I have one dog, Pup. I found him in a litter at a no-kill animal shelter. He was the size of a small mouse, and he cuddled up to me with so much trust that I had to have him.
We took him home only to discover that he was a sickly little thing. We didn’t see anything obviously wrong, he was just listless, and he had a pot belly. When we took him to the trails with our other dog, he would just stand there, shivering, as though he was scared and wanted to go home.
Hubby took him to puppy training class, and the poor thing failed every subject. At the end of the class they had a friendly competition, and Pup refused to do anything but crawl under a chair in fear.
With his pot belly and cuddliness, people loved him. I remember one guy who was so taken with him he wouldn’t put him down. I sensed that that guy really needed that comfort of holding this tiny, helpless pup, and I almost gave him to the guy. Holding Pup gave him such joy.
As it turns out, though, Pup was not only full of worms, but all of his blood counts were dangerously low, and he was about to die. He was transferred to Tufts Veterinary Hospital where they did a bone marrow biopsy on him and found nothing. Finally, after brainstorming, they came up with a theory.
“Did your dog come from the Caribbean?”
“Dunno,” Hubby said. “We just got him from the shelter.”
“Can you find out?”
So Hubby made some phone calls to track down the origin of Pup’s litter. It turns out, the litter was rescued from the Island of Anguilla by a New Hampshire rescue group, and then sent to the shelter in Massachusetts to be adopted.
When the hospital received that news, they knew what the problem was. He had erlichiosis, a tick-borne illness. After $3000 in tests, it turns out a simple $10 course of doxycycline was the cure.
For 3 or 4 weeks, we had to keep him in his crate, only to take him out for brief periods. He was so fragile that if he even rubbed against a doorway or table, he could bleed to death internally, so he was not allowed much activity.
After his treatments, he was a new dog. He raced all around the house, ears back, intent on making hullaballoo. I guess that was the first time his life was pain-free and he couldn’t get enough of freedom.
My other dog, a lab, was a ton of work in his last years. He was incontinent, demented, and had many problems with painful joints in his back legs. I didn’t really have much time to spend with Pup, as taking care of the lab was so draining. I was working for most of those years as well.
The lab died a couple of years ago. Since then, Pup and I have become best friends. We look for each other throughout the day for moments of cuddling. He’s 12 years old now, and slowing down. He just wants to meander a bit outside and then come back inside to eat and sleep.
Sometimes I whisper in his ear “Please don’t die.” But I know someday he must, and I’ll have to start all over again finding myself a new furry teacher, learning new personality quirks, training, running through the neighborhood screaming for her to come back, cleaning up puppy pee and shit around the house, and getting up multiple times in the middle of the night to take her out.
I dread having to go through all that all over again. But I could not ever live without a dog again. There is no better teacher of love.
Do you have animals in your life? If yes, what do they mean to you? If no, why have you opted not to?