Of a dog, a lesson, and an unexpected battle.
Harper was my "soulmate" dog. The first time I held her, she fit in the palm of my hand. The last time I held her, it took my arms and my whole world, and she still didn't fit. She was a nut. Neurotic, goofy, afraid of flies and hiccups. (Yes, hiccups. She'd hide in the bathtub.)
Losing her to cancer at age 9 was devastating. But, in time I knew that I was ready to try again.
Summer 2017. I'd spend my mornings with a cup of coffee and my laptop, combing through Petfinder and any other rescue organization websites I could find. I'd cry at the sheer numbers of dogs in need of a home, and was exhausted and discouraged after inquiring about a dog, then getting my hopes up, only to be too late. Turns out, adopting a dog can be a bit like Black Friday at Walmart when there's a sweet deal on a flat screen.
Then one day, I saw her. My girl. I just knew.
She'd been found in a field outside of Houston, Texas and placed with an organization that adopts dogs to northern cities, as the stray population near Houston is terribly high. There was something sweet about her...and her long ears reminded me of Harper's vizsla ears. Did I stop to think about the potential issues of a dog who’d been a stray and experienced who-knows-what? Not so much. My heart just knew.
After an endless number of emails and what-ifs, we finally met in an airplane cargo bay late one Tuesday evening. She was skinny and scared and a tad crazy. I instantly wondered what the hell I'd gotten myself into. She was wiley and not housebroken, startled by the sights, smells and sounds of a new city, and unpredictable. My stress and frustration grew. I questioned everything.
In time, with the help of a trainer, my vet, an insane amount of patience, and lots of work, she grew. I struggled with accepting her and not comparing her to Harper. I wasn't expecting that part - the regret and frustration, followed by the guilt. It faded though, as bit by bit, she gained confidence (and manners). She learned to love my boyfriend instead of growling at him. She went from cowering in the corner at daycare to initiating play and becoming a favorite of the staff. She learned what to do with toys. Her hairless tail, acquired from nervous thwacking of it against kennel walls, grew hair and her hip bones and ribs grew soft with flesh. As any human who has experienced trauma is forever altered, she's by no means “healed”, but the transformation is remarkable.
A few months ago, prior to starting her on a new heartworm preventative, we did a routine screening test. She'd tested negative prior to adoption, so learning that she was heartworm positive was a shock to say the least. Our best guess is that she'd been infected right before being found, so didn't test positive until about 6 months later. In hindsight, I realize how lucky we were to test her when we did. Often heartworm goes undetected until extremely severe.
We're about halfway through her treatment and she's handling things well. She's been on exercise restriction and a cocktail of antibiotics, steroids, and other meds for three months. Have you seen the viral video of the guy carrying his scared golden retriever up an escalator? Yeah, that was me a few weeks ago after her first injections, carrying her a block from my car as she whimpered in pain. Injections are given deep in the muscles near her spine and aren't at all easy to stomach. The hardest part is yet to come with her final double injections in a few weeks. Complications could come without warning and be severe; blood clots while her body absorbs the dead worms in her bloodstream are a possibility. So, we're doing our best and enjoying the extra snuggle time. All attempts at having a "no dogs on furniture" house have failed and the treats are on full-blast flow. I'm okay with it.
Alas, after the cancer battle with Harper, I'm used to high vet bills and nursing a sick pup. She's come so far...a few heartworms aren't going to stop us now. Somewhere in the midst of it all, I stopped comparing her to Harper. The regret faded, and I realized that she was meant to be with me all along. Harper will always be my first dog and my first real heartbreak, but Hattie has taught me about loving through healing. She's taught me about patience, and just how much a living being can grow and change through unconditional love. And once again, she's taught me about the true cost of pet ownership! Yikes.
In the coming months, I'll be donating a portion of my jewelry sales to a local rescue organization. For now though, most proceeds from your support go directly to Hattie's heartworm treatment. I'll keep you posted.
Maybe a gal can have more than one "soulmate" dog in a lifetime.
She thanks you. So do I.