Monday, July 13, 2009

Mowed down by progress

I watched in helpless horror as this poor deer kept trying to get up
and cross the road, despite her broken back legs.

Some days I'm scared to leave my house. But not because of agoraphobia.

It's the animals.

Everywhere I go, I find animals -- dumped, lost, frightened, injured. I regularly encounter horrific suffering that doesn't escape my mind once I leave the scene.

I'm not the only one who has this affliction for finding animals in trouble. Most of the rescuers I know report the same phenomenon.

It's gotten so I can't leave the house without a carload of rescue gear.

Today it was a deer who had been cut down by traffic. As I drove by, I spotted her lying marooned on the grassy center median of the busy freeway. She was crawling and trying to get up, but her disabled back legs kept failing her and knocking her back down again.

When I see an animal in trouble, all thoughts of personal safety evaporate.

I slammed on the brakes and hugged my car into the guardrail as the road's shoulder was rapidly disappearing. Just before it tapered off completely, I was able to lodge my car out of the path of traffic barreling at me from behind. The 5 Freeway is the main thoroughfare from Canada. All day, it rumbles with massive trucks.

As the vehicles rolled by, I tried to figure how I was going to travel the 500 feet or so backwards to get to her.

But first I fumbled with my cell phone and called 911.

With breaks in traffic coming in short bursts, I was able to back up close to the deer. I waited for my moment to shoot across, and drove my car onto the median.

I was careful to park a good distance away from her, because when I tried to get near, she struggled to get up and away, and back into the path of danger.

Like all wildlife, she was more scared of people than cars.

I stayed hidden behind my vehicle and watched her while I waited for the police to arrive. When the male and female officer got there, they kindly explained to me that there was nothing that could be done for a deer with broken legs.

I already knew that. All I wanted to know was when would this be over.

They got on their radio calling for wildlife rescuers to respond and perform the euthanasia.

But it didn't seem like they would be there fast enough. Again and again, she tried to get up and fell back onto the grass.

I begged them to shoot her and put her out of her misery, and they admitted that if they didn't get a rapid response, that's what they planned to do.

But not while I was there.

They wanted me to leave so they could stop traffic and do what needed to be done, without the tender eyes of the general public to witness it.

In rescue, there are cases that blur together, and those that stick out. The ones you don't forget haunt you because you couldn't do anything to help.

It doesn't matter that you did all you could.

Sometimes that's just not enough.

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