Miss Night's Marbles

Musings, mumbles, marvels, and sometimes mockery, live from kindergarten.

The one with the waggly tail…

on 7 September, 2013

I didn’t set out to have a dog with special needs.

I got Skip as a healthy puppy, from an excellent breeder, who still keeps in touch and stands behind her animals.

At about a year old, he started having seizures. It took over 2 years of vet appointments and constant readjustments of his medications to get his seizures reasonably under control. (And, to be clear, many vets unfamiliar with his history would STILL not consider his once-or-twice-a-month seizures “under control.” But for Skip and me, this is great.) It also took a guardian angel of a dog neurologist, and yet it still embarrasses me to say that “my chihuahua has a neurologist.” It sounds ridiculous.

He takes 3 different medications, all of which have “increased appetite” as a side effect. This, also, sounds ridiculous.

And because of that, he LOVES to chew on things, and he puts EVERYTHING in his mouth.

3 years ago, Skip needed emergency surgery to clear an obstruction from his stomach and intestine. The obstruction? A wad of my hair, consumed inadvertently through his chewing habit. I have long, thick hair, that wraps all-too-easily around his toys…

As I type this,  Skip is in the Animal Hospital for gastro-intestinal distress.  He’s been there since yesterday afternoon. He’s been vomiting intermittently for 2 weeks, and the most recent episodes involved the upchucking of what appear to be… tiny clumps of hair. An ultrasound showed that there is SOMETHING (my money is on MORE HAIR) in his intestine, and in the next few hours, an ultrasound will tell if it is stuck, or just moving along. The possibility of another emergency surgery looms large.

And so I have been teary off and on: out of worry, out of exhaustion (a nasty vomiting attack at 2am made a rough start yesterday), out of gratitude: for my family who have wrapped their arms around me, literally and metaphorically; for my brother who met me at the vet clinic for Skip’s ultrasound, sat with me while the vet explained her recommendations; for  my dad, who texted to make sure I can handle this financially; for my mom, who has phoned repeatedly, offered to come over just to keep me company. My amazing boss let me leave work at 1pm yesterday, no questions asked. Three friends have texted to check on me. THIS MUCH KINDNESS is overwhelming. All of this for my 6 pound, ridiculous dog.

And that’s the thing: it feels RIDICULOUS.

I’m cautious about sharing Skip’s ups and downs with a lot of people. Many react as if  I am taking Extraordinary Measures to keep a chronically sick animal alive for my own selfish reasons. I have had people straight-up laugh in my face, saying “It’s A DOG, for goodness sake.”

Yes, it’s a dog. HE is a dog.

He is a dog who was a gift from my mom, a promise upon finishing my Master’s degree: “When you are ready and settled, I will get you a puppy.”

He is a dog who weighed ONE POUND when I got him, tinier than a guinea pig, who once got lost UNDER the washing machine, who could take a nap in the front pocket of my hoodie.

He is a dog who, at 2 pounds, could walk for 2 hours down to the lake on our vacation in Montana.

He is a dog who greets me with uncensored enthusiasm when I get home, whether I have been gone for an hour or 10.

He is a dog who makes me smile every time I look at him, and makes me laugh out loud at least once a day.

He is a  dog who has made 3 different apartments into HOME.

He is a dog who SPRINTS to the bed when I tell him “It’s night-night time,” dragging a stuffed toy nearly as big as him.

He is a dog who sleeps curled behind my knees all night, and then burrows into the crook of my arm for cuddles every morning.

He is a dog who has hiked Kootenai Falls and Beacon Rock with me.

He is is a dog whose cuteness, sweetness, and affectionate spunkiness are remarked upon by everyone who meets him.

He is a dog whose general overall EXTREME healthiness is the reason it took us so long to hit the right dosages for his anti-seizure meds: his liver and kidneys are SO efficient that the drugs were not staying in his system long enough to do any good.

He is not a dog limping through life, suffering daily, enduring the unendurable just because I can’t let go.

He is a dog who won’t let go, who has too much life to live, too many adventures to have.

*Update: I started this post last night, worked on it this morning. In the interim, the possibility of surgery has become a reality. Skip is still at the clinic, waiting for the weekend on-call surgeon to come and remove the bezoar (because, let’s be straight here: that IS the word for a ball of hair lodged in a GI tract). While I absolutely believe Skip and I are more than able to handle a routine surgery and a routine recovery, I have put a DNR on his file, and requested that, if the surgeon discovers things to be much worse than originally thought, they let Skip go. This is the hardest decision I have ever made.

So now, I wait. Although I am alone in my house, I’m not feeling lonely. The people who love me have woven a tight net around me. The vet taking care of Skip has been truly exceptional, answering questions thoughtfully and kindly, keeping me updated, endlessly patient when I get teary on the phone.

If it is meant to be, he will get through this, and a week from now I will be tweeting all of you about his latest tricks and adventures. If it is not… that little dog has had an amazing life, and has made my life exponentially better every single day. He has  never had regrets, and neither do I.

That being said: if you are the kind of person who prays, some prayers for a routine surgery and easy recovery would certainly not be remiss.

And if you don’t pray, some good thoughts and positive energy, sent out into The Universe or whatever you believe in, would also be appreciated.

Because I just don’t feel like our adventures are done yet.

**Update Sept 9: Skip had the surgery, and while the operation  itself went well, the stress of surgery, anesthesia, and hospitalization sparked a cluster of very severe seizures. Late last night, his neurologist called, worried that Skip had had a stroke and/or permanent brain damage.  At about 11pm, Skip laid his head down and fell asleep on my chest for the last time.  He wasn’t scared or in pain, and while I am very, very sad today, I know it was the right decision. Skip and I are both so blessed to be on the receiving end of so much kindness from so many people. He brought nothing but love into this world, and brought out the best in everyone he encountered. Sleep well little man, be good, I love you.**



10 Responses to “The one with the waggly tail…”

  1. Carey says:

    That is the most beautiful thing I have read in a long time and made me choke up, smile and feel warm and fuzzy. I have 5 dogs (3 chihuahuas, 1 german shepherd, 1 yellow lab) each with their own personality and quirks. They absolutely drive me insane at times, but I couldn’t give up on them either. We had bought 2 German Shepherds from a local breeder and at 9 weeks old the male, Sage, came down with parvo. After 5 days in the vet he still wasn’t eating or drinking and the vet called to say there was nothing more he could do. We made a decision to bring Sage home and nurse him back to health ourselves. It took 24 hour care (my son stayed with him all day and my boyfriend and I at night) but after two weeks we were ecstatic when Sage finally ate! I am sending positive thoughts to you and Skip that he make a speedy recovery and can get on with being the smile he puts on your face everyday!

  2. Lynda Shoup says:

    Read the post and then the tweet that surgery went well. My heart is with you. My thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery.

  3. We don’t know each other, but I just caught a link to this post. My sincerest thought and well wishes and energy to you and Skippito. I empathize with the love for and health challenges of a dog. May you have many more glorious adventures together.

  4. Megan says:

    Hugs and good thoughts for you both! Love from Megan and Chase

  5. Melanie Chocron-Abalos says:

    While reading your post I had a ball in my throat and tears in my eyes. Your experience is powerful, bitter sweet, touching and something I can definitely relate to. I am so sorry that you have to endure this pain and stress and even more sorry that your precious fur baby must endure this suffering.
    As an intense animal advocate, obsessed with my own 2 fur babies, hamster and rabbit, I must say that you are an exceptional pet owner. I never knew how much love my animals could possibly being me until I had them..animals are thebpurest form of pure. They are the purest form of sincere, of honesty, loyalty and love. If anything were to happen to them I would be just as distraught as you. As you desxribe your sog and the way he greets you, sleeps with you ect., vivid images of my dogs and my experiences with them come to mind. What you have done and continue to do out of pure love and devotion to your dog is simply amazing…so many others would be quick to abandon or put down their pet.
    Whatever decision you make, know that you have done the right thing. You know your dog best.
    Please disregard rhe individuals in your life who dismiss you because they think you are overreacting. The fact of the matter is more people should wake up and react. What many people don’t understand is (and I say this aaaaaall the time) that just because animals don’t speak the human form of language, doesn’t mean they don’t think, feel and have needs.
    My advice to you is to try hard to stay strong. Keep loving, spoiling and showering your fur baby with attention. So everything possible for him and try every treatment or resource available because at least this way you will have no regrets. If you find that his suffering continues, your decision to let go comes from a good place. A place where your deep love for him superceeds any ounce of selfish desire to keep him alive so you don’t have to suffer. If it is any comfort to you, just know that if you let him go, he will no longer have to endure any suffering.
    For now, let the great moment you continue to have with him be your strength.


    Melanie Chocron-Abalos

  6. Hoping for the best for you and your pooch. My own furry babies are precious family members to me. I am happy for you that you have such a supportive family around you!

  7. Erin W says:

    Oh my dear Miss Night…I am praying for you both

  8. Sharon says:

    I’m not big on prayer but I am huge on sending good thoughts out into the universe so I will be sending a tonne of good thoughts your way! Good luck, Skip!

  9. faige says:

    I am a big “prayer” and talk to G-d all the time (can’t believe I am writing this) but with tears blurring my vision I do pray for Skip. Hope his courage pulls him through.

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