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Next Step TherapyWednesday, December 4th, 2019

As we celebrated July 4th, I was reminded of last year when I nearly died in a freak home accident.  Technically I wasn’t even injured, but I had about seven seconds where my life flashed before my eyes.

I have a beautiful forty-five-pound dog named Rusty.  He is nine years old and has been my baby since I adopted him at the Humane Society when he was about six months old.  He is a bizarre mix of Corgi and German Shepard.  He has the Corgi eye liner, the Corgi “fairy” markings and the thick Corgi hair and tail, but the Shepard face and bark.  As part Shepard, he is extremely protective of me and mine, to the point that it is sometimes annoying.

Over the course of two years, we took in two female dogs (at separate times) as fosters, while their parents moved.  Rusty was a changed dog.  Having a companion seemed to mellow him, as if he didn’t need to be on guard 24-7.  The two fosters were eventually reunited with their original owners, and each time, Rusty was clearly sad.

After months of Eli and I talking about adopting a dog, I had a day where I had to kill two hours, so I took a trip to the Humane Society.  As Rusty had done so well with female dogs about his size, I only looked for older girls.  There were three.  While the majority of dogs barked and yapped and jumped, there was this good-sized dog, who was missing an eye, who just sat at her gate looking at me.  I am always drawn to the damaged and infirm, so I hunkered down in front of her, and said, “Hello there!  How are you?”  She wagged her tail.  I reached through the gate and scratched her behind her ear.  She sighed and licked my hand.  Sweet, sweet girl.

I got the story that she was about six years old, had been outside on a chain for her entire life, and had come in with six other dogs, who were probably her pups.  They had all been adopted.  Nobody knew what had happened to her eye, but she really didn’t show signs that she had been abused.

I took pictures of all three female dogs.  I showed them to Eli.  He immediately focused on the one-eyed dog, whose name was Honey.  When I explained her story, he said, “Well, no one else will want her, so we should get her.” This was on Friday.

On Saturday, we went to an animal rescue fund raiser at the VFW in Franklin.  It was packed!  We bought raffle tickets and products.  Eventually we came to the Humane Society booth, and the attendant was clearly talking to a dog under the table.  I said, “That wouldn’t happen to be Honey, would it?”  It was!  What are the odds?  I explained that we were interested in her and had planned to go do a meet and greet on Monday.  The next thing I know, Eli is walking her outside on the leash, and Honey is walking nicely, but pressed up against his leg.  Obviously, his dog.  But, how would Rusty feel?

On Monday after school, Eli and I loaded Rusty up, did a meet and greet, filled out the papers, paid the adoption fee, and brought Honey home.  The adventure started immediately.  Because she cannot see out of one eye, she has impaired depth perception, and is afraid of small spaces.  Like the car.  It took three of us to get her in.  By the time we got home, all of us were covered in drool and flying hair.  I pulled into the integral garage under the house and discovered that as an outside dog on a chain, she did not know how to go upstairs.  Having never lived in a house, Honey was unfamiliar with all indoor sounds.  Doors closing, the refrigerator opening, the toilet flushing…all made her jump and run.  I’m sure it sounds kind of awful, but really, we were kind and soft-spoken, realizing that she needed time to adjust.  She DID figure out within half an hour that couches are lovely, and when I went to bed that first night, she hauled herself right up there too.

It never crossed my mind that she had probably only been fed dry dog food.  I gave her treats, and canned food, and bites of people food.  She immediately developed diarrhea. When I took her to the vet for her preliminary exam and shots, she turned out to be sixty-seven solid pounds.  She also had an ear infection, the gastro-intestinal distress, and that eye that was sealed shut had never been treated by a vet.  It should have been cleaned out and sutured, but apparently it was left to heal on its own.  I have to watch it for changes for the rest of her life.  The shots, exam, meds to stop the poop train, special diet food, ear drops and antibiotics cost a whopping $436.00…and I told Miss Honey that she better love me until the day she dies.  Its been over a year, and she certainly does love her mama.

So, Honey had lived with us for a few months, and was still easily startled, but she had adjusted well.  It was a Saturday night, and the boys had gone to their dads’, so it was just me and the dogs.  I KNEW that Tuesday was July 4th, and I knew that there were big firework shows over the weekend.  Still, somehow, it didn’t occur to me that there would be little neighborhood fireworks.

Picture this.  It’s nine or ten at night, and I’m at the computer.  I have a cocktail, the dogs are napping on the floor, I’m texting with a few friends.  All is well in my world.

My house was all hard-wood floors.  My office chair was on wheels.  I have an unfortunate habit of tucking one leg up under the other when I sit in this chair, so only the toes of one foot are touching the ground.

BOOM!! A neighbor sets off a firecracker.  Not an M-80 that shakes the house, just a normal run of the mill boom.  I swivel in my chair to look at the dogs, and have just enough time to think, “Since when can she move like that?”  Whoom! Seventy pounds of terrified dog hits me directly in the chest.  The chair is flying across the floor, tipping back, and back.   “This is how it ends,” was the only thought I could muster.  I let out a yelp, and Honey dropped her back legs onto the floor, righting the chair.

I got the dogs into the bedroom, shut all of the doors, turned the window air conditioner on high to block the noise, and seriously didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as both dogs got under the covers for the first and only time and spooned each other.  Meanwhile, I crawled into bed with them and laid there thinking that I was about a split-second away from cracking my head open on the floor, only to be found by my poor children two days later.

It’s been a year since that crazy event, and Honey has never reacted badly again to loud noises, including thunder and gunshots.  Despite that, you can be sure that I will NOT be sitting in the office chair with one leg under me during this week of fireworks.  I hope you enjoyed your 4th!


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