My insanely bad luck with animals
I guess it started when I was six. I wanted a kitten, so my family got two, one of which died inexplicably and the other of which ran away. I was ready to throw the towel in then. This owning a pet business seemed way too traumatic to me.
But then my mom picked me up from school one day and said she had a surprise. The only thing I wanted was another toy but instead, she pulled up outside a chicken coop and said that the anticipated article was another kitten. I had a fit. I didn’t want another kitten, I wailed; why couldn’t we just go to Toys-R-Us? That was not an option, though, and so I remember sitting in the passenger seat, arms crossed, furious as I watched her through slitted eyes, picking her way through the garden until she finally got down on the ground to get a kitten that was stuck way back under a cage. That’s when I got out of the car, stomped into the yard and grudgingly picked out my own fluffy ball of fur.
I named it Dusty and she lived a long life, tolerating when my sister and I dressed her up in doll clothes, keeping me company during the chicken pox, and also many a bout of the flu and ear infections, and even following me to college. Then she stayed with my parents when I got a job in Virginia, because she was 17 by then and one more move would have been too much for her. That same year, I came home for Christmas and found out she was in pretty bad shape. New Year’s Eve night we came home from dinner to find her throwing up blood and so my parents took me to the emergency clinic and I stayed in the room with her, while they put her to sleep.
The next year, I decided to get another cat. I was still in Virginia, so I adopted one that had been fostered after he was found wandering a neighborhood known for drug deals and syringes discarded on the street. I named him Buddy James and I had him for about four months, when I took him back to Georgia for Christmas. Then he saw one of my mom’s cats, flipped out and ran away, never to be seen again.
I think that’s about when I decided to stick with my air plant. Then I moved to Barcelona, Spain, where having a pet did not even cross my mind for two years. In Mexico, my next home, people started trying to get me to adopt one of the island dogs, because there are so many strays running around that need homes, but I resisted for another two years, using my old excuse that if I ever wanted to just leave for a weekend get-away, it would be too much trouble to find someone to look after it. I was getting pretty good at this independent, I-don’t-need-anything-to-need-me-and-vice-versa thing, until I decided to take this trip and it suddenly made sense to have a canine companion.
It would be my first as an adult. I had had a Cocker Spaniel-Golden Retriever mix with my family growing up but then when I went West for a year after high school graduation, he stayed with my parents and I got a call one night that they had found out he was riddled with cancer. At barely eight years old, he died. But I was not thinking about that when I met Pedro, a four-month old mutt from Playa del Carmen with whom I fell head over heels in love. I got him all the way across the U.S. border and back to Athens, Ga., but what had started as a little case of kennel cough blew up into what we finally deduced had to be distemper and I put him to sleep.
Two weeks later, I decided to suck it up and get another dog, and after meeting with some local rescue groups, I found Rennie. At a year old and fully vaccinated, he had already persevered through all of those vicious illnesses that take down young dogs, and with a muscular build and shiny coat, he looked tough, like he could overcome anything. Besides, he had been found in a box on the side of the road with his sisters, and then taken to the pound, where he was rescued on the day he was to be euthanized. He had serious street cred.
All was well for awhile and I was slowly getting over my overprotective, slightly paranoid behavior with him, trusting that the odds were with me, that I could not possibly have another terrible experience with an animal. He had a few problems with urinary tract infections on the road but I was able to pretty much gloss over them. Until he started losing weight. At first, I was not sure if it was my imagination but then someone asked me if he had just been rescued from the pound. “Um, like a year ago,” I said.
I was thinking that maybe it was road stress and that being home for a little while might fatten him up. But it didn’t. And then he ate some furniture foam and had to get emergency surgery to remove the obstruction in his small intestine. The silver lining on that story was that while the vet was in there, she also got a good scrape of his intestinal walls to be able to do a biopsy, because his weight loss was alarming to her. In the four months since he had last been to her office, he had lost five pounds off his already lean frame.
Now, if you’re reading the Flit Flitter Facebook fan page, you already know that the test results came back and that he has IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, not to be confused with IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Of course I would choose an animal that has this. The good news is that it might be manageable with a very strict diet of a special non-allergen food, and that if it is indeed manageable that easily, he will gain weight again and turn back into a normal, healthy dog. The bad news is that he might also have to go on steroids for the rest of his life, if the food alone does not work. And the worse news is that if both those things don’t fix it, there are no other options, which I did not question any further when the vet told me that, because as far as I am concerned, he is going to respond miraculously to the food alone. By careful management of what goes into his mouth, right down to filtered water, he will recover just fine.
I mean, my luck is due to change any minute now; right?