But as I was about to tear myself away, my
heart breaking in two, the pup thumped his tail twice on the
blanket where he lay, and I saw a very brief flash of hope
in his eyes. He had just asked me for help.
I knew then I could not refuse. However, I
had no idea then that he would return the favor by saving
the life of my friend.
That weekend my boyfriend Doug and I could
not stop thinking about the 9-month-old Border Collie/Spaniel
mix and the look in his eyes. I worried about the time and
money required to rehabilitate the injured pup. But on Monday
morning, back at work, Doug emailed me: "Go get him. We will
figure out the rest later. It will work out!"
A couple of phone calls later an amazing shelter
staff had the puppy en route to Wilson Veterinary Hospital,
where Dr. Eric Bostrum and Dr. Jim Wilson examined him.
The puppy had three fractures in his pelvis,
four in the left hind leg, and torn ligaments in his right
front leg, all of which were 10-12 days old, suggesting he
may have lain badly injured on the road for several days before
he was found.
It was not easy to repair such long-established
injuries, but the vets somehow managed it without resorting
to amputation. Amazingly, after 3 hours of surgery, the puppy
came away with a large pin, two wires and many stitches, but
with all his limbs still intact.
Next morning the pup was standing, wagging
his tail and eager for breakfast. Two days later, he began
to set his thin, shaved leg on the ground as he playfully
pawed at the clinic cats. He cocked his head and yelped at
them as if to say, "What kind of animal are you? Do you want
to play?" This was the look a puppy should have in his eyes;
a look of hope.
That afternoon, Andrea, a 17-year-old high
school student who loves animals and works at the veterinary
hospital, called me.
"Richelle," she said excitedly, "I want
to help him! I want to help foster the puppy. My mom said
it is okay. Can I?"
Wow, I thought, this was the easiest foster
dog I had even taken on. Doug was right, things were working
Next day, sporting a new collar painted with
the words 'I love Andrea' (I painted it, but only at the puppy's
request!), an ID tag with three phone numbers, and a much
improved leg, the puppy headed home with her for the night.
For the next few days Andrea brought the puppy,
now named Ace, to work with her. On the fourth day she noticed
a lump at the top of his incision site; the pin had migrated
slightly. The following day, Dr. Wilson anesthetized Ace and
adjusted the pin. That evening, Ace could have stayed at the
hospital, but he whimpered and whined so much that Andrea
decided to take him home. After a pain-killing injection,
Ace left with Andrea, with instructions to keep quiet for
Unfortunately, that is not what happened.
Andrea left work and headed south on Highway
89. It was dark and raining heavily. Somehow, she lost control
of her small, compact car as she was approaching the ramp
overpass leading to I-15. The car careened off the overpass
and flipped and rolled down an embankment. Andrea was thrown
from the car and landed, badly injured, at the bottom of the
It is not clear whether Ace was thrown out
or not, but judging from the mangled remains of the car, it's
unlikely he could have stayed inside.
Andrea lay unconscious, so the small pup had
to think for himself and muster up all his courage for the
second time in two weeks. Despite the new injuries he had
sustained in the crash, he struggled back up the steep embankment
and reached the road, where two men heading north on Highway
89 nearly hit him as he was running against the traffic.
The men, Dave and Max, pulled to the side
of the road, got out and chased the frantic Ace for 300 yards
as he darted in and out of traffic, before finally collapsing.
They tried to pick him up, but he cried out
in pain and snapped. The pup was clearly badly injured, so
Max turned to get something from the car to help him lift
That was when he spotted a man running up
the hill toward him. The man, Jared, had been following Andrea,
had witnessed the crash, and wanted to know if Max had found
the driver. Together, Max and Jared ran down the hill to search
for Andrea, leaving Dave at Ace's side, dialing the numbers
on his ID tag.
They found Andrea lying face down, and phoned
for help. While paramedics loaded Andrea into an ambulance,
a Utah Highway Patrol Officer took Ace in his patrol car,
along with Dave and Max, to Lakeview Animal Hospital.
Several weeks later Andrea and Ace are both
recovering after a brave battle for life. Andrea, who sustained
life-threatening injuries after the crash, is now doing well
in the rehabilitation area of the hospital.
Ace was unable to walk for more than a week
after he collapsed on the road. His back was broken, his lungs
were bruised and he had internal bleeding, in addition to
his existing pelvic and leg injuries.
And yet despite his appalling injuries, Ace
had somehow summoned up the strength to climb to the top of
the hill and run frantically, alerting Dave and Max that something
had gone terribly wrong. If the pup had given up and lain
injured at the scene, or run in any other direction, Andrea
may not have been rescued soon enough to save her life. She
might not be alive today if Dave, Max, Jared, and one very
brave puppy, had not taken the drastic actions they did.
Ace is slowly recovering, but again his eyes
are sad. Perhaps he misses Andrea. His eyes are different
this time though: they have hope.
This one-time "throw away" stray, who once
had no hope inside himself at all, has given Andrea's family
the greatest hope of all, the hope that their daughter will
All animals are heroes for the unconditional
love they give and the extraordinary things they do for their
people every day.
Whether they are lucky enough to have a home
or not, they all deserve a chance to make a miracle happen.
Please adopt an animal from a shelter or rescue organization,
or support your local animal welfare organizations by donating
to help homeless pets.
© 2003 Animal News Center, Inc.