No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself
~ Dean Koontz
I had no business saying, ‘YES.’ We already had two canine kids – a boxer we rescued and a seven-year-old dachshund who was still angry we had disrupted her life with a large and hyper giant.
But, I couldn’t leave this 6-week-old injured puppy at the veterinarian’s office after they called me to see if I could offer her a safe home.
When I first met the dapple dachshund, she had two drainage tubes, multiple stitches and a tail that was broken in 2 places. She was nothing less than pitiful – yet, adorable as little creatures with pink paws and puppy breath are.
While being raised in a puppy mill, she had ended up in the middle of two adult dogs fighting over food. The breeder abandoned her at the vet’s office after being told she would never be able to have puppies.
I’m not sure I had even left the premises before I was calling my then-husband to plea the case for a third dog. It was a petition that needed no more evidence than a hand to paw meeting.
But, my little Gretchen had a three-week stay at the animal hospital before she could come to her new home. I visited her almost every day and the innocent puppy, once betrayed, gradually allowed herself to experience devotion, dedication and loyalty.
Her allegiance was with me, when four months later, I was separated and divorced. I kept Gertie Mae and Gretchen, the dachshunds, and the boxer left with the husband. It was a sad parting for us all.
Those pups were my healing when I didn’t see the possibility of restoration. They sat with me through the tears, angst, and doubts of my loneliness. They unknowingly mended my brokenness with their faithfulness.
Occasionally, I would meet someone who understood the saving grace Gertie and Gretchen extended to me. The girls were a good test of character – better than any psychological evaluation I could complete.
After almost five of years of living single, I met and married The Engineer. He was dachshund-approved even though we agreed on a ‘no-kid, no-dog in our bed’ policy.
Gretchen was spunky and sneaky. She would be the one to find – and taste – things in our 60-year-old home that had gone unnoticed for decades. A couple of after-hours vet calls taught me that hydrogen-peroxide ingested via a syringe would quickly produce evidence of what “treasures” she had found.
She chewed through plenty of cloth bags and plastic containers for items most would consider inedible. Gretchen seemed to have a stomach of steel and a determination of survival, which she had learned as that helpless young pup in the midst of an adult dog brawl she almost lost.
Gretchen seemed to age quickly following Gertie Mae’s tragic and unexpected death in 2010. She was obviously depressed and who isn’t cheered up with a new puppy? We adopted a five-month-old long-haired male dachshund and named him Hansel.
Gretchen was not amused.
To ensure Gretchen felt loved, appreciated and remained Queen of her domain – The Engineer established a morning ritual. Gretchen would be delivered with my coffee for snuggles.
She became my writing partner. Gretchen was more patient with my writer’s block than I was. I often had to coax her out of the burrow she created beside me every morning.
Gretchen was constant and persistent in her love and protection of me. She snapped at The Engineer more than once when would try to pick her up if the writing and snuggles were not completed.
Hansel adored his older sister and would dote on her and engage her in play as much as possible. The love was obviously mutual – most of the time.
Gretchen would occasionally vie for our attention with a limp or refusal to eat. We would obediently take her to the vet, rarely coming home with any diagnosis. The prescribed remedy typically included more intentional attention from these busy humans. It was always a good reminder for us to slow down.
Last week, when Gretchen turned her nose up to the gourmet, grain-free, gluten-free beef-stew canine meals, we assumed it was due to the true chaos in our home as we began a huge demolition and renovation project in our home’s main living area.
When she decided to stay in her crate one day, we thought maybe she was experiencing some pain from assumed arthritis. We couldn’t seem to convince Gretchen that jumping from the back of the couch onto hardwood flooring to greet us was not necessary nor good for her back.
However, by Friday, it was obvious that Gretchen was truly not feeling well and a visit to the vet was warranted. Kidney failure was not the diagnosis we expected. And 48 hours of obvious suffering was heartbreaking to see.
Our family rules were broken and Gretchen was beside me every waking and sleeping moment…just as she had been by my side 11 years earlier through my emotional suffering.
We allowed Gretchen to join Gertie Mae in that amazing Dog Heaven on Monday morning. We know and believe Gretchen is running, chasing squirrels and eating whatever she finds with no belly aches to follow.
Thank you, sweet Gretchen for your unconditional love. I didn't rescue you - you rescued me.
Believe. Create. Live.
© 2014 Rebecca G. Townsend
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