« feeling better | Main | Flying Cars - the future is here »
I began fostering Plum last June, 2009. She was only my 2nd foster after losing my beloved Sausage.
Adopting another pug was not part of my immediate plan.
Adopting a senior w/ health issues was definitely NOT even part of my extended plan.
As some of my long-term readers will recall it was a rough time in my world. I was laid off from my job, out of work. Still grieving the loss of Pugsley and I had health issues of my own. I was down and out, fallen on hard times. In fact the only good thing I had going for me was the volunteer work I was doing for the pug rescue.
Somewhere in all of that darkness I knew the only way for me to start feeling right again was to do what I knew how to do best, care for a pug. To make a difference in another one's life. As the Sausage would want me to do in honor of his memory. There were after all, so many in need. And I was posting their stories to the rescue website day in and day out. Creating special fliers and thank you cards to donors. Even memorializing those that had passed on the Rainbow Bridge page.
Plummy was in rough shape when she came to me from the kill shelter in Brooklyn. She was literally days away from being destroyed. We were short on foster homes and I had already had the conversation with the rescue leaders that I felt ready to start fostering again. Life just didn't seem normal without a pug in it. I missed having one around. I figured this was a way I could have pugs in my life again and test the waters without being fully committed and giving myself over to one again.
I remember the day the ACC van pulled into my driveway. It was chock full of metal crates stacked one on top of another. Plum's crate was sitting on top of a bruised and battered and rather gaunt looking Great Dane. The driver was a big man wearing a long yellow rawhide glove on his right hand. I guess he wore it to avoid being bitten.
He tried going into Plum's cage to pull her out but she wasn't having it. She was viciously and savagely trying to attack the yellow glove. She was super stressed, bumping up into the metal crate bars - breathing and growling really hard, too afraid to come out to the man. She was clearly emotionally traumatized.
Finally I climbed into the back of the van poked my head into her crate and started talking in a soft reassuring voice. I might have even sung a little song to her. After a while, she stated to calm down and I could see a little smirk emerging on her face. I reached my bare hands inside the cage and coaxed her over to me.
I pulled her out and immediately set her down on the grass which she had clearly never seen or felt before. She squatted and peed and then did several back leg kicks. I turned to the ACC man and said, "Well, she's a kicker!" Then he drove off to make the next delivery of unwanted dogs that were being given a second chance.
I wish I could have helped them all, but I quickly learned that I had my hands full with Plum.
She came with no papers, no records, no toys, no leash, no collar, no food, and no treats. Nothing. Nothing but a lot of problems.
Her entire body was red and inflamed. Her wrinkles and folds and ears were all infected. Her ears were bleeding and puss was oozing from several difference places on her body. She smelled horrible. She was full of open sores and covered with scabs. The color of her fur had a yellowy jaundiced tint to it. She could not stop itching, rubbing and biting herself. She was literally crawling out of her own skin.
Her belly sagged like she had had a few litters of puppies over the years. I guessed her previous keepers used her as a breeder to churn out $1,500 pug puppies year after year. And then when she could no longer breed they dumped her off in the shelter. Clearly they had given her no medical attention for a long time, she was in bad shape and neglect was obvious.
She even looked older than her age.
Each time I bathed her or ran my fingers along her coat to pick off scabs, or tried to administer medication she went after my hand, viciously. Like she meant business and was going to bite and not let go.
When I brought her to my vet for a check-up they couldn't believe the condition she was in. They even seemed to doubt whether there was much to be done for her.
The first few days she wouldn't even sit in the same room as me. She wanted to be by herself in the other room, making her refuge in the Sausage's old bed that still smelled like him and housed remnants of his fur.
I let her be and didn't try to force contact, only at medication time.
I suppose I too was resisting her to some degree. I tried to remain stoic, unemotional, and other than my role as caregiver, somewhat detached. I didn't feel ready to fall in love with another pug again so soon.
Slowly, she began to come closer and wanted to be near me more often. She allowed me to brush her and the baths got easier as well. Before long, she wanted to sit next to me on the couch; she even went into the Sausages toy box and squeaked a toy.
I knew Plum would be a long term foster because she needed a lot of rehabilitation. This was just fine with me because it gave me something positive to focus on. A much needed project that I could throw myself into and feel good about if I was able to help her. And I was determined to do so.
A few weeks into fostering Plum I needed to have surgery to remove some micro calcification in my breast tissue that appeared on my mammogram. Of course I was terrified. It was June 25th, I remember the day because that was the same day Michael Jackson died. I remember waking up from the Propofol anesthesia they gave me and hearing from the nurses about what happened to him.
Over the next few days I remember lying on the couch at home recovering and what I remember most is how Plummy came over to my side, crawled under my arm and rested her chin on my shoulder while I was healing. She was taking very good care of me because she knew I was taking care of her. I believe she saw this as her role now. And everyday since, this is her favorite place to be, tucked into the "puggie nook" as we like to call it.
This was the first point at which I started to think it might hurt me a lot to let her go.
About a week later she developed a high fever and started defecating blood in solid and liquid form. Suddenly out of nowhere she collapsed and her body went limp. I was so afraid I would lose her. I could not lose another one so soon, especially now that I was starting to get attached.
After an emergency trip to the vet and X-rays and blood work, and slides, and injections we determined that she had an acute colitis attack. Most likely brought on from stress, shock, and changing environments combined with the raging infections she had going on in her body.
I can pinpoint this exact moment in time when I was nursing her back from this particular episode that she stopped resisting and started to become very attached to me. This is when she began to depend on me emotionally. She was now afraid to have me out of her sights. She wanted to cuddle all the time had to be on top of me on the couch for security and had to sleep in my bed.
There was really no turning back from this point on. For either of us.
The next few months were full of diet and medication trial and error. As well as behavioral modification and basic training that she clearly never had.
As time went on and she started feeling better, we posted her pictures and story on the rescue website. We started getting a lot of applications from people who wanted to adopt her. And the more that happened the sadder I became.
As a foster mom, I shouldn't have felt sad. I should have been thrilled that there were good solid loving homes who wanted to adopt a senior pug with health issues. Only I didn't.
All I kept thinking is that I would be letting her down like everyone else had in her life until that point if I sent her away, no matter how good the other home was, she believed that she was home now.
I thought about how incredibly hard it was for her to relinquish her fears and learn to trust me; a human again after other humans had dumped on her all of her life. I felt like I would be betraying that trust if I were to let anyone else adopt her. But it really wasn't up to me at that point.
I didn't even have a job or a suitable place to live and I couldn't afford to care for an ailing pug that needed special food, medication and regular vetting. I had been on several interviews but none were really panning out. Finally, it was down to the wire. They were days away from having applicants come to meet Plum and I would have to hand her over, breaking her little heart. And mine.
All along I had been telling myself that if I got a job before she was adopted by someone else then it was meant to be that I keep her.
And then I did.
But there was a part of me that still didn't feel sure. It was that part of me that didn't know if emotionally I could handle losing another one so soon. I mean Plum was we think in the neighborhood of 10 or 11 years old.
And I mulled over it and had many sleepless nights tossing and turning, wondering what was the right thing to do. And then finally I did what I always do in times of uncertainty. I prayed on it and I waited for an answer or a sign.
I am a big believer in signs, because quite frankly they always come exactly when you need them.
I was at church one night at an evening vigil. The same church where I was baptized, received my holy communion, and confirmation. The same church where I would sit Sunday mornings with my grandfather who would make funny animal shaped shadows with his praying hands cast over the morning light that shone onto the pew in front of us that only we could see. He would for example wiggle his index fingers mimicking bunny ears in an attempt to make me laugh in the middle of mass, rebelling against my grandmother who made him attend service every week. The same church where I lit candles and prayed for Sausage to meet a peaceful end with me by his side.
So on this day, I sat in the pew, kneeling down, hands clasped interlocking fingers, and I prayed in deep mediation for guidance, for an answer, for a sign.
And just then I opened my eyes and the first thing I saw was the shadow of my praying hands on the pew down in front of me.
Now this is going to sound unbelievable - but I swear the shadow cast was in the shape of a pug head. And not just any pug head... it was Plum's funny shaped head and lopsided ears. In the shadow I could even see the upright curve of the right side of her lip that she makes when she smirks and is happy about something.
And in that moment with every fiber of my being I knew it was the right thing for me to keep her. I didn't fully understand why this was the right thing for me or how I would deal with the consequences when the time came, I only knew that I trusted it. Wholeheartedly.
And I never looked back from that point forward.
In time, I came to see that it was easier for me to adopt a senior dog than to start over with a puppy again. I wasn't and am still not ready to give myself over to another puppy again just yet.
In time I understood that Plum had rescued me as much as I had rescued her. We rescued each other. She taught me that it would not kill me to open up my heart and love again. In fact it would make my life better.
While I was busy fearing that loving and caring for another pug meant I would somehow be betraying or taking me away even further from the loss of Pugsley, learning to love Plummy actually made me feel somehow closer to him again. In a way that even I can't explain.
I came to realize that the love and bond I had with Pugsley was special, once in a lifetime love that could never be touched, imitated, or matched. And it wasn't meant to be. Loving another dog wouldn't mean replacing that bond; it would mean forming another entirely different and new one.
Even though it worried me to think Plum and I might only have a year together or a few years at best, I came to understand that I was in a position to make them the best years of her life. To give her the kind of life she always deserved and probably dreamed of. It wasn't quantity of years that mattered, it was quality.
When I look back over the past year I can see only good things that have happened since Plum came into my life. At the very least she was the catalyst that led me onto some very positive paths.
If I never adopted Plum I may still be afraid to love again.
I would still be missing out on all the joy that living with a dog brings.
If I never adopted Plum I may never have gotten my job which I love.
If I never adopted Plum I would never have bought my house or secured a positive investment in my own future.
Health wise, sure we still struggle with her allergies and the occasional infection or issue that flares up. But overall she is stable and content and so much better now than she was before.
I recently had her into the vet (the same vets who never came out and said so but I could tell doubted whether she was even worth saving) told me they could not believe how good she looks and how it really is amazing what I have been able to do with her.
Most of all she is happy now and all heart...and it shows.
I wanted to write this because I know there are others out there who may still be grieving the loss of a beloved pet and may not feel ready to let another one in. I felt it was important to share that sometimes you may never feel ready and you won't know what you're missing out on unless you just dive in and take the plunge. The rewards can be great.
To anyone who looks at a rescue dog that may be in need of a lot of rehabilitation, don't let that stop you from adopting a special needs rescue. It is amazing how resilient dogs are, and also how much love alone can heal their spirit, and physical healing is not long to follow. The love and devotion they give you back, as their rescuers is indescribably strong.
Also to everyone who may be afraid to adopt a senior dog. I can personally attest to the positive merits of welcoming a senior dog into your home and why sometimes they make the best companions:
♥ Senior dogs love to sleep and cuddle the day away. They enjoy a brisk daily walk, but the best part of the day is the nap. They love for you to join them.
♥ Senior dogs have a tremendous amount of love to give. When you rescue a senior dog, you have a best friend for life.
♥ Senior dogs reward your care with an unwavering devotion. Nothing matches the love of a senior dog for his rescuer.
♥ Senior dogs have learned many of life's lessons. They know, for example, that shoes are for walking and bones are for chewing.
♥ Senior dogs know that great outdoors is for eliminating and the house is for relaxing. Your carpet will last longer with a senior dog.
♥ Senior dogs can learn new tricks and be valuable family and community members. They make excellent therapy dogs.
♥ Senior dogs often fit into your household with ease. They find the softest, warmest spot in the house and claim it for their own, but they will share with you, too.
♥ Senior dogs are often the first to be killed in area shelters. Passed over for cute and cuddly puppies, they often do not have a chance and must go to make space for more puppies.
♥ Adopting a senior dog saves a life!
I set out to write Plummy's one year update and tell the world all about how far she has come since I rescued her....but if I am being 100% honest, the real story is how far I have come as a result of her rescuing me.
For information about adopting a rescue dog, visit our adoptable dog's page to see available pugs for adoption.
You can also go here to read Plum's full story and to see more of our Amazing Rehabilitation cases.