I accidentally adopted a dog.
At least accidental is how I perceived it at the time.
But that was then, and this is now.
Ultimately, I would be reminded once again that God always has a purpose in all things.
A Search I Didn’t Understand
What in the world was I doing shopping for dogs online?
I already had my hands full with two aging canines…Zorro, a Jack Russell Terrier (who was having serious health issues) and Lucy, an American Pit Bull Terrier (who had become arthritic and was slowing down considerably). And just five months prior, we had lost Chelsea, our beautiful 14-year-old Jack Russell.
In my heart of hearts, I knew that I would be facing the same inevitable fate with Zorro and Lucy at some time in the future, but what I couldn’t know is just how soon.
It’s an exercise in futility to try to steel yourself for the end of your furry friend’s life. It’s always exceedingly more than excruciatingly painful. What remains after they’re gone is a great, big hole in your everyday life. The routine of having these loving friends with you at every waking moment for more than a decade is suddenly no longer. The things they did to capture your heart are now only bittersweet memories (like the following photos I snapped only one year ago with my cell phone when I was in the kitchen baking pies for Thanksgiving). Little did I know that they wouldn’t be with me this year. How precious they were, fast asleep in Lucy’s bed.
Our four-legged creatures are family members. At least in my household, they are. My husband and I are good stewards of the animals we are blessed with. We feel it is our duty to treat them well–to commit to them and give them the best of everything. Their loyalty and undying friendship deserve nothing less.
And so it goes…in the early morning of March 28, 2014, while online, I discovered a dog rescue website. It is worth noting that I had never before adopted a dog and never before shopped for a dog online. But here I found myself on this animal rescue website, looking at a picture of what was a so-ugly-she-was-cute female Brussels-Griffon mix who was a stray. The ad on the rescue website read: My Name is Ewok. Though I have to admit that she did resemble Ewok from Star Wars, I immediately disliked the name. I felt that she deserved better. But in order to change it, I was going to have to adopt her. I recall emailing my cousin that morning with a link to the “Ewok” ad–the subject line of my email: “Have I lost my mind?” I couldn’t believe I was actually considering adopting this pitiful little thing that I had just discovered, and honestly, I was a bit befuddled about how I even got to this point.
With hearty approval from my cousin, who is herself an animal lover, the next thing I know, I’m emailing and phoning the rescue organization, informing them that it was my intention to adopt the little creature if she was still available. Of course, I had not cleared this little scheme of mine with the one that mattered most–my husband. I knew he would probably strenuously object–the loss of Chelsea was still too fresh, and with the two aging and ailing dogs we had, well, it would be an extraordinarily tough sell.
The ad, however, was appealing. It read that Ewok was spayed and house-trained and quite the character. I remember thinking, this is great! I could use this to convince my husband to allow the adoption. I would argue that we wouldn’t have all the hassle that one does with a new puppy–that this one was all ready to go–she was young (10 months) but not a baby; she was house-trained and spayed. What’s more, we would be doing a good deed by adopting a stray that needed a forever home. What could be better, right?
The Best Laid Plans
How does that saying go? It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission. Yup, that’s what I went with. But as things go, my plan and my argument fell completely apart when I learned the hard way that ads for dogs can be as misleading as any advertisement. Yes, the description for this little Ewok character turned out to be just a tad false and misleading–perhaps, not intentionally, but still, except for the cute part, completely incorrect and, what I would later discover, much worse than anyone knew.
It wasn’t long after my email inquiry to the rescue organization that I received a call from the woman who was fostering the dog. After I completed and emailed the application for the adoption and fully committed to giving the dog a forever home, to my shock, I received the following rambling email from the foster parent:
Hello i look at app and everything looks very good now a couple of things when i got her ( she was found as a stray) i took her to vet to get rabies and confirm she was spayed and he said yes so brang her home and after a week she started to get really lathatgic so i brang her to another vet and he did blood work and all her levels were off her protein everything he also said she was spayed but it turns out she was starving herself she does not eat dog food so everyday i make eggs mixed with ham and dry dog food soaked in beef or chicken brooth and boy she eats like a pig so what iam trying to tell you she likes human food and refuses to eat unless it is human food i dont know how she was before i got her but iam thinking who ever had her feed her nothing but human food so i just want to make sure that wont be a problem and also i keeped mentioning he being spay well yesterday she went into heat so a couple of dr were wrong but i also thought she was spayed because she has the scar but anyways i need to get her fixed also her adoption fee is $250 she is about 11 months old and we are working on potty training if you bring her to training and she finishes you will get the $50 back now the adoption fee pays for the spay lol microchip, bordatella, parvo distemper and rabies shot i just wanted to make sure that this was all ok before we proceed i really do think she would be a good fit for you and just fyi she is a clown ugh how to explain but she makes me laugh lol so just let me know k
I couldn’t believe what I was reading, and this was from, as far as I knew, a professional dog rescue organization. I have seen some poorly written and crafted emails in my time, but this really took the cake. Once I was able to decipher the run-on paragraph, having zero punctuation, I was even more disturbed to learn of the serious revelation about the animal’s overall health.
A diet of Ham and eggs? Really?
Not house-trained and not spayed? Yikes!
How was I going to explain all this to my husband?
I considered declining the adoption. This was definitely not what I had bargained for. I had enough on my hands with Zorro and Lucy. I didn’t need another sick dog, much less a dog that was in heat and not potty trained. What kind of mess did I get myself into?
Something inside me was determined to see this through. So I braced myself and forged ahead anyway (in spite of my still not having mentioned anything about my plan to my husband). I knew this poor little thing needed help, and soon. I responded to the foster parent’s completely incoherent email and insisted that the dog be brought to my home immediately, and we would consider the adoption final. However, the rescue organization, citing their policy, insisted on a 30-day probationary period and the dog be spayed first.
There was no way I was going to let them take her to a spay mill…so I informed the rescue organization and the foster parent that I felt that she was too sick to spay and that an exception should be made in this case. I suggested that I would pay to take her to my own Veterinarian to have the spay performed only if (and when) my Vet felt that she was healthy enough to undergo the procedure.
Long story short, after much cajoling and maybe a large verbal shove or two, the foster parent agreed to bring her to our home the following day, on March 29, 2014, incredibly only one day after I had first discovered her online. That night I broke the news to my husband. Let’s just say there was a spirited debate between us on why this soon-to-be adoption was not a good idea. I thought it was a good time to start begging for that forgiveness I mentioned earlier. It was probably not the way to go, but the deed was done, and I insisted that what I committed to could not be undone.
The foster parent arrived as agreed and apologized as she shoved the little foundling into my arms, declaring: Sorry, she went into heat yesterday. Under my breath, I mumbled, Oh, that’s just great.
Just like that, I had adopted a dog that was full-on in heat and wasn’t house trained, not by a long shot. She squatted the minute she came into the house. My husband was livid, though he didn’t utter a word. Adding insult to injury, in his presence, I forked over $200 in cash to the foster parent, which represented the adoption fee. I failed or neglected or omitted to tell my husband about this little detail during the whole begging for forgiveness spiel. At that point, I wished I had asked for permission. It would have been much easier.
I knew I had my work cut out for me all the way around. I now had a dog that I didn’t quite know what to do with, and I needed to somehow convince my husband that we did the right thing by adopting her.
I certainly received a quick education in rescue organizations. While they do much good and are made up of volunteers, which is admirable, not everyone is qualified to be a foster parent for these dogs. I was appalled at how unprofessional and haphazard the process was.
My husband, not at all happy with me, immediately renamed her Pearl. I was relieved that he volunteered for this responsibility–it meant that he was softening a bit and was on his way to accepting her. He knew, come what may, there was no dissuading me from my commitment, so I am sure he figured he might as well just surrender. He knows me all too well. Once I commit to something, there’s no turning back.
Zorro and Lucy were excited to get acquainted with our new little addition, who apparently had never been groomed. Pearl was a ball of every-which-way fur. The usual butt-sniffing and general mayhem went on for some time. Not much fun for humans. But once things settled down a bit, they all seemed to get along just fine. Pearl was particularly drawn to Lucy, as you can see in the photo below. They were instant friends.
With things fairly under control, I left my reluctant husband in charge of the dogs and raced to PetSmart to pick up something for Pearl’s rear end. I hoped that PetSmart would have something for dogs in heat. I grabbed from the shelf what I thought would work, and I was home in a jiffy.
The next couple of days were spent settling in, potty training, and pretty much cleaning up after Pearl 24-7. Besides being a little on the scruffy side, Pearl had quite a personality, and she managed to grow on us quickly. I did notice, however, that she was quite thin and more than a little on the lethargic side for a dog so young. She had diarrhea which I immediately attributed to the poor diet she had been fed. However, I was confident that I would have her ship-shape in no time once I was able to get some good nutrition into her. Boy, was I wrong.
Pearl refused all of the commercial dog food I put in front of her. It didn’t matter what it was (except Ham and eggs, of course). I was used to dogs that would eat anything and be grateful to get it. I tried every conceivable way to get her to eat the dog food I had on hand but to no avail. She had been ruined with Ham and eggs. I finally got her to eat some premium (overpriced) dog food–you know, the kind in the refrigerated case at the pet food stores. But then started the real frustration–she began to vomit everything. I tried all I could think of to keep the food down. I must have spent a small fortune in the first couple of days on food. No matter what, within an hour of eating, the food would be all over my floor. She just couldn’t afford to lose any more weight. When I picked her up, she felt like a skeleton–you could feel every bone in her body.
I was beginning to realize that Pearl was very ill, much sicker than I initially thought. I agonized over her health and fretted about her day and night. I started to think she might not make it and regretted the adoption. That’s what I get, I told myself, for rushing into something without thinking it over first. It was so difficult watching her deteriorate. But then I thought, who else would have adopted her, given her condition? Likely no one. Then I felt guilty for regretting the adoption. The poor thing needed someone to love her, even if she didn’t have long. I was an emotional wreck and didn’t know what to do for her.
Heartbreak Upon Heartbreak
Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation. — Khalil Gibran
If Pearl was not enough of a concern, it happened that in the wee hours of the morning on April 1, just three days after Pearl arrived, my little man, Zorro, became very sick. I spent most of the early morning hours trying to calm and comfort him. The morning seemed like it would never come. Time crawled as I frantically waited for the Vet’s office to open.
At 9 a.m. on April 2, 2014, I left Pearl in my husband’s charge and rushed Zorro to the Vet.
I wasn’t at all (not even a little bit) prepared for what came next.
There is nothing to be done, the doctor reported.
Zorro was beyond saving.
I told myself the right thing to do was to let him go. But I didn’t want to believe it. You always second-guess yourself when making such a hard and unnatural decision. Could I have done more? Should I have done more?
So as I came to the painful realization that he would not be coming home with me alive, I made the best of the time we had left. I held his shivering and shaking body close and hugged him tightly. I whispered my inadequate goodbye, telling him how much I appreciated his loving friendship over the last 14 years. I told him that I loved him and that I would miss him terribly. As I sat waiting in that small, cold exam room, dreading the opening of the door and the coming of the deadly concoction at the doctor’s return, there was a brief moment when he looked up at me. I know Zorro sensed what was coming, almost as if to say he was ready to go.
I lovingly stroked him as the doctor did his duty, and as I felt Zorro’s spirit ebb away, the doctor said: He’s chasing butterflies now. At that moment, I wondered if he really believed it or if it was just something this Vet said to everyone in the same situation–his way of dealing with the uncomfortable, unpleasantness of it all. Tears streamed down my face, and I wept bitterly. He was my boy, and now he was gone. The finality of it all was overwhelming. His body, finally still, somehow looked smaller now that his spirit was gone. What would I do without him?
I brought Zorro home wrapped in a large white towel (compliments of the Vet). I wasn’t going to leave him there to be incinerated. He deserved better. The drive home was so surreal as I glanced at the bundle, blurred by tears, that lay in the passenger’s seat next to me.
My husband, who saw me carrying the large white bundle from the car, ran to meet me. He took Zorro from my arms, and together we lovingly buried him, and together we grieved.
When I think of all the dogs I’ve had over the years, Zorro was truly the best of all the canine friends I’ve ever had. He was always, and I mean always, by my side–loving and loyal to the end. He and Chelsea (she is pictured above) were the inspiration for the children’s book I wrote and published in 2000, titled ZZ Dogs. This book serves as an indelible memory of these two very special animals who brought joy to so many.
My grief for the loss of Zorro was tempered by Pearl. She needed much care and attention, and I was suddenly grateful for having adopted her. Pearl’s illness and my determination to help her kept me going.
I also had Lucy to consider. It was clear that she missed Zorro. They were great friends. She looked out the door for him often, but alas, he wouldn’t return to her. Lucy was forced to settle for Pearl as her new companion. Things would never be the same.
It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn
Over the next few weeks, Pearl’s health grew worse. What little food I could get her to eat just wouldn’t hold. Up it would come. She was losing weight at an alarming rate, and she was beyond lethargic. A visit to the Veterinarian revealed that she had a heart murmur and her blood levels were critical. I was told she was in liver failure. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to hear it. I was heartbroken and frustrated. The doctor informed me that there wasn’t much hope for her and that she would likely need an ultrasound and expensive liver shunt surgery (which I was told may or may not fix the problem) and that she would likely have to be on medication the rest of her life. I had no earthly idea what the heck liver shunt surgery was, but it didn’t sound good. I was told that a regular diet of Ham is toxic to a dog’s liver and should never, ever be fed to a dog. I wondered if things would have been different if the foster parent that was responsible for Pearl’s care had not fed her Ham.
Spaying her at this point was completely out of the question. She was too sick to undergo anesthesia.
Pearl was too young to be this sick. It just couldn’t be. I was devastated by all the news, and as I drove home from the Vet’s office, with Pearl lying in the passenger’s seat next to me, through tears, I cursed the rescue organization for their stupidity and ignorance. But I knew that anger and blaming others weren’t going to help Pearl’s cause.
I thought of Zorro and what a healthy dog he had been for 14 years. I missed him so much.
How can this be happening? What was God up to?
I didn’t want to put Pearl through such a serious and life-threatening surgery only to have it not work. There had to be another way.
My husband suggested putting her down.
No, I snapped at my husband. You can’t mean that.
I thought it was a cruel thing for him to say, but he wasn’t being cruel, just practical and truthful.
He said This is no quality of life for Pearl. She can’t keep food down, and she’s chronically sick. You have to do something.
As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. I had to do something, so I earnestly prayed for wisdom.
God, what should I do? Help me! I don’t believe you brought this little one into our lives only to take her away.
I couldn’t think about putting another dog to sleep–not Pearl. She was such a sweet girl. I refused to even consider it an option.
On April 28th, one month after Pearl came to us, and after trying everything I knew to change the tide, I went to work researching the Vet’s recently diagnosed condition, looking for a miracle for Pearl.
I Googled “liver shunt surgery,” which ultimately led me to: Rick and Cindy’s–DogLiverShunt.com.
The first words I read on the website were: Welcome to our natural healing website for Dog Liver Shunt, Hepatic Microvascular Dysplasia, and poor liver health in dogs.
Rick & Cindy claimed to help dogs with liver disease and other health issues and offered a free consultation. Being the skeptic I am, I immediately thought: yeah, right, so what’s the catch? I began to read the countless reviews and testimonials on the website, and I was impressed. Natural healing sounded good to me. I knew there had to be something positive about this find, and so for the first time in a while, I finally had hope and I believe, an answer to prayer.
That day I took Rick & Cindy up on their offer of a free consultation. Following is the message I sent to them:
Help! About a month ago, we adopted a Brussels Griffon female from a dog rescue. The foster parent that had her was feeding her eggs with Ham because she wouldn’t eat dog food. Since we have had her, we have been feeding her the expensive refrigerated kind of dog food–PetFresh Select. She does eat this eagerly, but throws it up. We have had two blood tests–both of them showing abnormal liver levels. We also just completed another test–the vet is going to suggest an ultrasound, biopsy and surgery. There has to be a better way. We are quite concerned about our little girl and don’t want to lose her. PLEASE CAN YOU HELP?
To my surprise, I received an immediate response with a questionnaire to complete outlining Pearl’s health. I immediately completed it and emailed Pearl’s health records. Two days later, Rick called me (which was a delightful and unexpected surprise), and he suggested an immediate change in Pearl’s diet which he specifically designed for her based on my answers to the questionnaire. Rick talked me off the ledge and gave me hope that Pearl’s liver could regenerate and recover without the need for surgery or medication. Pearl’s new diet included puréed raw organic vegetables, significantly decreased protein (steamed chicken or white fish), raw organic coconut water, organic coconut oil, goat milk yogurt, and raw fruits like apples and bananas, plus nutritional supplements.
I followed Rick’s advice and instructions exactly. The results were instantaneous. It was an amazing turnaround.
Below are a couple of photos of what I call Pearl’s Parfait (one chopped organic apple, drizzled with raw honey and mixed with 1/2 cup of Goat-milk yogurt). This is Pearl’s favorite mid-day snack, and she never lets me forget it. She is also fed a teaspoon of Artisana Raw Coconut Oil daily, as well as Harmless Harvest Raw Coconut Water mixed with Probiotics. The diet she is on now is so much more fun than feeding inferior commercial dog food. Sure, it’s a little extra work, but she enjoys it so much, and I have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what she’s eating because I prepare it myself. The Vet could have never done this for Pearl–expensive surgery and medication were completely unnecessary, and Pearl is a living example of how a natural approach can make a huge difference in a dog’s health. I have learned much from Rick & Cindy as I went through this process. It’s been quite a journey and an education in proper nutrition for Pearl or any dog that may come into my care in the future.
Within just a couple of days of changing her diet, Pearl was no longer vomiting. Her energy level suddenly increased, and she was eager to play with Lucy. Even though Lucy wasn’t so eager to play with her, Lucy did try, and for an old gal, she was good to Pearl.
Below is a photograph of Pearl when she was very ill. She had never been groomed, and underneath all that fur was a sickly frame of skin and bone.
Below is a photograph of Pearl only a few weeks after feeding the special diet and supplements Rick designed for her. In the photo, she eagerly waits to be fed. As you can see, I also gave her good grooming. She was, all at once, a completely different dog. The relief I felt was indescribable. I was so grateful for the reversal.
Rick did warn me that Pearl might go through further liver detoxification episodes and that there might be times when she could possibly get worse before she got better. And indeed, there were a few of these episodes.
But here we are on December 1, 2014. Pearl has been with us for eight months now. It’s been seven months since I first contacted Rick & Cindy, who were there for me every step of the way (at no charge, I might add), and I am pleased to report that Pearl is doing very well. She was doing so well that we were finally able to have her spayed last month (November 2014). Our Vet was stunned by the remarkable change. Pearl was less than nine pounds when she came to us. Today, she’s a chubby 15 pounds (it’s the daily Pearl Parfait), and we recently had to adjust her harness accordingly as her girth has significantly increased. She is now a well-adjusted little pooch who is also fully house-trained, I might add. She is the joy of my life (and my husband’s too); an affectionate little girl and so well-behaved.
I am so thankful for Rick & Cindy’s help, support, and dedication to Pearl and all the sick dogs and humans they have helped in the past and all those they will be sure to help in the future. If it had not been for Rick & Cindy, I really don’t know what I would have done.
A Bittersweet Miracle
Sadly, on November 2, 2014, we lost our gorgeous Lucy girl when she fell critically ill; she was nearly 11 years old. She, too is now chasing the butterflies with her buddy, Zorro. They sleep together side by side.
So you see, looking back, it all makes perfect sense. What seemed accidental at the time was not accidental at all. I searched for Pearl that day (March 28, 2014) because God knew, as He always does, that within a short seven months, we would lose our last two family members, two of our very best friends.
God knew I would need Pearl just as much as Pearl needed me.
Pearl saved me–she rescued me from overwhelming heartache and loss, and today, she never leaves my side. She is a happy, healthy, precious little miracle.
God is so good!