I’ve written posts and posted pictures of our Whippet babies, Maritza and Zoey. They have been living with us for about a year and a half. We adopted Maritza from a breeder in Tampa when she was 2 months old. She was born in Columbia- South America NOT South Carolina and we got her before she was totally fluent in Human. I wanted to be able to teach her English before Spanish became her language of obedience. But then, Steven spoiled her in the car on the ride home, and within 2 hours she became the new princess in his realm. Obedience never really became a necessity to him! Several weeks later, I saw Zoey on a website.
She was 2-ish in years and in a rescue situation. She’s from somewhere in Tennessee, and came to us a little nervous and hesitant. Within weeks she was mellow, loving and glad to be here. She got along with Maritza from the moment she arrived and her patience with the little latin fireball is still amazing. She looks like a supermodel with her striking white coat and sweet beautiful face. She’s the good dog, so I usually call her MY dog.
But they are Steven’s dogs because they help keep him alive. He needs them way more than I need clean floors, access to my half of the bed or a poop-free backyard. Of this I am sure, as will you be when I address those 2 dog-less months between Missy and Zack and the Whippet babies. But that dog-free time is not the subject today. Today is a tribute to the original cancer-care dogs.
Somehow, dogs know. I don’t know how they know. They seemed more pissed than concerned during those first 2 weeks of doggie inconvenience when Steven was in the hospital getting the diagnosis which lead to his first chemo treatment. Once he got home, they were on guard. Missy would lay in the bed with her head on Steven and Zack would lay on the floor next to him like two little Cocker Doctors, monitoring his every breath. In those first 2 months home, because of the biopsy surgery, he needed a hospital bed. At 6’6”, he kept that bed cranked up as high it would go, and I could not figure out how Missy could get up there with him. She was 8 at the time, and not really that interested in the high jump. But I caught her one day after a quick sprint out the dog door to her expansive grass ladies’ room. She came in, efficiently hopped on to the sofa, stepped up on to the end table, walked like a ballerina en pointe past the lamp, water pitcher and medications-never disturbing a thing, and then hopped with a gentle landing right into the space next to Steven’s neck. Then she slithered down to her little resting place near his knee, put her head on this leg and went right back to guard duty…with her eyes closed. Not exactly like the military does it, but impressive nonetheless!
It was truly amazing because Missy was a bitch. And not in the girl dog way. She was a spoiled little brat dog that Steven ruined just like he’s doing with Maritza. I loved her like crazy but I was always on to her. She knew it, too. When she was a teething puppy, she used to bring me her bone to hold while she gnawed on it. When she was done, her last bite would always be my hand. I knew she was doing it on purpose…I could see it in her eyes. Steven was sure his little baby could not be that calculating. Seriously? This dog
would give you the “cold hind quarter” when she was pissed. It’s like the cold shoulder, but much more deliberate. She’d make sure she had your attention, walk away, drop it like it was hot, turn and look over her shoulder to make sure you were still watching, and then give you the ‘stink eye’ and look away in disgust. It was akin to “giving you the paw” which is the dog version of flipping you off. That is absolutely calculating. I gotta give her credit though!
Zack was our boy dog. We got Zack in the hope that Missy would be less spoiled if she had someone of her own species to play with. But when we brought him home we all got “the paw”…squared. She wanted to be an only dog and even though they eventually bonded and even though she was 15 pounds lighter (I called her the runt of the little, she thought of herself as petite) she was the Alpha dog…and don’t you forget it!
Zack was so handsome he could have been a show dog. He was big and strong and dumb as a brick. He was my loving oaf-y boy. A bull in a china shop. When he was about 3 he suffered a head injury chasing a squirrel in the back yard. The squirrel ran up the tree, Zack ran into the tree. The tree, by the way, was in the yard years before Zack was even born. Apparently, he never noticed it. Although after he got better he found a new place to pee, so he had that going for him!
These were Steven’s caregivers through chemo. I was too. But all I did was take him to the doctors, take him to chemo and take him for tests. I laid out his meds, called him to remind him to take them and made sure there were plenty of liquids around his bed that he could reach when he couldn’t get up. But I had to go to work…or as I like to think of it, the insurance factory. Missy and Zack were in charge while I was gone. Sometimes they were all in the bed, in the same positions I left them in the morning. Sometimes there were little signs of movement by the pack throughout the house. But always, they were on guard until I came home.
The little bitch and the big dummy were the most amazing caregivers I could have asked for.Once I got home they acted like dogs, demanding cookies at cookie-time and expecting petting at petting time. But, while I was gone I have to assume they did some major doctoring, because we all made it through the worst year of our lives. So take this for what it’s worth, which is from the trenches of experience: Hospitals are supposed to be sanitary, but there are more infections transmitted there than you can imagine. Dogs lick their butts, yet they can be the best nursing staff around. Let them be care givers. No insurance needed. The co-pay is a Milk Bone. And the love is endless!