The Damage Done


“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”  Robert Wagner

My husband’s cousin Clint had been an addict, had gone through rehab and everything seemed to be all right, until the night he decided to stick a needle into his arm again. The problem with heroin is that you think, even though you’ve been clean, you can go back to using the same amount you had been using before.

He wasn’t thinking. He went into his room that one night and stuck a needle in his arm like before.

The next morning his roommate got up and found Clint curled up on the bathroom floor. He had been lying there most of the night, it turns out, on goose bump tile, in the dark.

“Clint, get up, we have to go to work,” the roommate said.

When Clint didn’t move, the roommate, being the genius he was, went back to bed for an hour. When he woke up again Clint was still in the bathroom, out cold.

Did he call an ambulance? No. Did he call the police? No.

He called his girlfriend.

“Hey, Clint’s on the floor of the bathroom and I need to get in. I need to get to work.”

“Who is this genius?” I asked Brian.

“Boy wonder, disaster,” he said.

The girlfriend drove over to their apartment. While she was on the way she called an ambulance and Clint’s mom.

They rushed him to the emergency room at Fairview Hospital in Fairview Park, where the roommate and Clint’s mom were told the bad news.

Here’s the deal.

”This kid is not in good shape. He’s overdosed on heroin, his kidneys have shut down, and he’s got Compartment Syndrome. His whole body is shutting down. Before we can work on the kidneys, before we can work on the Compartment Syndrome, before we can work on anything, he’s got to pull through the heroin overdose. He’s got to come through that first.”

After forty-eight hours he was still alive. Nobody could believe it.

Compartment Syndrome is what happens when oxygen gets cut off to the muscles in your body. That’s what happened to Clint. It’s the same thing that  happens when you fall asleep on your arm in the middle of the night and wake up with it numb and tingling. You shake it off.

But, Clint had been lying on his face, his arms and legs underneath him, when he crumpled to the bathroom floor the night before. He’d been there unconscious for ten hours, circulation, and oxygen, everything, cut off. Everything fell dead asleep.

All his muscles started dying, dying all night.

In the hospital they slit his hands open on the palms and slit his hands open on the back of his hands. The doctors slit his arms all the way up on both sides and slit his legs down the middle. They manipulated his muscles to get them to start coming back to life again.

He was wide open, machines circulating his blood. They did nineteen surgeries over three months.

They saved his arms, but both of his legs are gone. His leg on the left side is gone above the knee and his leg on the right side is gone below the knee. They couldn’t bring the muscles back for anything.

So, he lost his legs.

They didn’t tell him they had cut his legs off until he was almost done with all the surgeries and the recovery because they needed him to fight and keep going.

He was almost ready to leave the hospital when they talked to him.

“We have to tell you something,” they said.

After he got home he got a small motorized wheelchair that he runs around in. He can’t even use prosthetics because all the muscles in his upper thighs were ruined. They had to take some of them out because they were dying. If they had left them in that could have made the other muscles die, too.

The doctors had to take all the muscles that had compartments in them out of his legs.

He has no strength in his upper leg muscles to support prosthetics, so he’s going to be in a wheelchair forever. He’s thirty-two years old and his fingers are locked up. They’re almost like claws. When he talks and tries to gesture he can’t unclench them.

Clint asked us for a dog.

The dog we finally found was a puppy mill dog, a little Parti Yorkie. We got him from another dog rescuer who had put him up on Facebook. They didn’t even know what he was. They thought he was a Maltipoo, but it was really a Parti, a new designer dog, although it’s hard to tell the difference.

We jumped the rescue by telling them we very possibly had a home for it.

So, we just took it. We cleaned him up and had him for a few days at our house before giving him to Clint. Brian carried the Partie Yorkie around with him like a clutch for a few days. He was show dog size, under seven pounds, not a family-sized Yorkie.

That was a mistake, carrying him around, because Brian then started wanting the dog.

When we delivered the little Yorkie to Clint’s apartment Brian told him if it didn’t work out it would be OK and he would take the dog back.

But, Clint does nothing now except sit in his wheelchair and dote on the dog. And the dog is the kind that needs nothing but being doted on.

“I love this dog, man, and he loves me,” said Clint. “I’m keeping him.”


Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus




Just Give Me the Dog


“Dogs never bite me. Just humans.”  Marilyn Monroe

I was working at the salon halfway through an overlay when my husband called. When I listened to the voice mail later he said he was sorry more than once.

“Honey, I’m sorry, really, really sorry,” he said.

“What the hell did you do?” I thought, sitting in the lunchroom, making a sandwich, waiting for it to warm in the toaster oven.

He went on and on for more than three minutes. I took a bite of my sandwich.

“Oh, my God, what did he do?” I thought louder than before.

“She was walking down the street,” he said. “She looked like she was trying to get hit by a car.”

“Oh, he rescued another dog,” I thought.

He said she looked so sad that he pulled over, turned around, went back, and picked her up.

“She was just looking for someone to hit her,” he told me over dinner. “She just wanted to die.”

He found her on the east side, on Superior Avenue on the far side of downtown. No collar and no tags. She was a purebred German Shepherd, between six and eight years old. He called his brother about her and he wanted her right away. But, because Brian’s brother has such a nasty, hateful girlfriend, she said no, and that was that.

He brought her back to our house.

I fell in love with her. She’s so sweet I can’t stand it. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to give her to anybody.

She lies on the sofa between us when we watch television. If we get up at the same time she doesn’t know which of us to follow. Wherever we are she’s right behind us. She lies next to our claw tooth tub when I shower. I have to step over her, which is hard to do with my short legs.

I was wondering what her story was.

I was going up the stairs to take a shower, stripping as I went, when I found out. I was taking my belt off when she almost pooped herself. She could not get away from me fast enough. She fell down a few steps before getting her balance back, and disappeared.

I was “son-of-a bitch” under my breath. All because I took my belt off.

When we got her she was sad and depressed. She wouldn’t eat for a week. At first she and I would share rice chips, She wouldn’t eat anything else and she wouldn’t touch dog food, but then she got back to eating it.

She had a bad ear infection, but, luckily, I had ear medication left over from the other dogs we’ve rescued.

Our vet came over to check her out because she had lumps on her chest, and to run her blood. Tracy, our vet, said they were probably fatty lumps and nothing to worry about.

Brian put a call in to the pound and left a description of the dog and his phone number with them, but no one ever called back.

I didn’t know if I was gong to be able to give her to anybody, but knew I would find her a home, even if it were only with another dog rescuer. Better than the one she had.

We put up dogs with other rescuers, passing them to each other, by word of mouth and Facebook. The day before Brian found the German Shepherd I had tagged my sister in to a Yorkie. My sister had had to put her Yorkie down.

“I want the dog,” she said when she got a hold of me.

I called my friend.

“When can I grab the dog?”

I drove to Elyria that night and picked up the little eleven-month Yorkie. He was going to be my sister and nephew’s Christmas present, but we had to fix him first, in more ways than one.

An elderly woman had bought the dog from a breeder, but she got sick and ended up in a nursing home. Her idiot kids locked the baby Yorkie in the garage for four weeks. They fed him, throwing some food into the garage here and there, but they neglected it.

He went from being spoiled rotten to having no one.

Finally, a friend of the kids took the Yorkie, but decided the dog was vicious.

“Oh, it’s vicious, vicious, it snarls at me, and lunges at me,” the lady said.

“All seven pounds of it” I thought.

“Yes, he won’t let me pass out of the kitchen.”

“Just give me the dog,” I said.

People are so stupid. Sometimes I hate them. Honestly, I’d rather hang out with dogs.

Most of the dog’s problem was that he was never neutered. That was going to take a lot of his attitude out right there. The rest of it was they let him act like that. You don’t let a dog act like that. You are the alpha dog. He learned real quickly who was the alpha dog in our house.

When they’re aggressive you have to show them you’re more dominant than they are.

I said no, and he growled, and went to bite, and I picked him right up and put him on his back. If it’s a little dog you put them on their backs. If it’s a big dog you press on their backs until you hear the sigh of release.

“We don’t do that in this house,” I explained.

I put him in a cage.

“Ugh,” he said.

But, cage training is better. I wasn’t going to hit him, or any other dog.

After that he was a delight, running around on the couch, playing with his rope and toy. When I gave him to my sister I explained how to be with him, how to train him when he acts out, and to make sure she had a cage, just in case.

The next day Brian came home with another Yorkie.

“It’s for my cousin,” he said.

Brian’s cousin Clint had been a heroin addict who had to have his legs amputated.

“He isn’t still using, is he?” I asked.


Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.




Better Than Human Beings



“You ask of my companions. A dog as large as myself that my father bought me. They are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”   Emily Dickinson

Since 2002 a northern Ohio woman, with the help of her husband, has rescued more than 600 puppies and dogs from abuse and neglect in streets back lots bad homes and other dire places.

Their household in Cleveland’s old-school West Park neighborhood often includes five six seven dogs at a time. This is her story and the story of some of those dogs.


Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.