Have you ever seen the movie 50 First Dates? It’s the film where the lead character played by Drew Barrymore has a type of amnesia that makes her forget everyone she met during the day, once she has fallen asleep at night. Well that was our life for nearly a year when we adopted our new dog, Cody. Our beautiful boy had been rescued by Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, the organization I helped start, from an animal collector. He was a 2 year-old Shepherd/Collie mix that had spent the first 1 ½ years of his life in a homemade dog pen that was about the size of an average dining room table. Cody wasn’t abused, but he wasn’t socialized either. His entire existence consisted of sitting in his pen day after day. Once he came to Heaven Can Wait he was enrolled in our Pups on Parole program where he lived with a female inmate at the correctional facility for women. Life at the prison agreed with Cody and he quickly bonded with his inmate handler. The affection between them was mutual because when he arrived at our house, his belongings included a large crocheted pink ladybug pillow that his handler made for him.
One lesson I’ve learned over these many years is, “Life is constantly changing and I don’t have as much control over it as I think.” I don’t know about you, but I like being in control.
Spring 2002 brought lots of change to my family. We moved from our somewhat rural Las Vegas home to the suburbs of Henderson, Nevada, which at the time was literally the fastest growing city in America. Our new community was pristine with a manicured golf course, tall pine trees, lakes, waterfalls and a beautiful walking path. It sat high on a hill with picture perfect views of the Las Vegas valley and the famous Las Vegas strip. It was and still is a pretty spectacular place to live.
In addition to a change of address, life changed in other ways too. We stopped going to the dog park. Both my mother and father became housebound because of major health problems and they needed more of my time. We also wanted to protect Bear, whose eyesight was getting worse, from any rough young dogs at the park, so we stayed away.
These changes didn’t keep us down for long because our family soon found a new hobby to entertain everyone. We called it “house hunting.” Our new town of Henderson was truly building houses faster than any other community in the entire country and there were blocks and blocks of new homes to explore. Each evening after dinner and on the weekends our routine was to gather our canine kids and sometimes our human son too and walk to a new neighborhood for an adventure.
Life at our house returned to normal once Sophie recovered from the Distemper virus. We felt very lucky to have overcome that crisis. We were also lucky that the new puppy fit right into our family, especially with our Lab mix, Missy and our German shepherd, Bear. Missy, who was the perpetual mother dog, introduced Sophie to the canine household rules and showed her how to use the doggie door by giving her bottom a push with her nose. Bear on the other hand, was the constant protector of our home and made Sophie feel safe. When life got too hectic you would see Sophie slowly back her hind quarters into Bear’s sturdy body and stay there with him until a sense of calmness was restored in our household.
Sophie wasn’t very fond of our cat Muffin, who promptly welcomed her to the family by thumping her on the nose with her paw. It was a gesture Muffin used on every dog in our house to say, “I’m an old cat so give me some respect and stay out of my way.”
Sophie’s second day at our house was a scary time for all of us. I knew we were in big trouble when our new puppy couldn’t keep down any food and a thick green fluid started to drip from her nose. An immediate call was made to our veterinarian.
I don’t remember exactly which tests the vet performed during his exam, but I know he said Sophie had a high fever and that he suspected she had Distemper. He also said she was highly contagious. Working at a quick pace, the veterinarian prescribed an antibiotic, told me to call if Sophie got worse and shuffled us out of the clinic as fast as possible.
Looking back I really don’t believe he thought he would see Sophie again, alive that is. As we were leaving two techs came into our exam room with mops and disinfectants and began to swab down the room, stripping it of my baby’s contagious germs.
-We’re not a particularly religious family, but one of my husband’s favorite sayings makes a reference to God. He says, “God has a sense of humor.” What he means is the “almighty” seems to hand out only a portion of the attributes we need to be great in this life. And sometimes just when we get close to achieving the goal we aspire to most, it’s taken away. That was the case with our dog Sophie, who loved being the fastest runner at the dog park until it was taken away by paralysis. This is the beginning of our journey.
The idea to add a third dog to our family grew out of a bet during a baseball game at Wrigley Field. In an attempt to keep our son, Matthew and me interested in the game, my husband Ken made the wager to adopt a new dog if the Chicago Cubs hit 12 homeruns. Actually none of us remember if he said 10 or 12 homeruns, but it was a big, unrealistic number and he thought he was safe about winning his side of the bet. What he didn’t take into account was the fact it was 1998; the year when two baseball players on the Cubs, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, would break world records for the most homeruns hit in a season. To my delight, I returned to our hometown of Las Vegas ready to go directly from the airport to the city shelter. [Read more…]