Meet this tiny stray.
A week before the hardest Christmas I’ve yet to go through, I was depressed. I’d decided that I wouldn’t be participating in festivities. No gifts. No parties. No cooking. I embraced my sadness and looked forward to nothing.
Then as my Ben and I were driving along a country road, from the passenger seat I glanced in the side mirror and saw a tiny head poke up from the ditch.
“Stop! There’s a dog!”
Ben put on the brakes and he definitely tried to talk me out of it, but eventually he backed up. I opened the door and this tiny, scraggly little dog came straight to me. I could tell he was in need. He was so matted you could barely see his eyes. He was infested with cockle burrs, tangles, and fleas. I looked toward Ben.
“No. No way is he getting in this car,” Ben said.
I put my hands on my hips. “I AM NOT leaving this poor dog here in the ditch!”
We argued for a minute (or two) and I promised that I’d only see to his health, try to find his family and if I couldn’t, I would put him up for adoption.
I picked him up and climbed into the car. I’ll admit, he smelled worse than death. (I’ve smelled death, so I know) I mean, he reeked. But he sat up in my lap, quiet and stoic, but ready to get out of that ditch and the impending cold temperatures.
It was a long ride home. Ben was not happy with me. The little guy kept sneezing. All over our new car. Admittedly, I was a bit afraid of what the dog was carrying.
But I settled him down in the guest house away from our dogs. I got him a warm bed and fed him. He was so hungry.
The next morning I took him to the vet.
The evaluation showed that the little dog was barely 4 lbs and very near starving. The doctor shook her head and told me that she thought he was somewhere between 12-14 years old and had most likely been out there for a very long time on his own. An examination showed that he had severe gingivitis and not too many teeth. Lots of fleas, too. He was a good patient. Still and so very quiet.
“What needs to be done?” I asked her.
“It depends,” she said. “He’s old and near to starvation. How much do you want to put into him since he’s a stray?”
“Whatever it takes to make him comfortable,” I said.
So he got his shots and was shaved down and soaked to get rid of the fleas. Once his matted hair was gone, you could see every bone in his tiny body. His mouth was in terrible shape and pus pockets were found all around his gums. He was too fragile for blood work and a dental. That would take time.
I brought him home. And he was so quiet and a bit shell-shocked. I thought he was deaf because he wouldn’t react to noise or talking. He ate like a mad man, but otherwise slept. I found that caring for him brought me out of my holiday sadness. He kept me from wallowing in my own thoughts and I concentrated on making him feel safe and loved. Together, we got through Christmas.
But I couldn’t keep him. We already had three dogs, one of which was giving us a lot of trouble. And he was too tiny! We have coyotes and hawks, and all sorts of scary stuff on our property. So after posting on many lost/found sites and slowly making sure he didn’t belong to anyone, I began looking for a forever home. His health really improved and he put on a little weight. I learned he wasn’t deaf, he was just so frightened in the beginning. But soon he started responding to my voice just like the other dogs. I named him Oliver, because once he began coming out of his shell, I found him to be a lovely little gentleman.
One of my good friends thought he might be a good fit for them. They were amazing to him and even took him for a dental to relieve some of his mouth pain. The vet pulled the rest of his rotted teeth out, leaving him only three. They helped put weight on him and gave him a ton of TLC while I was away on vacation. Though we had high hopes, that placement didn’t work out and Oliver came back.
I went back to searching.
When I found a retired lady who had a small dog like Oliver and was looking for a companion for it, I thought for sure she was the one. Oliver went. A week later Oliver came back. The day I picked him up, he vomited and had blood specks. To the vet we went and pancreatitis was diagnosed. Shots and a diet of pedialyte and baby food was ordered. Again, I nursed him back to health, feeling a huge burden of guilt that I’d somehow exposed him to a situation where he became sick. But he got better quickly and I tried to make it up to him with extra special care.
Then I listed him on the rescue website I volunteer for. It’s called NC Yorkie Rescue and they do a marvelous job of re-homing dogs after traumatic experiences or whatever else they come into their care for. I knew he’d be snapped up quickly, as they have a waiting list for people wanting Yorkies.
In the meantime as I waited for applications to come through, Oliver was changing. He found his voice again and began to find joy in following my boys around. He really attached to Riley, and mimicked everything he did. He still loved to sleep, and absolutely loved to eat. He also learned what human to canine affection was all about and he showed a liking to it. Outside he would do his business and then come to me to be tucked into my coat. Even Ben started to warm up to him, because Oliver is hard to resist when you know what a hard life he has had thus far. He’s just a small bundle of friendliness. And forgiveness.
I decided I would be extremely careful who I chose next for Oliver. He deserved to stop bouncing around. No more mistakes. As old as Oliver was, it was time to find his real forever family.
Then a few days later, Oliver and I had a special moment. I took him outside to potty and when he was done, he came to me wanting to be carried in out of the brisk cold. I tucked him into my sweater and he snuggled close, shivering heavily. Instead of setting him down once inside the house like I usually do, I decided to keep him in there a little while to warm him up. I leaned back on the couch and let him put his little head under my chin as he burrowed under my sweater and warmed his old bones. Then in the warmth, I felt his body relax. He began this soft little snore and I realized that I might be the first human he completely trusts and is willing to let his guard down with.
My heart did a little flip. I was flooded with love. And in that second, I knew it. This little five-pounds of affection had come to me when I needed him the most, and in return, he needs me for the remaining years he has left. And I knew something else then, too. In that moment, Oliver officially became part of the Bratt Pack and won’t be going anywhere.
Trackback from your site.