In Loving Memory Of
By Maryanne Dell
All animals are special. But some are even more so. Curtis was one of those.
Curtis came to Shamrock Rescue in January 2014. I had been put in touch with the woman who had him because he was acting up: snarling, growling, generally being a not-so-solid canine citizen. She told me he had been locked in a room for the first two years of his life, with his only interaction being someone tossing food into the room. (That would certainly explain his reluctance to play nicely with others.)
She said she had taken him from the people who did that to him. He was full of “Pekitude,” that independent, don’t-get-too-close attitude we associate with the breed, and I had agreed to work with her to try to help him become more comfortable with the world.
The night before I was to come to her house, she called me. He had bitten her son, and she was going to take him to be euthanized the next day. She was done with him. I asked her to bring him to me instead. She did.
One of the reasons I am so attached to and rescue so many Pekingese is a part of me feels so badly about what my species has done to them. Dogs weren’t meant to have flat faces, bulging eyes, and bad hearts and skin. But because we create dogs to be what we want, not necessarily what they are naturally destined to be, we have breeds with more physical ailments than others. That said, I adore smushy faces and would fill my home with them if I could. So, Curtis biting someone? That wasn’t about to stop me from saving him.
For about a year Curtis pretty much wanted to bite – he probably had stronger thoughts than “injure” – anyone who came near him. But we – my friend Anette, dog lover extraordinaire and a real dog whisperer, and I – sat with him, fed him treats and tried to explain that the world really wasn’t that bad.
He took a lot of convincing, but finally he started to mellow. He made his life at Crossroads, the board and train facility where some of my dogs stay while awaiting their new, forever homes. But Curtis was a “lifer” – one of the dogs who started there and stayed there.
After settling in – and he did; after that first year he turned a corner – Crossroads became his one and only comfort zone. He got used to Anette and the other folks there who took care of him: feeding him (oh, happiest of happy time of day!), putting him to bed, playing with him and helping him learn that love was a possibility. The world turned out to be not so terrible.
Curtis adored Anette. She has a way of making all dogs feel loved and safe, and Curtis was no exception. When he had to go to the vet for one thing or another, I made her come with me. I might have saved his life, but Curtis never fell for me the way he did for Anette.
At one of those vet visits, we were told that Curtis had a very bad heart murmur. “A 6," my vet said. “I can feel it through his chest.” On the 1-6 scale for heart murmurs, 6 is the worst.
That was about two years ago and began a long relationship with a veterinary cardiologist. Curtis wound up taking nearly every heart medication known to veterinary medicine. As time progressed, he wound up needing higher and higher doses.
The good news: The medications helped. Those drugs helped him continue his happy life.
The bad news: The medications wreaked havoc with his kidneys. And that meant, inevitably, his body would give up.
And so it did. On Dec. 22, Curtis woke up struggling to breathe, lethargic and uncomfortable. I rushed him to an ER, where I was told he would have to stay on oxygen to save him.
Curtis, in a cage in a strange room with sick and stressed animals – plus strange people – all around? That would send him right back to where he was when we met in 2014. That wasn’t going to happen. And he was done. I knew it because he let me kiss and hug him as I said goodbye from all of us who had grown to love him over the years. I told him how sorry I was that we had arrived here, at the end of this life, but that he should fly free, free of any fear he had had during his life, free of any bad heart or bad kidneys – free to await those who love him at the Rainbow Bridge.
Standing outside that night, I looked up and saw a bright, bright star in the sky. Curtis was home. And my heart was left with a very special hole, carved there by a very special little dog.
By Maryanne Dell
Nala wound up at a Los Angeles shelter with splashes of green paint on her body. Who knows how they got there? Not that they mattered. She was a lovely girl, and Shamrock had a permanent foster offer from a couple of our longtime friends in Las Vegas.
One of our volunteers drove to L.A. to get her, and after she was checked out by the wonderful staff at Tustana Animal Hospital, she was on her way with Maryanne to Barstow, where we met Joyce, her foster mom.
Nala fit right in with her new foster family – Joyce and Anthony Damiano, their son and their other pups. She was a joy to all and liked to play with toys and the other dogs – not too much play, of course, as she was a gentle, older gal.
The green paint long gone, Nala settled in and became a part of the family. But early in May, she became ill. “She hasn’t been her normal self for days,” Joyce said. A trip to the vet uncovered very sad news: Nala had lung cancer. Joyce and Anthony decided they wanted to provide palliative care, keeping her comfortable as long as possible, until her time came.
That time, sadly, came very quickly. A vet came to her home and helped Nala cross the Rainbow Bridge with her loving family surrounding her.
She had been with them less than a year and a half.
Sometimes, people wonder why we save older dogs. Why not save puppies, who are so easy to adopt? This is one of the reasons. Puppies are easy to find homes for; everyone, it seems, wants a pup. Or, if they want an “older” dog, they mean 3, 4 or maybe 5 years old. Once a dog gets near to or hits double digits, it seems they don’t warrant consideration.
But not everyone thinks that way. We are ever grateful for people like the Damianos who open their hearts to older dogs and provide love and a home at the end of their lives.