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Dust Comes Home
by Terri Florentino
As Susan and Sarah followed the young lady into the house, Susan said, “I’d like to meet our puppy’s parents.”
“I’m sorry,” she said over her shoulder. “We don’t allow anyone to go to the area where the dogs are housed. You might bring germs in on your feet, and the dogs could get sick.” She looked back again, wrinkling her nose at Susan.
“Oh. Of course.” Susan had been hoping for a glimpse of how her pup would act and how he might look as an adult.
“You wait here,” the girl ordered. Then she turned to Sarah, grinned, and said with false gaiety, “I’ll be right back with your new puppy!”
As the young lady disappeared behind a door, Susan and Sarah beamed at each other. When the door opened again, they were breathless at the sight of the adorable ball of curly fur in her arms. Susan reached for the puppy. She hesitated. The puppy looked tense and pulled away from her. “Why does the puppy seem fearful? His tail’s not wagging.” Susan didn’t know how to feel or what to do. She had sent a non-refundable deposit and invested a five-hour drive for this puppy; turning back was not an option.
“He’s just nervous, nothing to worry about, he’ll settle down.” The young lady kissed him on the head. He didn’t seem to mind that.
Gingerly, Susan took the rigid puppy and cradled him in her arms. Mechanically, the girl went over the contents of a basket of puppy food and other new-puppy essentials. By the time she was done, the puppy had relaxed. He even gave Susan a little kiss on her cheek. The affection offered her some relief. The fact that he was as cute as a button didn’t hurt either.
“Well, if you don’t have any more questions,” the girl said, in a way that invited no further questions, I’ll see you to your car.”
Susan hesitated; she felt full of questions, but couldn’t think of any in the face of such a brusque remark. “Well, we do have a long drive ahead.”
“Can I hold him? Can I hold him in the car?” Sarah said. “I can’t wait to show him his bed and his bowls and his toys!”
Out at the car, the pup went stiff with fear again as Susan opened the back door. She placed him in his new crate in the back seat, said goodbye to the strangely aloof girl, and headed on their way.
On the way home Sarah and Susan discussed what name they liked best for their puppy. The pup was mostly white, with a small stripe of very light tan down his back, and some tan fur on his ears that looked like dust. Susan suggested calling him “Dusty.” Once the entire family arrived home later that evening they all sat around and discussed various names. Everyone liked “Dusty.”
“The first two weeks weren’t what we had expected,” Robert said.
“What exactly do you mean?” I asked.
“When they brought Dusty home, he seemed depressed,” he said. “Normally a puppy would run and play, but Dusty just lay around. I wondered if he was sick. I got down on the floor to wrestle with him, and all he did was sit and stare at me.”
“We were worried. I called the breeder,” Susan said. “She said Dusty just needed more time to adjust. Something didn’t seem right, so I took him to the vet, but she just assured me we had a healthy-looking puppy and that we needed to come back in a few weeks for some vaccines.”
Inevitably Dusty settled into some of what anyone would constitute as normal puppy behavior. He chewed on whatever met his mouth, got the usual puppy “zoomies—racing around and like he’d gone completely haywire, and started the puppyhood biting, or “mouthing.” The mouthing was so severe, they called him, “land shark.” Dusty grabbed and nibbled on hands, legs, pants, and feet. It was difficult to walk him; he got furious tethered to a leash and made every effort to chew through it to free himself.
By the time Dusty was six months old he started to exhibit “resource-guarding behavior;” when he had food or a chewy, he growled and snapped dangerously at anyone who came near him.
“I was taking Dusty for a ride in the car,” Robert said. “He grabbed a tissue from the console between the seats, and I didn’t want him to swallow it. I reached to get it out of his mouth, and he grabbed my hand in his teeth—not just once, but again and again. He bit down as fast as he could, over and over, slicing me up. In the blink of an eye, there was blood everywhere!”
“I was devastated when Rob told me what Dusty did.” Susan got up and fetched a box of tissues. She dropped it on the dining room table and helped herself to one.
“Careful!” Robert joked. “Don’t let Dusty near it!”
“I didn’t dare admit it at the time,” Susan said, glancing at the button nose behind the baby gate. “But I simply could not enjoy my puppy.” She blew her nose. “How sad is that? He was never cuddly or affectionate. Nothing we did made him happy. There was nothing normal about him. He was bold, pushy, always had to have his way–or else! It was like he was terrorizing us. I had no idea what to do with such a mean and nasty puppy.” Susan began to cry again. “I couldn’t believe it. Who’s ever heard of such a thing?”
Robert squeezed her hand.
Susan pulled herself together. “It seemed like he was only putting up with me and the kids, but he outright hated Robert.” She laughed and sniffled. “I’m sorry, Honey.”
Robert smiled. “I know it’s true. I guess I didn’t smell right.”
“I understand how some dogs are intimidated by men who are authoritative and commanding,” she said. “But Robert is gentle and kind. He was sweet to him. He got down on the floor with him, talked in a high-pitched voice. He did everything right. He really tried. I thought maybe Dusty was resource-guarding the children and me from Robert.”
“When Dusty and I where home alone together, he was fine with me,” Robert said.
“That’s right,” Susan said. “When I was home, Dusty would never leave my side. When Robert came within a certain distance of me, Dusty growled until he backed away.
“Then he started trying to keep me out of certain rooms.”
“Okay, that’s interesting,” I said. “How did you each handle Dusty when he acted inappropriately?”
“I’m embarrassed to say,” Susan said. “But there was this trainer I saw on television who emphasized the importance of being a pack leader. I followed his advice.”
“Okay, I see.” I looked at the angry little mop-head glaring at us from behind the baby gate. He had hardly moved a muscle the entire time. “I think we see where this is going, don’t we, Dusty?”
He didn’t even blink.
by Lisa Lanser-Rose
As many of you know, Wednesday I took Mick to the University of Florida’s veterinary hospital. When we arrived, I discovered that the doctor who’d been given the case the day before had turned it over to someone more experienced. “Sorry you drove all this way,” Mick’s new doctor said, “but I’m going to need a few days to absorb all this.”
Absorb? Absorb? I thought about autoimmune destruction of gastric parietal cells and stopped myself from making a bad joke.
We sat together for over an hour. He’d read for awhile, ask a few questions, and kneel down to examine Mick. “I hate to tell you this,” he finally said, “but, your dog is . . . really interesting.” He said Mick either has an extremely rare genetic disorder, perhaps something wholly new, or a rare form of something common. “Either way, this is one for the medical books.”
After he left the examining room, his student doctor stayed behind. “I have a Border Collie too. I love her to death.” She hugged Mick’s file to her chest. “I’m the one who’s going to do all the grunt work on this case.” Her eyes burned with intelligence and determination. “I’m going to discover this disease and cure Mick, I promise you. We’ll call it ‘Mick’s Syndrome.’ Or maybe it’ll be named after me.”
I smiled and wondered if I was too old for veterinary school.
Then, they sent us home to give them time to do their Mick homework–ordering more records, compiling charts and graphs, conferring with other experts, and doing research.
Anyone would be terrified if a deadly mystery illness attacked their loved one, especially one so young and full of promise as Mick. I’m remembering my friends whose children suffered. I’m in mind of the movie, Lorenzo’s Oil. Is there a Nick Nolte for Mick? Is it easier because he’s “just a dog,” or in some ways does that make it harder? I do know it’s especially painful because Mick is perfect for me. He’s exactly what I searched for: a well tempered little character, outgoing, sweet, and biddable, exceptionally well suited to my sociable nature and adventurous ways.
Instead of simply taking over my life the way Border Collies do, Mick brought with him an occupying army of new words: eucobalaminemic, neutropenia, homocysteine, aciduria, hyperkalemia, cosyntropin, neoplasm, aldosterone, cardiac collapse, and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia.
One week I’m wondering which is the best way to teach him not to jump up on people. The next I’m wondering if his neutrophils are trapped. Why is his cobalamin normal but his folate “in the basement?” What stole his ionized calcium? It was there July 2, gone July 17th! Were his white bloods cells pillaged before or after the septicemia? Nobody knows.
My husband and I were hunting for a house with a great yard for Mick. As the baffled doctors ordered increasingly obscure and expensive tests, we began to argue about when to “put on the brakes” and when to let Mick go. Mick’s illness waxes and wanes, and twice now it’s come on so strong it almost killed him. Both times we spent a staggering amount of money to save his life, but couldn’t put an end to the threat. We just had more mysteries and no answers. What’s the point of draining our savings if Mick is never going to enjoy his new yard anyway? The next attack could kill him.
In his good times, Mick’s puppy school and basic obedience trainers told me, “He’s a super-awesome dog. You two are fun to watch. You have a powerful bond.”
I’d beam and say, “Mick makes me look good.” The only thing I can take credit for is I sure chose well. Except for the deadly illness thing.
When he’s sick, doctors, specialists, nurses, and technicians look at me gravely and say, “Not a lot of people would have done this for him.”
They say, “He’s a really lucky dog.”
They say, “You’re a good mom.”
I’m touched, I’m flattered, but I’m also wondering: am I crazy?
I don’t think so. I can’t think so. As Mick’s mystery persists and his medical bills mount, love and support have risen up around us and humbled me. On social and medical networking sites, Wendy Drake, Megan Biduck-Lashinski, and Terri Florentino have rallied to beat the clock, solve the mystery, and raise funds to save Mick’s life.
Thanks in part to their efforts, more and more doctors are examining Mick’s case. Doctors and their staff tell me they lie awake at night worrying about Mick. The young doctor at UF stayed up late reading his files with her pulse racing. “It was like a television show. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, no! Does he live? Does he live?'” That now depends in part on her. I told the doctors, you better do right by Mick–over a thousand people are watching you.
Mick isn’t just lucky to have me, he’s lucky to have us, a community of people who care passionately about what happens to him. If Mick has a special bond with me, he has a special bond with all of us. Are we all crazy?
If so, crazy makes for pretty great company.
You keep me going. And I have to keep going, not just for Mick but for any other dog and family who might be stricken with this disease. If the anguish and expense of this hit-or-miss, trial-and-error, roller coaster that we’ve been on can’t help Mick and others, what is it for? We must solve this for everyone. Consider this: how many other beloved dogs did this disease kill before anyone could identify it?
With such love around us, it’s impossible to give up hope. Mick’s ups and downs are exhilarating and harrowing. He’s medically fascinating. This would be really cool if it weren’t our Mick.
Mick is here. He’s not just an interesting medical case or a novelty pet with a cross on his forehead. He’s a sweet, talented, sociable young dog who’s yapping and wants me to throw his tennis ball NOW. A week ago I thought he was dead. I’m exhausted and scared. How long will this round of good health last? Will the doctors solve the riddle in time?
For now, Mick is on an upswing. He’s had these before. Today Mick is having one healthy, boisterous hour after another. We’re going to go enjoy them while they last and hope the riddle is solved before next attack. I dread having to decide whether or not to let him, and his mystery, go.
Thanks to you, we’re far from that dreadful moment. His prospects are full of hope. You keep us going in every possible way. Thank you for caring, for keeping us company, and helping us save Mick.
What Has Your Dog Eaten?
by Lisa Lanser-Rose
Bar soap, a pump bottle of hand cream, a box of crayons, an entire can of Crisco shortening, a pumpkin (everything but the stem), a slice of pizza straight out of a stranger’s hand–all things my Pip-Thief stole and ate.
All of my dogs, from my childhood dog Patches to my present-day Mick, stole and ate food–or things I never considered food. Whatever the case, stories of the time the dog ate something forbidden, or something dangerous, or something expensive, or something impossible, or something hilarious, all become highlights in the narrative of life with our dogs. Tell us your tales! Just click on “Leave a Comment” below.
To get you started, let me ask:
- What’s your favorite “I Can’t Believe My Dog Ate It” story?
- Did your dog know it was wrong to eat something she ate?
- Did you and your dog ever disagree about what was “edible?”
- Did your dog wait until you weren’t looking?
- Were you ever afraid your dog ate something deadly?
- Did your dog ever steal a holiday meal?
And if you like stories about dogs eating what they shouldn’t, please click “like” and follow us here, and like and follow us on Facebook.