Our four children bounced around in the car. The forty-five minute ride felt like days to them. The dirt road was filled with potholes, but finally we pulled into the driveway of a blue doublewide trailer home set back from the street. On the right side was a metal fence with half a dozen doghouses lined up in the back area. As we got out of the car, the choir of various mini dachshunds lined the fence and welcomed us with their yippy melody. Mr. Braddock, a tall burly man, wearing jeans and a worn-out t-shirt, emerged from the front door. Though his voice was loud and intimidating, his smile eased our fears.
“Come on in,” he said. “The momma and pups are ready for you to see.”
Our four children dashed past Mr. Braddock and into his living room. The fragrance of dog instantly invaded our nostrils. It wasn’t an awful odor, but certainly one a non-pet owner would immediately notice.
Once inside, Mr. Braddock talked to us about the four reddish-brown fur balls as he placed them in front of us one-by-one in birth order. He said another family had already selected the largest pup. We thought he was a little too pudgy for our liking anyway.
“Can we take it home today,” our four-year old daughter asked holding the pup slightly larger than the runt.
“No. They need to be with their momma a few more weeks.”
“Awww,” my daughter whined and then giggled as the pup started gnawing on her thumb.
We all agreed on the pup in our daughter’s arms and made arrangements to come back for a visit the following week.
“How will you know which pups is ours,” our oldest son asked.
“Pick a nail polish, and we’ll paint her toe that color.”
“Pink! Pink!” our daughter insisted.
The visit the following week increased our excitement and tied us over until the day we could bring Gretel home.
“I want to hold her.”
“No, I do.”
The fighting began, and so mommy got the privilege of holding the young pup wrapped in a blanket on the ride home. The size of a full-grown hamster, Gretel was less rambunctious then when we first met her. Being new pet owners this meant little to us. We were thankful she slept the entire journey home.
Upon our arrival home, we found that our newest family member only wanted to sleep. Seeking not to alarm the children regarding our concern about their new pet, we settled them into bed. We regretted the attachment we had established as we laid the newspaper and blanket on the bathroom floor.
The wee hours of the morning greeted us with a crying puppy and a bathroom covered with dark black liquid feces. The odor communicated only one clear message. Parvo! Memories of our previous attempt at owning a dog flooded our mind. For a pup weighing less than a bag of sugar, our hopes were shattered.
A call to Mr. Braddock increased our fears. The owners of the largest pup had called reporting his death. The runt was also displaying the same symptoms as Gretel.
“Call the Vet. If he can’t save her, I’ll refund your money.” He was heartbroken, too.
“She has parvovirus,” my husband said when he returned from the vet. He handed Gretel to me. “If she starts to throw up, she’s a goner.” It was only moments later that within the towel, the small pup’s body began to heave and fluid came pouring from her mouth. The six of us began to weep. Her breathing became shallow and almost non-existent.
“Come on, Gretel. You can do it. Live, girl.” I said as I rubbed her body urging her to live. Miraculously, she survived.
Several weeks later, our newly, energetic pup could be found hiding under the couch, her snout poking out of the flap. There she waited to dart out undetected to nab one of our daughter’s dolls. She soon learned to come to the house with a ringing of the bell used to summon the children for dinner and fetch her toys at just the mention of the word.
In an unexpected way, these non-pet owners were reminded that all of life is a gift from God. We are grateful for each day we have enjoyed with Gretel and that the only lasting affect of her illness has been daily seizures. Otherwise, she has been happy and healthy for over eleven years.
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