The Dog The Ruined And Saved My Life
January 2, 2013 68 Comments
The first time I saw Tazzie, she was resting on a blanket in the front office of a kill shelter I went to visit. All seventy-eight pounds or her rottie self were confined to a small corner in the room, where the staff had taken pity on her. She immediately caught my attention, her eyes dug into mine, come here, come to me. So I did, while her little stub of a tail wagged, the only part of her body moving.
Tazzie was from a puppy mill in Arkansas, a Rottweiler money-making-farm that shipped puppies to pet shops all over the United States, to be sold, quite a lucrative business for all concerned, except the dogs. Tazzie landed in a store in Santa Monica, California, all the papers were still in her Humane Society file.
A couple bought her, along with another dog, a black lab, and brought her to her new home, a stay that lasted a few weeks, until she ran out the front door and was hit by a truck. Her family didn’t even take her to a vet; instead they dumped her in a kill shelter, in the city where I live to be put down. By the absolute Grace of the inexplicable she was seen by a vet, who diagnosed her with a straight fracture of the thighbone, and if they could keep her quiet it would heal. That’s exactly what they did. God bless them.
I had moved to Ojai, California a couple months earlier and once settled in, I made my way to the local animal shelter, to do what I do when I live anywhere, walk the dogs to get them out of their cages. My husband and I had been involved in Rottweiler rescue for the past 28 years and while tending to our own family fury kids, we also do what we can to help out with walking, holding and socializing scared fury friends who had been dumped off in shelters.Rottweilers, a breed that are high on kill lists, should have surely deemed Tazzie a death sentence, but on the day she arrived there, a sequences of miracles occurred, culminating in my bringing her home with me. It was complete love at first sight.
I’m a nurse by profession and have tended to many ill dogs, abused dogs, scared dogs, you name it, so this was really no big challenge for me, in fact it filled me that I got to be a part of something so magnificent as helping to give my new girl, Tazzie, a better life than the torment she had thus far lived through. It took her two months to mend but in that time, she brought a tick to the house that latched onto my side. I knew right away that the big bulls-eye rash singled Lyme disease, that I needed protective antibiotic treatment. After six months, I discovered I had a treatment failure and my body had advanced into late stage Lyme disease, meningitis and crippling arthritis. During these six months, Tazzie had fully recovered from her fracture.
The Infectious Disease doctor read me the riot act, quit work or it could be dangerous. That was the day I phoned the emergency room physician team I was working with, in the second busiest ER in Los Angeles County, and quit abruptly.
My life as I knew it ended and I took to bed, actually a comfortable chair, Tazzie at my side. During this time, my body was incapable of doing much other than eating, sleeping, reading and writing. There were days when my energy was so low it was hard to talk and so I wrote; writing became my refuge, my sanctuary, my sanity. It allowed me to go to places that were dark, life-threatening contemplations, all the while Tazzie would not leave me. There were days when looking at her was all that kept me alive, a bond I don’t have words to explain. As the days, weeks, months and years evolved, I continued to write and in this time I started to gain strength, in this time I wrote a book, The Persecution of Milded Dunlap. As I approached the end of the novel writing, close to fourteen years after rescuing Tazzie, my health was about 95% returned, I was also back to work as a Nurse Practitioner part-time, specializing in Women’s Health. As the book went to print, Tazzie’s health took a serious turn for the worse, she had to be hand fed and couldn’t move well without assist, and also had something growing in her left eye, which was later diagnosed as ocular cancer.
My husband and I have had many dogs throughout our relationship and I’ve loved them all deeply, as family, but in all my years, I have never know the depth of bond with another animal as with my girl Tazzie, whose portrait hangs on our bedroom wall. That tick bite she transferred to me bought me to face myself, every dark submerged ugly place I held in a tight denial, and in sitting at the seat of everything I’d resisted, I learned what it was to be free, mentally free, of fear. This experience continues to grow and show me a way of living that this moment offers, miracle upon miracle, gratitude, and sensory experiences in abundance. My beautiful Tazzie and that tick, filled with spirochete bacteria, helped me unburden thoughts, beliefs, conditioning, programming that enslaved me into living a life of “shoulds” instead of a life I wanted to live.
A close friend once came to visit and asked me, “Do you have a teacher?” (He meant a Guru) to which I instantly said, “No.” Upon rethinking it, and noticing Tazzie’s leash still hanging in our entrance hall (still there today) I said, “Yes, my dog.” Never has there been a greater teacher, a greater love, a greater expression of tolerance, than this dog, this girl, this fury child, who taught me so much. I found it quite amazing that she came to me ill and while she regained her health I succumbed in mine to a serious physical illness and while I recovered she lay dying. She died at home, in my arms, at the age of fifteen years and two weeks. She wasn’t in pain. She did not suffer. She just quietly went to sleep.
In the fashion as we have with all our dogs when they pass, my husband and I went to a kill shelter to rescue another dog, to give another a chance at life. This time it was painful for me, too raw, because of the depth of loss of Tazzie, and I felt utterly devastated at all the sad faces in cages on death row, at no fault of their own. I wanted to do more than bring home one or two dogs. This was around the time the first and only no-kill shelter opened in Ventura County, CA. (a large county with close to a million residents). This was also around the time when I finished my novel. It was a no-brainer for me to decide to use the profits from my book to help them. To this day, all profits from sales of my book are going to Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center, (SPARC); an homage to my girl Tazzie.
Author Blog: The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
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