Monday, December 29, 2008

A gift of Joy

In the midst of our hotel stay, I mentioned getting a new dog, but life has been so hectic around here, I haven't had a chance to tell you about her until now. After Addy my standard poodle died in March, I didn't think I'd ever want another dog. Losing her to bone cancer was just too painful. But after a couple of months, I started to look at poodles and bichons and wish I had one again. But then I had to decide which one I wanted.

Addy had been my dream dog. I'd wanted a standard poodle forever, because I'd admired their regal beauty from the first time I laid eyes on one. Before my six years with Addy, I had a bichon named Nicky, who was also lost to cancer. Nicky was a saint, much too sweet for his own good. We got him when Katherine was a toddler, and she would hold his ears as if they were a leash and walk him around the living room. I once caught her sticking a cotton swab in his nose, and he just laid there, not doing anything to stop her.

After thinking about it for several months, I finally decided I wanted another bichon, mostly because I wanted a lap dog. Then the search began. I'd check Petfinder at least weekly, sometimes more often, searching for bichons near me. After a few weeks of searching, I was briefly excited to see that a shelter only 25 miles from me had a female bichon, but then I saw the little heart next to her name, meaning she had special needs, and I noticed she was 11 years old. Too bad, I thought, and kept scrolling down the list. I contacted several rescues with young adults and realized that healthy, young bichons are in demand and quickly find homes, so I might have to be willing to drive to another state to adopt one.

But search results on Petfinder are listed starting with the dog closest to your zip code, so this little old dog named BJ was always at the top of the list. I read her description a couple of times and learned that she was in the early stages of kidney failure. It's too bad she's so old and sick, I always thought when I saw her picture. Who would ever want to adopt a dog like that? Then one day when I was searching, I read an essay written by a woman who provided a foster home for a dog that was blind. She talked about what a great dog he was and how he wound up spending the rest of his life with her because no one wanted a dog that was blind. I started thinking about that little old bichon again and decided to call the shelter to ask them about her.

"We were just talking about her," the woman said. "We were wondering which dogs would still be here by Christmas." After asking her a number of questions about the dog and then Googling "canine kidney failure," I decided that I'd rather give a home to a dog that no one wanted, than to stand in line for a young, healthy dog that would find a home even if I weren't around.

The woman at the shelter told me that BJ belonged to an old lady who died. She had no relatives, and her caregivers called the shelter because they liked the dog and didn't want to see her euthanized. After going into rescue on November 1, she was spayed and had two mammary tumors removed. Her blood work showed that her kidneys were not working at 100% anymore, so she is on a prescription diet that is easy on kidneys. She also had fleas, which is why she doesn't have much hair on her back.

After getting her home, I realized that she had no training at all. She didn't understand "come," and she didn't even come when you called her name. I don't normally change a dog's name, but BJ just did not fit her at all. She was this little feminine lady that made us all smile every time we saw her, which didn't seem like a BJ to me. After she had been here for a couple of days, and we had all fallen in love with her, it clicked -- Joy! She makes all of us so happy when we look at her or when she sits on our laps. When I announced to the family that I was naming her Joy, Mike asked if it was because I got her at Christmas. No, I said, but it sounded like another good reason to name her Joy.

If they hadn't told me that she was 11 years old, I would not have guessed it. She's a bouncy little thing and has really come out of her shell since moving here. She is the perfect lap dog and has been sitting in my lap since I sat down at the computer this morning. When I take her outside though, she practically drags me around the yard, and I will get out of breath if I try to keep up with her!

Although I started searching for a dog that would be my Christmas gift to myself, I wound up with so much more. She makes everyone in the family smile and laugh, and she gets bouncier and less shy by the day. I've given her the gift of a real home for Christmas, and I gave the shelter the space to take in another dog that needs a home.


SkippyMom said...

We adopted an 11 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever who had more nueroses then any dog should've, but she came to be the most wonderful dog we ever had. She also overcame all her hang-ups and behaviors.

She lived to be 18 1/2 years old. That is a long time for a large dog like our Chessie.

I tell you this because I think what you did is spectacular and I know you are going to be pleasantly surprised as to how lil' Joy thrives and lives a long time in such a loving home.

Hugs to you!

Tammy said...

Amazing and beautiful. Made me cry! I'm so happy for her and for you and your family. What you have done is special and it's obvious you've already been blessed. I'm going through a rough time right now, as my old collie girl ages and becomes frailer and frailer. It's hard to cope with and to watch, but I wouldn't trade her for all the pups in the world.
Take care and give Joy a little hug from me!

MaskedMan said...

This is what Rescue is all about. Congratulations on your new family member, and God Bless You for understanding and opening your heart and home to Joy (in all the meanings and permutations one can apply to that sentence).

Bichons commonly live beyond 15 years - sometimes much beyond, if well-cared-for - so you needn't worry about another heartbreak soon. Make no mistake; there *will* be another heartbreak - it's inevitable when you open your heart to love. But the love makes the eventual hurt worth the bearing. Mild to moderate renal failure in canines is fairly easy to manage, especially with small dogs that can't easily get up and into things they ought not have. Be aware of what kinds of treats you're giving her, and how often - her weight needs to be kept pretty strictly in line, as does her diet. Bend your vet's ear thoroughly and learn all you can.

That's a remarkably ripe old age for a Chessie! Y'all must have cared for her very carefully, and loved her very much.

Keep on keeping on. It's painful, but that's the price we pay for the love - If you love a pet, you love a heartbreak. Still far more than worth it, though. God Bless.

thecrazysheeplady said...

Good for you! You won't regret it. We got Boo when he was 12 and not only did we enjoy having him around, we could always tell he enjoyed being around as well. The greatest gift.

Ivy said...

My very senior toy poodle is older than my first born! My kids usually tell people the dog is actually my oldest child ;-)

Jody said...

Reading your story has brought tears of happiness to my eyes. What a lucky dog!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Deborah, what a wonderful "tail" of compassion that has turned into true love! I DO hate the heartbreak that comes with having pets, but can't bear the thought of living without them. May Joy live many years yet, and then die painlessly in her sleep without needing human assistance in her passing.

Deborah said...

Thanks for all the good wishes and stories of dogs living to ripe old ages!

pedalpower said...

I'm so glad you and Joy found each other! She sounds like a wonderful dog.


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