Some of you may have read my earlier piece about how we inherited my in-law’s aging one-eyed dog. If not, Chopper – who we believe to be about 112 years old – is a terrier mix that my in-laws rescued about 7 years back. When both of my in-laws passed away last summer, someone had to take Chopper in. Much to my chagrin, we were that lucky someone.
I didn’t mean to be insensitive to Chopper’s plight, but we already had a dog and a cat, and between work and looking after three kids, I didn’t need more on my plate. And as my husband pointed out, Chopper was likely on his swan song and his stay with us would surely be short. In fact, my father-in-law even joked that he and Chopper were in a race to the finish line.
When he arrived at our home, Chopper was in such bad shape that he couldn’t lift his body over our 4-inch entry. He needed help standing after his naps and because of his eye deficiency he accidentally walked into our pool, prompting us to put back up the fence we had when our children were young. Also, whenever you touched his side he turned to nip at you – clearly he was in pain.
Oh, and did I mention the shaking and panting? His legs shook so much that I thought for sure they’d buckle under his weight, and with each exhale he would spread a toxic odor throughout the living room. Even our resident dog, Buddy could not tolerate it. “If you want me, I’ll be in the front room,” Buddy seemed to say as he left in disgust.
I Googled excessive panting. The results were bleak: Anxiety, Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, Congestive Heart Failure could all be to blame. No, it didn’t look good for the little guy. Not good at all.
But we resisted rushing him to see our vet. You see, my in-laws, besides regularly giving him table-scraps, fed that dog much like a cat, refilling his bowl throughout the day. Consequently Chopper was grossly overweight. My husband joked that Chopper looked like an ottoman with teeth. We knew that if our vet saw him like this we’d only receive a lecture, and an order to return. So we decided to put Chopper on a proper doggie diet and once he lost a few pounds we would take him to see the doc.
Well, a funny thing happened. After a month or so of eating the amount of food that he was supposed to eat, Chopper started to change. First, he scaled our front steps with ease. Then he was able to get off the floor unassisted. At mealtime he started jumping up and down and even ran to his bowl like a puppy.
My husband and I looked at one another. Good lord what had we done?
By January we were confident that Chopper’s weight was on target, yet the stink and the panting persisted. His arthritis was doing better, but he still sometimes winced when touched. It was time to see the doctor.
My daughters asked if they could come with me, but fearing the doctor might deliver unsettling news, I declined. Before going I dug out the file folder my in-laws had simply marked “Dog” to bring records of ailments and shots. I discovered something I had never seen before – the form that his original owners completed when they gave him up for adoption. Under reason owner cannot keep dog: “Domestic Violence/moving to a shelter” was written in. How sad.
At the veterinarian’s waiting room Chopper’s arrival was greeted with giggles from both the staff and fellow pet owners. Something about his diminutive size, lack of eye, and incongruous name seems to tickle people apparently.
The vet was equally amused. When I told her that he had lost about eight to ten pounds she was shocked, ‘He must have looked like an ottoman,” she said.
Then I told her about the pains, the panting and the horrible smell – the smell like something was dying inside – and I explained, “Listen, we haven’t had this dog for very long and I’m not emotionally attached. So if there’s anything you need to tell me, just give it to me straight.”
Moments later, after a quick exam and a few shots, she returned.
“I looked him over. His arthritis in his legs is bad, but if he’s jumping and running like you said, he’s not in horrible pain. The odor – it’s from his teeth. I can give you some antibiotics that might help for $20.00 or we can clean them up for $500.”
“I’ll take the meds,” I quickly said.
“As for the rest of him, well, his heart seems strong, and his lungs sound clear. So what I would recommend . . .”
I steeled myself for the news to come.
“. . . is that you become emotionally attached.”
“Oh . . . that is . . . great news,” I said.