We brought him home six years ago. He was a necessity, not a luxury. At the time, I could barely get myself out of bed, let alone out the door, my depression was so bad. Our adoption had fallen through just six months before, and it was the most painful thing I had ever experienced in my life. I didn’t want to see anyone. I hardly wanted to live. As far as I was concerned, there was no future for me.
However, I had been pet sitting a little bit here and there. I had my cats, guinea pigs, and rabbits, but dogs need you more, and I really needed to be needed. They would come and lie with me on the bed, and I had to go out for their walks each day. The dogs I watched stayed for a few days, and then went home. The pay was very low. I did it because I wanted the dogs in my life.
And then my husband agreed to let me have a dog of my own. He was listed on Craigslist – not exactly free, but they had spent quite a bit of money on him between the vet and the groomers (he had come from a bad place) and wanted to get some of their money back. We weren’t really particular on the breed. We just knew we wanted a small dog.
His name was Grizz, as in Grizzly bear – a pure bred Chocolate Pom. Of course, with my compulsion to name things, I had to come up with a new name, but not too different – just something to make him ours. After many suggestions, we settled on the name ‘Gryffindor,’ or ‘Gryff’ for short (though mostly I call him ‘Pookie,’ which he doesn’t seem to mind.)
He quickly settled in to our family, and he really did make a difference on my mental health. For one thing, he needed to be walked twice a day. He really likes his routines. For another, since our rabbits ran loose in our front yard at the time, he needed to be watched while he was with them. He did catch one of the rabbits at one point, when he got out the door as my husband was carrying things in – but his teeth weren’t great, and he did no damage. He was quickly trained to understand that our rabbits were not his toys. He stopped chasing them, and they started chasing him instead!
Dogs aren’t cheap, and I quickly came to the conclusion that in order to take proper care of him, I would need an income. That is when I started running my daycare again – quite a leap for me, as my confidence was exceptionally low after the failed adoption – but I did it for him.
After a while I got another job at a motel. While I liked having the children, the pay was extremely low (since I could only take two at a time) and I really couldn’t handle the changeover as the parents left for various reasons (lay-offs, odd hour requirements… in short, not needing daycare.) That was the first job I had away from home, and the only reason I could do it at all was because my dog depended on me.
Of course, being me, it didn’t last long-term. I am now on disability as I get severely anxious and overwhelmed too easily to function at a regular job. But having my dog really brought me out of myself, and kept me working for a long time – that I could work for 3 years was due to having him, because I never could have done even that for myself.
Early this year, he got a cough. It has progressed into frequent coughing, wheezing, rapid breathing, and low energy. Twice in the last two months, we have had to take him to the vet, where we have been told he has a heart murmur and enlarged heart. He isn’t even eight years old! And it breaks my heart.
Expensive, when I am on a fixed income. Frightening, when every night I wake up to his wheezing wondering if he will last the night. Sad. So very sad is the thought of losing him. But what can we do? As I said, he is a necessity, not a luxury – and he has given me so much. So I pray, and I worry, and I take him to the vet, and every time in my heart I am begging that they will not advise us to have him ‘put down,’ or that the expense will become so much that we have nothing left to give, for I can’t! I can’t lose him. I need my dog.