For as far back as I can remember, I have always been an animal person. Growing up, I had all kinds of animals ranging anywhere from cats and dogs to lizards and rodents. I have worked as a veterinary professional for almost 15 years, and although I have recently decided to make a career change, going to work has always allowed me to feel as though I serve a purpose. If you are not an animal person, then you will not understand this blog post. If you are, then you are a part of a special group of people who have had their lives touched by their pets. To people like us, however, they are not pets; they are family members.
I have always had a fondness for dogs, but had always labeled myself as more of a cat person. A large part of that was due to the fact that I always had a job that had me working long hours and well over 40 hours a week. Getting a dog never seemed like the right decision because I was never home and always on the go; so I had cats. Three cats, in fact. I have made a lot of mistakes over the years, but one thing that I always did right was make sure that my kitties were taken care of. For the last 16 years, I have taken them everywhere with me. The four of us have been through it all; boyfriends, husbands, job changes, and at least seven different moves. Sadly, I lost one of my trio to cancer earlier this year but I still have both of my girls who are 16 now. After my husband and I purchased our first home, we began tossing around the idea of getting dog. We now had schedules that allowed us to be at home more and we felt that we had the time to dedicate to a canine family member. I decided that when the right dog came along, I would know.
By December of 2016, I had entered my second IVF (InVitro Fertilization) treatment in order to try to get pregnant. Prior to this we had done one other IVF cycle and countless forms of other treatments. All had failed except for one where I had become pregnant but then miscarried. It had been a trying year, to say the least. The week before Christmas I received a phone call from my doctor telling me that my body was not responding to the medications and that this treatment would need to be cancelled. I was crushed. Another failure and another Christmas without a child. Christmas time has always been my favorite time of year, but by this time I was struggling to muster up any sort of Christmas spirit.
In the days to come, my husband and I continued to revisit the idea of getting a dog. Perhaps it could be our Christmas present to each other? What kind of dog should we get, we wondered? After a lot of discussion and brainstorming, we decided that the best option for us was to adopt a young adult dog. Neither of us felt that our geriatric cats would appreciate a puppy, and I had always been a big supporter of rescuing. So I started browsing through Craigslist and rescue sites in search of any small dogs that needed to find a new home. I was coming up empty-handed until one afternoon when I got on Facebook. As I scrolled my news feed, I stumbled upon a post regarding a miniature dachshund named Izzy. Her elderly owner had recently passed away and she needed to find a new home. I had always loved dachshunds. If you work in any surgical/specialty veterinary practice long enough, you will get to know the breed well. They are known to acquire back injuries so I am typically caring for them almost everyday as they recover from their surgeries. I had always enjoyed their high-spirited and independent personalities and would often think that I would like to have one someday. When I saw Izzy’s post, however, I tried not get my hopes up. It had been my experience that small breed, full-blooded dogs came and went quickly when placed for adoption. I did not want to set myself up for another disappointment. I voiced my interest on the post and didn’t hear much back for the next day or so. Through a series of conversations and events, I was the lucky one who was chosen to give Izzy her new home. Before we knew it, my husband and I were taking a 3 hour road trip to meet someone from the rescue and bring her home.
I was unbelievably excited, but also a bit terrified. I had never owned a dog in my adult life and was unsure what to expect from this little girl. The death of her owner had been traumatic for her and I cannot imagine how confused she was. I had gathered ideas from all of my coworkers about how to introduce her to the home and had purchased everything that I thought I needed from the local pet store. I felt prepared – but I wasn’t.
Izzy was confused and scared when we got her home. She immediately jumped on our couch and ran under a blanket. Over the next few hours, she warmed up to us and would lay on our lap. After a long day of travel and having her entire world change, Izzy seemed defeated and exhausted. I could completely relate. I held her in her in my arms and told her that I could tell she felt broken; but that I felt broken too. I told her that I promised to love her and keep her safe.
A friend of mine had given me a crate after numerous friends with dogs told me that I should have Izzy crate trained. My husband and I thought that she would like it and would do best sleeping in it for her first night in our new home. Wrong. Izzy had other plans. As soon as that crate door shut, she lost her mind. As she would bark, dig and cry it was as if I could hear her saying, “You’re freaking kidding me, right? GET ME OUT OF THIS THING!!!” We tried toys, treats, and blankets but nothing would provide her with any peace inside what she must have perceived as a wire box of doom. I began furiously texting all of my dog savvy friends and asking them what I should do. Most of them told me that she would settle down after a while and to not give in to her demands. I couldn’t stand to see her so upset. It broke my heart. I finally gave in and placed her in our bed. “Is this where you want to be?”, I asked her. With her short little legs, she replied by scurrying as fast as she could to the top of the bed and burrowing under the covers. She furiously dug all the way to the foot of the bed, curled into a ball, and didn’t move an inch the entire night. I probably only slept for a total of an hour that first night. I was terrified that I would accidentally kick her or roll over on top of her.
Although she began to settle in with us over the next few days, I continued to feel restless. The entire year had broken me down. I didn’t want to allow myself to feel how unbelievably sad I was about still not becoming pregnant, but my body didn’t give me a choice. I began to enter a deep depression. By Christmas Eve, I began to feel unwell and by Christmas Day I was sick with an upper respiratory infection. That Christmas Day, I felt emotionally, spiritually, and physically beaten down. My husband tried to comfort me, but I started to enter a dark place that I didn’t know how to get out of. For the next three days, I was too sick to do much of anything except sleep. Izzy stayed by my side the entire time and became my shadow. She never left the bed, unless I left the bed. Anywhere I went, she went and she became my caregiver. As I would lie in bed, I would wonder what the purpose to my life was. Why couldn’t I get pregnant? Was this my karma for bad choices in my younger years? What was wrong with me? I found myself in a place where I wasn’t sure life was living anymore.
Finally, one afternoon I sat on the couch and began to pray. I asked God to help me get out of myself; to help me see that there was a bigger picture and that I needed to grab on to faith to believe it. I placed my head on a pillow on the couch. Izzy scurried up beside me and placed her head on my same pillow. She stared intently in my eyes and touched her nose onto mine. Then I heard her tail smacking against the couch as she wagged it. I began to cry. All of the pain, all of the loss, and all of the disappointment from the last 12 months came out loud and ugly; and Izzy never left my side. I realized, that upon first bringing her home she had probably also felt hopeless, yet she had begun to place her faith in me. I needed to place my faith in God and realize that this little dog was a gift. It was in that moment, I was able to see that I needed to take some serious action to help get myself out of the dark hole that I had fallen into. Over the next several weeks, I took the necessary steps to get my emotional and spiritual well-being back in order. I have been in a much better place since then. I thank Izzy for that.
Today, Izzy fits right on with our family and I cannot imagine life without her. She sleeps right beside me every night and my quality of sleep has improved because of it. We have been discussing getting another dog for her to have as a canine companion. Once again, I have decided that when the right one comes along, I will know.
You never know what means God might have to change your heart. I believe that He speaks to us through various means whether it be through people, quotes, or even a song. For me, he used a 9 pound miniature dachshund; and I couldn’t be more grateful.