Friday, November 09, 2007

Beaux's Legacy

It's been a rough couple weeks. I recently found out that I am severely allergic to my new dog and I have had to give him up. I can't believe how hard this has been.

I've always had bad allergies but they had abated dramatically in recent years. I didn't even take allergy medicine any more. AND, I've had dogs over the years. Family dogs. Strays. Pets that came along as my family grew. I had some allergy problems then, but I took pills and got along ok. And when all the pets were gone or out of the house, my allergies did take a big leap for the better. Overall, it didn't seem like a very big deal.

Soooooooo, I started thinking about getting a pet of my very own about a year ago. I waivered a lot about it. I mean, it is a commitment of both time and money and I would never get a pet that ended up living alone. And I considered my allergies. How compromising could it be?

I researched "non-allergenic" dogs - there is no such thing for the truly allergic - and I knew that. BUT, you can stack the deck and that is what I decided to do. I spent months thinking about it before I looked at actual dogs. And then, when I started really looking, I decided I would do a rescue. So many dogs are abandoned that it is heartbreaking and if I could give just one a home, then that is what I wanted to do.

Meanwhile, both my oldest son and my daughter rescued dogs. It wasn't something we talked about - it was just coincidence. I visited the shelter where my son had adopted a dog. Oh my, it was awful! I was looking for a bichon or poodle or maltese or mix of those based on my allergies and there were none of those at the shelter. There WERE lots of beautiful dogs and when I walked past the cages and looked into their eyes I just started to cry. I so admire the volunteers at the shelter as they are doing what I could not do when it comes to these animals. I knew I couldn't even go back to the shelter to look again.

So I got online and searched for rescues in my area. That was easy and soon I located a bichon-poodle mix named Oscar that I wanted to see. I filled out the application and made an appointment. Wisely, the rescue group brought THREE dogs for me to see based on my preferences. I was surprised by that, but here is how it worked out...

Me and Oscar didn't click. But me and "Snow" did! You could have knocked me over with a feather! Snow greeted me at the gate and hung right by me as I walked over to Oscar. Oscar was not interested at all. I held Oscar and he was stiff and uncomfortable. He wanted down so I put him down. When I offered to hold Snow, he jumped into my lap and buried his head in my elbow. After petting him for a while, he looked up at me with pure adoration. I was totally thrown off by this. I never considered myself a "dog person". I know people who are and I sometimes think they are over the top about their pets. I mean, c'mon. Pets are not children. They're animals.

But as I sat and held Snow, my heart began to melt. It felt so odd that I put him down and coaxed Oscar back onto my lap. Again, Oscar was anxious and I put him down. Snow leaped back into my arms. The rescue ladies looked at each other and grinned. "What do you think?" Melody asked me. I looked down at Snow and replied, "I think I like this one." We all smiled.

Snow was still scheduled to be neutered, so I had to wait two more weeks to get him. That was fine as I had not purchased any doggie supplies - I hadn't been sure I would really come home with a dog. And so I stood at the fence and watched Snow run and play for a bit longer before I left. I felt a strange tug at my heart as I admired the bounce in his step. Snow was oddly regal in how he was pure white and how he pranced as he ran or walked. I felt a very strong connection to this dog.

Yes, I had had dogs before, but never "my own dog". You know, the way you think of your "own dog" when you are a kid. One that likes you better than anyone and would drag you from a burning house if he had to. I had enjoyed the dogs our family had over the years, but I sometimes wondered if I liked the IDEA of a dog better than the real responsibility of a dog. Suddenly, I was very excited about a particular dog - Snow.

I spent the following two weeks getting ready. I bought doggie beds, organic dog food, toys, treats, towels to go on my furniture in each room that could be washed because of my allergies, and even a doggie car seat. I was feeling a little silly, but also excited to go get this dog that seemed so perfect for me. I wondered if I was having some sort of delusion over being single and having an empty nest for so long. Was this normal??

Oh yes, it was. My daughter and her family went with me to pick up Snow and he got in the car with us like he was expecting us all along. I had intended to name him "Jaxon" after perusing about a million dog names, but on the way home, we all decided that that name didn't really fit him. We brainstormed and came up with Beaux - the French spelling, of course. He had that regal look, and it was close to the name Snow, so he should adapt to it pretty quickly. He did. And here he is...

Beaux was super-affectionate from the start. I wasn't sure of his potty-training, even though he was an adult dog, because he was out of a puppy mill and had lived in a cage. I tethered him when I couldn't watch him and took him out often. We took a lot of walks. He was perfect and within a few days he had the run of the house when I was home. After a couple weeks he had the run of the house even when I wasn't home. He never had a single accident.

It was fun to come home at lunch and at the end of the day and have someone so excited to see me! Beaux literally stuck to my side and showed me total allegience. We began to do some obedience training and he was a quick study. In a few weeks he would do the following commands: Sit, Down, Stay, Shake, Paw & Pattycake. Every day we worked on his obedience and I brushed his hair. I got very little hair out of him, but he liked the grooming and I figured it would keep him from leaving any hair on the furniture. Twice I bathed him (with my own shampoo) and he was a perfect sport about it. I blow-dried his hair and gave him a puppy trim and he was gorgeous.

I also took him out of town with me twice. He was a very good guest and everyone marvelled at how he followed me around. No one could entice him away from me, which made me secretly very happy. At last I had that childhood dream of a dog who loved me best and spurned all others. I never said that out loud, of course, but when Beaux and I looked each other in the eyes, we knew.....

Just as Beaux and I were settling into our daily routine, I realized I was having problems. I did not connect it to him, but I had been having a rash for several weeks that would come and go with no evident provocation. I wondered if I had become allergic to one of my supplements or prescriptions. I stopped all medications and began to test them one at a time. I had a pretty bad reaction after taking iron one day and thought that might be the culprit. In fact, I broke out in hives and when my lips started to swell, I left work and drove straight to the doctor's office. I was taken right in and given a steroid injection, a steroid dose pack, a prescription antihistimine and an inhaler. Doc told me not to take any more iron - I could get iron shots if I needed them. I was temporarily better but not for long.

Two days later, another severe breakout sent me to the hospital where I got oxygen and a prescription for an "epipen" - an emergency syringe of epinephrine that will help you breathe until help arrives. This was getting scary.

The next day, Beaux licked my neck in the morning and as I was getting ready for work, the place on my neck began to progress into hives. "oh no.....", I thought, "it cannot be the dog...."

Long story short - it was the dog. Believe me, we continued to test other things and clean up my environment in every way we could, but to no avail. It was the dog. I was heartsick. I had had Beaux for only six weeks, but it seemed like a perfect match. Friends and family commented "that dog LOVES you!" and I had to agree in wonder. I had never felt such a connection to an animal and was even a bit embarrassed by his total and complete admiration. Now, suddenly, it was over. Beaux had to be removed from my home with no notice because I was having trouble breathing. I could not believe this was happening and I knew the dog would not understand. I was devastated.

After a couple days, I was still breaking out, but I felt I should go "test" an exposure to Beaux. It was predictably bad. Hives upon hives broke out for hours, long after I was back home and away from the dog. I changed my clothes and showered and washed my hair and eventually it calmed down. Still, I broke out each day for a couple more days.

In a few more days, I went to visit Beaux just to be sure one more time. I was a wreck from missing him so much and he whined and cried as I petted him and brushed out his hair. I cried, too. When it was time to leave, my son distracted the dog with food and I snuck out. After I left, Beaux went to the door and cried some more. My son and daughter-in-law only told me this so that I would know how much the dog misses me as well. They did not want me to feel worse, but they wanted me to know than I am missed. That means a lot to me.

And so, I am now helping the rescue group find a new home for Beaux. Thankfully, Melody completely understands and is extremely compassionate about this situation. And I have gotten some promising calls from ones who might adopt Beaux and give him a loving home. That's the only thing that makes me feel the slightest bit better about this entire mess. In time, Beaux will bond with someone who loves him as much as I did and he will not remember me. That is a good thing.

For me, I will never forget the most unconditional love I have ever experienced in my life. I will never forget the black, black eyes that looked up at me as if to say "are you still there? I just can't believe it!!" I will not forget Beaux's utter excitement to see me come home or to reach for his leash and go for a walk. I will not forget how Beaux was ecstatic to jump into the car and go for a ride. He was happy just being with me and no - I will not forget that.

I will miss you Beaux. I wish for you a happy, loving new home where you will be a loyal companion and you will be loved for who you are. You were my best beaux ever...


Deluzy said...

Ohmygosh, Starr, I'm SO sorry ... how heart-breaking for you. Holding you in my thoughts ...


Sharon said...

Oh Starr, I'm sorry. That is the worst. Love to you.


robertsloan2 from LJ said...

That is so sad. I feel for you so much. This is the saddest thing I've read online in a long time. *hugs*

At least you can help find him a new home and someone who will love him as much as you did. He sounds like an incredible dog.

Robert, robertsloan2art on eBay.