Please start here and read parts 1, 2, and 3
It was the first time he’d held a gun since plunking a North Vietnamese soldier in the forehead more than 30 years earlier. He took aim at the bear, yelled for Monte to “drop it and come” and when the dog reluctantly let go, Andy plucked the left eye from the bear with a single shot.
The bear was now helpless since Monte had torn into his right eye earlier in the fight.
The bear was an easy target as Andy pumped shot after shot into him until he just bled to death.
Andy Reeve looked straight into the Rev. Karl Keller’s face and simply said, “Call an ambulance you godam moron.” It took the use of the Lord’s name to stun Keller into action. He raced for the director’s cabin, but couldn’t find the key to the telephone locker. Anna had hidden it because of some unexplained charges on the previous month’s bill. When she arrived, tears streaming down her face, she got the County Sheriff’s office. “Good morning. This is Anna Keller at Moccasin Flats Lutheran Church Camp,” she sobbed, “a bear has just killed a little girl.” Then she fainted.
Karl grabbed the phone and gave the officer directions. “Turn on all the lights,” said the dispatcher, “a helicopter is on the way.”
The paramedic got little Jenny hooked up to some blood, injected a pain killer, and got her onto the gurney, into the chopper and away in five minutes. He saved her life.
Andy fell on his knees and began to sob when he took a good look at Monte. “He’s dying, he’s dying . . . Oh, my God my dog is dying . . .”
Karl ran to the nurse’s office where they had a child’s stretcher. Naturally, the door was locked, but Karl hit it with his shoulder and broke through. He grabbed Monte and rolled him as gently as he could onto the stretcher. The dog was in shock and slipping away. The riding director had the home number of the town veterinarian, a semi-retired woman who basically looked after the various camps’ animals and the town’s riding stable horses. “Dr. Reed? You know me. This is Susan Hope, the riding instructor at Moccasin Flats Lutheran Church Camp. You worked on my horse Joshua a few weeks ago? A bear attacked a girl and our camp dog saved her life. But in the fight, the bear broke about half the bones in the dog’s body . . . can you help us?”
They put Monte into the Jeep’s flatbed and Andy kneeled over and held him the entire way into town.
It was dawn when they reached the vet’s office. Her lights were already on. They wrestled the stretcher and 90 pounds of Doberman out of the pickup, into her office and onto the operating table. Tears welled in Dr. Reed’s eyes. “I might have to put him down. But please trust me. I will do everything in my power to save his life.”
It seemed like half the town came by. There was a reporter/photographer from The Moose Call, a Girl Scout troop with flowers and dog biscuits and even the guys from both the Shell and Mobil stations who had fallen in love with Monte when Andy had brought him into town.
At 10, about four hours into surgery, Jenny Luftson’s parents arrived. They had been standing watch at the hospital, of course, but wanted to pay their respects to the dog that had saved their daughter’s life. Jenny’s rear would have some scarring, but she’d be fine. “I can’t wait for her to write a ‘what I did last summer’ essay for English class,” said her dad. “Just so it isn’t Show and Tell.”
The look on Dr. Reed’s face when she emerged from the operating room was non-committal. Nobody could tell by looking at her if it was good or bad news. “Your little boy is going to be OK . . . as OK as a dog can be with cardio,” she told Andy.
“Cardio? Cardio? What the hell is cardio?”
“You mean you didn’t know he has cardiomyopathy? Cardiomyopathy is a serious disease in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed . . . it doesn’t work like it should. Very common in Doberman Pinschers. Dogs can live with it . . . or not . . .”
Andy asked about treatment, should he continue to run, was there anything he could do.
In her matter-of-fact manner distilled by 40-plus years as a veterinarian, Dr. Reed simply said, “Live and run and play every day like it will be his last . . . and one day you’ll be right.”
Andy slumped to the waiting room chair and held his face in his hands.
Jenny Luftson’s dad surveyed the scene and asked the vet for her bill. “I’d like to pay it whatever it is.”
“No charge for hero dogs,” the veterinarian said.
. . .
Monte pretty much recovered from the broken hip and other bruises at about the time winter really set in. There were various father/son and mother/daughter camp weekends so Andy kept busy; but in late November the snows came to the mountains. Andy kept the roads plowed, patched a few cabin roofs and pretty much spent his days looking after Monte. The Rev. Karl made it up from the city to check on things over the long Thanksgiving weekend and invited Andy down to a church Christmas party.
In mid-December, Andy began tearing the kitchen down, replacing the burners on the stoves and ovens and cleaning the big walk-in freezer. The project took nearly two weeks.
On New Year’s Eve, Andy had a beer and sat at the big kitchen table reading about tomorrow’s football games. When Monte began to cough and fight for breath, Andy knew it was the time he dreaded more than anything. The dog lay down, coughed one more time, and slipped away. Andy wrapped him in his blanket.
At dawn, Andy fired up the back hoe, scraped away the frozen ground and dug Monte’s grave in the shadow of the dining hall. He stared at the mound of freshly packed dirt and couldn’t find any words to say, so he just whispered, “Thank you . . .”
He sat at the big kitchen table with a sheet of paper in front of him for the longest time before he began writing –
Monte died on New Year’s Eve and I buried him behind the kitchen. You will see where the dirt has been turned. Please plant some flowers in the spring. Put some rocks around his grave. Please tell the story of Monte at campfire. I have left. He included a forwarding address in care of his sister in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Then Andy turned off the water and electricity and walked away from the damn place.
(Story graciously submitted by Bennett J. Mintz who is owned by a 6 1/2 year old AKC registered Doberman Pinscher named Ace Barkowitz. Mr. Mintz is currently the Corresponding Secretary for the Doberman Pinscher Club of Los Angeles.
(Photo is courtesy of Michelle Caillet. Abby is owned by Angy Shearer. Abby was not allowed on the couch but she looks like she belongs.)