signs along the way

On the first full day back in Boston after Bubba’s bite incident in May, I found this beaten up four leaf clover in the field across from work. I taped it in my notebook next to the first page of shelters and rescues that I’d started contacting (and eliminating) for help. I hoped some good luck might rub off from that clover, and thought there must be some symbolism in its tattered but still attached leaves. As the weeks and months went on without any encouraging developments, I began to lose hope, and I resented that clover and the optimism it had given me.

A month after finding this clover, I made another discovery. Shortly after dark, I was driving through the Arboretum near my house and saw something in the road. I pulled over to find a coyote pup that had just been hit by a car within the past few minutes. He was alive, but not moving, and bleeding from the mouth. He was very small and probably less than two months old. It was clear there was no way this animal was going to survive. I dragged him off the street and stood there watching him breathe. What could I do? I thought about how I could end his life, maybe with the tire iron, or by running him over again. The thought made my stomach hurt. At this point we’d just started having conversations about the possibility of putting Bubba down, and here I was faced with the challenge of deciding how to treat this wild dog at the premature end of his life. The connection was painful and I couldn’t bring myself to kill him.

I stayed with him for a few more minutes, feeling angry about being confronted with this ugly reality. Trying to reason… he is a wild animal and I should let nature take it’s course. But nature didn’t put a road through these woods and send cars down it while a family of coyotes was trying to cross. Likewise, nature didn’t intend for Bubba to live in a busy city and have to conform to human expectations all the time. In the wild, Bubba would be an asset to a pack; a hyper-vigilant early warning system in the event of a threat. In a human world, we want dogs to be calm and friendly and accepting of almost every situation, deadly traits for a wild animal. I couldn’t kill this dying coyote, how was I supposed to feel right about putting Bubba down for being an animal strongly driven by his instincts to protect himself?

Now two months later, we are one day past the date on which we had decided to euthanize Bubba, and one day before the start of his new life as a farm dog. It does feel miraculous that this situation presented itself at the very last minute. I feel genuinely hopeful about his chances for success, and I have a great impression of Peter, his new owner. I would not let Bubba go somewhere I thought he would be less safe than he is with us. My biggest wish for him is that the security of always being on the farm around familiar people with plenty of opportunity to exercise and explore his world will help him become more confident and relaxed. I don’t feel angry about that clover anymore. Bubba, Peter, that dusty old farm, and all of us are rough around the edges. That doesn’t mean we can’t still be lucky.