She became a part of our lives in January. We’re getting old, and this seemed to be our last opportunity to get a puppy that we can outlive.
My wife and I drove 70 miles to pick her up, that sunny morning. At eight weeks old, she hadn’t a clue what lay in store for her. But she never whined or suffered from any separation anxiety, after being taken away from her mother. She trusted us completely, licking my wife’s face and sleeping over her shoulder.
We named her Dolly Lollipalooza, on that drive home.
Dolly was a dachshund with the face of an angel, but who played like the devil, badgering and harassing our other two dachshunds. And she was merciless toward our chihuahua, Lilly Belle. At 15, Lilly had lost her playfulness, but was too old and crippled to defend herself from this bothersome pup. But Dolly’s disposition was sweet, and she and the other dogs grew to accept her. Hell, they had to. Dolly insisted.
Housebreaking this little bitch was about as challenging as picking our way through the minefields she left on the floor. My wife would grow so exasperated, she’d throw fits, and Dolly would come running to me for rescue, and hide behind my leg.
But she eventually lost her refuge after I started getting on her case, too. That was after stepping in one too many yellow lakes. One morning I rolled up a page of a newspaper, creating a flimsy, harmless truncheon, then wailed on our little puppy’s piddling ass. It made a horrific rattle as it patted her bottom, and left her terrified.
Shortly after that incident we realized it wasn’t her fault. The yellow lakes were being produced by Lilly, who had gone senile and who was forgetting to go outside. After that I felt tremendous guilt, and made sure to give Dolly extra love and attention.
But I suspect Lilly secretly enjoyed the trouble she got Dolly into.
I weighed Dolly once a week, and marveled at how quickly she grew up. At eight months old, she leveled off at about 17 pounds. She could have used her size, strength and youthful energy to dominate the other dogs, but this was not her character. She had a sweet demeanor, and never got assertive or aggressive, except when she wanted to play.
One day I heard a very loud noise that sounded like a half-growl, half-scream. I rushed into the livingroom, expecting to break up a dog fight. But I discovered the commotion had not been from any canicular dispute, but rather from a loud retch. Dolly had forcefully vomited all over one of our expensive, upholstered chairs.
I quickly cleaned it up, and just as quickly she retched all over the floor. I picked her up in a frenzy and put her outside, where she continued her loud vomiting. It was worrisome. I’d never heard a dog vomit so loudly before.
She suffered intermittent bouts of vomiting over the next several days. And she barfed so forcefully that she sprained her back, leaving her nearly unable to walk. And she grew weak from inability to hold food or water down. Finally we took her to the vet.
After several days, and a multitude of tests, and $5,000 in bills, the vet called us to express her dismay. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Dolly. She had several theories, and none of them portended well. They all sounded as if Dolly would have lifelong health issues, even if she recovered from her current round of sickness.
But my wife had told me she’d been feeding Dolly some chicken jerky treats she’d bought from Walmart. I googled those treats and discovered that jerky treats, especially chicken jerky treats, had been linked to many dog ailments.
In fact, in 2015 Walmart had apparently been linked by the FDA to dog illnesses and deaths, over the very brand of chicken jerky treats my wife had purchased (Golden Rewards). They were made in China. According to the FDA, pet treats containing chicken, imported from China, were found to be laced with illegal antibiotics.
I checked the packaging. “Made in Thailand,” it read. So after all the controversy in 2015, it appears Walmart switched suppliers to a different country.
Nonetheless, I told the vet about my suspicions that Dolly had been poisoned by the chicken jerky. She advised us to stop feeding those treats to our dogs. But she also couldn’t be certain that this was the cause of Dolly’s illness. She wanted to keep Dolly longer, for more testing. But after $5,000, we put our foot down and brought our puppy home. It wasn’t just the money. We believed Dolly was suffering at that vet hospital, and could recover better at home.
The vet warned us we’d be bringing her back to her soon. But my wife is a good nurse. She thought it was worth a try. And she was right. Soon, Dolly was on a miraculous road to recovery. After three days, her vomiting had almost completely gone away. And her back was better. She was running around and being playful again. And she had a voracious appetite. Her weight returned almost to normal.
But a few days after her miraculous recovery, the vomiting returned. And the day after that it was much worse. Dolly lost nearly a pound over 24 hours. She still acted hungry, but she reluctantly refused food, as if she knew it would make her vomit. And she was thirsty. But when she tried to drink, she’d throw it up.
She took to wandering aimlessly about the house, as if searching for a way to escape her misery. Finally we took her back to the vet, as the vet had predicted we would. The vet gave her a powerful anti-emetic shot with the caveat that if this didn’t work we might have to make a “tough choice.”
It didn’t work. The vomiting continued. We finally decided to make that tough choice. With heavy hearts, we made one last trip to the animal hospital. By this time, Dolly was terrified of the place. We held her close to us, reassuring her. She calmed down. She trusted us completely, and had no idea what lay in store for her.
Were we making the right decision? Did she stand a chance of recovering? Or would she continue to suffer? We agonized, because we couldn’t be sure.
She laid her head upon my lap, trusting me to keep her safe as I gently stroked her between her ears. I hated being such a traitor. With the first shot, she went to sleep. About 30 seconds after the second shot, I felt all the muscles in her body relax. Her spirit left. She was gone.
It was hard to believe that such a playful, loving puppy could leave our lives so quickly, and just 10 days before her first birthday. I wished we could have helped her. My wife sobbed with near hysteria. And I had to hold back my tears and control myself, so I could drive us safely home.
It’s been a month now, but she still haunts our memory, with her playful ways, her sweet demeanor, and her trusting eyes. In fact, I think she will always be part of our memory.
Whether human or animal, when we love a living being, and it loves us back, we can never forget that soul after it departs our world. It seems we will be haunted from here to the hereafter, until we meet again. And when we do meet, I believe the reunion will be just as sweet as a little puppy I once knew, named Dolly.