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Not cursed, but blessed

Yesterday something happened that changed the way I look at things.

Those who know me know I am a bit of a cynic, a pessimist. We have had more than our share of struggles and heartbreaks the past few years, and at times I sit and wonder what in the world we did to deserve the black cloud that seems to loom over us. Maybe instead of wallowing in self-pity I should be looking at all the bad things that don’t happen instead?

We got a bit of a late start in the morning; with three dogs and four cats to feed, and almost everyone being on medication or a separate diet, it’s a bit time-consuming, to say the least. We’d also decided to pop a few frozen biscuits into the over for our own breakfast, which we ended up taking to work to eat on the way because we were out of time by that point. We hurried out of the house and drove off in separate directions to start our busy days, after rushing through all the things that are part of the morning routine. Cricket got her antibiotics, her collar taken off, a snack in her crate. Frodo was locked in the office with his dry kitten food that the other cats can’t have. Doors were locked, lights turned off, the thermostat lowered. Blinds raised so that the animals would have their sunbeams to lay in, come afternoon. We didn’t miss a single part of our usual checklist… but we did miss something important.

I came home at 4:30 and opened the door to what should have been a 65 degree house but was toasty-warm instead, and filled with a warm, vaguely biscuit-like smell. Instantly realizing what that meant, my heart just about stopped in my chest: the gas oven had been on all day while we were gone. What’s more, a cloth oven-mitt, very warm, lay on top of the hot oven. We could have lost every one we loved, everything we owned, through one careless mistake. But we didn’t.

Shaky at the thought of what might have happened, it occurred to me that instead of complaining that someone or something seems to be out to make my life miserable, maybe I should stop and think about not just all the good things that do happen, but all the bad ones that don’t?

It just felt like one of those life-changing moments… I had this intense wave of relief and gratitude to whomever or whatever kept a moment of carelessness from turning into a tragedy. While picking up a few odds and ends at the grocery store yesterday evening, I bought a few candles. Joy and I lit two of them last night; one in remembrance of Jane and Drew, two of Joy’s furry friends at the shelter who didn’t find a loving home or a happy ending at the end of their journeys, and another for the many things that we are thankful for in this life.

Recently, a friend (who had just chided me for my doom-and-gloom outlook) told me that she believed that we create our own destiny. That wasn’t the exact phrase she used; I don’t remember exactly how she said it but the gist of it was that how we view the world around us influences how that world treats us. That by having a negative outlook we just bring negativity down upon ourselves… I don’t know if that is true or not but I am going to try hard to live by that philosophy from this point. If nothing else, I can at least try to make sure that all the good things in this life don’t slip past while I am busy brooding over the bad ones.

Cricket’s rough week – part 1

Cricket_sm  It seems like we are not capable of having an animal without some sort of health issue. I suppose there are two ways of looking at that: the first is that we either have the worst luck in the world or manage to curse whatever we touch, and the second (which I would prefer to think is the real reason) is that maybe somehow animals who need us just somehow manage to find their way to us. Of course, if fate really did work that way, you would think it would send those animals to someone financially well off enough to pull out all the stops to help them, instead of to us. Who knows….

Anyway, Cricket came into the shelter a little over two weeks ago, an owner turn-in. The reason listed was "responsibility" which is pretty common there. The cute puppy someone thought was a good Christmas present grows into an unruly destructive dog through lack of training, or the little toy breed dog that no one housetrained becomes an issue when the owner gets new carpeting… or the family is going on vacation and ‘kennels are so expensive’: surely the dog will get a nice new home, and when they get back from Disneyland or whereever, they can just go pick out a brand new puppy from the pet store. Those are just a few of the scenarios, and since dogs can’t talk, Cricket can’t tell us her story.

We do know that her name was BiBi and she was supposedly three years old, though her grizzled greying face and a few small skin growths seem to indicate she’s older than that. She was sweet and gentle and got very excited when shelter staff spoke Spanish to her so we assume her previous owners were Hispanic. I’ve also since noticed, when I had her out in the field near the retirement home near us, that she seemed very interested in the few white haired residents shuffling about, so it could be that she had an elderly owner who passed away or went into the hospital, and no one in the family wanted to take her in. I do think that she had someone who treated her kindly; she’s not hand shy or fearful, and clearly is accustomed to spending a lot of time being held and fawned over. Why she suddenly became expendable…well I guess that will always remain a mystery.

Joy mentioned that they’d gotten a tiny little black and tan Chihuahua in at the shelter. I feigned only casual interest at first but the bait had been taken… I have a weakness for Chihuahuas and Joy knows it. My errands the next day just happened to take me by the shelter. Looking into the cage at the little flattened, wiggling, shivering lump of Chi I said "that is barely a dog," but when the cage was opened she wriggled foreward, tail thumping and tongue darting, and snuggled into my arms — yup, I was hooked.

No, we weren’t looking for a dog right now… however, with Lilly doing poorly, Lindsy so miserable since Mojo has been gone, the house so empty feeling, the attraction of something cheerful and healthy and sweet was very strong. She was maybe four pounds; she wouldn’t eat much, wouldn’t cause a size or breed-related problem finding a future rental home, she would be spayed and checked before we got her. No suprises. We talked about it that night, going over the pros and cons, and at one point I said that maybe we should wait: she would surely find a home easily, and I wanted to get a dog again, but would really like to wait and get a minibull when the time came. Joy’s theory was that Chihuahuas don’t count as dogs <g>. The next day, her day off, we were back at the shelter with Lindsy, to introduce her to the Chihuahua.

The Chi was unimpressed by Lindsy but unafraid, she didn’t shriek and snap and panic as some small dogs are prone to do when threatened. Lindsy was very curious but she understands doggie body language well and respected the very clear "stay-the-hell-away-from-me" message. We did finally get to see the Chi’s ears (which she had, up to this point, been keeping flattened against her skull) as they unfurled in all their batlike glory when she heard a noise outside the room –they were enormous! Maybe they were extra large to compensate for her tail, which was thin, bony, straight and rat-like. No, I take the ‘rat-like’ part back — Our rat Lauren’s tail is a lot thicker than that. I think at that moment I saw her standing there with her ears cocked I heard the invisible Chihuahua trap snap shut — I was smitten.

Joy talked to her supervisor about adopting BiBi and we went off on a Chihuahuha-spoiling spree at the local pet shop. We bought a purple velvet collar with pearls, a little flowered harness-vest, and a bowl, and then for the next two days waited anxiously for her to make it through her spay. BiBi just did not fit her and we debated back and forth between several names before deciding on ‘Cricket’. She came home Tuesday evening, weak and hurting, thinner than when I had first seen her. She was still sweet in spite of the fact that she was in pain, we let her rest in her crate as much as possible. By the second day we could see that we’d have a little work ahead of us; she wouldn’t eat anything we offered (I thought she was sick until I saw her scarf down a small bit of pizza I offered) and showed no sign of ever having been housebroken. She begged to be picked up and carried and went after any animal that came near her on a lap. She messed in her crate. The little ‘princess’ was in for some behavioral adjustment, as soon as she was recovered a bit more.

We managed to find something she liked to eat, a canned food called Spot’s Stew (as far as commercial dog food goes it’s actually not bad, but expensive as heck) which we gradually snuck some lamb Bravo raw food into, in ever increasing amounts until she was eating mostly the raw food with a little ‘gravy’ of the canned. She learned that snarking at the cats to defend her lap results in losing the lap. We began to have success with the potty-trips outside — she’s otherwise such a fastidiously clean little dog, so we suspect that she’d been caged rather than crate trained, by this I mean that she’d been crated for extended periods to the point where she had no choice but to make a mess, until that natural instinct not to soil her own bed had been eroded. Once she got into the pattern of going out regularly, and learned that she would be taken out at regular intervals, she stopped urinating and defecting in the crate. She walked well on a leash and we made a point of treating her like a dog on trips out, letting her walk on the leash and meet people instead of carrying her everywhere. Things we going well, except that she was still very underweight in spite of all the food she was eating.

I was sitting on the couch with her towards the end of last week and kept noticing a smell, sort of a rotting meat-ammonia smell. It seemed to be her breath… she has some tartar and not the greatest breath but this seemed stronger. When I pulled the skin up on her back I realized that she was fairly dehydrated. Of course I immediately panicked and thought ‘kidney failure.’ Joy took her in to work with her the next day to see the vet there. They ran bloodwork and there was good news and bad news.

The good news was that her kidney values were normal, her bloodwork OK; the bad news was that they also checked a blood smear for heartworm larvae and there were microfilaria swimming merrily all over the slide. Her previous screening had been a false negative for some reason, and our little ‘perfectly healthy’ dog we had brought home was in fact suffering pretty serious heartworm disease, a danger for any dog — let alone one who was barely a third the size of any of our cats and emaciated.