Balance in the Universe: Two Dog Stories

Earlier this month, a heartbreaking story about puppy abuse made front page headlines in this newspaper.

A man dropped off a cooler at the Cookeville-Putnam County Animal Shelter one evening after closing time. Staff discovered the cooler the next morning and found a young puppy crammed inside. The dog was emaciated, dehydrated, hemorrhaging and barely breathing, likely dying from Parvo. There was no choice but to euthanize him to end his suffering.

The story spread quickly over social media. Outrage was rampant. I shared in that outrage but took mild comfort in the fact that, thanks to security video, the person who left the puppy had been identified and was perhaps facing charges. I couldn’t shake the sad, sad story from my mind. So many questions, so few answers. How long had the puppy been ill? Had it received veterinary care? If not, why not? Were there other sick puppies in the litter? Where was the puppy’s mother and what kind of condition was she in? Why was the puppy placed in a plastic cooler rather than a disposable cardboard box?

Most of all, I wondered why the man in the video bothered to take the dying puppy to the shelter. Was he a ne’er-do-well experiencing last-minute pangs of conscience? Or did he love the puppy but not realize how sick it was? Did he believe the shelter staff could save its life? If so, why did he wait until after hours to take the dog in? Was the man, perhaps, not the puppy’s owner at all but instead a Good Samaritan who’d found it and wanted to help?

I don’t have answers to any of those questions, but this incident awoke in me feelings of despair. Awful stories–stories far worse than this one–happen millions of times, all day, every day, all over the world. How can we possibly cope with such a bleak truth?

Then something else happened.

I was standing at my kitchen counter eating lunch and scrolling through Facebook when I came upon a post in Hip Cookeville. This group allows members to post questions about pretty much anything. Are there local job openings that aren’t fast food? Which nail salons take walk-in customers on Saturday afternoon? Does anyone know a good plumber who works cheap? Where are the best swimming holes in our neck of the woods? Hip Cookeville is often filled with crazy questions and crazy answers and crazy spelling and grammar. But, as is the case with the proverbial train wreck, it’s hard to look away.

On this particular day, there was a photo of an adorable little dog curled into a ball on a dog bed. The person who posted the photo wrote this: “I must have my beloved elderly dog (here she named him) put to sleep on Monday. Can anyone come to my house and give him a bath and a trim and pamper him one last time before he crosses the Rainbow Bridge? He is small and has had all his shots. Thanks and God bless.”

The response was amazing. Lots of Hip Cookevillians promised to pray. Some offered to accompany the owner to the vet’s office so she wouldn’t be alone during this hard, hard time. Best of all, a mobile dog groomer wrote this: “I’m happy to help your sweet boy. Message me your address and I’ll be there Sunday afternoon. And I won’t charge you a penny.”

What label can we put on these two very different stories but “balance in the universe”? For every wrong, there’s a right, if you look for it hard enough. For every moment of sorrow, a moment of joy. For every animal mistreated, an animal cherished. For every evildoer, an angel.

This balance doesn’t make for a perfect world. Far from it. But it sure does make the imperfect one just a little bit easier to bear.

(June 24, 2023)