Rescue Story #5 – Decibel   7 comments

I feel very lucky that Michelle shared this story with me.

The Little Puppy That Could

You probably have to be a dog person to understand how this could happen. One minute my husband and I were talking about getting a companion for Piglet, our five-year-old Golden Retriever, and the next we were in a shelter staring at the saddest little ball of pathos a cage has ever held. Her nose was running, her coat was filthy, and her eyes were wet, desperate and pleading. At the same time, her tail was thumping like a jackhammer. She was one sick puppy, but there was something indomitable about her. At times like this, rational people leave. We, however, formed an instant rescue committee. We paid our “donation” and took the little mess straight to Dr. K, the veterinarian who’d looked after my dogs since I was in high school.

Dr. K listened to the puppy’s lungs for a moment, removed his stethoscope and said she had one of the worst cases of distemper he’d ever seen. He didn’t know if he could save her, but he could try. It was up to us. But the decision had already been made. That panicked look on her face, that thumping tail. The puppy had picked us. We were her Obi-Wan Kenobi, her only hope. We had to try.

After almost a week with Dr. K she came home with piles of antibiotics. Several times a day we had to run the shower until the bathroom filled with steam and sit with her for ten or fifteen minutes while she wheezed. She was too sick to be vaccinated, so she had to stay indoors. The unintended consequence was, whenever we took Piglet for a walk, the puppy went into a frenzy. After a few days she started to whine and howl every time we left the house, with or without Piglet. She was so loud, the new neighbor across the hall reported us to the ASPCA for animal abuse. That’s when we figured out her name: Decibel, dB for short.

As Decibel’s health improved, boredom turned her into a one-dog wrecking crew. In a single day she chewed almost completely through the legs of a table that had belonged to my grandmother. We bought a puppy gate, but she climbed over it. We bought a second gate and stacked them. Did I mention we have high ceilings? The next day I came home to find she had scaled the two gates and eaten the couch. It was an 82-inch, Tuxedo-style sofa with lots of pillows and cushions, and she had chewed through all of them. The living room was knee-deep in mounds of white pillow stuffing. It was a little like that Rolling Stones video for “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” where the boys are in sailor suits and at the end they’re nearly swallowed up by bubbles. Except it wasn’t bubbles, it was my couch. I bought a third gate. She climbed that, too, but she couldn’t get over it. It was too close to the top of the doorframe.

When Decibel finally was healthy enough to go outside, no one would ever have guessed she’d been sick. She ran and jumped and caught balls in the air like an all-star outfielder. She was also my little early warning system. Every once in a while the hair on her neck and shoulders would stand straight up and she’d start to bark. Sure enough, I’d see some dodgy character. Unfortunately, Decibel was a disaster in the dog run. Her muttly mix was full of Border Collie and the herding force was strong. She chased the other dogs around in circles, barking and nipping at their heels until they cowered together in a corner.

Gradually she grew up, calmed down, and became the dog that sits on your feet because sitting near your feet wouldn’t be close enough. The dog that looks guilty whether or not she did it. The dog that sidles up with a toy in her mouth and a look in her eyes that says “playtime” at 5 o’clock in the morning. The dog that makes you laugh really hard. Decibel was a great, crazy dog.

And then she was nine. Piglet, now 14, was developing the kidney problems that tell you an old dog’s time is getting short. It was winter when we took her to Dr. K and finally let her go. When spring came and the ground thawed and filled the air with aromas that make a dog’s heart sing, Decibel seemed to smell Piglet everywhere. She ran through the park wagging her tail, sniffing the ground and searching expectantly for her lost friend.

That summer, for the first time in her life, Decibel wasn’t interested in running. Her feet seemed a little swollen — not all the time, but sometimes. Her appetite wasn’t great either. Then, out of nowhere, she collapsed. We rushed her to the nearest emergency hospital, the Animal Medical Center. She spent two days there hooked to an IV while they tested her for everything from Lyme disease to exotic parasites. Every test was negative. Probably a virus, they thought. When she collapsed a few weeks later, we raced back. Another day on an IV, more tests, and still no diagnosis.

In September she started to go downhill again, and I took her to Dr. K. By the time we got to his clinic on Long Island, he had already reviewed her test records and figured out what was wrong: Decibel had Lupus. Lupus? He said there was reason to be hopeful. Canine Lupus can often be managed with steroids. It would all depend on how far the disease had progressed.

If this were a fairy tale we would all have lived happily ever after. But that’s not what happened. With daily doses of steroid pills, Decibel ran, jumped and bounced around like a puppy for 14 days. And then, on our morning walk, she collapsed. I carried her home and sat down on the floor. She lay across my lap struggling to breathe. I hugged her and told her it was okay to let go. The little puppy that could simply couldn’t anymore. Just like that, she died in my arms.

Reading this, you might wonder if it was worth it. If all the worry and ruined furniture and veterinary bills were worth the nine short years we had with Decibel. The answer is yes. It was a bargain.

— Michele Hush

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Posted November 14, 2010 by julieklam in Rescue Stories

7 responses to “Rescue Story #5 – Decibel

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  1. You made me cry, thanks a lot. She sure was worth it though.

  2. This made me cry, Michelle. Beautifully told. You and your husband have hearts to match Decibel’s.

  3. wow. sob sob

  4. Now that I’ve dried my eyes i can type. What a wonderful story. You are so lucky you got to share the final moments with her at home.

  5. Thank you, Felicia and Kristin. I was afraid Decibel’s story would make people cry. Cilla (the first commenter) is my daughter; she was Decibel’s playmate at least as much as Piglet was. If I’d included her part of the story, you’d still be weeping. Ah, doggies.

  6. How lucky you all were to find each other and love each other. Decibel’s story made me laugh and cry…but ultimately her story could have ended back at the shelter…instead she had glorious years with her favorite people. And then she got to cross over in the arms of someone who loved her the most. We should all be so fortunate.

  7. Dear Julie, I have just read Please Excuse My Daughter….wonderful heart rending and funny! I think in Tina Brown’s Princess Di memoir she says every woman has her Dody Fayed and when I read about Joe (and then rememberered my own!) well!…I watched you on YouTube and you are such a charming real person. I’m glad I found your book and now on to Woof..I have a chihuahua Minty and a Japanese Chin COCO COLette currently…have had many loving dogs. I wish you a happy life with your family and dogs. Cheers, Patricia

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