About four years ago, a friend of mine told me the story of a Yorkie named Rocco. He was made to live in a bathtub with his food and wee wee pad, was rarely taken outside, and although a little girl in the household loved him he had never been to see a veterinarian. The little girl could not protect him from her drug addict mom's less loving friends - one had kicked little Roc in the teeth so that his whole mouth was infected. His first week home as a puppy, someone had dropped him and his leg was broken. I made my friend tell me the story again and again until I could convince her to steal Rocco from his family. I promised I would find him a good home.
It was March 4, 2006. I remember the day because it was my dog Maggie's 15th birthday. A Yorkie bitch of the first order, there was nothing cuddly about this dog whom I had inherited from my mother; but I admired her tenacity and willfulness, the way she barked when dinner was not on the floor at 5:30 sharp and how she bit the ankles of any man who came near me. Good girl, Maggie.
So it was March 4. I had made Mags a hamburger birthday dinner and I knew my friend was bringing Rocco over any minute so I would be able to find him his new home. What I was doing taking in an un-neutered male dog when my girl was so old, I do not know; I only know from the minute I heard his story - and heard it and heard it - that I had to help this little guy. The doorbell rang; I told my doorman to let them up. I left the front door open as I ran to the kitchen to get Rocco a welcome dog biscuit, and when I came back out this tiny guy dog, head down as if in submission, was sauntering - really sauntering - right towards me off the leash. He sat down at my feet and looked up at me, a dog obviously wanting to please. I gave him the biscuit but it was too big for his sore mouth. So we sat on the couch, I broke it into pieces, and watched him struggle through the treat. I wanted to kill his (former) owners.
Rocco, of course, was home. He didn't go to a shelter or a new family; with Mags, he and I became a pack. I had 15 of his teeth removed the first week he lived here; I also had him neutered, for his own good and so he would stop bugging poor Maggie who nipped at him in vain as he kept trying to mount her. He gained 3 lbs (he weighed 4 when he got here) and learned to love sitting on pillows looking out a window, car rides and adventures to the bank and Bed, Bath & Beyond. He is so cute he got scouted by an assistant director of Law & Order. Mags succumbed to old age in 2007; I thanked the universe for Rocco's presence and always felt she had waited to go until I was taken care of.
You might wonder what all this has to do with my poverty journal. Well, Rocco has not had a good week. He is straining at the haunches to relieve himself, he has stopped eating, and he has been in obvious discomfort. So off we went this morning to the veterinarian -- who immediately said two awful words that will ring in my ears forever: BLADDER STONES. The x rays showed that Rocco has four of these crystalline beauties, each almost a half inch wide, rolling around in his tiny bladder and wreaking havoc. "They must come out," said the vet, a lovely young woman in her mid-30s. Yes, of course they must. To the tune of about $2,000 dollars.
The irony is that an old boyfriend, Miles (who I have spoken about here before) came through with a hefty loan just this week. It was my most beautiful surprise in ages. I had been looking forward to some breathing space, but the truth is I would stop eating if necessary to help this lovely little animal, my wolf spirit guide in miniature form, the closest living being to a prince I have ever known. So, through my tears, I worked out a plan of payment with the vet, put down half, and carried Rocco the four blocks home so he would not be in pain from walking. I am making him boiled chicken and have some baby food in case he won't eat that (he has not eaten anything in more than a day) and hope I can get some pain meds into him so he is at least comfortable until his Monday surgery. I am worried; hell, I am scared to death. The idea of the anesthesia alone makes me cringe with trepidation. And he can't come home until the next day. But I have to keep the faith that some higher power brought me and Roc together, and that we are meant to stay that way. Now, finally, he is asleep and his breathing has evened out. Mine, of course, has not. Isn't that always the way it is. I'll let you know what happens.