This isn't a medical story. I still want to write one about the show ER, by the way. I guess this is more of an animal story or an evil neighbor story, although I guess it gets close to being a medical story with a visit to the vet's.

You know the dog in the neighborhood that howls all the time at sirens? His name is Makko and he lives next door to us in the back of the Liberty in Christ storefront church. He's a big husky with feet the size of saucers. He needs to be brushed. He smells bad, especially when it rains. The fenced in yard where Reverend Martinez keeps him as a watchdog is completely paved over with concrete. I'd say it's more of a parking area for the church vans. I don't think Makko's ever been out of there or inside the building for any reason. There are great drifts of his wooly fur and mounds of dog shit. Every once in awhile, the reverend scoops up the shit and puts it out back in a garbage can which the garbage men then hose out and turn upside down so that a layer of shitty sludge covers part of the alley, but that's another story. The reverend leaves food for him in a large metal bowl, which I hear scrape against the concrete when the pigeons and the rats help themselves. The fly traps the reverend hangs under the back porch are black with dead flies, and the ones that haven't been attracted continue to bother Makko's ears. Oh yeah, and he's real old.

All yesterday afternoon and last night I could hear Makko crying. I thought the reverend had locked him in a side pen which he does when he wants to move the church van and had then forgotten to let him out. Makko hates to be cooped up. But when the reverend arrived this morning to feed him, Makko was shut in a little closet under the back porch stairs with no water for 24 hours and it's been typical Chicago summer here for the last few days. The poor dog was so weak he couldn't stand up and his bulk was lying against the door from the inside, so the reverend had quite a time even getting him out of there. He hosed him down and gave him some water, but Makko vomited it up. He looked awful. He couldn't even look up when I called his name.

Bobby and I went next door with the address and phone number for Logan Square Animal Hospital. I said I was very concerned about Makko, that he was so seriously dehydrated that he probably should go to the vet for a saline injection. The next thing I know, Reverend Martinez is handing me $100 and the key to the back gate and telling me that he has a bad back and can't lift an 80-pound dog and his wife, she's riding him so hard, he's got to drive her somewheres right now. And, oh, can I get a receipt?

We called our dog-loving friend Paul who lives around the corner to help, got a tarp to use as a stretcher, and some old leather gardening gloves, since Makko's been known to be a biter. When we pulled the van around to their gate, Makko had somehow dragged himself to the bottom of a flight of stairs going to the basement. Paul ran home for a leash and collar from his dogs since the reverend didn't have anything but an old chain for us to use. The only way to get Makko to the top of the stairs was to literally drag him by the neck with Bobby behind him pushing his butt. With each step, Makko let out a pitiful howl and peed on himself. The matted fur, rotting meat, dead flies, and dried-up dog shit collected at the bottom of the stairs nearly rolled Bobby over in the process. It made me wonder if we should have called Anti-Cruelty on them a long time ago.

At the top of the stairs, we placed Makko on the tarp. He looked awful and smelled disgusting and we carried him to our van, which now also smells disgusting. When we got to the vet's, Makko managed to get himself out of the van, but then he was too weak to do anything more than lie there in the gutter. I sat there with him in the hot sun for what seemed like forever while we waited for Bobby to return with an orderly. Some guy drove by and yelled, "That dog needs some water!" Duh.

The vet took one look and said Makko should be put to sleep. He's very weak, he's 15-years old and the vet suspects organ failure; he'd need to do $150 to do blood work and another $120 for a saline injection to rehydrate him. It's only $94 for the lethal injection and disposal, for which he will graciously waive the $19 office visit fee. I called the reverend to ask what he wants to do. He says put him down, and hangs up on me. I said goodbye to Makko and tried to choke back tears. Well, Makko was always a good neighbor, even if Reverend Martinez hasn't been. Makko never asked for much out of life and I guess he never got much either. And then before I could even pay the bill, it was all over. As we were leaving, I saw the vet enter the examination room with a big black garbage bag.

- JP

ps The Reverend got a puppy