When I was a young and giddy fiancé, we took a trip to ARF, a local no-kill shelter, “just to look”. We walked out with “Vicki”, a timid scaredy-dog that peed everywhere in fear, shirked away at touch, and was the epitome of sad.
Her estimated age was 3 years old, and we were told she has just had a litter of puppies that were taken from her. I wasn’t even a mother yet, but I felt like she was working through some postpartum stuff and for being abandoned in Hanford, CA at a kill shelter.
We renamed her Sophie and started lavishing love on the timid girl. We bought toys, a bed 4xs her size, and a crate equally large. When she wouldn’t eat, I hand fed her. When she wouldn’t go to the bathroom in the rain, I stood with an umbrella over her. When she got scared of cars while on our walks, I carried her. I took her everywhere with me because she was my baby, and that’s just what you do! I even took her with me to my nanny job, where I would regularly find baby socks gently tucked under her bed, as if she was protecting them. Never a hole, never a drop of slobber. They were her babies that had been stolen from her… And she was mine.
Big was born in 2006, and things took a turn for poor Sophie. I didn’t want her to bark, because she’d wake up the baby. I didn’t take her on walks because it was too cumbersome with the stroller. I would let her (and our other dog, Maddie) out back to soak up the sun, go to the bathroom, and just play with each other, but I didn’t play with them. Sophie began…errr… Enjoying the delicacy known as poop.
With the addition of Middle and Little, my (our) neglect grew worse. We’d yell at the pups more often than praise them, and because of Sophie’s penchant for poop and the incessant licking, she smelled. Like death. I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with her, let alone snuggle her and love on her.
Vet visits told us “her teeth are bad”, and “she REALLY needs her teeth cleaned”, but we had human babies now that needed our money, plus, we were in the midst of our debt payoff. So, she suffered.
The day of surgery
A month ago, while I was feeding her, I noticed what I thought was gravy in her food dish. It wasn’t gravy. It was blood. LOTS of blood. I called The Hubby first, then the Vet who told us that was unusual, so we needed to bring her in ASAP.
I loaded the kids and Sophie into the van (Soph in a crate in case she started bleeding again), and we were off. I began preparing the kids to say goodbye to her.
“She’s had a good life.”
“14 is old for a dog!”
I regaled them with her adoption story. I’m pretty sure they understood none of it.
The vet told us it was likely her teeth. They were black, and rotting out of her mouth. Sophie had lost 8 lbs since her last vet visit in August. She looked sucked up and old.
She was dying. Not because of a tumor. Not because her heart was failing. She was dying because we had neglected her.
The cost quote was $1700-$2000 for the surgery.
The Hubby was an immediate YES. I had to pray about it. $2000 was a LOT of money to spend “hopefully fixing” a 14-year old dog!
I thought back to my dog, Annabelle, a Standard Poodle, I got when I was Little’s age (3). I loved her until she began to stink. It wasn’t until I came home one day after high school to my dad leading her to the car. I touched her for the first time in 5 years as I hugged her goodbye.
Did Annabelle stink because she was old? Or had we neglected her too? I don’t remember brushing her teeth, or taking her in for yearly shots. I do know her back legs were giving out, but non-functioning legs don’t equal stink.
And then I thought of my kids. Do I want them to love an animal for a season and just put them to pasture when it’s not convenient anymore?
I told The Hubby my answer was YES, but that I wouldn’t let Sophie eat through our emergency fund out of guilt.
It’s been almost 3 weeks since Sophie had 12 teeth surgergically removed and she is like a new dog.
I don’t say that lightly.
Thoroughly enjoying 1:1 scratches on the way to get stitches out.
She is playful, gaining weight, and happy. I nuzzle into her soft fur, pull on her long ears the way I used to, and suck in the sweet dog smell. She’s stopped the incessant licking (probably irritating to her because she was licking with a diseased tongue!) and her fur is shiny, not oily, as it had been. When I took her to get her stitches out, she even rested her face on the open window frame. I think the pain of the air on her teeth made her avoid such a simple enjoyment.
I took a bit of slack for spending $2000 on a 14-year old dog, but I felt fortunate that we had an emergency fund in place, and this was NOT a painful financial pinch. It was a choice we were presented with and felt well-equipped to be able to make the decision with discernment.
“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” ~Proverbs 12:10