Sunday, January 19, 2020

Bella: The Best Trouble We Ever Had

There is a vulnerability and a selflessness to being a good dog owner.  The last time I had been given responsibility of a dog was about 1983-84.  Max was a Great Dane and his death from parvovirus destroyed me as a kid.  Partially because I thought his getting into a stick of butter I dropped killed him.  Yes, the things that go through a 12 or 13 year old brain can be crazy.  My wife had a similar feeling but in a different way, her dog died in her arms as she waited in a vet's office.  Those things can scar you and make you not want to let another canine into your heart.

About 12 years ago, things changed.  I had a very odd scheduled shift that left the wife at home alone at night.  We decided to get David a dog for his 10th birthday.  I still remember buying a video camera just before we went shopping to record the occasion.  That tape is still in the recorder and I had plans to try to get it converted to digital for the future.  I don't know if I can now.  Anyhow, she sat between Kerry and David on the way home as we discussed names.  David didn't have any ideas, turned to his mother and asked, "What do you think?"  Kerry was really into the Twilight book series and told him she liked Bella.  And it was done.  We welcomed a little puggle named Bella home.

I suggest avoiding using cat laser pointers to play with your new puppies.  She loved it, but I think it may have led to her becoming the high energy dog she was.  Bella did her normal puppy teething and ruined several shoes and the dining room table chairs.  She learned that if she jumped high enough, she could get anything she wanted.  At one point, it was her dog food...which was a massive bag that she polished off.  The 2 bags of chocolate chips she downed made the wife believe we lost our dog but it was just one of many sleepless nights over things she'd ingest.  (Anti-fungal cream was just perplexing.)  Aside from that, she was a very smart dog.  But I would teasingly say that she was a good dog when she was tired or sleeping.

The addition of her "sister," Tulip, was meant to ease separation anxiety and balance things out.  It may have.  If anything, I think Bella taught Tulip some bad habits.  We recorded a few videos of their interactions.  Feel free to look for the Bella And Tulip Show on YouTube.  Part of that was because of their food obsession (seems to be a puggle thing) and sneakiness.  The two would do something I would call "parallel puggling" where they would nap parallel with each other all around the house.

We gave Bella a lot of massages after we brought her home to deal with some anxiousness.  She had a lot of trust in us.  Early mornings, she would spend what we would call "Mama Time" with Kerry by sitting on the edge of the bed with her and stare into her eyes while being pet.  Often, we would watch T.V. and she would hop up on the sofa and push her back into my wife's armpit to sit with us.  She would also run maniacally through the house doing laps when she got excited.  She would hop on my chest as I did workouts in the living room.  Imagine doing sit-ups or bench press with a dog on your chest.  She also had a weird love for my morning breath...nobody else, just mine.

We would have to "Bella-proof" the house before we leave to go anywhere.  Kitchen trash would have to be turned around, stuffed in and sometimes a weight put on top.  Doors to bathrooms would have to be shut.  Toilet paper rolls would have to be reversed, or we would find the paper winding down the hallway and under the dining table.  She was very ballsy.

2 years ago, she was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor on her left arm.  It was going to be biopsied but our doctor felt that it was a bigger risk to try removing it as it could aggravate it and spread since it seemed attached to either bone or muscle.  So she was put on a regime of Benadryl and acid reducer.  A round of steroids shrunk it down.

Last week, that tumor swelled up.  It started with a limp.  (Tulip started sympathy limping a day or two later.)  We took her into see the vet.  Another round of steroids and painkillers were the plan.  The limp got worse the next day as the whole leg started to swell up and wouldn't touch the ground as she walked.  I was in denial, thinking the steroids just hadn't kicked in yet.  It spread to her chest shortly afterward.  Fear was building in us as we knew this wasn't getting better.  Tulip kept wanting to check on Bella as she wasn't used to her laying down all the time.  The cry of pain as Tulip stepped on her leg several times would wake us from our numb thoughts.  We would spend Saturday and Sunday morning keeping Tulip away from her.

It was as we were watching church that I decided that we needed to know when the pain is too much for her.  A few searches really gave me some clarity and reading one to Kerry, she said, "Are you ready to take her in?"  We bawled.  I've cried more over this dog than the passing of any relative and feel like I have dishonored them.  She went peacefully and it will be a roller coaster of tears and sighs for a while.  The house is really quiet as Tulip is still looking around the house for her "sister."  We have started turning toilet paper rolls around, leaving doors open and leaving burritos unattended on tables.

I still get choked up talking about Bella.  Making your heart vulnerable is important in any relationship and I wouldn't be who I am without letting that little brown scamp into my life.  It's just going to take a long time to adjust.