That little guy over there? Yeah, that’s my dog, Skip. Yes, like the movie, although that’s not where I got his name from. His name, chosen by my first class at That School, came from the Skippyjon Jones books, a particular favourite in our classroom that year.
I know lots of people don’t like chihuahuas. I didn’t either, until my friend Lauren got one for her daughter, and I fell in love with that teeny-weeny-black-and-white ray of sunshine named Lola. When I finished grad school, my mom said that her gift to me was a dog, of my choice, when I was ready. A year later, I picked a 10-week-old, 1 pound Skip up from his breeder. (For the record, his breeder is GREAT, raising beautiful healthy dogs with great care and knowledge.)
I never wanted (and I try really hard not) to be one of those crazy chihuahua women. Skip doesn’t travel in a purse, he walks on a leash. I don’t dress him up in outfits, but he does have sweaters for our Canadian winters. No rhinestone collars — he has a cool, sturdy, comfortable, harness for walks and adventures. He loves to be outside, lounging in the sun or charging up a trail. He can hike for hours through forests and up hills and across creeks (he even started swimming this summer), although he gets a little nervous in really tall grass. Who can blame him? I’d be scared, too, in grass that was 3 times as tall as me. He retrieves like a… well, like a retriever, and will drop his toys at your feet and whine until you throw them. He is cautious, but NEVER aggressive with new people. He only barks if he thinks there is an intruder in whatever area he has deemed to be our home. He loves blueberries and will paw at me for a bite of an apple.
I’m not going to turn this post into a narrative of my dog’s health issues, but the relevant facts are that, when he was a year old, Skip started having seizures, and the effectiveness of the usual anti-seizure drugs has been moderate-to-poor for him. After 3 years of working with my regular vet to control his episodes, she referred me to a specialized dog neurologist. (As in a neurologist FOR dogs, not a neurologist who IS a dog, because I’m sure you needed that cleared up.) I was happy to pay for the consultation, but I knew in advance that the diagnostic tools he would likely recommend were beyond my means. My financial resources for dealing with this are not bottomless. We saw the neurologist last week. As I expected, he strongly recommended an MRI, and possibly a spinal tap. This came to a couple of thousand dollars worth of tests, with no guarantee that they would show anything meaningful. I don’t have a couple of extra thousand dollars laying around. The doctor’s words were gentle and simple: “Go home. Decide what you CAN afford to get a diagnosis, and what you can afford for ongoing treatment. Call me tomorrow. We will work something out. I feel like I can help your dog. This is not about the money.”
His words, when shared with my mom, prompted her to offer further generosity: a gift of however much money was necessary to bridge the gap between my funds and what the vet could offer. It’s really hard, as a 30-something professional, to accept money from your mom.
I cried at the vet’s office (they must be used to that, right?), and at my mom’s offer. I cried again when I accepted this gift from both of them. I’m crying more as I write this, at the end of a long day spent waiting to hear that Skip had gotten through both tests and the associated anesthesia. I cried on the phone when the vet said that all follow-up appointments will be free of charge. I am so… Grateful isn’t a big enough word for this one. I am (and have always been) grateful for the little, still-slightly-stoned, dog currently dozing in my lap. But this gift (which, more than likely, will bring a diagnosis which will lead to fewer seizures AND fewer drugs for my little partner in crime)… I don’t have the words.
So, over here, where I posted about how hard it is to accept generosity, THIS is what I was talking about. This has been a tough one, to let 2 people — one a virtual stranger, and one who loves me most in the world — give me something that, strictly speaking, is not a necessity.
So, I’m breathing deep, saying lots of thank-yous, and trying to remember that generosity is easy to GIVE – when I am generous, I MEAN it, I WANT to do it, I WANT the other person to accept. I have to trust that this is equally true, for my mom and this amazing guardian angel of a vet.
Because Skip and I have lots more adventures waiting for us.