Ever since she was a little girl, my wife wanted a Newfoundland. After researching the breed a bit, I could see why. They are undoubtedly the most gentle breed on the planet and perfect for a family with small children….or in our case, a baby.
From the moment we brought her home, we had issues. The dog seemed to suffer from stress and a chronic case of diarrhea. We thought, at first, that it was a food allergy and weaned her on and off of four different foods before turning to pharmaceutical resources. Heavy doses of Metronidazole, intestinal flora powder and a diet consisting of boiled chicken and rice mixed with kibble costing more than kobe beef seemed to help.
A few weeks ago I noticed that Lulu, who is still less than a year old, was very tender around the lymph nodes under/behind her ears. When I asked the vet to check them out for me, I could tell from the not-so-subtle sigh and eye-roll that I was now officially “that guy”. When they returned seconds later saying: “Yup…it’s nothing. She’s fine.” I knew I had been permanently labeled as the hypochondriac owner of whom everyone was tired and that Lulu would never get a thorough examination again. When Lulu had trouble getting up from laying down the following day, we knew something was seriously wrong and when she fell over in the yard yelping two days after that, I threw her in the back of my Suburban and took her to one of the premier emergency veterinary hospitals in the area (VRC) for her mystery diagnosis. Within 12 hrs. they diagnosed her as having H.O.D….a condition that usually only presents in Weimaraners. She was admitted for a few days of observation which meant spending a couple hundred dollars a night on top of the emergency costs, meds, radiographs, etc…Slowly but surely this was tallying up to equal the cost of a summer vacation. But at least we finally knew what was wrong with her and had a potential answer to any and all previous issues.
Shortly after the three week recovery, we noticed that she was limping again. Another trip back to the vet revealed a torn ACL which was another few thousand dollars to repair using a procedure known as a “T.P.L.O.” in which two metal bars and 8 screws are used to take the place of the ligament. We requested a cosmetic closure (stitches on the inside) to prevent her from licking or chewing them which could possibly result in yet another trip to the animal hospital and thus make Lulu the “Six Thousand Dollar Dog”. The vet stressed the importance of strict adherence to the supportive therapy in order to prevent the other hind leg from blowing out (as is typical in giant breeds) and I took him seriously. He explained that some people get both done (like changing both headlamps on a car when only one burns out I presumed) as a precaution, but if we stuck to the routine…it shouldn’t be an issue.
I’ve been spending the past few weeks adding the care for a debilitated animal” to my list of “Things To Do Today”. Lulu needs to be fed, cleaned and cleaned up after, needs help going to the bathroom, given medication, etc… It’s like having an old smelly relative that requires round-the-clock-care move in with us.
For the past six weeks I’ve been Jepetto-ing this dog around the backyard on a sling like a marionette…which isn’t good for a 39yr old man suffering from sciatica and an inferiority complex. I can’t help but feel like my job is, literally, getting shittier….not to mention the fact that we could’ve bought a KIA with the money we’ve spent on this dog so far.
But Lulu has come to mean so much to my wife and our daughter in such a short time. The look in her eyes is starting to get to me as well. It’s like she wants to tell me how much she appreciates everything I’m doing. I think she understands and is both grateful and embarrassed…if that’s possible. She’s such a good dog and as much as I hate giving her baths to clean the shit out of her fur, I am falling in love with this dog all over again… like Queen Latifah and that Scott McKnight in “Just Wright”.