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Dusty, Part 3

Nature, Nurture, and Dusty

by Terri Florentino

“What exactly do you mean by, ‘pack mentality?’” I asked Susan.

Unhappy Dusty

“I’m not sure Dusty knows what fun is.”

Behind the baby gate, Dusty blinked at the three of us sitting around the dining room table, blowing our noses and deciding his fate.

“A take-charge attitude. I was the ‘Alpha,’ not Dusty.” Susan said she followed what she’d learned from the dog-training television show. “When Dusty would resource-guard something I’d try to intimidate him into releasing it. I’d get very close to him, use a sharp guttural tone and order him to, ‘Leave it!’”

“What happened?”

“Well,” she said with a rueful laugh, “that never worked, so I did like the expert said and picked him up and angled his head towards the floor. A few times this did work.  He’d drop it.” Before long, however, he began to threaten her with an uncompromising growl.

“He bit me,” Robert said. “Again and again. I’d only yank something away from him if I thought he had a hold of something dangerous. He broke my skin every time!”

Dusty had never been a social butterfly with strangers. His normal response was to walk away. As Dusty neared a year old, when people reached to pet him, he showed his teeth, growled and lunged.

"Sarah adores him."

“Sarah adores him.”

“Even though he’s gotten to be such an unpleasant, and even dangerous little character, I love him.” Susan paused to collect herself, and I thought she might need another tissue. “Our daughter Sarah adores him. He’s never gone after me or the kids.”

“He’d be gone,” Robert said. “In a heartbeat.”

Susan squeezed his hand. “Look, Dusty was supposed to be our pet. The family pet. It’s not fair for Rob to live in fear in his own home, terrorized by a fluff ball.”

We all glanced at the fluff ball. He hadn’t moved. I started to wonder if he wasn’t a stuffed toy. He sure was cute.

“Now that he’s trying to bite other people, we’re at our wit’s end. We just can’t live like this. We can’t live with a dangerous dog.” She had steeled herself. She wasn’t going to cry.

Not knowing where to turn, Susan emailed Dusty’s breeder with her concerns about his behavior. To her surprise, the breeder replied that she and her family must have harmed him and ruined him. She refused to take him back, under any circumstances. “If you can’t handle him, you’ll have to euthanize him.”

“Euthanasia was not an option. I could not kill my daughter’s dog.” Susan reached for the tissues. “I started to believe the breeder was right. I must have ruined Dusty.” Even though she’d been following all the techniques of the well known television trainer, she suspected she’d only made things worse.

“Once the vet did a physical and blood work on Dusty, and everything came back normal, she told us to call you. She said your experience and motivational approach would be our best option.”

“Let’s get started,” I said. I sighed and thought for a moment. Some things were hard to say. “The first thing I want you to understand is that a certain percentage of personality traits are inherited and indelible.” I turned to Susan. “Based on your description of Dusty’s behavior right from the start, I’m certain that some of what you are seeing is his genetic baseline personality.”

“So he was born this way? And he’s always going to be like this?” Susan teared up. “I’m sorry. This is just so sad.”

“No, no! Don’t apologize. Your heart is breaking. I get it. I’ve been there. And I’m not saying things can’t get better for Dusty. This goes back to the nature-versus-nurture debate. Nobody’s entirely sure how much of each influences personality. All we know for sure is that a certain percentage of both are factored into the final product.”

Susan balled the tissue in her fist and looked at her hands. “I should’ve done things differently. It never felt right. I ruined Dusty.”

“No. It is both nature and nurture, but you still can’t blame yourself. Look, a dog with Dusty’s issues has to be handled very carefully, and you couldn’t have known that. You did your best. You’re still doing your best, and that’s awesome.”

Susan and Robert nodded. They smiled.

"We need to lower his anxiety."

“We need to lower his anxiety.”

“Before we can teach him new skills, we need to lower his anxiety.” I recommended that they talk to their veterinarian about anxiety medication.

“You’re kidding me,” Susan said.

“That’s interesting,” Robert said. “I’d heard about it. People do it all the time. I just hadn’t thought of Dusty as anxious.”

“He’s afraid,” I said. “He was afraid before you met him.” I also explained what I refer to as, “the nothing for free concept.” This theory is based on controlling all resources. “Anything of value to your dog must be earned.” Into his daily routine we would integrate positive, reward-based motivational techniques. “All of this has to be fun, okay? Fun for you, fun for Dusty.” I turned toward the pup behind the gate and in my best, “Oh, boy!” voice I said,  “Right, Dusty?”

He slid to the floor and dropped his head on his paws with a grunt.

“Fun?” Robert said. “I’m not sure Dusty knows what fun is.”

I’d love that. I want him to enjoy his little life,” Susan said.

“Okay. We make him feel safe. We set him up for success,” I said. “Deal?”

We had a deal.

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Home-Office Essentials

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Dusty, Part 2

Dust Comes Home

by Terri Florentino

Winter Dusty'

“There was nothing normal about him.”

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.

Nothing made him happy

“Nothing we did made him happy.”

“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.”

Really sad Dusty

“He seemed depressed.”

“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.

"I wondered if he was resource-guarding me."

“I wondered if he was resource-guarding me.”

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?”

"He just seemed to tolerate the kids and me."

“It seemed like he was only putting up with me and the kids.”

“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.

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What Mick’s Teaching Me

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The Doctor Calls

Yesterday afternoon while I was waiting by the phone, the doctor had already called. He’d called the cell number I’d left the day I was in Gainesville so he could reach me on the road. Yesterday I’d left him the house number–my cell gets no signal in this house. This kind of thing has happened before.

We were waiting all day!

We were waiting all day!

He left me a long message. The summary goes something like this:

“I need more time. If Mick is still strong, I’d like to take the weekend. There are more records I want to pull. I have a pretty good idea what we have here, but I’ll need about a half hour to explain. I’m thinking it’s not just one disease, but several. By Monday I’ll have a plan and an estimate of the costs, and we’ll have to decide together if you want to do it all at once or in stages. If Mick isn’t okay this weekend, call me right away. Otherwise, let’s talk Monday. Plan for a half hour.”

Mick Goes to Gainesville

by Lisa Lanser-Rose

Gainesville

Hoping for an answer and a cure

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.”

Gainseville sent us home

UF Sent Mick Home

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. 

We're afraid we'll never be safe.

In the hospital.

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.

Alby loves his "brakkie."

Alby loves his sweet “brakkie.”

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.

A Super-Awesome Dog

Mick at school: a super-awesome dog

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?

Pawfund raiserI 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.

Everybody Loves Mick

Everybody Loves Mick

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.

Taken today. "Throw. The. BALL!"

Taken today. “Throw. The. BALL!”

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.

Keeping Mick

Mick is always ready for anything.

Mick is ready for anything.

Terri and I want to apologize and thank you for your patience. Our work here has come to a halt since Mick, of “Finding Mick,” suffered his second mysterious and potentially fatal health crisis. I’ve been distracted, distraught, and exhausted. Terri, with the help of her friend and colleague Megan Biduk-Lashinski, has been researching and networking, doing her part to save him.

Ears!

The Ash Wednesday Dog

Born with the mark of a cross on his forehead, Mick is the inspiration for the “Inquisitor” in our name and the model for many of our posters and promos.

In September he turned one year old. He was the runt of his litter, but I didn’t choose him because he was small and frail. Quite the opposite–he was small, yet anything but frail. I wanted a courageous, independent, outgoing canine partner, a dog who could meet the world with a frank and friendly attitude. Mick has been that dog.

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Mick likes to help me with my chores.

I expected Mick to be hard-headed. I was braced for a disciplinary challenge, but he turned out to be eager to please me always.  He’s been at my side wherever pet laws allow, and then some. He’s completed puppy class and beginning obedience and is slated for introduction to agility. I teach in a public school, where Mick instantly became a beloved mascot. He frequents local businesses and restaurants. Around town, people are starting to recognize him, “Oh, that’s the famous Mick!”

His failure to thrive began early. We’ve spent a lot of time in local pet food shops, where his charm inspired employees to try to find a food to please and nourish him. Like many of his breed, he’s spooky-smart, but he’s also sublimely sweet, unflappable, and ready for anything.

His last trainer said, “I’ve seen a lot of awesome dogs. Mick is a super-awesome dog.”

Mick with his Uncle Pike.

Mick tries to keep up with his Uncle Pike.

DSC06785This past July Mick spent eight days in intensive care. Last week, he again required round-the-clock care, this time for four days. As in July, doctors have run every test they can think of to figure out what’s trying to kill our Mick. Again and again, test results come back normal–or if they’re abnormal, they’re mystifying. It’s now clear that Mick is fighting a rare and deadly disease. He’s been recovering quickly from his latest “crash,” but we’re still waiting for a diagnosis and praying for a cure.

P1030446While we await the latest test results, Mick is back at home and gaining strength. Terri and I began work on a new series of “Dusty” stories for you. We’ll keep you posted about Mick’s outcome.

It was a long journey finding Mick. It’s been a long year trying to keep him. I feel certain we’re close to a diagnosis and a cure. He loves and is loved by way too many people–nobody’s losing Mick!

Love Me, Love My Lookalike

Do You and Your Dog Look Alike?

by Lisa Lanser-Rose

dogsowners

From Cesar Canine Cuisine

We want to see! Email us your photos and a few words about the two of you to bordercollieinquisitor@gmail.com. We’ll feature you and your lookalike in our special Twins Issue.

Studies confirm that people tend to choose dogs who look like them. Vanity? Familiarity? Call it what you will, but it’s human nature. In this picture, I’m with three dogs. If you didn’t know us, which one would you think was mine?

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Even though I love my little Border Collie Mick to pieces, if I had to choose among these three, I might have chosen the tall, curly-haired, golden Labradoodle. I felt a powerful, inexplicable connection between us . . .

We’d love to see you and your best lookalike friend. Email us your photos and a few words to bordercollieinquisitor@gmail.com for our special Twins Issue, coming soon.

 

Good News, Everyone!

Giddy goofy!Mick and the rest of us at BCI

wish you a happy weekend!

Meet the Royal Bahamian Potcake

Our Potcake

by Kristin Strong

On August, 2004 we arrived in Nassau, Bahamas for a much-needed vacation. Once we completed checking into our hotel, we took our first walk on beautiful Cable Beach. While walking John and I saw a couple of dogs roaming around the resort. They appeared unwell and malnourished. I later learned that the Bahamian people viewed these feral dogs as a nuisance. They would shoot or poison them. They feared their presence would drive away the tourists that provided their livelihood.

Xuma beacherOn the second day of our vacation, I noticed one particular stray dog hanging around our hotel beach. I said, “John, do you see that dog chewing on a coconut shell? He’s so thin, and look at all the bloody sores.”

John declared with a sigh, “I see. The poor pup.”

One night after dinner, we brought him some filet mignon. Careful not to scare him away, John and I approached the famished, feeble creature. He hesitated—we knew it would take time and patience to earn his trust. After a moment’s indecision, he meekly approached and delicately lifted the piece of meat from John’s hand.

He’d retreat a few safe steps away from us, then devour the meat and return for more. After he’d eaten several bites, he began dashing off with the rest to bury it in the sand.

Xuma beach“Look, do you see what he’s doing?” John asked, obviously amused.

“He must be saving some for later.”

 We nicknamed our new friend Xuma. We decided that we had to do something to help our new friend. We found a brochure for an organization, Proud Paws, run by a British Veterinarian, Dr. Peter Bizzell out of the Palmdale Veterinary Clinic in downtown Nassau. We scheduled an appointment.  

Xuma lounge chairThe night before the appointment we planned to keep Xuma with us. We lured him with food until he got close enough to lasso with a rope we found dangling from a life preserver. Knowing pets were not allowed in the hotel we sat outside on patio chairs until all of the guests where settled in for the night. Once the coast was clear, we whisked Xuma into our arms and snuck him into our room. Xuma slept soundly. I am sure he knew we were there to take care of him and he appeared to trust us more with each passing minute.

When Dr. Bizzel met us in the examination room, he took one look at Xuma and exclaimed, “You got yourselves a Potcake!”

It turned out, “Potcake” is the Bahamian term for the thick, leftover food that remains in the bottom of a pot of peas and rice after several reheatings. Traditionally, Bahamians fed potcake to the indigenous dogs that freely populated the Bahamas. Hence the dogs have come to be known as Potcakes.

As he examined Xuma, Dr. Bizzel explained that some believe the original Potcakes came to the Bahamas with the Arawak Indians from Central or South America. Until very recently, all island dogs shared the same isolated gene pool.  “Potcakes are as close to nature’s perfect genotype dog as possible,” he said. “It’s an extremely unique species of canine.”

Some islands’ Potcakes look more like the typical “pariah dog” found in locales such as India and North Africa. They have smooth, short fur with little or no undercoat, cocked ears, a hound-like rib cage, and long terrier-shaped faces. More rare are the shaggy or rough-coat Potcakes but they do occur naturally. While the typical Potcake is brown, colors range from black, white, cream, yellow, and red. Adults stand about twenty-four inches high at the shoulder. Normal adult weight in the bush is about thirty-five pounds. Healthy, homed Potcakes can weigh anywhere from forty-five to fifty-five pounds. They have distinct characteristics of size and temperament. The Royal Bahamian Potcake is now a recognized breed in The Bahamas.

Dr. Bizzel vaccinated, dewormed, and treated Xuma for sarcoptic mange. We also had him neutered. Dr. Bizzel determined that he was around seven to nine months old.  He only weighed twenty-four pounds.

John asked, “What will become of him now?”

“You have two options,” Dr. Bizzel said. “Either release him back to the island or take him home with you.”

“Fly him back to the U.S.?” John asked, bewildered. It sounded like an impossible journey.

Dr. Bizzell responded with certainty, “Sure, no problem. I’ll have Jackie help you with the paperwork.”

Off we went with his assistant, Jackie, to the Bahamas Board of Health to complete the paperwork to take Xuma home. We had to purchase a crate. We thought we had a setback when we learned that Xuma couldn’t travel on the same airplane home with us. Our airline only flew turbo prop planes into the islands, and it would be too hot in the cargo area for a live animal. He’d have to fly on a different airline, so we bought him his own an airline ticket

When the day arrived for us to fly home we took Xuma to his check-in counter. Before placing him in the crate, I bent down next to him. I hadn’t realized how attached I’d gotten until I thought about how frightened he’d be alone in the belly of the plane. I felt tears on my cheeks and whispered in his ear, “You be a good boy, Xuma. I promise John and I will be there for you once you arrive in Philadelphia.”

Xuma was already visibly terrified by the airport, and so could offer no alleviation to our own anxiety. I put Xuma in the crate, closed the door, turned, and walked away.

“Just focus on the moment when we’ll be reunited,” John said. “We’re doing the right thing, Kristen.”

The flight arrived in Philadelphia right on time. We were elated to be reunited with our Xuma! We couldn’t wait to get him home to introduce him to our other dog, Buddy. In time, they would become the best of buddies.

XumaThe first month, he nearly doubled his weight, and his fur eventually grew back. Sometimes we still observe his survival instinct. Just like on that sandy beach when Xuma buried the steak, he will, on occasion bury a treat in our back yard. His prey drive still run deep in his veins; there’s rarely an opportunity for wild vermin to make it out of our yard alive. One of our favorite pastimes is to take the dogs hiking. Xuma with his inbred and intuitive nature will always lead us to the simplest and safest way up and down the mountain.

Only two weeks after we brought Xuma home Nassau was hit with an intense hurricane. We often wonder had we not brought Xuma home if we would have survived the storm.

IMG_2040 familyWe feel blessed to have found him. We know that fate brought us together that day will be forever grateful. We all live happily together, myself, John, Buddy, and our son, born after we brought Xuma home, Patrick.

Potcakes are an excellent choice for people who want to share their lives with an intelligent, quick-witted, and bonded companion. They’re graceful runners, intuitive, empathetic, and the right match for someone who wants a long-term, interactive relationship with another intelligent species.