Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dog on the Blog: Belle's Indomitable Spirit, Even With Heart Disease!

Belle has lived with us for 13 years. She is from Albuquerque. Back in those days, I sold furniture at the La-Z-Boy Showcase and Ricky was a shop teacher for Albuquerque Public Schools.

One Friday I was listening to talk radio in my car, going in to work. A regular Friday feature was "Dog Mom", a volunteer from the Albuquerque Animal Shelter who would talk about dogs waiting for homes. This Friday she was telling Belle's story. Belle had been at the shelter for several months, and was a favorite of the staff. But week in and week out, she was always the bride's maid, never the bride. No one picked Belle to go home with them.

And now she was out of time. The next day, Saturday, would be her last if no one adopted her. There just was not enough space at the shelter, and every week brought a new onslaught of dogs. Every week that Belle was allowed to live meant that some other dog had to die, because there was only so much space at the shelter. It is the sad dilemma of shelters everywhere.

Now Saturday is the BIG day in the furniture business and I had to work. But Ricky was off, so I asked Ricky to please go to the pound and fetch Belle.

Ricky tells of Belle laying listlessly in her crate at the shelter. Nothing like the exuberant girl described by the staff, who had grown to love her. It was as if she knew that she had run out of time and was preparing for her death.

When I got home from work that Saturday, I could not help but laugh out loud. Dog Mom had described Belle as a "beagle mix"! Until that day, I had not realized than Dog Mom must be visually impaired! Belle is all nose. She seems to be a mix of a Shar Pei and a "Spuds McKenzie" dog!

And there was another new dog at our house, as well. Ricky had seen Grizelda at the shelter and she was also marked for death the next day, so he brought her home, too. We just lost our Grizelda about 6 months ago. She was a corgi mix who loved people but was not overly fond of other dogs.

Neither is Belle. It was an interesting ride home from the shelter for Ricky!

Belle has always been full of life and energy. In her heyday, Belle could jump from the floor to the dining room table top in a single, effortless motion. It was like watching a space ship just levitate upward and onto the table! (We tried to dissuade her from that, but we had only limited success in her younger days.)

I remember one day, shortly after she arrived, I was working at the desk when Belle was suddenly at my feet, wanting some attention. I picked her up and was loving on her, when I got to thinking: I don't remember letting her in the house. She is supposed to be out in the courtyard.

When I went to investigate -- thinking maybe she had somehow pushed open the door -- there was a gaping hole in the drywall! Belle had managed to chew through the exterior siding, push aside the insulation, and then chew right through the drywall to get into the house!

Belle had corrective surgery for her eyelids, because like many Shar Peis, she had more eyelid than she could use and it got in the way.

Over the years, Belle has been a wonderfully entertaining baby girl. She has never been able to have a dog-friend, because she just does not like other dogs. But she makes her own fun, playing with her toys and chasing bugs and squirrels. We once built a special yard just for Belle. It was off our bedroom, through a set of french doors. We planted some beautiful flowering bushes all along the perimeter of her yard. Belle dug up every single one!

As she has moved on into her senior years, Belle has slowed down a lot, like most of us do. She can no longer jump onto the table top in a single movement. But she still patrols her yard when she goes outside with her head erect and her tail held high!

A couple months ago, we noticed that she seemed to be getting heavier, but when we picked her up she felt soft and "mushy". So we took her to Dr. Stern to see what was going on and discovered that, like many seniors, her heart is not working like it used to, or like it should. She has an irregular heart beat and fluids were building up in her chest cavity.

She is now on three separate heart medications, just like any other elderly lady. She takes Lasik, Enalapril Maleate, and Vetmedin, all prescribed by Dr. Stern. They have made a big difference in reducing the swelling in her chest and reducing the excess fluid around her heart. Fortunately for us, our good friend Jodie Richards from Dogs on Death Row paid Belle's vet bill and also paid for two months of medications, because Belle's meds are not cheap!

We know that our time with Belle is limited. We don't know how old she was when she came to live with us, but we know we can add 13 to that number to arrive at her age, so she is at least 14, possibly older. Belle lives in the house now, so that she can spend more time with us in her sunset years. We want to be with her when it is her time to leave.

When I look at Belle, I remember that ball of energy that came to live with us so many years ago, and I think about all these years that Belle has lived with such gusto and elan -- years she would have missed if I had not happened to hear that radio program back in 1995.

Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
a 501(c)3 corporation
wharton, texas

Please become a Smiling Dog Partner to Support Our Work

Your Monthly Tax-Deductible Gift Gives Hope to the Forgotten,Neglected & Rejected
Just click on

No comments: