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In honor of National Dog Day, I thought this week’s story should be about our dogs and how each one landed in our laps. Lady, who is a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix, was the first to call our family home. We were in the process of moving to Florida. We had gone back to Mississippi to pack up the house and sell it. Caylie’s birthday was just around the corner and she was moping around because she wasn’t certain she was ready to move. I was out early one morning walking laps around the yard (part of my daily exercise routine) and this precious little tan and white dog wandered up. (The Delta, at least the part we lived in, is home to many stray dogs and cats.) She sauntered over to me and rolled over on her back for a belly rub. I couldn’t say no. I debated for a while before I finally called Caylie outside because I knew she would want to keep her, and we were in the process of moving. But I also knew it would pull her out of her slump. The dog was so sweet and she instantly fell in love with her and
decided to name her Lady. She was obviously hungry, and we weren’t prepared for a dog; so we fed her whatever was in the refrigerator – rice, eggs, cheese. I called our local vet and took her over there. She had heart worms, was pregnant, and somebody had poisoned her. I agreed to the treatments; and from that moment on, we had a dog. After we got her back home, Caylie never left her side. She nursed her through losing her puppy, overcoming the poison, and curing the heart worms. Lady is not the smartest dog, but she has tons of energy and loves attention. When she gets excited, she runs sideways with her butt leading the way. She loves to howl (which Caylie seems to get a kick out of encouraging). And she still does the same three tricks that Caylie taught her right after we got her, in that exact order; and a command for any one of them in Lady speak means do all three in the exact same order she learned them.
Chocolate was the second one to come into our lives. It was a few months after we got Lady, and we were living in a condo waiting on our house to be finished. One of our neighbors told Caylie about some chihuahuas that needed homes. Caylie was so excited that she came running back to tell me. I initially said no but eventually gave in. I agreed to take her to the shelter and let her see what they had. There was one who was so tiny and in obviously terrible shape. She was older, had a couple of rotten teeth (so they said at the shelter), and could barely stand, much less walk. I knew nobody was going to adopt her, so we did. They had named her Kisses. It did not fit her at all. We debated names for a couple of days; and in just one of those moments when someone asked her name, I said Chocolate.
She perked up and responded to it immediately. Next was a visit to the vet to see about the couple of rotten teeth. Turns out it was more than a couple. They had to remove all but 7! To be honest, Lady wasn’t too thrilled about having a sister; but every once in a while, we’d catch them cuddling next to each other. It took a little while, but Chocolate definitely came into her own. She is stubborn and hard headed and know exactly what she wants. And she doesn’t hesitate to let you know as well. She thinks she can talk; so she will come running in the room, open her mouth, and make these weird little noises that we are supposed to understand.
Then came Lola, an English bulldog who really lit up all of our lives. One of the painters working on our house asked us if we would be willing to take his English bulldog because his new wife didn’t like her. This one was a little more difficult decision because bulldogs have a ton of health issues. I talked to the kids. They wanted her; and since we had had an English bulldog before and knew what we were getting into (we thought), we took her. When he brought Lola to us, she was thin and not in great health. She couldn’t even manage to walk to the end of the street and back (about 100 yards, round trip). Her wrinkles and her her ears were infected and she was in dire need of a bath.
Off to the vet we went again. Lady was less than thrilled with yet another dog. Chocolate just ignored her. We nursed Lola back to health and were rewarded with a wonderfully lovable dog who loved to run up and down the pool as the kids were swimming laps and wait for them at the other end, play tug of war with her toys, and chase after balls.
This year though, things took a turn for the worse. Lola developed a mass in her stomach. The vet said it was a mammary gland tumor and had to be removed. When they got in there, the tumor was huge. They got it out and said everything looked good, but the biopsy results were not good. Lola had a very fast growing form of cancer. I was helpless. I read everything I could find looking for a way to slow it down. Finally I realized I just needed to do everything I could to make sure she had the best quality of life possible. In my reading, I had learned a lot about what goes into dog food and dog treats (most of it is not very good for the dogs) and certain foods that I thought could help Lola feel better and at least let her enjoy the life she had left. I started making healthy dog treats. We called them Lola’s Loves, and they’ve been a big hit with the dogs in south Florida, not to mention with our own. Inevitably, Lola’s health began to decline. She had been playing, and she just fell. We took her back to the vet. They were as upset as we were (Lola was very easy to become attached to) but couldn’t find anything. Over the next couple of days, she rallied and was almost back to normal. A week or so later, Lola woke up and could barely walk, and her eyes were drifting. We called the vet, and he sent us to a neurologist. I think we all knew it was the cancer, but he wanted to rule out stroke. She passed away that night. We are truly lucky to have had her in our lives.
Our dogs are so much a part of who we are and what our lives are about. They inspire us (developing a recipe for dog treats) and keep us humble (cleaning up the inevitable pile of poo on the floor when you’ve been out too long). They bring out the best in us and really make life worth living.