BENEFITING: PET NETWORK OF NORTH LAKE TAHOE INC
In November of 2006 I left work early, a rarity to say the least. I was feeling poorly, as I had been for months. Having been diagnosed with everything from COPD to depression I was simply tired of going to the doctor and finding nothing to explain my fatigue, nausea and overall feeling of sickness. I was coughing non-stop and constantly sick. I was sick and tired of being sick. As I started the long drive home all I could think about was laying down under my covers and forgetting about my illness for a few hours.
As I neared the city of High Springs in Florida I saw a dog frantically running down the highway. It was going to be 19 degrees that evening, the coldest evening of the year. To top things off a huge storm was also expected. I sighed and knew, no matter how poorly I felt, that I had to at least try to get the dog out of the elements.
I turned my car around and circled well ahead of the frantic pup to prepare for my "intervention". Luckily I had picked up a car full of dog food and treats from a food drive we were coordinating with our local Publix Supermarkets, so I was well prepared for the battle of getting a scared dog into my car.
I threw dozens of treats in a huge ark on the side of the highway, hoping the dog would be hungry and at least slow down long enough to pick up a treat and be coaxed into my vehicle. My ploy worked and her hunger overcame whatever had been driving her to run at such a frantic pace. She scarfed up those treats while warily keeping her eyes on me. Once she consumed the initial treats I threw only one treat at a time, each one a bit closer to me and to the car. Several times I tried to walk slowly towards her and she frantically back-pedaled to get away.
As ill and exhausted as I was, when I saw the state of this poor dog I knew I would do whatever it took to get her home. She was a mess. Raw skin, broken toenails that were ripped and bleeding, her ears sealed shut with infection, she must have been in excruciating pain. I simply couldn't leave her.
It took almost 3 hours but eventually the dog got close enough that I was able to touch the tip of her nose. It was then that I noticed the smell. The stench emanating from this horribly abused animal was completely overwhelming. A combination of rotting flesh, infection and yeast literally forced me to hold my breath.
Unfortunately I also realized once she was close enough to touch that the one thing I failed to get was a leash. I braced myself, reconciled to the fact I would probably get injured trying to wrestle the dog into the car given how abused and fearful she was.
When I worked up the courage to pick her up, there is no other way to say it... she simply collapsed against me. She had put her faith in me, and, for better or worse her fate was mine to decide.
The extent of her poor condition was almost beyond description. I fed her, cleaned her up as best I could and took her with me to the shelter the next day so that we could submit a cruelty report and prosecute her owners should they ever be ignorant enough to try to reclaim her.
Given the severity of her condition I took her to my personal veterinarian, (realizing that her situation and challenges were well beyond the scope of what we could deal with in the shelter I worked at.) My vet, who I love dearly looked at me and said, " You sure you want to try to do this Becky. Do you realize how much time this will take?" I told her I would do whatever needed done.
Gypsy, as she was now named, became at that moment, my responsibility and charge. It took 5 people to hold her down the first time we trimmed her nails. For the next 4 months she got daily baths, more meds than I have ever administered, and lots and lots of toys and love. Slowly but surely Gypsy began to fill out, to grow hair, to glow with health and happiness. She trusted me but kept almost everyone else at arm's length and I knew she had already found her forever home - with me.
Unfortunately my health continued to decline. Four months after I found Gypsy my illness had a name, cancer.
In February of 2007 I began a year of chemotherapy. My first three treatment regimens failed. Every week my news got worse and worse. By a few months into my treatment my doctor determined that she had to hit me with "the big guns". I was put onto a 6-chemo cocktail, 22 hours a day, 3 days a week. Yep, 66 hours a week of chemo and countless surgeries.
I think, no, I know, that the only thing that kept me going through that dark time was Gypsy. She and I had a connection that was simply unbreakable. I would get home, so weak I couldn't climb my stairs and she would simply walk up and sit beside me on the stairs, letting me cry into her coat, ever patient, ever loving. If I gave up she would walk up to me and just look at me with her beautiful golden eyes, telling me I could do it if she could do it. She was a constant source of strength and hope for me in a time that felt truly hopeless.
The day I shaved my head it was Gypsy who led the charge to the bathroom to see why I was screaming and crying, sitting on the floor of the bathroom, head half shaved with a pair of dirty animal clippers because that is all I could find. It was Gypsy who smelled my fallen hair, then happily uprooted it, sending tufts of dirty blonde all over the bathroom. It was Gypsy who stood guard in the bathroom the day I collapsed, having hemorrhaged and passed out on the floor. It was Gypsy's cool nose and warm heart that I felt tug me back to consciousness when I was so exhausted I simply couldn't bear the thought of putting my feet to the floor. She was my heart when I felt I had no heart left. She was my drive when I wanted to simply disappear, she was my hope when all I felt was despair.
When I left Florida Gypsy, along with my other dogs and my 3 cats were my only companions in a strange new place, so different from my home. Slowly we all emerged from that difficult time and began a new life, one that was supposed to be happy and long. Almost a year after we arrived, the cancer and chemo combined caused me continual hospitalizations and eventually led to a hysterectomy. So, at 33 years old it was once again Gypsy who had to give me the strength to endure. I cried so many times into that beautiful coat, it is amazing she didn't run when she saw me coming.
In July 2010 Gypsy just didn't seem right. Nothing tangible but, knowing her as I did I knew something was "off". It started off with a cough. The vet was sure there was nothing to be concerned about. The cough went, then came loose stools. The loose stools went and, although she didn't seem normal, I thought we were 'out of the woods' that she just had some bug that had worked its way out. I couldn't have been more wrong. Gypsy, adult, vaccinated dog had gotten Distemper. The vets are at a total loss. Their best guess is that she had some type of underlying auto-immune problem that stopped the vaccine from giving her appropriate protection.
For those of you in animal rescue, you know what I dealt with. Seizures, anorexia, gastrointestinal issues, respiratory infections, skin infections. The name of the game is supportive care. Her body should have mounted a defense against this disease. It didn't. The virus spread to her brain and she couldn't walk, couldn't even stand. She was on 16 meds, we literally threw everything we had at this disease, but nothing was enough.
In the end I gave Gypsy the only gift I could, an end to her suffering.
I am lost without her. She was my best friend.
I know that I did everything I could. I know that with 5 different consulting vets and an entire arsenal at my disposal if she could have been saved I would have found a way to do it. None of that knowledge seems to stop my tears. It doesn't stop my nightmares, the ones that leave me breathless and hysterical, where Gypsy was desperately trying to tell me that it wasn't time. It seems what I know in my head and what my heart feels are two very different things.
As I walk through my home, I still see her. In her favorite bed, waiting for me to give her a belly rub. I hear her tag jingle against her collar at night. I feel her presence everywhere I go. Gypsy was an angel, one that I probably didn't deserve, but I am thankful for every minute, every memory and every lesson I learned from her.
I have decided, because I simply must believe that there is some reason she is gone, that her talents, her love and her presence were needed somewhere else. I believe that she is somewhere helping another lost soul get through something insurmountable. I hate every moment that she is not here with me. I miss her hugs, her smile and her kind eyes telling me that I can endure.
Gypsy will always be my girl and to honor her memory I have created Gypsy's Fund.
This fund will directly support the life-saving work at Pet Network Humane Society, the non-profit animal rescue I work with. Every dollar donated to Gypsy's Fund is designated for animal care - none of the funds are utilized for fundraising expenses, utilities etc.
Please...donate generously and help me keep Gypsy's memory alive by donating whatever YOU can to her fund.
The sad fact is, there are thousands of Gypsy's out there, many aren't fortunate enough to be saved by an organization like Pet Network. Your donations will give all the Gypsy's out there a second chance at life and love. A second chance at being someone else's angel in their time of need.
All donations are tax-deductible.
Thank You...Becky Goodman, Executive Director, Pet Network Humane Society