You don’t throw a whole life away just because it’s a little banged up.-Quote from the movie “Seabisquit”.
In October of 2009, we had been living in the Yellow Submarine for barely three months. Our dog, Barky, had gone to live with my sister in Fresno, as being a Jack Russell mix, he needed space to run and jump. Our new home had this space around it but not a high enough fence to contain the little dickens while we were away at work and school for 9 1/2 hours a day. Having just moved, again, after five months living in the hood of Santa Maria, there was much to do still. Much to unpack. Much to fix in this “fixer-upper” of a home. Much to process after a whirlwind catastrophe reduced our world to ground level. Much to contemplate as everything settled into what would become our new life.
My daughter, only five years old at the time, had one thing on her mind when Barky left. “Mom, when can we get a new doggy?”
My response was the same as it always is when I’m asked a bewildering question that I’m not equipped to handle in the moment…”I don’t know. Not now. That’s what I know. Not now. There’s too much for Mommy to do.”
“Can we get a new doggy later then?”
“Yes. I’m sure we will. Later.”
In my mind, “later” should have been a year from that point. Actually, SWM on my income with my bills and a small but new house payment? “Later” should have been equivalent to “never”, ha! But, I don’t work that way. I’m an animal lover, especially when it comes to rescues, and I knew that my “later” would be sooner than perhaps made sense. Clear as mud, right? (Smile.) It didn’t matter that we had two old cats, two fire-bellied toads, a dwarf hamster, and a fish-tank full of sea life at home already. Know the movie, “We Bought a Zoo”? Yep. I can relate; if only Matt Damon were part of my story.
That fall, having just moved to our quaint little town, I was excited to attend the Harvest Festival. I love that time of year, the colors, the change in the weather (yes, it does change here in California…subtle but definite), and everything pumpkin. Maycee and I were enjoying the people, the music, and the vendors when we came upon a special booth that had….I’ll give you one guess…COME ON….W A I T I N G….
*U.S. pet-ownership estimates from the **APPA for 2012
- 83.3 million—Number of owned dogs
Yes! Doggies…and the cutest dogs ever…wiener dogs! All shapes and sizes and colors. People were hovering around to pet them. “Adopt a Daschund today!” Oh, geez. Oh, dear. I was doomed. We were doomed. Maycee was beside herself. “Mommy! Can we get one? We need a dog! You said we could get one ‘later’. Please???!!!! THEY’RE SO CUTE!!!!” My eyes were overcome. My heart was pounding. A stand full of pups who needed homes. Cute pups. Doomed. And, to make it even harder to resist? If you couldn’t afford to adopt one, they were happy to let you provide a foster home. Huh. Foster a doggy? They pay for the expenses? Oh, Lord, help me!
Maycee was in doggy heaven, and while she was petting between 10 and 15 happy, tail-wagging, “pick-me” barking canines, there she was. This tiny, bright-eyed, reddish brown sweetie with triangle-shaped ears that perked up as if in pony tails with white fur speckled across her face. She was close to the rescue owner’s seat, and she seemed to peek out from nowhere. Nobody was petting her, so the lady picked her up and held her on her lap. “Oh, she is precious!” I exclaimed. “What’s her name?” The blonde-haired Beach Barbie smiled and said, “This is Louisy. She’s a spunky little thing-don’t let her fool ya.”
I began to pet her, and I asked Barbie, “How much would it be to adopt her?” “Oh, well, Hun, nobody’s going to want to adopt her. See here…” Ahhhh, large protruding tumors from the chest cavity. They weren’t visible when she was on the ground, but once in hand you could see them. Poor girl! “She has these tumors, and I’m pretty sure they’re cancerous, but I can’t afford to pay for testing, let alone surgery, with all of these other dogs. She’d make a great foster pet, though. You could help give her a good home to live out her days since no one will adopt her.” Barbie made a great case.
Maycee was still clambering around going from lick to lick. Foster Louisy? Could I/we do that? Foster this little doggy with these horrible tumors that someone abandoned because they didn’t want to deal with, or couldn’t deal with, the problem?
We left the Harvest Festival empty-dog-handed, Maycee grumbling and upset. I can’t even believe it myself–that I had the willpower in that moment, but I did. It would be short-lived, no doubt.
I contacted Barbie from the rescue several days later after visiting her web site and inquired more about the fostering process as well as when we could come see the dogs again. I told her that Louisy was pressing on my heart, her bright eyes looking through me, and I really wanted to come get her, but I needed to discuss it with my little one. After all, I’m sure Maycee wasn’t picturing an old dog with tumors as her next pet.
“Maycee, remember that little doxy that Mommy was petting at the Harvest Festival?”
“She was cute, huh?”
“Yeah, except she had those big tumors. They were kind of gross.”
“Yeah, but I’ve been thinking about her. Thinking about the idea of fostering her. You know, nobody’s going to adopt a doggy like that, and there was just something about her.” Even at five my daughter had the compassion of Mother Teresa when it came to animals.
“Really, Mommy? Well, I think it will be okay. Let’s get her!”
- *20 percent—Percentage of owned dogs who were adopted from animal shelters
Louisy came to the Yellow Submarine just 4 months after we moved in, along with our other dog, Percy-both from the same rescue. Fostering was a nice idea but a silly reality for us. We’ve had her for almost 5 years now, and she’s been the best dog. Her tumors weren’t cancerous, and that Christmas of 2009 I paid for the surgery to have them removed. Within one day she was walking, barking, and being the bossy, sassy little pup we had already become accustomed to like there was never anything wrong. The vet called her “their Christmas miracle”.
Maycee got the little doggy of her dreams, even if she didn’t know it at the time: a pup she could dress in cute outfits, take for walks in a dolly stroller, and be a playmate when she built a tent in the living room. I got a nice, warm heater nuzzled up into the small of my back at night, providing me comfort when I felt lonely (or cold!). Louisy helped us transition into our new home, our new life, by keeping us extra busy and laughing at all of her antics (well…sometimes…): she was a cat-hater (let’s just say I learned to run animal control in our house), keeper of the kitchen, guardian of the trashcan, and people lover by nature.
Tomorrow morning we will be saying good-bye to Louisy as she makes her way up to heaven. She can’t see, hear, or smell any more, and she has a great amount of trouble walking due to a growing hernia that is inoperable. She struggles to breath through her nose and doesn’t sleep well at night, waking every hour or two needing to go potty and growls and barks, sometimes with no reason. I look into those once bright eyes and see the light is dim, and this is the best final gift I can give her-a peaceful passing. Maycee understands, too, and though it will be hard, she agrees it’s the right thing.
So many animals need homes. So many animals are tossed by the wayside, not given a chance, because they are old or have health issues or behavioral issues or aren’t cute enough or playful enough or whatever. Louisy was a lot like me, a lot like all of us….imperfect but not without value and deserving of love. If I had the chance for a shiny purebred anything or a rescue animal, I’d choose the rescue, hands down, every time. And, I do.
We love you, Louisy! May your eyes shine again, your ears perk up in pony tails, and your spunky personality keep the rest in line as you climb the stairway to Heaven.
Life is short, Readers, so be happy, and give a chuckle. If you’re thinking about getting a new pet, please adopt a rescue animal. You’ll experience some of the most unconditional love there is!
**American Pet Products Manufacturers Association