A Dog Lover’s Compassionate Act

Mrs. Higashi was a long-time client who loved animals and always provided the best care for her pets. Our hospital had not seen her since she lost her beloved Buffy to cancer. The human-animal bond can be overwhelming at times, and such was the case with Mrs. Higashi. She could not go through another heartbreak after losing her Buffy.

So when our veterinary technician announced that Mrs. Higashi was in exam room No. 2, I got excited and rushed right in.

“Mrs. Higashi, it’s great to see you,” I started, then stopped cold as I noticed the tears in her eyes.

“Doc, it’s great to see you, too. I was hoping you could help me with Maka.”

Mrs. Higashi motioned to the emaciated brown pit bull mix that lay at her feet.

Seeing Maka took me by surprise for a couple of reasons. First, Mrs. Higashi always has had small, fluffy dogs. Second, her dogs were always well cared for, and upon cursory observation, Maka was clearly neglected.

“Maka is not really my dog,” stated Mrs. Higashi, answering the silent questions running through my mind. “He belongs to a neighbor down the street. Don’t get mad at me, but I just couldn’t let him suffer from neglect.”

A story of compassion slowly unfolded as she recanted the events that led up to her acquisition of Maka.

On her daily walks, Mrs. Higashi would see Maka chained up in his yard, oftentimes hungry and with a water bowl that begged to be filled. For weeks, she would toss dog treats over the fence and even managed to fill Maka’s bowl with the bottled water that she carried with her on her route.

“So the tenants just packed up and left. Doc, you know me. I would never take someone else’s dog, but they just left him. I had to do something.”

Mrs. Higashi pleaded with a sympathetic expression that was quickly replaced with a quiet resolve. With a steady voice, she continued, “I looked him over and I think that he’s OK, for the most part. He does have an odd smell …”

As Mrs. Higashi continued with her assessment of Maka’s health, I could see a rejuvenated spark in her eyes. Whether Maka knew it or not, he was now a part of Mrs. Higashi’s family. The odd smell that she noticed was the odor of infected flesh that originated at Maka’s neck. Maka had outgrown the choke chain that was used to restrain him, and the chain now was embedded in his skin. I explained that the original owner did not bother to buy a larger size as Maka grew. Teardrops fell one by one onto the floor. The next step would be to sedate Maka and use a heavy duty wire cutter to set him free from the torturous remnant of his previous life.

Gandhi was quoted as saying, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mrs. Higashi was at the forefront of a devastating war against animal cruelty. Her compassion brought new life to a suffering animal.

Gandhi also said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mrs. Higashi adopted this philosophy and, with it, a new family member.

Dr. John Kaya is the director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital.