<A big thank you to Cai Palmer, proprietor of The Red Pony, the new Rye hot spot, and Wine at Five on Elm Place, for sharing this rescue story. Cai was one of Rye Rescues’ first contributors five years ago. This follow-up story is a remarkable one.
On a personal note, our family is moving from Rye, so this is the final Rye Rescues column. Special thanks to Robin Jovanovich for making it all happen, to Geoff Tischman for donating his remarkable photography talents, and to Lynn Ingrassia, my dog rescue partner and role model.
Our dogs Chipper and Trixie are going to miss the beach, and we will miss the warm-hearted Rye community. Rescue on! >
- Caroline Walker
When the Rescued Become the Rescuers
By Cai Palmer
A little over six years ago Kodi came into my life. She was 5 months old. A rescue dog from Tennessee. From what I could discern, she had been abused from birth. Malnourished and probably left in a cage all day and night. She didn’t know how to walk properly; her spine was disfigured; and blades of grass hurt her paws. How one animal can treat another, utterly defenseless animal in such a way remains a miserable mystery. But over time she survived and then she flourished.
Sometime in the following year she had a sister. Another rescue dog, but this time slightly less harrowing. Her mother had given birth to eight or nine little golden puppies one Sunday afternoon. Sadly, her ‘owner’ had a heart attack that same day and died. She was found two to three days later by her daughter, by which time two of the babies had moved on to another life. The daughter, not knowing what to do, found her mother’s rolodex and started calling anyone that had shown interest in adopting a puppy in years past. We were on that list and Zoë became Kodi’s little sister.
They have been my companions ever since. They have given total and unrequited love. They have been at the front door every time I come home, with smiles and licks and an endless banter of chatter about what they had done during the day. They sit at my table and sleep on my bed. They have given me far more than I have given them, but they demand nothing in return. Well…maybe a few extra biscuits after a long walk!
In the spring of last year, I began to experience faintly annoying pins and needles sensation in my hands. I thought nothing of it, made no mention of it, and continued onward. I then began having some pain and shortness of breath when we went for our very early morning walk. Again, I did nothing, but I sensed something was not quite right.
On May 8 I took them, as I did every weekend, up to Cranberry Park to run unleashed through the woods chasing squirrels and any other animal worthy of ‘playing with’ in gladiatorial fashion. Fortunately, none of the other critters fell for that stupidity. But that never stopped Kodi or Zoë from asking. About halfway through the walk the pain hit me. I collapsed and lay on the soft mud trying, unsuccessfully, to breathe. Of course, only after the fact, did I admit that what I had been experiencing was the onset of a heart-attack. I lay on the ground thinking how stupid it was to be lying on the ground not able to breathe. I wasn’t aware of anything around me. My mind was simply trying to figure out how to get air into my lungs. I didn’t notice that I couldn’t move, and I don’t remember hearing anything. I do remember thinking ‘Who is going to find my dogs? Will someone care for them and love them like I had?’ Where are they?’
Later, at the hospital, the EMS volunteer told me that my dogs had sat beside me and howled. Like nothing the jogger who found me had ever heard before. When he got to me they didn’t move. They didn’t bare their teeth, they showed no fear, they simply howled. They followed me all the way to the ambulance, where I presume the EMS searched my clothing and found my wallet and called my wife. I was taken first to Greenwich Hospital and almost immediately to Yale New Haven for cardiovascular surgery. Two stents and a double bypass later, I was breathing again and happy to be alive. Kodi and Zoë had saved me. The rescued had become the rescuers. To this day they ask nothing more than to be given love. They asked for no medal, no plaque, no ticker-tape parade. Well…maybe an extra biscuit or two after a long walk.
Cai Palmer with Kodi and Zoë
Photo by Geoff Tischman