This year has not started off well. Suni, my 12 year old pit bull, started limping right after Christmas. As there was no reason for it, I knew that it was cancer. Unfortunately my fear was correct. She did not make the six month prognosis, and we had to say goodbye in March. And then in May, it came time to say goodbye to my eighteen year old cat Daisy.
Since I was seventeen, independent and going to school to become a vet tech, my house has always had at least one dog and cat. I have brought my work home with me on so many occasions. Yet now, to find myself devoid of dogs and cats; for my house to be empty, no fur or poop to clean up, no wagging butt or content meows to greet me at the door, was bewildering and uncomfortable.
The veterinary field is overcome by a phenomenon called compassion fatigue. We are emotionally charged and engaged 24/7, and it takes serious mental and emotional tolls. Techs average about 6 years. Most then shift into human medicine of some capacity, or something completely unrelated to health care. We burn out.
That’s just work. We go home, and continue with our own pets’ and human families’ well-being. We are constantly in care-taker mode. After 19 years doing this, I feel it. I decided that this was the time to rest. Catch up on Daisy’s and Suni’s medical bills, and take a year of not worrying over another’s health.
The universe laughed at that.
I adopted a former research rabbit in July. I converted Suni’s old kennel into a two story rabbit condo, and brought him home on my birthday!
He cracks me up.
He was completely freaked out by the time we got home that evening. The car ride, the carrier, the noises. He’d been neutered a few days before and hadn’t eaten very well since. But something clicked during the night. He devoured his food, and was happy and engaging in the morning. From that morning on, he was just thrilled. Running and jumping and doing this rabbit thing called a ‘binky’, which is a mix of a jump and a flip. He got the whole family room to himself, with carpet. Thrilled. I had a rabbit when I was 12, who followed me to Denver and college, and lived for 6 years. It felt like a good pet to introduce the boys to, and they’ve been enjoying his antics. He’s loving his research-retirement.
Almost two months now. I miss having a cat and dog, but this is good. Life is simple. And cheaper, and easier. And we’re spoiling Luca rotten.
The universe laughed again.
I blame child number two. He put the news on and left the room. I never watch the news. But I just so happened to be procrastinating from job-required studying. So, I watched it. Of course they immediately show a story about a local shelter just returning from a shelter down south with a bunch of dogs needing homes. In the wake of Harvey, shelters closer to Texas needed to take in pets separated from their families, so that their people could easily find and retrieve them. So they sent pets already awaiting adoption further north in order to make room.
And she was the second dog to walk across the screen.
Despite my convictions and best intentions to stay dog-free, I immediately tried to find her online, through the news station, the shelter’s website, and finally their Facebook. No luck. I sent an Instant Message. Was told she’d be available for adoption the following day, which was the best way to get my questions answered.
That was not the reply I wanted. I wanted to be told how horrible she was. How many issues she had that would make her an impossibility before even seeing her. And I had a big work-required exam that I HAD TO PASS in two days. Not the time to get a dog.
I drove to the shelter after work the next day. Just to see. Just to convince myself how bad an idea it was. I didn’t want a dog, and I didn’t know why I was being pulled toward her so strongly. I wandered through and couldn’t find her. It was just about closing time. The shelter was busy- everyone else had seen the news footage and was also looking to help out after Harvey. This far removed from Texas, adopting a pet seemed like a doable thing. (14 of the 25 were adopted that weekend)
I was sad, thinking she had to have been adopted. As I turned to leave, a volunteer asked if I needed help, and I told her who I was looking for. Eh, she climbed out of her kennel during the night, so they had her in a cage elsewhere. She’ll go get her. Crap, a climber is not a good thing. But shepherds are nervous animals. She’s had an ordeal in the last couple days- being loaded into a van packed with other dogs and cats, and on the road all day. Now another shelter, new sounds, new smells. Who knows what she’d endured before being surrendered to the first shelter. It might not be a recurrent issue.
And then she walked around the corner, and my jaw dropped. She was bigger than her picture, and looked more like a wolf than a fox. Absolutely beautiful. The woman thrust the leash into my hand and told me to take her for a walk, so, bewildered, I took her outside to a fenced-in yard, and decided to just sit down and watch her to assess her behavior.
She, on the other hand, immediately turned around and nearly climbed into my lap, pushing her head under my arm.
That was the Oh shit moment.
I went inside and that was it. I asked for her to be cat-tested to make sure Luca would be safe, and she didn’t flinch at the snarling, growling cats they walked her past. I put her on hold, went home, and told the boys what I’d just done. And that it was all #2’s fault. I pulled out all Suni’s things: her bed, all the toys she never would play with, her food bowls, her leashes. To see it all again, I second-guessed that reusing them was a good idea. The sight of her bed brought me to tears. But this new dog is entering into a good legacy, and to honor Suni and Luna, I wanted them included in this next dog somehow.
The shelter didn’t open until noon the next day, Saturday, but the three of us were up around 5! Even #1, the 16 year old who sleeps till noon or so. My test was at 3, and I kept repeating how this is probably not the greatest of plans. I still had so much cramming to do! We got to the shelter just after 12. They walked her out to the lobby, and despite only having spent 20 minute with her the night before, as soon as she saw me, her tail started going and she somersaulted down onto my feet.
That was the final Oh shit moment. It was all complete right then. We walked her around and the boys and she liked each other. Got home, dropped everyone off and then raced to Chicago to take my stupid test. That was an ordeal, but I passed, so everything’s fine!
My first dog, also a shepherd, was Luna. Steady and intelligent and calm. Her radiance was more controlled. My pit was three months old when I first met her at work. Complete opposite of Luna. Exuberant and happy and shining. She was Suni. So, we decided to continue the celestial theme and go with a star.
Introducing, Nova 🙂
Two years old, seriously skinny. Kennel cough sprouted the day we brought her home. Mange followed a couple days later. I told Suni that it wasn’t funny. She was so sick before I brought her home, and I’ll never forget it. Mange included. Guess I put her on the right sensitive-everything diet, same as her predecessors. Today, Nova and I are home sick and bonding over some random, non-related intestinal bugs.
She’s not well-socialized. Gets mouthy sometimes. It hurts knowing that she probably would have been returned or seriously neglected had someone else adopted her. Having worked as a shelter tech, I fully know the odds. But stress and contact with many other dogs makes kennel cough and mange not very surprising. She’s on antibiotics for the coughing, and has been treated for the mange which is now clearing up. Her grabbing onto arms and clothes is either a nervous thing, excited thing, or a herding thing. Either way, I’ve been in contact with a few behaviorists and we’re working on it. It’s fixable, and she’s otherwise been a great addition. We were absolutely supposed to have her, and her us.
At no point have I sat down and thought, what the hell did I do? I truly was waiting for that Oh shit moment, but it hasn’t arrived.
These moments have, though 🙂
First time I ever adopted a pet from TV!