A Dog Dilemma; Another Winky Story
During my “at home vacation” I was faced with another crossroads about Winky, and like so many crossroads, I faced it alone. There are many things I do alone and feel quite capable. But when it comes to finances, life altering decisions, and kids, God did not intend us to manage these things alone. He says plainly in Ecclesiastes: “Two are better than one…”
If you are my friend, you know how much I value your input and conversation. We talk in depth and our talks quench my thirst for perspective and insight. You are a substitute for a partner or a parent, and you know I value our discussions. I cannot say it enough, but for you I am grateful.
If you want to read about Winky, You can read Part 1 here:
Part 2, here:
THIS IS A LENGTHY POST.
There hasn’t been a Part 3 until now, in part because while I have kept Winky, it hasn’t been a solid decision, but more like an acceptance that I’m stuck with him. I know how horrible I sound. I’m probably going to lose 3 of my 4 followers. But to clear my name, let me remind you that while I haven’t been in love with Winky, I have committed to him, and if you know me, you know how I feel about commitment; it trumps feelings.
One morning just before vacation I woke to find my bed with blood all over it. After double checking and discovering I hadn’t been murdered in my sleep, I determined that it had to be Winky, yet outside of some matted hair, I could find no evidence of a wound. This is at 5ish on a work morning. I made some quick assessments (I think I should include this scenario in a cover letter when applying for a job: problem solver, dedicated employee, etc) and proceeded to get ready for work, leaving Winky secured in my bedroom with all his doggy needs.
I came home from work to find him listening to the radio and practicing his line dance moves; he was fine. I washed my sheets and when I gave him a bath, I discovered a wound on his cheek. Since there was no more evidence of blood, I decided to wait for his annual check up that was coincidentally, 2 days away. Winky continued to behave in his Winky like fashion and I felt confident there was no sense of urgency and his wound would heal. To be on the safer side, I continued to leave him in my bedroom during the workday. Not my favorite thing to do.
When I took him to get his shots and reported to the Dr. the bloody incident, he guessed that Winky had an abscess tooth that exploded. After a few questions, I still didn’t understand how the vet came to his conclusion, but accepted my ignorance. The vet said he wouldn’t be able to determine for certain if Winky had an abscess unless he put Winky under. Under the blankets? Oh, sure! He sleeps under my blankets every night and that won’t cost anything. Nah…not so lucky. Putting Winky “under” is what I’ve avoided every year by not giving him the recommended dental care that has me leaving vet appointments with my own tail between my legs.
The conversation goes something like this:
Vet: “Well, Winky still hasn’t had any dental care and I really recommend it.”
Me: “Hmmm. How much does it cost, again?”
Vet: “Well, it depends on if he needs to have teeth removed. But typically it’s just the cleaning. Putting him under is the most expensive part of the procedure. That runs between $300 and $400.”
Me: “And what happens if I don’t do it?”
Vet: “Like I said, it’s just compromising the health of his teeth, plaque can build up, his gums can recede, he might be eating and suddenly his teeth will all fall out and he’ll cry in pain and it will be your fault.”
Well, that’s my interpretation of what he says. As the discussion progresses, I feel like the biggest dog owner loser. I’m sure the vet is just giving me facts, but they feel like thunder clouds moving in on a perfectly sunny day.
I took Winky to a nearby pet store that hosts a traveling dental service a few times a year. I scheduled Winky with the hope that he’d get a good once over and I’d take advantage of the discount this service offers. But the tech who provided the service on that cold rainy day informed me that she couldn’t service Winky because Winky’s teeth were beyond the routine cleaning that she would normally perform. She recommended that I go to another provider that provides full doggy dental care on a sliding scale.
Ugh. How does this even happen? I could list on 4 fingers what he eats, and on none of those fingers are people scraps or bones. And how is it that my doggies are so health fragile? Rocky was put to sleep because of a back condition that immobilized him and Lucky died of cancer. I have friends and know of people whose dogs never receive little care. They live long lives full of vitality and act completely like dogs. I have one friend who doesn’t even give her dog shots or flea medicine! This is not a dog who is neglected. He’s healthy as an ox and pampered with daily walks, treats and couch privileges. My dogs on the other hand are threatened with various ailments and odd dispositions. It’s as if I spread some kind of contagious dog disease on them, and they’re none the wiser. They all have one common dog like behavior. They all love me.
I took Winky to the sliding scale fee clinic to get a second opinion on his teeth. Well, maybe this is a third opinion. After a $281 dental cleaning and assessment, I was told that he needed to have about 18 teeth removed. I asked her how many teeth he had, and with what he would chew his food if 18 teeth were removed? After a lengthy conversation, complete with x-rays, I left with a quote that was good for 30 days. I would watch to see if Winky was experiencing pain. 30 days passed, the quote expired, and here we are.
At the vet’s office, with a knot in my stomach, I scheduled Winky for surgery. The vet gave me a rough quote of $500 to $600 if no teeth had to be removed. If teeth had to be removed, it could go up to “around a thousand.” I considered submitting a photo of Winky to a dog modeling agency to pay for his health care. But there’s always the issue of time that interferes with these great ideas. He is that cute, though.
Winky’s big day came during vacation. Late in the day I received the first call that informed me that side one of Winky’s mouth required 7 teeth be removed. If the sliding scale fee place was accurate, that meant side two had 11 teeth to remove. The next call informed me that side two had 5 teeth to remove. I immediately recognized a discrepancy between sliding scale fee vet and this vet, but that was a moot point. I considered giving Winky a healthy side and a non healthy side, but of course I told the Dr. to proceed. “Yes, go ahead and replace all the brakes.” The final bill would be $1160.00. The Dr. also informed me that Winky has periodontal disease and I’d have to stay on top of that if I want to decrease the chances of more surgeries. I hung up the phone and cried.
As I continue to develop my side biz I anticipate things that I hope to achieve with the money I earn, and adding more doggie expenses has never made that list. I understand some people will do anything for their dogs, but (until now) I haven’t been one of them. I want a dog to know his place. I want that I rescued him to be enough. I virtually camped out to retrieve him after he’d escaped a couple of weeks into owning him. I want that to be enough. If you’re curious about that event, you can read this link. Please keep in mind that this was written in 2014. It’s not edited and some areas may not make sense to you, and that’s okay.
I want him sleeping with me to be enough. I want him to understand that I chose a house with a fenced yard on one level, because of him. I put doggy doors in the walls and replaced dog soiled carpets with hardwood, because of him (and Rocky). I want that all to be enough. I want him to know, HE’S A DOG!
I was feeling resentful of the responsibility for him and how I’d ended up with him. I went to my computer and placed him on 3 Re-Home sites. As I scanned my photos for his cutest pictures to place on his profile, tears streamed down my face. In the story I wrote for a would be owner, I spoke of his anxiety to take walks and how he doesn’t do well with men (or strangers, or kids, or people when they stand up, and still with me when I call him). I admitted he sleeps with me, but that he also likes his kennel and may adapt to sleeping in that. I described his excitement when I ask him to go on a walk, and his fear of actually walking down the sidewalk (or road or beach) and then I wondered who would want him because he’s so undog like. I felt I was doing the right thing. That I need to be smart with my money and don’t want to be that person who can’t pay my living expenses or gripe because I don’t go on vacation, because of my dog expenses. I felt comforted, thinking no one would want him, and at the same time hoped someone would.
I was spent from emotion and frustrated at navigating this horrid predicament by myself. I just couldn’t fathom what Jesus would do. But I called on him regardless, because that’s what I do. When I went to get Winky from the vet, the vet tech mentioned how sweet he is. I was afraid to talk, unsure of what emotion would spill out. In a flattened tone I agreed and told her that I was trying to find him a home.
The next evening someone surprised me. I had an email from an interested party, and my heart sank. But she had another dog and a cat. She had ignored what I said about other animals, so BAM. She’s out! I was relieved. Then later I was shocked to see another inquiry and then another, and my stomach turned. First of all, who are these people who want a dog who doesn’t walk and barks at everyone? I looked at my description again, wondering if I’d subconsciously painted a better picture than I’d intended. But nope. My biggest loser complex grew bigger. Also, I’d assumed finding him a home would be a process and I would ease into it, kind of like birthing a baby. Maybe 9 months would pass and I’d adjust to the idea of handing him over. I didn’t imagine packing up his things tomorrow. I went for a walk and cried.
The next day the vet tech called to tell me that she also had a possible home for Winky, and in that conversation I explained my trepidation and we agreed that we may talk again in the future, but right now I could not move on this decision.
I pulled him off of the Re-Home sites. Before I could get him off however, a friend reported to me that she had seen a comment on one of the Facebook sites where someone criticized me for wanting to get rid of Winky. Like I said, I know I sound horrible. But I also know that I’m not unkind and I’m sorry I’m not that person who will sacrifice myself for my dog. Winky is a dog. I carry all the emotions that many dog lovers carry. But our emotions vary. I have friends who would never pay $1160 for surgery and they’re financially more capable than I am. They adore their dogs. I have other friends who would pay thousands in medical bills. We all have a different financial, time, and life scenario, and come from different family and social cultures. No one should criticize someone for not doing what they would do in a dog situation. I think if I were homeless, I wouldn’t own a dog. But I’m not homeless, so I’m not privy to that judgement.
A couple of days after this whole emotional rollercoaster, I was put to another test. At about 10pm I heard a scuffle on my back deck. I have discovered that at night Winky employs some dog like behaviors. On this night, he was challenging a skunk. He successfully chased off the skunk, but he himself, was skunked. At about 10:15 I was giving him a bath, which did not remove the skunk odor. And like every other night, Winky slept with me. I was grateful I was on vacation, because there is no sleeping next to a skunk.
Commitment: If you give it enough time, feelings will catch up. Now I love him.