I tried to see beyond the deformity but being artistic I see every detail so it as always there staring at me in the face. Miracles do happen though. That little guy tugged on my heart strings, breaking through the eye phobia until it didn’t matter anymore and maybe I loved him more because of it. He was special. He was the most lovable, cuddly, momma’s boy I’d ever had and that was what I needed so we bonded like steel. Maybe I was more protective of him because he had a few problems. I hate to admit it but I had been a bit shallow and Louis taught me to love unconditionally, just as he loved me…goodness knows I’m a fright in the mornings and he never cared.
I can’t explain the connection we shared. There aren’t any words that could relay how I felt. How I know he felt. I was his whole world, literally. He never took his eyes off me. If I tried to leave the house he’d wrap his front paws around my leg, holding me tightly, being dragged toward the door. He would never put himself in a position where he couldn’t see me. If I was making dinner he was in the dining room watching me. When he played with his siblings he’d still watch me and run to me every now and then just to kiss me and then go back to play. If I was upstairs he was there, if I was watching TV he was sitting beside me. I swear Louis watched entire movies, following the program and barking if ominous music indicated trouble brewing. Every night in bed he would lay in my arms with his head on my shoulder until I drifted off to sleep and then he would move to a spot he found more comfortable. My love for him was beyond any kind of explanation, like a mother’s bond for a child. I think maybe he kindled the same feelings I had for Shane when he was a baby.
Louis was two, Honey was seven and we just got Fiz, short for Fiona, who was around four months. It was a Sunday morning and I was lying on the sofa with all three tucked close in my right arm. My dogs all love one another, can cuddle very close without problems. I looked down and smelled their little heads. They were all sleeping so peacefully. I felt completely happy. I remember thinking that I was the luckiest person in the world.
Less than four hours later, my world came to a crashing halt. My son Shane and I were outside piling firewood and the dogs were hanging around sniffing and checking out the yard. I took off
my jacket and laid it on the tarp that the firewood was dumped on and they all laid down and watched us work. For some reason, Louis got up and walked over to the pile and Fiz followed her big brother per the usual. They both went directly to a piece of wood, Louis must have seen something move. He sniffed the piece of wood, and then so did Fiz.
Instantly they both ran about ten feet away and started vomiting and squirting out projectile diarrhea simultaneously. Louis was a two year old and Fiz was only four months. It was apparent
they had been bitten by something because their two different sizes would have metabolized an ingested toxin at different rates. Thank goodness my son was there to drive us to the vet clinic. I thought they would both die on the way there. I was in the backseat trying warm them with blankets and keep them breathing. Louis was the worst; he clearly got most of the venom.
That drive was horrible. I felt so helpless. We made it to the vets, not our normal one, as my vet's answering machine didn’t get turned on for the weekend and I didn’t know their emergency number so I called the closest alternative vet and she agreed to take us.
Louis managed to hold on to the next morning and died shortly after I arrived. I won’t go into details but it was a horrible death and I am haunted by his suffering. Fiz almost died as well, we were told her heart rate went to 12 beats a minute during the night. Somehow the little mite survived.
Shane and I buried Louis in the backyard. I wrapped him in a piece of linen from the shop and laid him gently in a hole in the garden. The Vet suggested sending his body for an autopsy but I just couldn’t do it. I called the vet college and they said whatever killed him may no longer be detectible and when I asked if I could have his body back they said no. That was the deciding factor. He would be classed a biohazard and would need to be disposed of. That meant throwing his poor little body on the pile with the other dead animals and all of a sudden, the person who had always wanted to be a pathologist, someone who believes that once your spirit is gone the shell is no longer relevant, couldn’t part with his little body. I needed it close. Even through my grief I knew I was being uncharacteristically foolish but I just didn’t care. I needed him with me.
We figured they were bitten by a Black Widow spider. They live throughout North America in woodpiles and yes, this far north. They bite people every year and a healthy adult will survive with minimal effects, but a small child or an older person could succumb. Small dogs don’t have a chance.
My husband was away at the time so I was alone. It was by far the worst time of my life. The pain was so real it crushed me from the shear weight of it. I could barely breath the pain was so
intense. I just wanted to curl up into a ball and die too. I had two other dogs to take care of and somehow managed, but I wasn’t exactly present. Friends came by and brought me food and sat with me but I was inconsolable. I cried more tears than all my years on this earth combined and as each day passed I seemed to get worst instead of better.
In the meantime my sister had been away on vacation and returned with a rock that she had found on a beach and heard that Louis had died. The rock was shaped like a heart and she asked if I would like to have it for a headstone. It was perfect and I fully intended to have it engraved at some point. I laid it on the grave with a floral arrangement.
Each night I took the arrangement inside to protect it from the deer and the frost. To retain the flowers freshness, I set it on a cookie sheet with water to rehydrate the oasis overnight. On day two of his passing, I took the dogs outside for their morning routine and carried the cookie sheet and flowers out to the grave. As I approached, the plot I stared in disbelief. The frost had settled on the rock and left a perfect paw print that had now thawed in the morning sun and left a water mark. I was standing over it and leaned a bit forward and the water dripped out of the cookie sheet and splashed on the rock wiping out the paw print. I started to bawl like a baby. Mourning the loss of Louis and now loosing this mystical print, this potential sign, a message from beyond? I rushed inside and phoned my husband and told him what had happened. He’s a geologist and I looked for him for an explanation. He had none.
The paw prints came and went over the next few weeks and when hubby returned home he examined the rock thoroughly and could find no hollows or raised parts…the rock was smooth along the top. There was no physical explanation. Then one evening around midnight, I was taking the dogs out for their bedtime pee and shone the flashlight on the rock and found the frost painted print once again. I ran screaming into the house for hubby to see and he took the pictures above. Once again he could offer no explanation.
I suppose the print should have comforted me but the hole left by Louis's absence was too deep and raw. Even with a husband and two other dogs in the house I continued to feel lonely and cried for months. Inconsolable tears. I was a mess. That’s when I found myself looking for breeders on the internet. I knew what I was doing, looking for Louis’s face in another puppy or adult dog. I knew it wouldn’t be the same but I hurt so badly I didn’t know what else to do. I never considered what kind of pressure I’d be putting on a new little guy for filling Louis’s paws would be a tall order. I'm not proud admitting I wasn't in a very good place or thinking rationally.
I found a little cream boy in Ontario that reminded me of Louis when he was a puppy. Hubby said maybe it would help. Poor guy, he didn’t know what to do for me and of course he was grieving too. We bought the new puppy and waited for him to arrive.
Henri was wonderful and we clicked pretty quickly. He had a huge personality. Being a puppy he kept me pretty busy with potty training and being cute and playful. And then, horror or horrors, more tragedy struck. He was with us for only a few weeks when he got Parvo, a deadly killer of puppies. After losing Louis I didn’t think I could bear to lose another one of my precious babies so I parked my grief and concentrated all my energy on Henri. The Vet geared us up with an IV drip to keep Henri hydrated and I took care of him at home as my vet didn’t have a night facility to monitor sick animals. I wanted him home to inspire healing. I fully believe familiar surroundings work better than locking them in a cage in a sterile environment with only strangers to take care of them.
Parvo is painful as it destroys the puppy’s bowels. Constant bloody diarrhea dehydrates them quickly and is usually the main reason for death. Henri would curl up into a ball and whimper from the pain and it was heartbreaking to watch. His heart raced and his breathing would become labored and hard. Feeling helpless I decided I had to do something so I researched animal acupressure and dog massage on the internet and I practised it several times a day. I laid my hands on him and gently massaged his poor little body and applied acupressure to heal his stomach and bowel area. I seemed to connect with his body instantly, feeling his pulse on my fingertips.
I talked to him softly and told him all the things we would do when he got better. I played nature sounds and opened the windows to let out the negative energy of his sickness. I even smudged the room several times a day to expel any negative energy that might have been taking up residence in the house. I only allowed myself to think he would be healed, and said that over and over, fighting all the terrible thoughts that tried to creep in. I’d read about Parvo on the internet and the chances of him surviving were slim so it took everything I had to remain positive.
When Henri was suffering his little body would curl into a tight ball and when I applied the acupressure, his body would open up like a flower until he was stretched out on his back. His breathing would calm and his heart rate would return to normal. He would then sleep peacefully for a while, allowing his body to heal. This continued for two days. Massaging him hourly, applying acupressure and running the IV. On the third day Henri awoke around ten in the evening, jumped down from the sofa and came to me. He was a bit wobbly but it was apparent he was going to be okay. He licked my hand as if to say thank-you. Relief flooded my heart.
The next day I took him to the doctor to be checked out. He was very surprised and confessed that he believed Henri would die, that there was nothing else we could have done. He told me that I healed him, that he believed the human touch and positive energy ruled over his sickness. Needless to say, Henri and I bonded over the experience and we became inseparable.
I still cried for my Louis, but it was getting a little easier to get through the day. As long as I was crying that paw print kept showing up. Whether it was frost or morning dew, it was there. I don’t believe in ghosts but I clung to the idea that it was Louis trying to comfort me. Telling me it was okay to let him go and not be sad. I decided that explanations weren’t needed. Science didn’t need to tell me why the rock was weeping paw prints, I accepted them as the gift they were. Slowly over time my tears subsided and life started to return to normal. And amazingly, once my tears stopped so did the paw prints on the rock. Hubby and I still can’t explain why…it just did.
The rock is still there but is just a normal piece of slate that happens to be shaped like a heart; a headstone for the most wonderful poodle. Life goes on and you have to love the ones that are here and let the angels fade into memories. Henri is pretty darn special and we call him Dr. H because he helped to heal my heart. Now we have Jake, number four, and he is very much like Louis was, a cuddly momma’s boy. Henri never seemed to want to cuddle, he was always bothered by overheating with his thick coat of hair. Each of my hairy kids are special in their own way. They all bring something unique to the table and I love them all. I know we live
longer than they do. It isn’t a perfect fit so there will be more tears. They say the price of love is grief and life certainly doesn't come with guarantees. We can be lying on the sofa on top of the world and then, in a nanosecond everything can change.