As you all know, two weeks ago I became the foster “mother” to a puppy that my friend Laura and I rescued from Playa del Carmen’s dismal perrera. This was the photo that sent us in search of her:
I called her Scottie after a couple of my closest friends, but refrained from calling her by that name once I very quickly found a permanent home for her, in Colorado (since her adoptive family planned to rename her). She was to fly to Denver on March 22 in the company of dear friends who are, like me, passionate about helping alleviate the suffering of Playa del Carmen’s street animals.
On the day of her rescue, Scottie tested negative for the Parvo and Canine Distemper viruses, but the vet at Coco’s Cat Rescue let me know that she would have to be tested again for Distemper two weeks later, to rule out the possibility that she could have contracted the virus in the days before she left the perrera, which had recently had an outbreak. A week later, I took Scottie to Coco’s again to get her first round of immunizations. After taking her temperature and learning that she had had some gastrointestinal distress, the vet declined to give her the shots, telling me that we had to wait until she’d had her second Distemper test.
Mostly, she spent the next week right by my side, in bed or on the couch as I worked on my laptop. She slept a lot and was lethargic, though I did my best to deny/defend/rationalize her lethargy when others commented on it. She was never playful; she was never a puppy the way I know puppies to be. Once or twice I caught her chewing on my laptop power cord and while I could not condone such behavior, I was delighted that she exhibited some signs of normal puppyhood. I bought her a tug rope that was impossibly big for her, but she did half-heartedly chew on it once or twice when I waved it in front of her face, as if to appease me, to say, “Ok, lady, if this is what you want, I’ll chew the danged rope.” My heart melted one morning to find she had, at some point during the night, pulled the stuffed chicken toy I’d bought her into her crate; her home base, secret fort, sacred space that was the first place she ran to feel safe, where she slept when she wasn’t sleeping next to me.
When she first came to me, she ate the way a drowning man reaches for a lifebuoy: Desperately, grasping. Even after a few days taught her that this food would come like clockwork, she still got excited each time I brought her bowl, and I would hide and peek around the corner to watch her eat, charmed beyond measure by the way she seemed so amazed at her good fortune to find such easily-gotten food, her tail wagging with every bite.
I did what I could to pretend she was not terminally ill. I missed a scheduled vet appointment that would have confirmed the continuation of her fever and swollen glands. Her diarrhea, probably my fault because I gave her food or a chewy treat she was not used to. The roughening skin patches on her side that grew larger and more coarse, perhaps that was some mild infection I could treat with a topical ointment. Anyway, what dog doesn’t get eye gunk, and you can hardly call a little runny nose on a dog something to worry about. The vet told me a week ago that coughing was a bad sign, which she had never done, so I was able to feel smug and triumphant all the way up until last night, when her coughing and sneezing awakened me a few times.
Today, Scottie tested positive for Distemper. Lety, the caring, compassionate vet at Coco’s sadly, but honestly let me know how slim her odds for survival were, and what progressive stages of suffering this small creature would be in for should I choose not to humanely euthanize her. I was a bawling, confused mess; I had focused my energies only so far as finding a way to let her go to the loving home that was waiting for her in Colorado, but never dreamed I would be the one faced with sending her to her death. Scottie trusted me only as much as she had ever trusted any human, which is to say, not that much, but still she weakly wagged her tail and leaned her head into me as I held her against me for the last time.
I realize that I am distraught and that, as a result, my words are overwrought, and I’m not unmindful of the fact that some will say, Come on, she was a dog, and you only knew her for two weeks. I can’t refute this—she was a dog and I only knew her for two weeks.
But I loved her. Her short, mostly-traumatic life mattered, and she changed me. I am too tired and wrung out to tell with any accuracy how important to my life was this little one who did not belong to me, so I will just give up and try to stop crying.
Sleep sweet, dear Scottie. Goodnight.