This post was inspired by Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Man, a memoir by Brian McGrogry. When Brian leaves behind his bachelor life to move to suburbia, joining his girlfriend and her two young daughters, he has no idea he needs to win over their pet rooster, too. Join From Left to Write on November 21 as we discuss Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Man. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
Pets are a special part of our lives. More family than possession, confidante than accessory, I’ve always had some sort of spirit animal by my side throughout my life. The first I remember–Buddy, a runt of a Shetland Sheepdog, rather than a rooster–joined my family when I was little and stayed with us until my youngest brother was born–a demon child who proved to be more than Buddy could handle. Fate found him in my aunt’s and uncle’s family eventually, where he lived out the remainder of his days. He lived a long life.
My first dog that I could call my own didn’t come until 2002. It was a year after I married and we were settling in quite well to our new lives as a married couple. But I felt like something was missing–and I wasn’t ready for children yet. That’s when Becky came along.
Little Becky Boo, to be more accurate. A sable cocker spaniel who has proven my husband’s prediction that dogs are like having a perpetual 2-year-old in the house. I have broken every rule I intended to keep with her. First she was to sleep in the pantry room off of the kitchen, for her own protection. But much like Lady in Lady and the Tramp, she quickly howled her way out of that arrangement…and into our bed. It wasn’t until last year when we purchased a new, taller mattress (and she could no longer make the leap onto the bed) that she finally settled into her own bed. Not far from our own, of course, because she’s always wanted to be close to her people.
Becky has always been my dog. And she’s always done a great job of it. No, we never could get her to walk perfectly on the leash, despite taking her to training classes. But she was always happy to be included. And included she was. We took her on vacations with us, staying at dog-friendly places so she wouldn’t have to be left behind at home. Camping. A ski trip for my husband. There have only been a few times in her life when she couldn’t accompany us. My husband considers this a liability. I consider her part of the family. She should be with us.
Once the kids came along, it was more difficult to include Becky. She didn’t understand her place in the pack for a while, and we did consider sending her to live with a childless family so she could get the attention she deserved. Luckily, we weathered that storm and now she’s quite happy keeping her puppies–my kids–in line. And they love having her do so.
Things were going along swimmingly until last year. At 11 years of age, we had to leave her overnight to attend a wedding a couple states away. My brother looked in on her, caring for her in our absence. But when we returned, she wasn’t quite right. Half of her face drooped and she wasn’t acting like herself. She stopped eating. She couldn’t drink–it just poured back out of her mouth. And her face took on a zombie appearance. It turned out she suffered from facial nerve paralysis. According to her vet, cocker spaniels are susceptible to it, and it tends to come on with no warning.
The weeks that followed were heartbreaking. She became lethargic with little will to do anything. The only way we could get water into her was to squirt it into her mouth–a method she very much disliked. And her eyes drooped more than ever, one almost always open, for she could no longer blink it or shut it all the way.
Blood tests were inconclusive. Medication came next. A last resort. We were already considering how long we would let her continue on like this, as we didn’t want her to suffer. The little glimmer of hope that she could recover–that her body would bounce back–led us on. We took it all one day at a time.
After roughly 3 weeks, her sagging lip and eye contracted–not healed, but no longer in the way or threatening her health as much. Thyroid medication and a series of glaucoma drops in her food ensured her eye wouldn’t dry out and that the secretions from her nose balanced–somewhat. She could drink water again and she started to eat, cautiously at first. Chomping down isn’t so easy when your face doesn’t work quite right.
Medication saved her life. Today, she still has facial nerve paralysis. She will never be the same again. And she will always have to take these drugs–we’ve tried weaning her off with no success. When we first started this regimen, the glaucoma drops were $8 for 3 months’ supply. Now? It was $95 last time I filled the script. I’m hoping the shortage will have passed the next time we fill it. But we really have no choice. She needs it, so we will continue buying it.
Becky is still my constant companion. Always at my feet when I’m baking, washing dishes, or relaxing on the couch. Always looking on with understanding eyes and a joyful spirit. Always my first child, albeit a furry one. I know my time with her is precious–that it could end at any time–and I am thankful that she recovered last year; that we were able to get more time with her. It hasn’t been easy–and boy, has it been messy–but saying goodbye wouldn’t have been any easier. I can’t imagine my life without her, even though I know deep down that day will come. Just not today, please.