When People and Their Pets Are Forced to Say Goodbye

Today was an emotion-filled day. After a year of sifting through all the dogs at many, many animal shelters, I was finally united with what seems to be a perfect pet [Plot Spoiler: Nothing is perfect, but today, my Baby Girl seems to be perfect.] She is a 6-year-old registered silver and white Shih Tzu whose human mother has recently died. She is petite and precious and only weighs 12 pounds,

Almost a year ago, my Bichon Frise died. I had loved her for many years, and at the time of her death, I thought that I would not survive. But I did survive, and scar tissue began to form over the spot that had held my Lady Girl’s memories for almost two decades. The spot began to harden and to turn crusty. But I never healed.

Today, when I went to the Tri-Lakes Animal Shelter near Branson, MO, to unite with my new Baby Girl, a bone-thin man stood at the counter at the same time as I. His face was ashen-gray, and he was wheeling an oxygen machine behind him. I jumped to the conclusion: Smoker–Emphysema, and at first, I had very little sympathy. After all, I was at the animal shelter to be rescued by the perfect pet. My world was all good, and I didn’t need to have my balloon popped yet. But I listened. This man was donating about 1,000 pounds of dog food to the shelter and was barely functioning as they tugged his long-loved pet through the gates and into the back room. I finally realized that this man had been forced to relinquish his best friend. Later, I learned that the human–[that this man]–had cancer and that he had but a few weeks remaining to live. The cruel twist to this story was that the dog was being forced to let his man go and that the man, who was losing his very life was losing even more–he was also losing his love.

My mind flashed back to the day that I went to the animal shelter in New Jersey to say goodbye to my Bichon Frise. My Lady Girl had suffered much too long, and I had finally made the hard decision to have her euthanized. As I left my home that day, I thought that I would be fine. I had finally reached the logical conclusion that Lady needed to be allowed to find peace. She had suffered unmercifully. She was blind. She couldn’t walk up and down the 4 stories of my home, and I had to carry her everywhere that she went. She whimpered and cried relentlessly. Yes, this was the sensible thing to do. But as soon as I walked through the doors to let my Lady go, I broke down and I sobbed. I could barely sign the necessary papers, and I never shall forget Lady’s expression, as they took her into the other room. I was in such terrible shape that day that the people at the desk offered to drive me home. I should have allowed them to do that, but somehow, I made it.

At first, I vowed that I would never get another dog. After all, dogs are too much trouble. They are expensive. You even have to pay to have them euthanized, and letting them go is brutal. Yet, today, I saw a beautiful black and white dog who was being forced to let his human go, too, and I realize now that that saying goodbye is as hard for dogs as it is for people.

About a month after my Lady Girl was gone, I drug myself to the computer and I began looking for a “replacement”? dog. I didn’t have the several thousand dollars that I needed to buy another Bichon, but I fantasized that I would find a perfectly lovely pet at some animal shelter. At that time, I was flying back and forth to Arkansas and to the Bootheel of Missouri from New Jersey, and I determined that I needed a tiny, Paris-Hilton dog that I could fit inside my purse. The only free little dogs that I found, however, were mongrels, and they had obviously been bred by a Pit Bull and a Chihuahua mix. They were ugly, yappy, and in spite of it all, they still were not truly small. But I continued to search until I was distracted by moving over a thousand miles away to another town–by turning a house into a home, etc. After I finally settled a bit, however, I began searching again for a small dog. But that small dog seemed impossible to find.

This past weekend, I saw an animal shelter’s online ad for a dog that was a Havanese mix. He wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous, but he was small. I tried several times to reach the shelter that was housing him, but I always got the answering machine. I figured that the Havanese mix was gone, but almost without hope, I called the shelter again yesterday, and I inquired about the Havanese Mix. I got the following response:

“No. I’m sorry. Baxter has found a forever home.”

In utter frustration, I almost shrieked: “Don’t you have ANY other small dogs similar to Baxter?”

“Well, I do have one small dog here. She just arrived.”

“Where is her photo? I want to see her.”

“We are still processing this dog, and I have a huge waiting list of people who want a small dog. Besides, I am very particular about who I’ll show this little sweetie. You see. Baby Girl is a package deal.”

[Wait just one cotton-picking minute. My Bichon Frise’s name was Lady Girl and THIS dog’s name is Baby Girl????]

“What do you mean?”

“You see, Baby Girl and another dog–a dachshund–were owned by a woman who has just died. The dogs are traumatized, but they are bonded. I will not separate them. Whoever takes Baby Girl must also take Peanut.”

“Well, perhaps I can take them both. Are they house-broken?”

“Yes.”

“Do they yip and destroy things by chewing and running amuck?”

“No.”

“I don’t get it. What’s the glitch?”

“Peanut has issues. He is extremely overweight.”

I retorted: “So am I.”

“He has skin problems.”

“So do I. I have psoriasis.”

“Peanut doesn’t look just right. We don’t believe that he is a pedigreed dachshund.”

“I’m quite sure that I have no pedigree. Perhaps Peanut and I have a lot in common.”

I began to deliberate over the whole thing. None of us is perfect. Yet, we are merciless in demanding perfection of others around us. I responded, “Can I get a discount if I take them both?” [Even at animal shelters, you must pay for the dogs’ shots and make a contribution for their spaying.]

“You bet. I’ll throw in Peanuts for $10 more, and I’ll also throw in 25# of Weight Watchers Dog Chow, too.” [The shelter also sent me home with free medicines and a medicated shampoo.]

Without ever seeing my little dog-to-be or the fat dachshund with issues, I  said: “I’ll take them. Let me give you a credit card payment. I don’t want to get out in this rain today, but I’ll be there tomorrow to pick them up.”

Today, Baby Girl and I rescued each other and together at the Tri-Lakes Animal Shelter, we have pledged ourselves to rescue one more–we are rescuing a truly overweight and itchy Peanut dog, too.

Meet Peanut. [I even hate that name, but I don’t want to rock the boat even more by changing his name.] He is NOT Perfect. He is Fat. He is NOT Precious. His fur is mottled, patchy, and he has lost chunks of hair. He whines. He is needy. He licks Baby Girl to comfort himself–day and night. He is enormous for a dachshund–he weighs more than 30 pounds. I cannot even lift him. But he is ours– he is Baby Girl’s and mine. We are a family.

 

 

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