Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Would You Do It Again?

Stop laughing. I mean it. 

"So, would you do it again?" Snocone's acupuncturist, Jennifer, asked me.

"Do what?"

"Adopt another mill dog."

"Oh, I see. To be fair, we didn't know she was a mill dog until later," I said.

"Right, but would you do it again?"

I had to think on that for a while. In the almost three years since Snocone came to live with us, she has been a challenge to everything dog and a very pricey adventure.

Snocone was a two-way rescue mission. When my husband had his stroke, he came very close to letting go and leaving the planet. His doctor told us he lived because we (me and his four kids) are nuts. From the minute the kids met me at the hospital post-stroke, until, well, I guess it's still going on, we never left him. Not for a minute. Not if we were pissing off the nurses, not if we were in the way of the technicians, not...for...a...single...second.

We fought a good fight and got him back. He came back wanting one thing, to pet our dog Dinah. Jim and Dinah sat together in the evenings just about every night for 12 years. His first clear movement was his hand making petting motions. We gave him a stuffed dog about the same size as Dinah and he petted his poor substitute for several weeks as his awareness crept back.

There was a small problem. Old age had caught Dinah and she was no longer comfortable sitting in his lap. His stroke had made him forget  she had retired as a lap dog almost two years earlier.

When Jim finally was able to come home he was obsessed with the idea of getting Dinah in his lap. He understood when I explained she couldn't hoist her 20 pound frame up there anymore, but would soon forget.

I decided Jim needed something to pet. We needed another dog like we needed a hole in our heads, but...he needed something to pet.

I convinced him to come with me to our local pound, and look for a dog he thought might work for him.

He looked at every single dog. Between his altered walk and rests we were there for almost four hours. Jim was still hard to read at that point. He seldom spoke and often his thoughts were muddled. I wasn't sure he remembered why we were there, but it had been a good way to kill an afternoon. He was sitting at a bench across from a stack of  small cages which held a few dogs too tiny to live with the general population.

He nodded towards a cage at the bottom of the stack. I looked. All I could see was a pile of wet gray toilet paper dumped on a blanket in the corner. Then the pile breathed. It was a dog. Well, kind of.

I read the card out loud for Jim.

"Maltese, female, 8-years-old, no history."

He came over to the glass and watched the lump of lint breathe. It had it's back to us, and offered no response to gentle taps on the glass.

"Do you want to meet her?" I asked.

"I think she needs some company," Jim said.

As the volunteer headed  with her to the Meet N' Greet room, I was sure she had brought the wrong dog. A leaping, lunging, bouncing wad of Rastafarian hair. the size of a  dandy brush came ping ponging towards us. A horrible sound, not a bark, not a  howl, but a kind of prehistoric screech was coming out of it.

"Good God," I said.

"She really hates that leash," Jim said.

Once the embarrassed volunteer finally wrestled it into the room the bellowing mishmash of filth  picked up both the tempo and the volume.

"She really hates that leash," Jim repeated.

"Can you let her go?" I asked.

"I'll try," the poor volunteer said. She couldn't have been more than 14 years old or so, and even though she had her game face on I could tell this might be her last day. The tiny mutant was kicking her ass.

We were all shouting to be heard over the weird clamor, so matted and dirty it was hard to tell which side was head and which was butt. It bucked, convulsed and snapped when the volunteer's hand touched her neck. I was horrified. Jim sat there doing his Buddha impersonation.

When silence fell over the room I was sure the teenage dog wrangler had given up and snapped the mini-Tasmanian devil's neck, but she had simply gotten the leash off and set it down. The little mess was tottering around, looking at our feet, bumping into walls, seemingly content.

"She walks funny," I said.

"It's probably the mats," the volunteer said.

"Why hasn't anybody cut them out?"

"She's on the list."

"I want to hold her," Jim said.

"OK, hang on," I told him.

I got down on the floor and waited. The decidedly smelly wreckage staggered past and paused. Then, it either sat on me or sniffed me, I couldn't tell which, but it let me scratch it's back, slide my hand under the rib cage and pick it up. Holding her was such a shock I almost dropped her. There was nothing there. I could feel the mats, the hair and a pile of bones, but it was like holding a bag of cotton balls,there was no weight.

She was quiet and still, I could feel her heart pounding through her birdy bones and against the meat of my palm. I felt no malice or terror, just a wary acceptance.

"I think she'll be okay," I said. "Be careful, she seems very fragile."

Jim stared at me, not finding the words, letting his eyes say, 'I'm not three, I had a stroke, dumbass."

I handed him the little dog and she melted into him. He held her with his good hand and stroked her with a single finger of the not-so-good one. She was limp. I heard a gentle snore and stared at the volunteer in amazement. She was asleep.

They sat together, my broken husband and the shattered dog, for another 15 minutes.

"Well?" I finally asked.

"Let's go home," Jim said.

"Are we taking the dog?" I asked.

"Not yet, I want to go home."


Jim was as exhausted as the poor little dog. He moved so slow we had to pass her, back in her cage, on the way out. She threw back her head and cried. Not the frantic calls we had first heard, but a sad, lost wail. I looked over at Jim and tears were streaming down his face.

"I want to go home."


Becky said...

You should publish this piece.

mugwump said...

Thanks - It's not done yet.

Half Dozen Farm said...

Your best stories always make me giggle a little and then cry a little...

Half Dozen Farm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sahara4d said...

My god Mugs, the tears started when you got to the point of picking her up...then it just got worst towards the end! This is a great story and it's not even finished yet. Thank you again for sharing you and your families life with us.

sahara4d said...

My god Mugs, the tears started when you got to the point of picking her up...then it just got worst towards the end! This is a great story and it's not even finished yet. Thank you again for sharing you and your families life with us.

nettie said...

More please

nettie said...

More please

Cindy D. said...

I don't know if you believe in God, but I do and sometimes I believe that he brings certain animals and humans together because they need each other more than they need anything else in this world. I'm pretty sure this is one of those cases.

Katharine Swan said...

You are breaking my heart with your choice of a stopping point! Please continue the story soon!

MichelleL said...

Aww...they so needed each other. Sometimes it takes a long strange road to lead our dogs to us.

Looking forward to more of the story when you are ready to share.

Anonymous said...

Yes, more please.

Lana Pugh said...

It's been said before and by more eloquent people than me, but sometimes we find the animal and sometimes they find us.

Peanut said...

I am at work and had to quickly turn my back to someone looking for help - trying to hide the tears. Becky is right - this should be published when it's done.

At least I already know it has a happy ending for your husband and his adorable Snocone. :)

Whywudyabreedit said...

Amazing story. Seems like when the puppy mill dog is the best fit for a serious need, you get the puppy mill dog, whether you are aware of it or not. You were not looking for a specific breed, or color, or coat type... Your husband needed a dog to be his companion, and this one had what he was looking for. And apparently he had what the dog was looking for as well =)

You just about had me in tears over lunch at work.

Whywudyabreedit said...

I love the picture, and teeth are totally over rated in small dogs =)

Unknown said...

Aw, damn. He didn't think she would live, did he.

So glad you went back.

*weeps a little*

shadowlake2005 said...

If I didn't already know she's home with you I think my head would've exploded. And I still cried.

flyin'horse said...

Holy cow, that caught me by surprise! The waterworks instantly turned on full force!

Ozhorse said...

Retrospect is all very well, but we don’t live in retrospect. We only live in NOW and what else could you have done in the circumstances other than bring her home? It was Jim’s decision anyway.

Being sensible and not spending time and money on Snocone is only an idea of limited usefulness. Not leaving a person in hospital alone for one second is also not a sensible idea, but it was the right one.

Great story telling. I am getting weepy too.

Anonymous said...

Tears in the middle of the day. I'm so glad I know she's home with you or I would be bawling

Anonymous said...

Glad I know she's safe with y'all

2 Punk Dogs said...

The Mr. was mad at me for making him read this because he forgot that you brought her home by the end of the story. Glad you did, even though she's a lot of work. Can't wait to read if you would do it again.

2 Punk Dogs said...

The Mr. was mad at me for making him read this because he forgot that you brought her home by the end of the story. Glad you did, even though she's a lot of work. Can't wait to read if you would do it again.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Super glad we already know the ending... *wiping tears*

KD said...

I've been wondering how Snocone is doing. I remember you posting how she didn't know how to act outside of a kennel. Thank you for revisiting and sharing more of her story.

I hope Jim is finding some joy in each day.... I know by your posts, that you do.

Scamp said...

Like so many others said, I'm so happy I know there's a happy ending to this story. Snocone is adorable, in one of those so funny looking it's cute kind of ways. :) I love your writing.

Lori said...

I too acquired a puppy mill dog. At first I thought I needed my head examined! She was terrified of everything but especially of men. So many health issues she was on medication for the rest of her life. I learned about treating both acquired and generic diseases. She was the best dog ever when my children came. Best babysitter, dipper sniffer, flour cleaner ever. I still tear up when I think about having to put her down at the young age of 10. The puppy mill claimed her after all.

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