Last Friday I had to make the dreaded visit to the veterinarian with my first-born fur baby Mousey. In addition to the general fact that he’s no spring chicken at 14 years old, the last few months of back and forth from Tri-Cities to Nashville has really worn him down. While his appetite hasn’t changed, he has lost a bit of weight and there has been a dramatic increase in his water consumption- both of which are NOT good signs for dogs. Upon relaying this info to the staff at the vet, the obvious worry from their end did not ease my fears in the least. They took blood and after a torturous 20-minute wait for processing, we finally received the results-the cantankerous thing is as healthy as a horse. He’s just old.
This scare was a real wake-up call regarding the bond between me and my dogs. It’s cliché to say it, but they ARE my children. In the 14 years since I adopted Mousey from the Washington County Animal Shelter, he’s been by my side for every major event of my adult life, while the other two dogs joined 12 ½ and 4 years ago. College graduation, 3 moves, a wedding, a divorce, true love, heartbreak, every celebration and every loss, they have always been there at the end of the day to love me unconditionally. Dogs are amazing in that way and that’s why we don’t deserve them.
I can vividly remember the first time I laid eyes on each of my little critters. On the day I found Mousey, I went to visit with the dogs at the shelter, as I used to do frequently during my early years of college. There he was, all 5lbs of him, alone and scared in an otherwise empty concrete stall. He’s always been so timid and anxious, even at 4 months old. I knew I couldn’t let him spend a second longer in there. So I paid his fee and within 2 days he had been neutered, vaccinated and was ready for pickup. I brought him home to my little 400 square foot apartment on the Tree Streets, where he had his own comfy bed, toys and all the food and treats he could ask for, and for about a year and a half it was just the two of us. But I was busy working two jobs and attending school full-time and he was lonely. Thus began my search for the perfect little companion, and that’s when I discovered Small Breed Rescue of East Tennessee (SBRET) on Facebook. There amongst all the other happy hairy faces was the sweetest white chihuahua with big dark brown eyes. His name was “Wizard,” which was a stupid name, but I was drawn to him and he was the same age as Mouse, so a home visit was arranged and within a few weeks he was welcomed into our little pack as well. It took almost no time at all for his feisty personality to begin to show and a name change was in order. Watching the reign of terror a dog that small could bring upon grown men was almost comical, so I named him Skeletor after my favorite cartoon villain. He was the exact antithesis of Mousey and they were the perfect match of yin and yang.
Finally, in 2015, it was 10 years after the first adoption and what feels like a lifetime had elapsed. I had puppy fever. I was newly married and realized the other two were hitting middle age. As I was scrolling my Facebook feed, I saw a picture of a shaggy Pomeranian mix with the cutest underbite I’d ever seen. A girl from my high school was giving him away and yet again, something inside me said I could not let this dog go. I was a bit hesitant because my dogs are pretty bonded and I didn’t know how and if they would accept him. I’ll let you know right now, Mousey refused. He has resented that dog since the day I got him because Sherman thinks he is a STAR. Even now, 4 years later, he won’t have anything to do with him, he simply tolerates his existence and probably spends all his naps dreaming of his untimely demise. Sherman is rambunctious, curious and thick-headed as they come, but he’s also the cutest dog you ever saw and he loves attention. Basically, he’s eternally an 11lb toddler covered in fur. He would be perfectly fine being carried around like a baby all day long, but he also gets a lot of kicks out of making a mess, barking at his own farts and inappropriately burping in your face when you think he’s trying to be affectionate.
While my pack of little terrors have never been much in the way of learning tricks or obedience, the feats canines perform are truly incredible, whether they’re a trained behavior or instinct. Think about it- we rely on dogs to assist us with tasks humans could never possibly do. Like sniffing out drugs or cadavers, or aiding in a rescue mission. They can lead the blind and calm the effects of autism. And we’ve all seen the videos of dogs who rescue other animals or humans with no training whatsoever. They are truly the most empathic creatures on the face of the planet.
For these reasons I am sickened by those who harm animals, especially when they depend on us for everything and give so much in return. Like children, they’re just naturally good and pure. My dogs have seen me at my best and worst and they loved me just the same, which is more than I can say for any human except my parents. In return for the bare necessities of food, shelter and water, they have licked my tears, curled up to comfort me and met me at the door with a smile and wagging tail every single time I’ve walked through the door for almost 15 years, no matter if I was gone for 5 minutes or 5 days. I said it earlier, but we just don’t deserve dogs and the love they so freely and indiscriminately give us.
Sadly I’m all too aware that one day I will have to say goodbye to these little guys. I don’t know how I’ll cope with that, as I don’t think I’ve ever suffered a loss that great or so close to me. But I hope I will be able to find comfort in knowing that as much as I “saved” them, they did so much more in saving me when I needed it most. I believe you have a lot of soulmates in this life and it doesn’t always have to be a love interest. Best friends, human or animal, can come into your life and serve just as much purpose as anything else. Hug your pets tight and show them a little extra love when you can, because their time with us is never long enough. And if you have the opportunity and it feels right, please PLEASE adopt an animal in need. They might just be the ones saving you.