By Janet McAfee

People who rescue a dog often describe the miracle that brought them together.  There is often a magical connection, and sometimes the connection happens just in the nick of time through an inexplicable change in circumstance.  Adopters of rescue dogs tell of the joys and the miracles these survivor animals create in their own lives.  They give us a sense of purpose, provide immeasurable joy, and amaze us with their resilience.  For one woman, the experience of having her rescue dog was profound enough to wake her from a coma.

It started as an ordinary day at work for veterinary technician, Danielle Torgerson.  A strange force drew her into one of the back clinic rooms where she was not assigned.  A small puppy was in that exam room and the tiny creature locked eyes with her displaying shock, pain and despair.  The “human” who brought him to the vet claimed he’d been stung by a bee.  Danielle suspected the horrible scars covering his head were burns from being set on fire after gasoline was poured over him.  The pup was there to be euthanized, and was drawing his last few painful breaths.

Danielle overcame her own shock and wondered if there might be hope for this poor creature.  Had he ever know the simple joys that every dog should know?  Would he ever walk through the park on brisk evenings, and know the comfort of a soft bed at night?  Danielle recalls, “I asked the vet if something could be done.  He said that treatment could be carried out, but only with lots of money.”  That was the answer she wanted to hear, and she asked the owner to sign relinquishment papers.  Though she was not wealthy, Danielle contacted a veterinarian specializing in the type of surgery the dog required.

Complex skin graft surgery was undertaken to reconstruct the pup’s mouth.  Slowly but surely, the dog’s physical and his psychological wounds healed.  Danielle named him D’Artangnan or Mr. D for short.  He grew into a large dog, so sweet natured that he welcomed her cats to sleep with him.  Mr. D’s love extended to all the animals in the home and the generous dog actually picked out pieces of food from his own dish and gave them to her other dogs.

Outside on walks, strangers were shocked at Mr. D’s appearance.  Danielle recalls, “He looked like a werewolf with his skin grafts, and people are kind of scared.  But he truly is my loving angel and I know that saving him is what helped save me.”

One day, Danielle was riding her motorcycle and swerved to avoid colliding with a car.  Her motorcycle crashed, and after the accident she was on the ground bleeding with a broken skull.  Transported by helicopter to a trauma center, doctors found she had no brain function. Danielle was in a coma and doctors did not know if she would survive.  Her mother and ex-husband took turns waiting at the hospital and looking after the pets.

Danielle recalls that while in a coma she felt a desperate need, in the quiet recess of her mind, to get back to her pets, especially Mr. D.  After twelve days she woke up. Her nurse reported her first words were, “Mr. D”.  Weeks of physical rehabilitation followed while she learned to walk and fully speak again, and thoughts of returning to her beloved animals motivated her to work even harder.

Overjoyed at her return, Dr. D checked on Danielle constantly. He seemed to know when she was in the most pain, and gently put his paw on her head and sighed.  Danielle states, “I truly know that if it was not for Mr. D, I would not be here.  He has become my musketeer, my protector, and has given me the security and protection that I never had from people.”  Danielle’s hope, through the retelling of her story, is that more people consider rescuing rather than buying a pet from a pet store, online or from a breeder.  Rescue dogs are angels in fur, God’s beautiful creatures who teach us that “second chance miracles” can happen for those who trust and believe.

(I want to hear from you if this article or other Pet Place stories have convinced you to “Adopt not Shop” and switch to rescue.  Email me!)