The kids come rushing into the house. They have found an injured squirrel and are desperately trying to save it. They lead me to it and I instantly know it's not going to make it. It is standing on all fours, but it is making no effort to move despite the kids and the cat being obvious threats. The squirrely is sneezing and blood is coming from its nose. A telltale sign of massive head trauma.
I know the squirrel is done for, but my eleven-year-old daughter is pleading with me to help her save it. I can't ignore the quaver in her voice as she resists the tears. She begs me to call animal control and in my heart I would rather the squirrel be put out of its misery quickly than suffer longer than it has to so I grab my laptop and start looking for numbers.
It is near 8:30 pm and animal control is closed. I know most other vets are closed as well, but the website says to go to the animal shelter nearby. I recall that the last time I'd had to find relief for an injured animal the shelter had afterhours staff so I grab an old rag, gather up the squirrel, put it in a box and tell the kids to get in the Jeep.
I don't bother to grab my phone as I figure we are just going to run the squirrel in and hand it over to someone who can put it down. Still, I am feeling as if I need to rush as I don't know how bad off the squirrel really is. Then, as I get a couple of blocks from home I see a pug running up the street toward us and I remember the events from the day before.
A woman had been walking the neighborhood asking if anyone had seen her pug. She hadn't put up posters or anything but had listed the dog as missing on a website. I'd told her to ask my kids who were playing down the block as they frequently wander the neighborhood and will know more about the animals they have seen wandering around. They have not seen a pug but say they'll keep an eye out.
I figure we have just found the errant pet and given that I am on an animal rescue mission I figure it is fate that I found their dog on a trip to save the squirrel. I stop the Jeep.
The kids jump out and start to chase down the pug. Luckily pugs are not altogether fast or vicious so my daughter is able to snatch her up and carry her to the Jeep. She has a collar but there are no tags so we load her in the Jeep and head for the shelter. The dog is freaked out and panting like mad but begins to calm down as the kids pet her and say soothing things.
I reach the shelter and it is closed. No one answers the afterhours bell but there is another area where people can surrender their pets after hours. In that area there is a notice on the wall to try the speaker phone. No answer. For a moment I contemplate leaving the squirrel in one of the surrender cages but no one would be back until 6:30am and that seems cruel.
There is a placard in the corner with the addresses and numbers of 24-hour emergency vets so I take down the address of the closest service and head back to the Jeep. I tell the kids what the situation is and even though they have questions their spirits are high and they are focused on the pug. The emergency vet is back toward home, but another several miles from there so I am in a rush.
Stay with me, squirrel.
The traffic is thick and the stoplights uncooperative. This is par for the course in Denver, but in this instance it is starting to wear on me. The pug is breathing hard and because it has that smooshed up face, loud. The cabin of the Jeep is filling with hot moist dog breath and the kids are chattering and asking questions. I am trying to answer but they can't hear me over that gross noise pugs make when they are breathing hard.
Then the squirrel comes alive and starts trying to climb out of the box. I am worried that he has somehow recovered and will begin losing his shit all over the interior of the Jeep, or at the very least draw the attention of the pug who will either start freaking out or want to chase the poor thing. With one hand on the wheel I am trying to drag a jacket from the floorboard to cover the box and calm the squirrel.
Disaster averted I continue to push the limits of legal driving toward the emergency vet. Unfortunately the building is empty, the entire business closed, with no indication of where another might be. The kids are asking questions about what we do now and I don't have any answers. I figure the only thing I can do is run back home, look up the address of another emergency vet, and hope it isn't 20 miles away.
I tell the kids we will go home and call the lady about her pug, find a place to take the squirrel, and then take the squirrel somewhere. I know there are a couple of vet clinics between here and home so I figure I might get lucky along the way but seeing as it is near 9 pm I am not confident. Pass the first vet. Closed. Pass the second vet. Closed.
Then I remember there is a Petco nearby that has a vet and while they probably aren't open they might know of an emergency place. I pull up and go inside and there are no employees. I finally spot one sitting in a corner fiddling on her phone. I ask if she knows of an emergency vet and already know the answer.
"You could probably do an online search for one."
I contemplate laying a harsh life lesson on this person but understand I have a dying squirrel and nervous pug that deserve my attention more so I leave. I hop in the Jeep and race toward home, angered by the situation, frustrated with the noise in the car from the pug's sloppy breathing and the kids' constant questions. Traffic and stoplights are adding fuel to the fire and it is taking everything within me to not show my darker side to the kids and animals that are innocent in this equation.
I get home and try to go to the website the lady mentioned to find some kind of contact information. I am forced to register for the stupid site and the longer it takes to get to the information I need, the more frustrated I become. I finally get to where I can see her post and the pictures of her dog don't match the dog we have wandering around in our house.
"We have the wrong pug."
We basically kidnapped some strange pug and took her on a wild ride all over the neighborhood. The pug is now feeling at home and doesn't want to leave. I tell my daughter that we need to drop her off where we found her because she might know how to get home. I get the address of the closest emergency vet which appears to be the one I went to that was closed only they moved 5 blocks north.
I had come from the south.
I can't believe this.
My nine-year-old son decides he has had enough adventure and asks to stay home. I am okay with that. I tell my daughter to grab the pug and we get back in the Jeep. We drop the pug off on the corner and it looks super confused for a minute. My daughter is concerned but I assure her the pug will pick up on a smell at some point and figure it out. We wait for a minute and the pug does get its bearings and jogs off in the direction it was headed before we kidnapped her.
I then start my way back toward the emergency vet and end up at a stoplight where I decide I should probably check to see if the squirrel is even alive.
In that moment I am relieved. I felt bad for the squirrel, but at least I didn't have to drive around anymore. I, too, was tired of the adventure and, even more, I was deflated that neither rescue panned out. As we drove home I talked to my daughter about it. She was okay with everything and understood.
Sometimes that is how life turns. You try to do the right thing, but it doesn't mean it will always work out. We did our best and that's all that matters.
At least you have a story to tell at school tomorrow.