A tale of a long dog, his girl and the people that saved them
As a person with general anxiety disorder, one of my not-so-favorite pastimes includes imagining the death of my pets. Don’t worry, it’s not an all-the-time thing, it’s a worrying process smooshed in there with contemplating my failures, considering the nasty thoughts my colleagues and superiors are harboring toward me and imagining my own (surely imminent) death in a fiery car or airplane crash. But, out of all these anxieties, the pet ones have the most emotional hold on me. Where the others remain a constant buzzing of the brain, an endlessly critical and overly careful set of voices in my head, the pet worries actually bring tears to my eyes and an ache to my heart.
I love both of my dachshund boys. Rupert is all stubborn personality and ass (he’s got a big one). To Rupert, everything is about Rupert — feeding Rupert, letting Rupert sleep and sometimes, when he feels like it, carrying Rupert like a baby. Add burrowing under blankets and searching for floor foods and you’ve got a good chunk of his autobiography. My husband and I have had Rup since he was a grumpy puppy who couldn’t believe the kind of miseries we subjected him to. “Grass?! You expect me to walk in this stuff? Ohmygod, is that a BEE?!”
I adopted Enzo after we’d had Rupert for a few years. I say “I” because my husband, Matt, wasn’t so sure about him. A half wiener dog with behavioral issues due to previous abuse with a side of deep seated man-fear? What’s not to love? His first day with us he clung to me for dear life and we cried — he for being left in a new place with a jerky big butt dachshund, and me for adopting him a.k.a. tearing him away from his “proper” home and the caretaker he loved. When Matt first approached him with the leash, Enzo bit him and ran away while pooping himself, but with time and many French fries, they became best buds. I think Enzo and I have always been joined at the hip (or his nose to my ankle) because Enzo is an anxious and needy person’s dog dream come true. He always comes when called (heck, he comes when any other dog is called) and he’s always down for a cuddle. You want to hug Enzo like a teddy bear? OK, he’ll do that. You need someone who understands that things like cars and bikes, men and loud little children can be mean and dangerous? Enzo’s your guy! We may live in fear, but we do so together.
But what do you do when your fuzzy friend in fear succumbs to your worst fears?
A few weeks ago Enzo was diagnosed with degenerative disc disorder. All of those flashes of him on the vet table, Matt and I comforting him, holding him, his little eyes confused then closing as he’s put to sleep in our hands, these flashes became so much realer and too terrifyingly true. I cry like a fool when this worrying is completely unwarranted — with a real illness to deal with, you can imagine I was a total mess. Because a disc had slipped out of his spinal cord, Enzo lost feeling in his rear half. No tail stub tic-tocking his emotions, no bladder control. His walking became a pathetic tugging of his splayed hind legs across the carpet. The Anxiety Girl’s dream dog was fulfilling her worst nightmares.
We immediately put the dog on crate rest so as not to further disturb his back. We took him to our vet and got him pain pills, we drove him to Ann Arbor to see a neurologist, but that’s all we could do. An MRI priced at $2000 could tell us if the exploded disc was disappearing on its own or required surgery. A $6000 surgery could then either 1.) get the pup on the road to rehab and recovery or 2.) at least insure he wouldn’t be in pain. With the second possibility Enzo would remain paralyzed but could become a candidate for little doggie back wheels.
Well, we had already spent $500 on the appointments and meds and we didn’t have any more to give financially. We had tons more to give in terms of care and love. Worst feeling ever. As a family we were pretty much at rock bottom. . . until we got word that Rupert, who was vacationing with Matt’s family, had eaten some rat poison he found in his cabin getaway. Okay, thanks, Rup *THAT* was rock bottom. He’s fine. He apparently has an iron stomach and is some kind of doggie freak show wonder according the vet. Anyway, this is finally when things started changing.
The Ann Arbor vet, Dr. Issacs, and his team at the Dogwood Veterinary Referral Center (at the pleading of Andrea Conklin, a neuro vet tech and Enzo’s saintly “dog mom” from above) decided that they could give us everything, the MRI and the surgery at cost. Andrea set up a Chip-In site where people could donate money towards Enzo’s now $2000 care plan and boom, our fate wasn’t quite as sealed as it had seemed.
Old friends, new friends, Facebook acquaintances, the moms and grandpas of people we’d met 5 years ago, people we’ve never heard of before — everyone started sending us money. And Enzo got what he needed. It happened too fast to understand fully but it’s kind of miraculous. My dog, my baby boy, our Colonel Peebody, our little buddy is alive and working on getting better. All my worrying and anxiety came to fruition in Enzo’s broken little body. We’ve had to carry his limp behind and express his bladder and see pain in his confused stare and send playful dorky Rupert away, but the people around us keep giving and helping.
That’s the part that my sick premonitions forgot to mention. When the body gives out and the money runs out, your people will be there. People will care for a creature in need out of sympathy or empathy or because they love his old man eyebrows and bushy mustache, or simply because they love you enough to keep the nightmares at bay for a little while longer.