We Do What We Can

I've had this post in mind for a while, but until today, I haven't been able to get the words in the right way. Too much distraction, too many tangents.

Then, as always, the Muse found her way through the noise, delivering a poem so apt I found myself nodding from the first line to the last.

After Reading There Might Be an Infinite Number of Dimensions
by Martha Silano
I'm thinking today of how we hold it together,
arrive on time with the bottle of Zinfandel, a six-pack

of Scuttlebutt beer, how we cover our wrinkles
with Visible Lift, shove the mashed winter squash

into the baby's mouth, how we hold it all together
despite clogged rain gutters, cracked

transmissions, a new explanation for gravity's
half-hearted hold. I'm wondering how we do it,

comb the tangles from our hair, trim the unwieldy
camellia, speak to packed crowds about weight loss

or fractals. I'm wondering how we don't
fall to our knees, knowing a hardened pea,

lodged in the throat, can kill, knowing
liquids are banned on all commercial flights.

Leaves fall. The baby sucks her middle fingers.
Meanwhile, the refrigerator acquires

an unexplainable leak. Meanwhile, we call
the plumber, open wide for the dental hygienist,

check each month, with tentative circlings,
our aging breasts. Somehow, each morning,

the coffee gets made. Somehow, each evening,
the crossing guard lifts fluorescent orange flag,

and a child and her father cross the glistening street.

It reminds me of William Stafford's Yes, long a favorite for its choice to focus on the positive:

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know. That's why we wake
and look out -- no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the news. Everyone's reporting disaster, loss, intolerance, struggle. This winter brought such devastating events in such rapid succession that I almost forgot the pleasure of a happy surprise.

A friend's husband was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer. This just a handful of years after she lost her fiance to a bad ski fall. Recovering from that, weathering this…it seems like too much to ask of one person, but by all accounts she is bearing the yoke with her trademark grace and strength.

Still, though, wtf?

But that's just it. We can't know wtf, because we're not in charge. We're so small, such a minor part of the structure. A month ago, the Earth shook its fist and over 13,000 people died in Japan.

We can throw our hands up and cry, "What's next, world?" Or we can look around and figure out how we can help. We can quietly take action and offer as much as possible, in whatever way we know how.

We do what we can.

A few weeks ago, in a neighborhood not far from mine, a garbage man found a puppy stuffed into a bag in a dumpster. He was with a littermate who'd been violently, horribly abused and killed.

The pup who survived was in desperate need of care. He was starving, with every rib and his spinal cord and hip bones jutting out of thinning fur (malnutrition causes fur loss, and this fellow was just about bald). He could barely walk; the little mobility he did have was hindered by a severe limp that migrated from leg to leg (the limp was linked to the malnutrition). The white of one of his eyes was bright red (blood) from being kicked or stomped.

It's a miracle he survived.

I heard about this puppy from a friend whose job involves rescuing animals and placing them in loving environments. She shared his photo and story on facebook; it moved me to act.

Well, that's not exactly true. First it moved me to anger. What is wrong with people? Who could do something so horrific? How could anyone harm a puppy? A PUPPY?

I tried to imagine harming the perpetrator. Inflicting physical pain of the "I'd-like-to-meet-that-punk-in-a-back-alley" variety, but that's just not me. I don't believe in violence, and I certainly don't believe in violence as teacher or rehabilitation.

Still, though, something had to be done. I looked at the photo, at the puppy's bald head and slight, starved body and thought, "I can help.”

We do what we can.

I can't donate enough money to save all the animals in the world, and I can't sift through forensic evidence to help figure out who hurt these particular dogs, but I can love like crazy and I can cuddle like a champion, and thought that would do for a while.

So home came the Tiny One -- all 5 pounds of him. He was so exhausted from the effort of surviving that for the first 3 days he just slept and slept and slept. There is a soft, low chair beside our woodstove, and the little guy moved right into it, snoozing hard and snuffling in his dreams. I couldn't help but wonder if he was having nightmares of his abuse, so I spent most of those first days stroking his thin fur, whispering to his slumbering body that he was safe now, that no one would ever harm him again, that he could rest here.

He woke for a few minutes at a time, just long enough for short cuddle sessions and to lap up some chicken broth. He also made best friends with Heating Pad, who became his constant napping companion. I periodically stuck a finger between the two, just to make sure we weren't baking the pup.

It's been three weeks since we brought the baby home.

He’s doubled in size.

No more skeletal body, more closely resembling Gollum than a puppy, the little guy has grown healthy, strong, curious, persistent, and playful. His fur is growing back soft and shiny, his limp is gone, and his eyes are clear and bright.

Sometimes, I’m so amazed by his transition that I whisper to Brad, “We did that.”

We do what we can.

Our dear friend Kolin has helped by shooting photos and videos of the puppy. This footage will help share his story, and find the best home possible for this sweet little fellow.

Here’s the first vid, taken when the little guy was still in recovery mode:

And here’s the most recent footage, from April 3: