What a long, rewarding day! At the end of it all we are left with a little “Joy” in our lives. To be specific, 3.3 pounds of it! Our newest addition is Joy, a toothless, jawless, elderly Chihuahua with severely infected eyes and a possibly herniated bladder…..
I wrote the above sentences on Friday, Friday the 13th no less, at the end of a long, exhausting day full of driving, worrying, and wondering, wondering how bad of shape the little dog I was about to pick up really was. I know what the picture looked like that announced her as available at the Collins County Animal Shelter in McKinney, TX, but until one sees, one never knows. Well, it was worse than the picture for sure.
When John from the wonderful group he heads with his wife Leigh, Bergie’s Pet Help (Check out their Facebook page!) first handed her to me, she began to “kiss” and “lick” my face and put her little paws on me, a truly joyous greeting. I say “kiss” and “lick” because she doesn’t quite have the apparatus to do either of those, but she definitely got her message across: She was glad to see me! It was as if we already knew each other and she was greeting a long-lost friend. I became so emotional that it was hard to properly thank John,who had done the lion’s share of the driving that day, meeting us more than half-way. (I found out later that he drives all over on a regular basis, logging hours transporting animals. What a man!) I became panicky and anxious to get her to her vet appointment right away because I knew what she had. She has a condition called KCS where the eyes do not produce tears, causing them to become dried-out orbs of infected mucous. It’s a treatable disease, but left untreated, it becomes very serious, and it is very uncomfortable as one can imagine. It takes lots of meds every few hours to treat and can be so severe it requires surgery. Hers were the worst I or my vet has seen.
To be panicked and anxious, yet stuck in a car for a two-plus hour drive is excruciating. We went as fast as we could, and I tried my best not to watch the clock. On the ride up there, Danny and I were laughing, talking, planning, all to hide our nervous energy of what we were about to do. Not that we doubted we were doing the right thing, it’s just we didn’t know what shape she would be in after living with her deceased owner for a couple of days and then braving a high-kill shelter with all it’s stress and contagions for close to a week. Once we had her, we became very quiet and lost in thought, our minds racing on what to do next. He focused on driving, and I focused on helping her get comfortable in my lap. She still wanted to kiss me with her withered tongue that knows no respite in a moist palate as ours does. I then cursed myself for not bringing water and became very concerned that her little exposed tongue was too dry, rearranging the AC vents so as not to blow directly on her. All these worries were bouncing around in my head until I thought I would quietly explode. To be honest, I kept her facing away from me because her eyes made me gag. The were greyed, dried, crusted, swollen bulbs, and I thought I was going to seriously get sick. I kept rubbing her little neck and she gradually relaxed. I then put a finger or two on each side of her face and she totally relaxed into letting me hold her head up while she dozed. At one point, I peaked gingerly around to see that she didn’t have a tooth in her head and that she only has about a half-inch of bottom lip. “Oh well, ” I thought, “At least I won’t have to brush her teeth, ” a chore I don’t enjoy doing for my thirteen other dogs, but, regardless, must be done each morning.
It was the eyes, though, that totally repulsed me. I knew what the right medications could do and was desperate to get some lubrication into those eyes. I brought my whole medicine cabinet of eye meds to show the vet to see if we had the right stuff, and it was with me, but I was too worried to medicate her myself not knowing which were the right ones to use. To placate myself, I played every mind trick I could think of and, eventually, we neared into College Station and toward the vet. Once there, our doctor took a look at her and asked a million questions, of which I had not one answer because neither I nor the very kind folks at the Collins County Shelter know anything other than the police found her owner dead a couple of days after he died with her and another dog with him. We have called every vet in McKinney and nearby Princeton where he lived, and no one has record of seeing her. We decided that we will never know “how” any of her issues happened, we must just deal with what is, and “what is” is this: severely infected eyes, leaving her possibly permanently blind, Kennel cough contracted at the shelter, a heart murmur, possibly herniated bladder, and a mouth that can easily lead to aspiration all on a tiny geriatric Chihuahua. Our biggest concern is the possibly herniated bladder. Two vets looked at her and were unsure of just what the soft mass in her inguinal area is. She will see a specialist on Tuesday. If it is a bladder issue, it’s serious and must be surgically repaired. Surgery on a geriatric Chihuahua with a heart murmur is extremely risky and could be the end of her life, but we will worry about that on Tuesday because today is Sunday and here’s what we know about “Joy:”
She LOVES to be cuddled. She likes me to talk in a high-pitched voice right into her ears as she rubs her face all over my face, leaving little bits of dehydrated eye mucous on my cheeks. She even manages to lick my mouth as I’m talking to her. I’m grossed out and charmed all at the same time; it’s very endearing.
She has a mind all her own. She doesn’t like strange noises. As our iPhones ding, whistle, and chirp letting us know we have mail, texts, etc., she growls and barks and gurgles her displeasure, and don’t even think about playing a video on the computer. The strange voices put her in a tizzy. She also doesn’t like it when I talk too loudly to Danny who might be in the next room or around the corner, and she doesn’t like the sound of Danny’s voice unless it is cooing to her.
She also truly dislikes–I think she bit me, but who knows with that mouth?–a bath or any type of spiffing up. I didn’t want to get her wet with her respiratory issues and such, but she has been in a shelter for a week and stinks, so I sprayed some waterless bath on her and was rubbing her down with a wet washcloth. Let’s just say that was a big, “No!” We’ll just be a little unfresh right now we are guessing.
She reminds me of Helen Keller, left with only a sense or two to navigate this complex world, touch being the most reassuring, which is why I let her rub on my face and kiss me despite the yuck factor of residual eye goo left behind as her eyes slowly reconstitute to their normal gel-like consistency. We are already very attached to her and view her as a temporal gift to be cherished daily, never knowing how long we will have her, though the same can be said for most of the kiddos at LWH. All I know of her past is that she was loved. She must have been. She is too fragile and helpless not to have been fretted and worried over and coddled. She did not receive much-needed medical care, that is certain, but loved she was or she would not be with us. We will continue that love and add the medical attention to it, so let’s see if it is enough to keep her around and inspiring us for a bit longer.