The stress and anxiety over deciding to take “Precious” (the beautiful name given to the little staffy by Gosford Dog Paws) even for a ‘trial’ has been overwhelming, though my husband has been mostly supportive and seems to understand my desire to help this little girl, and I know he’ll be a good dog-dad to her if we can provide a forever home for her. I also have to say that the support and love from my girlfriend Barbie has been phenomenal. From telling me that I’m doing the right thing, to also telling me that even if it doesn’t work out and I have to let her go, I can’t let myself feel like I’m a failure or let the guilt take over me because I just didn’t have enough strength and energy for what this pup is going to need. I think those words are really what I needed to hear the most, because honestly at this point, that’s my biggest fear. I’ve never been very good at failure or giving up, despite the odds, but sometimes you just need someone there to tell you that it’s ok to just try your very best.
This pup. I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll start with her name, and how I was thinking about it from the very first moment I watched her video online. You know how you do that – start obsessing about that object that you imagine as yours even though it might not ever be yours? I did this all the time as a child, and I was often disappointed. I still don’t know what her name might be if she became ours. She really was a precious girl, but I had this Lord of the Rings thing stuck in my head, and besides, we’ve always given our rescue animals a new name to go with their new start in life. I had really been loving the name Karma after an unattributed quote I had seen on Pinterest:
I had been filled with such a rush of emotion on learning about this poor little dog, and what a sad life she had had so far, and I always try to stay away from judging others, but was just feeling so much rage after meeting her and seeing her poor bent little body. Then I saw this quote and I knew that all the negative energy I was wasting thinking about something I couldn’t change needed to be released. I could do so much more if I used that energy to focus on helping this little pup and give her all of my patience and love.
But then I woke up this morning with the saying “bent but not broken” in my head. I think I might have heard it in a song, but it’s also a popular saying from one of our favourite places – New Orleans. After it was ravaged by hurricane Katrina and battled to rebuild and grow strong again we often saw this on t-shirts and flags around the great Crescent City. So I started thinking of calling her Nola – the abbreviation for New Orleans, LA – but I suppose once she comes home, I think she’ll find her own name? You know how that happens….
I have to give a good description of what I saw when I first met “Precious”. Even after nearly five months of love and care with GDP her little body still bore so much physical and psychological damage.
It’s difficult to know where to start. I suppose the biggest issue is her legs and her walking. She has a fractured spine, which according to the vet they’ve been taking her to, will not ‘heal’ but they assure us that she’s not in any pain. Although the vet didn’t want to say if the fracture is what is causing her walking and issues, I’ve done some research on Canine Spinal Walk and dogs that have rehabilitated after spinal injuries and hers is very similar to the videos I’ve seen. It’s very hard to describe – I think when Elise (GDP) told me it was like a child with Cerebral Palsy that is a very good description. It’s almost like her brain and her back legs don’t talk? Her back legs get ahead of her a lot of the time 🙂 When she wants to run somewhere – she’ll be looking where she wants to run, but her back legs go in the opposite direction and she’ll find herself falling (down a hill, into your legs, into a tree). But she’s such a trooper, she just gets right up and looks to say, “OK! let’s try that again!” Because of the way she walks, she drags her back legs and trips over her feet a lot – which is another issue all together.
As a side effect of the walking issues and dragging her feet, really the thing for me that I found myself just crying over most on the drive home after meeting her for the first time was her poor little paws. The left front foot is a slight bit deformed and turned outward to the left, due to taking the majority of her body weight due to her injuries. Also – most likely because of the new weight on her foot since being rescued and starting to learn to walk again is that same foot has painful inter-digital cysts, which GDP’s vet is going to have lanced and hopefully will be on the mend soon. Her other feet are missing many of her claws as they are just rubbed down to the quick and some were bleeding from the constant tripping on the pavement. She has a heap of calluses and sore spots where she rubs them. I’d like to buy her some really good quality booties (like sled dogs wear I think, leather with the wool inside?). I think this would really alleviate so many of those issues. I already bought her little pink booty socks with slip guard so she can wear them during her trial home with us…
And her poor precious mouth. She has very few teeth left at all in the front except for little flat stump teeth pretty much even with her gums. They were so infected and broken when GSD rescued her. She must have fought for so long to chew through that chain (i just can’t even let myself picture this) and now there’s really not much left. They are healthy now though, no infection, thanks again to the vet. She can eat fairly normally now that her mouth has healed which is a relief, and has enough back teeth left to chew her food. However, because if her first year of her life being ALL about chewing the chain and such misery and starvation the frustration that THAT was her life, she has a lot of psychological issues that she’ll need to hurdle. She has a lot of anxiety and I think an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with the chewing. She gums everything as soon as she is scared or frustrated. An understandable nervous habit at this point?
Naturally, like many rescue dogs, she knows no commands, no boundaries, nothing of life beyond her short chain. Of course that also includes not being potty trained. One of our concerns with bringing her home is that GDP said they honestly don’t know if she has control over those functions due to her injuries. One of the volunteers told me that when they first got her to even start moving and walking, she would just sort of wobble around and poop and pee as she was walking and not even notice she was going? But they did say that she’s starting to sort of half squat now when she pees…. SO we’ll be potty training a poor disabled furbaby who we don’t even know if we can potty train. This is my husbands biggest concern and really, up there for me too. In my mind I so want her to be the most spoiled doggy on the planet, lounging around inside the house and able to be with her people-parents whenever she wants. But of course this just might not be possible – the trial will hopefully tell us more.
Finally, because of the damage to her spine, she doesn’t seem to be able to do stairs. We are so blessed to already have a handicap ramp all the way around the side of our house that the previous owner built, but we do have two sets of two steps in the garage leading to the large foyer (her temporary bedroom!) and since she has never been around stairs, we just don’t know if she will be able to manage. Our back patio and yard are easily large enough for her, but the yard itself is steep in areas, and I also worry that she won’t manage the little hills either. We just don’t know. Bottom line, after massive amounts of discussions and honestly, several sleepless nights, my husband and I truly know we have enough love and patience in our hearts to give her – but just like with ANY child with a disability we’ll have to make extra efforts to help her with everything – and we are willing to do that. She will never be able to jump up on the bed or couch or – anything – with us (but in a way that’s also good as the cats can get away from her easy enough and will have plenty of safe places 🙂 ) and she will probably always need help in and out of the car. There’s that concern about not being able to control her functions, but only having her home with us will determine that.
There’s also the fact that we already have our holiday booked to Europe in four weeks. Elise at Gosford Dog Paws has been SO amazing and accommodating. She said we can take her as soon as we want to trial her, and then they’ll take her back and care for her while we’re in Europe for three weeks, and then when we come back we can make the decision. I guess I think that even if we feel that our home isn’t a good fit or we just can’t commit to her care, at least we can give a lot of valuable feedback to GDP on what she really requires in a home and the care she’s going to need? But if she is our forever pup, then isn’t she going to feel abandoned when we have to leave her at GDP again and back to the kennel environment? I’m really torn up over this one.
We picked up the sweet Precious baby girl today, and since the week when I first met her I can’t believe the improvement in her. Maybe she can just sense what an important moment this is, but when we got her home she was so rambunctious (she’s still a puppy we have to remember!!) and her front legs propelled her back legs all over our yard and she was just a burst of joy and energy. She just has these funny back legs that sort of dance in the background doing their own thing in no relation to her front legs 🙂 And she’s very strong too. She’s gotten so much strength in the last four months with GDP I know she will get even stronger and I so hope she can lead a happy little dog life with us. Only time will tell!