Many people in our community don’t have children. In today’s world, it’s generally just because we choose not to. I have many heterosexual friends who have chosen the same path. While I have been a strong presence in my nephew’s life over the past seven years as a surrogate father, that’s as far as I have gone with child rearing.
Instead, I’ve had pets.
During my lifetime, mostly cats. Just over 15 years ago, I got a dog named Betty.
My beautiful little pup, who recently turned 16, has had good health most of her life. Despite some issues brought on by age, she continues to thrive and enjoys being queen of the pack in a household with two other dogs. Despite her ham-heavy attention-seeking antics, she hates getting her picture taken and she deliberately looks away every time I try to shoot an image of her. So, I have to jump about trying to get her face directed at the lens before she moves her head again.
We have a lot of fun, and I could share so many comical recollections from the years we’ve spent together, but I would be remiss if I did not share this story.
Saturday night before last, around 2 a.m., as I was falling asleep in my bed and Betty was falling asleep in hers, she let out a sudden yelp. It was different from any sound I had heard her make before. I called out to her, but she didn’t respond. I looked at her and she wasn’t moving.
I jumped from my bed and ran to hers. I put my hand on her chest and couldn’t detect a heartbeat. I put my other hand by her mouth and she wasn’t breathing, either. I picked her up and she draped across my arms like a wet spaghetti noodle.
For those of you who don’t recognize Betty’s breed, she is a Feist, a combination of Jack Russell and Rat Terrier. They have tight little rock hard bodies. I had never felt her body so limp and lifeless before.
At first I was a combination of horrified and broken-hearted. But then very quickly a sense of calm came over me. I realized she had lived a nice long life and we’d had a wonderful time together. Perhaps, I thought, it was just time for her to go.
But then my mind leapt to a time when another friend had lost her dog, and (my friend later said) her vet told her after the fact if she had attempted CPR on the dog, he might have survived. I also remembered reading about cases with this mixed breed having a broad genetic background that gave her an advantage: there were documented cases of Feists sometimes living into their early twenties and one living to be 29!
I opened Betty’s mouth and cupped one hand around her snout, forcing breath in to her lungs while I pushed on her chest in the way that I had been taught to perform CPR as a child.
I pushed on her chest harder. Still no response. Then I banged on her chest a few times like I’d seen done on various medical television shows. I was almost certain I had lost her.
Then I tried something I had not seen done before, but somehow at the moment, seemed logical.
While still pushing on her chest I started to roll her body around the bed. Not unlike what you might do with dough while trying to make a pizza crust. I saw her eyes slowly start to open.
She eventually looked up at me. The expression on her face was somewhat dazed and confused.
I grabbed her little round bed and stuck it on the left side of mine and placed her in it. I crawled in to my bed beside her and put my arm around her, scratching her head around her ears and running my fingers down her back. That’s always been one of her favorite things for me to do.
She laid there for more than an hour, unmoving. Only looking about with her eyes. Her breathing was somewhat labored. I don’t know, of course, but it seemed like she was in shock. Eventually, we both fell asleep.
A few hours later, I was awakened by her finally getting out of the bed to get some water and a few bites of food.
She had made it through the night. And now, weeks later, she’s still here. She has a recurring cough from esophageal collapse issues (a problem not uncommon for small-ish older dogs), but she continues to climb up on the back of the sofa to look out the window and bark at anything that moves and she still watches television and barks at whatever she feels is necessary. And she hasn’t stopped running like a small, slightly chubby horse when it’s feeding time in the kitchen.
All of what happened that early morning took place in a much shorter amount of time than it took you to read what I’ve written here, but my experience with Betty might buy you some more time with your canine or feline pal.
I have no idea what caused this to happen to her. My veterinarian seems equally clueless. But the time I have spent with Betty since then has been priceless. I felt like the universe gave me a gift. One that I will appreciate for the rest of the time I spend on this planet.
I don’t know how much longer we will have together. But whatever the future holds, I am at peace with it. And I am enjoying every moment I continue to spend with her. She has been one of the very best four-legged friends I have ever had in my life.
One thing is certain: I will never experience another canine buddy just like Betty.
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