We are pleased to announce our 2013 Unconditional Love Contest winner for 2013! First, I want to thank everyone who took time to submit their story for the contest. Literally any of the stories we received this year could have “won” (of course they’re all winners already!).
In the end, I just really wanted to meet and photograph Opi, a tough little Doxie who has been through so much, but whose family has given him all the love and care that every pet deserves.
You Can’t Put a Price on Love
by Robin Garber
My husband and I are both dog lovers, though I tend to run a little right of center on this subject, well maybe a lot right of center. I might even be considered by some to be a “crazy dog lady.” I’ve had dogs all my life while my husband Jordan only had one, Longfellow, who I too fell in love with while we dated. Unfortunately Longfellow, a red Short Hair Dachshund, was an old man when I met him and sadly passed away while we were away on our honeymoon. This loss was devastating for both of us but especially for Jordan.
Jordan’s job required him to be out of state each week only to return for the weekends. I was lonely at home without Longfellow and anxious to get another dog. I slowly began talking about puppies, and though Jordan wasn’t ready and didn’t think he’d ever love another dog, he wanted me to be happy. Knowing Jordan loved Dachshunds I thought he might fall in love with another Doxie. My search led us to the home of a breeder and the last two male Long Hair Dachshunds from her latest litter. It was love at first sight and, what the heck, I had always wanted two! So it was that we became a family… Jordan, myself and two round balls of fur with two awfully big and important names… Einstein and Oppenheimer (Einy and Opi for short).
Life together began quietly with feeding, training, playing and falling in love. I thought we would have a simple and happy life with few problems, as that had always been my experience. The modern world of pet care had changed dramatically since my childhood and I made one very important decision. The boys would have health insurance. This was not the first time, and certainly not the last, that friends and family thought me a bit excessive in the care of my furkids.
Einy had been born the runt of the litter but he quickly grew and was flourishing in the love of our family. He was happy, healthy and my constant companion. Opi too seemed to be thriving and growing and all was well… until it wasn’t. We never know what life has in store for us and the same is true with dogs. Einy, Opi and I were already a love story but now began our long courtship with Opi’s Vet, specialty Vet, Emergency Vet, Orthopedic Surgeon, Neurosurgeon, Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, Cardiac Vet, Allergist and Physical Therapists! It makes me sad to hear, but many have often said how lucky Opi was to have found me for a Mom, as not many other people would have let him survive his extensive issues.
Opi’s rough road began with many small cries when he would move and then, one day, a blood-curdling scream while playing with his brother. I sprinted to see what happened, but there seemed to be nothing wrong. After multiple Vet visits, we then consulted an Orthopedic Surgeon who found that Opi had luxating patellas, or bad knees, in his hind legs. One of the knees moved in and out of the socket, causing Opi great pain. This was our first foray into the new world of Vet medicine. The Orthopedic Surgeon took Opi into surgery and, $3000 later, a bionic Opi came home with a cast and the need for three months of relaxation. I excitedly thought about the health insurance I had so wisely purchased until I found out that as a genetically predisposed condition the insurance wouldn’t cover bad knees!! Disappointing, but I would do whatever I could for my baby boy. Luckily he healed well and in six months he was better then ever… or so we thought.
Life moved forward, Einy and Opi grew and all seemed well… until it wasn’t. Opi’s stomach became increasingly delicate. He began having bouts of gastroenteris on a regular basis. The Vet thought maybe he had food allergies. After a visit to an Allergist we tried salmon diets, rabbit diets, Kangaroo diets and even a Vegetarian diet! Unfortunately nothing was helping and his stomach was getting worse. Opi would get sick in the evening and I would stay up all night with him. I learned what meds to give him and when to withhold the water and how to try and make him feel better. Unfortunately all of this changed when his gastroenteritis turned into Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis. One night Opi’s stomach was beginning the usual noisy interruptions and bouts of what we call The Big D. That’s when I noticed that Opi had blood pouring out with The Big D. It was a scary sight. I rushed him to the Emergency Vet. This began a monthly routine for the next six months, at about $500 dollars a pop. Not to mention the now regular Specialty Vet visits that were anywhere from $200 to $500. We tried different foods and medicines but nothing worked until his amazing Specialty Vet came upon the idea of using a human grade drug. “It’s expensive but it might help Opi’s stomach problems.” At $200 a month it was very expensive but seemed to be the breakthrough we needed. My husband was a little shocked when one day he was at the Pharmacy and picked up his drugs for five dollars. Then the Pharmacist handed him Opi’s drugs and asked for $200. Luckily Jordan knows where he stands in this family!!
During one of our visits to the Specialty Vet, she was examining Opi and couldn’t believe what she was hearing through her stethoscope. The Vet hardly wanted to tell me after everything we had already been through, but she heard a small heart murmur. Enter Opi’s next team member, the Cardiac Vet. Opi’s heart will have to be monitored on a regular basis for the rest of his life.
The following Spring, the dreaded bad back that Doxies contend with reared its ugly head. Opi was crated for two months to try and heal, but when it didn’t get better we were introduced to the next member of Opi’s team – a wonderful Neurosurgeon who, after careful testing, rushed Opi into surgery. There was never a question in my mind that if Opi could have a good quality of life we would do whatever was necessary. Having a Neurosurgeon perform back surgery on your dog is not an inexpensive undertaking but fortunately the health insurance made the cost a bit easier to bear. After the surgery, I visited Opi in the hospital each day and was given instructions for his home care. What I somehow didn’t take in was that Opi couldn’t walk and it was like taking an infant home. The first day home I had a small nervous breakdown trying to pick Opi up out of his crate. I was so worried about causing him more pain that it made trying to pick him up out of his crate practically impossible. This was one of those moments when you are struck by how strong your bond is with your furkid. As I sat at his crate crying, Opi sat up and with his front legs scooted himself to the edge of the door and let me know he was ready for me to pick him up. With his body at the edge I was able to comfortably pick him up and support him. This is what we did for the next four months while Opi healed and I waited for him to walk again. During this time Jordan rigged up a dolly with a long bed and secured Opi’s crate on top so I was now able to roll Opi around our home so he wouldn’t miss a thing!
Opi healed with the help of many wonderful and devoted Physical Therapists. He relearned how to walk through massage and exercise on an underwater treadmill. We also worked with a Vet who performed Acupuncture and a Chiropractor to help with his aches and pains. Now my friends really thought I was a bit crazy but to me it was just love.
The following Christmas I again noticed Opi having problems walking but this time he was also in a great deal of pain. Unfortunately it was the holiday and Opi’s regular Vets were out of town. I was instructed to crate him again and give pain medication. Nothing worked and his pain was increasing. Twice I woke up only to find him in such pain that I had to rush him to the specialty hospital to be seen by Vets who don’t know us and thought I was overreacting. It’s not that they didn’t believe me but each time I took Opi into Emergency he would have a rush of adrenalin and show few signs of pain. I was given more meds for Opi and told to take him home and see if he would get better. The next morning Jordan woke up to find me crying next to Opi’s crate because he was in such pain and I couldn’t stand to see him that way. I decided to take him back to the hospital and insisted that they keep him, as they were able to give him stronger intravenous drugs until our Vets returned the next day. When the Neurosurgeon returned and we found out how bad his back was, Opi was once again rushed into surgery. He has a bad limp but he’s able to get around now and I know that his recuperation will be much easier this time around.
Opi has made it this far and is today a very happy and spoiled dog. He and his brother have a large yard to roam, a doggie bed in every room, green beans galore and more hugs, kisses and cuddles then they know what to do with. Yes, he is happy to have me but I am happier, luckier and poorer to have Opi and his wonderful brother Einy in my life! Sharing my life with with these two guys is surely heaven.
Valentine’s Day is upon us, and we are excited to launch the 5th annual FidoJournalism Unconditional Love Contest. All year we look forward to receiving heartwarming stories of love and connection between people and their pets.
If you’re new to the contest, it was initially inspired by our own mischievous dogs, who repeatedly tested our patience by chewing an assortment of household items – socks, mail, magazines, rugs, TV remotes, coffee tables… even the baseboards around our dining room. Upon returning home, we always took a deep breath before opening the front door, unsure of what carnage would greet us. Read more →