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.**