I first met Precious around 6:30 p.m. on the cold evening of December 16, 1993. There she was, a newborn puppy, barely three hours old, tucked up under my wife's shirt. She had been born during the 15 minutes that her mother was outside to relieve herself, and she was shivering from the experience.
Even then, I knew she'd make it. Back with mom and the litter, between shivers, she pushed her way in to nurse, squeezing out a larger sibling.
Three days later, I realized she was the only black and tan puppy in a litter of blacks. It was at that time she acquired her name — Precious — thanks in large part to my step-daughter.
“Precious,” I thought, “Too feminine.” It turned out to be a perfect match between name and dog.
Six months later, my wife and I split up. Loving homes were found for the adult dogs, but, not wanting to raise my sons without a pet, I took the cute, gangly, irrepressible puppy with me. She took to her new surroundings, sniffing out every corner, making sure that everything was where it was supposed to be before settling down — usually at my feet or by the couch where she could be petted without much effort on my part.
In the two and one half years at the apartment, she grew into a beautiful, though dainty, adult Cocker. She seemed to know when I needed companionship and when I needed time to myself. I could cry to her when I couldn't cry to anyone else. It was she who helped me through the difficult adjustments in that period of my life.
On Wednesday, January 8, I took Precious out for her morning walk. She waited for me as usual to catch up with her at the bottom of the stairs. She attentively listened for me to let her know the coast was clear to bolt across the parking lot to do her thing.
“Okay,” I said. She stepped down from the sidewalk to the blacktop and yelped. I thought she had stepped on a rock. She looked up at me to let me know that she was hurting, but then gingerly walked across the lot, relieved herself, then crept back to the steps.
I knew she had a more serious problem when she wasn't able to make it up the stairs. I figured she pulled a muscle. Nothing too serious. I put her in her cage, thinking the bed rest would do her some good. I then left for work.
Wednesday afternoon was nothing out of the ordinary. I picked the boys up at the baby-sitter, got the mail, and went into the apartment. My heart sank. There in the cage lay Precious, unable to move her rear legs. I scooped her up in my arms and headed for the veterinary clinic.
We didn't have to wait to be escorted to a waiting room or to have her x-rayed. Twenty minutes later, the doctor came to us. He didn't see anything wrong with her spine or pelvis on the x-rays, but he wanted to keep her for at least five days for treatment and see if she improved. We left her in capable and caring hands. We visited her every day; every day the answer was the same — no improvement.
On Monday, January 13, we picked up our Precious. It was one of the coldest days of the new year. Sadly, our vet told us that he didn't hold out much hope of her ever walking again, but that as long as she was able to relieve herself on her own, she'd still live a long life.
I worked with her every evening and every evening I saw her respond to the stimulation of her toes and legs. I thought, “If I can just get her to stand, I might be able tog et her to walk.”
This, however, was not to be. On Friday, January 18, while the boys were away with their Mom, I realized that Precious was unable to move her right rear leg. Saturday morning, I had to express her bladder, an action that I had to repeat twice more than day. My course of action was all too clear.
On Saturday, after the boys came home, we sat around the table and I told them what had to be done and why. Even though the two older boys understood, it wasn't easy to accept.
Monday, January 20. How I dreaded going home that afternoon, but home I went. We took a few pictures, and then it was time to go. My Mom kept the younger boys for me. The oldest, trying hard to keep his composure, held Precious all the way to the vet's office. She licked my hand as I picked her up from my son's lap. She licked my face as we approached the clinic door. It was though she was telling me that it was OK, I was making the right decision. She had gotten me through the most difficult time in my life. Her job was complete. She had done what she had been born to do.
We walked to the technician behind the desk and I gave her my name. I told her what I needed — not wanted — to have done. I signed the necessary paperwork, and she asked me if I wanted to be present. I wanted to, but I couldn't. I just couldn't.
Precious licked my face again. She licked the tech as she took Precious into her arms. My Precious gave me the look that only a content Cocker can give — mouth open, tongue lolling, a slight grin playing at the corner of her mouth and in her eyes. The tech turned to go down the hallway. My son and I turned towards the door. Minutes later, I'm sure she was scratching at heaven's gate.
God, thank you for such a wonderful companion. She was a dog who lived up to her name. Remember to give her lots of love, lots of hugs, and lots of doggie treats. Oh, and one last thing — see if You can get her to chase a stupid tennis ball.
In loving memory of Cia-Boom's Precious Gift, December 16, 1993, to January 20, 1997.
A special thanks to Dr. Adam Tsao and the staff of Colerain Animal Clinic, Cincinnati, OH for their help and compassion. Thank you is not enough.
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