There is never a dull moment at Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary. Coupled with a long term doc filmmaking project, you might think the story will write itself. But the challenge for me – as a filmmaker, a person, a dog rescuer – is to ride the highs and get through the lows, and somehow process these peaks and valleys into a story that is both universal and personal. The last few days are a case in point.
Beaver Creek recently accepted six dogs in a sister-to-sister rescue mission from BETA Lebanon, the only shelter in that war torn country. Amy had read a story of Mia, a tri-pod dog whose front leg had been chopped off with a machete, left to die or survive on the street alone. Sadly, that is not a rare situation in that country as it struggles with war and its depredations.
Five of the six were healthy, amazingly docile, sweet tempered and ready to love. One was all of that too, minus the health. Droopy, unfortunately named but just as sweet, came to Canada with a long standing illness. They thought it was one type of affliction; our job now was to verify and address it.
I was available, so I happened to be the one to take him to his first vet appointment. That’s when we first discovered the extent of his underlying condition.
The following was an intense week of assessment, treatments, conferences with vets and rescuers Ontario, Quebec, Beirut. It continued amongst the rescuer community who had Droopy’s best interests and quality of life paramount in their priorities.
Again, I just happened to be the person at the Sanctuary whose schedule kept me on site consistently through the weekend. Droopy’s last weekend as it turns out. Close by my side as his team of champions visited and did all they could – Mary the vet tech gave him fluids. Laura Arseneau of Four Paws Wellness worked with Bach Remedies and red light therapy. Silvana gave Droopy a Reiki session from which he drew copious amounts of energy into his failing body.
In the midnight hours my own pet first aid training was helpful in monitoring him, but not nearly enough for more than informed missives to Amy about his deteriorating condition. I sent them to her hour by hour as she carried on her job saving lives as a paramedic late into the night. She responded with wisdom, encouragement, facts and empathy for him and I.
Doc Filmmaking and Choices
How much filming is enough? When does one put down the camera and extend a warm hand of comfort instead? Were those looks of accusation in Droopy’s eyes when I made the choice to roll and snap on occasion, or my own issues of “where lies the balance,” if there is indeed a balance to be had.
I had missed any number of other “dramatic” moments on the farm, choosing my rescuer role over my role of filmmaker so many times. The stakes had never been so high, but the random thought still nags.
Amy and Brent help in the dilemma. “If it ends up that Droopy can not have more than a short time in this respite from his former life, let’s respect that time by sharing his story so others may be informed, and act. We can help Droopy save another life.”
Days of intense bedside vigilance ended on Monday morning. As soon as the vet clinic was open, we were there with Droopy cozy in his hoodie, wrapped in blankets, but otherwise not quite present in mind, barely there in spirit. Wrenching to spectate. People in the waiting room, people in the clinic directing surreptitious, some denigrating glances, even harsh words as I stood in the background with camera.
It was ultimately Amy and Brent’s hands that soothed his startled reaction to the final push, and cradled his head as he peacefully passed.
Mine were on the camera. But I had turned the camera off.