Our Devoted Dolly: A Tribute to the Rescued Bichon Frise We Nicknamed Fuzzball
It was the Fall of 2009. Teresa Montgomery, a coworker of mine here at WBKR, came to my office. She and Rea, our Business Manager at the time, knew of a dog who needed a home. They knew I had a home that needed a dog. Just months before, I had said "goodbye" to my miniature schnauzer Mavis and the ladies came to me immediately when they learned about Dolly.
I don't know much about what they knew about Dolly. Honestly, I was afraid to ask. I heard stories that she had been mistreated, but I didn't want clarification. I couldn't have handled it. All I knew was that she was bred very early in life, gave birth to a litter of pups when she was roughly six months old and was thrown out of the house and away from those puppies before they were eight weeks old. I didn't have to see or meet Dolly to know I wanted her. Teresa and Rea said they knew a dog who needed a home. I knew immediately that she needed mine.
I will never forget the day Dolly was brought to me at the radio station. It was pouring outside and, because it was late September or early October, it was chilly. I went out to the parking lot to meet Dolly. I couldn't wait. And there she was. Cold, wet, swollen with milk, terrified. I felt so sorry for her. She didn't know where she was, who I was or what was happening. I remember picking her up and immediately pulling her close to my chest. She was soggy . . . and a mess . . . but she was already mine.
I took her to the house, introduced her to Kevin and our other schnauzer (Wilma) and gave her bath. It was quite evident she hadn't had one in weeks. After her bath, I sat with her, cradling her, and spent the rest of the evening and night letting her know that she was going to be okay, letting her know my home had a brand new dog. And her name was Dolly. And Dolly was going to love it and we were going to love her. In fact, it was after that first bath and introduction to the hair dryer, when Dolly's hair was "ceiling fan high" and "jacked up to Jesus" huge, that Kevin took one look at her and nicknamed her "Fuzzball."
For the last 11 years, we have loved our Fuzzball. I don't know how to say this without making our other three rescues angry (but, as smart as they are, they'll never read or know this), but Dolly is the absolute best. Anyone who has ever met Dolly can tell you that she is the sweetest, most lovable, most well-behaved and most devoted dog ever. Our dog Ellie will bark at you incessantly when she meets you. Simon will charge at you like he does when he sees a possum. Yogi will darn near attack you. Sure, if you're a female, he'll lay on the charm. However, if you're a male, he'll quite possibly bite you right in the crotch. Dolly, on the other hand (or paw), will walk right up to you, prop herself up on your leg, wag her tail, get you to pet her and, if she gets the chance, plop down in your lap. Like I said, she's the absolute best.
Now, all that praise lavished, she is also quite prone to all kinds of drama. She's a Bichon, after all. But her propensity for drama is likely due to equal parts heredity and the fact that Kevin and I are her parents.
Here's the perfect example and it will illustrate why Dolly should have, at some point, snagged a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama. Kevin and I travel a lot. It didn't take Dolly long to realize that when we pull our suitcases out of the upstairs closet, we are going to be leaving for a sustained period of time. Because there's drama anytime we prepare for a trip, we literally have started hiding the suitcases from her because she starts "crying" if she sees them. Seriously! One time, we actually found her sitting in the suitcase on top of the clothes we packed. She never wants us to leave and she routinely attempts to guilt us into staying. #DramaQueen But, hey. I get it. We're her world. Quite honestly, that's reciprocated. Our dogs are our world too.
Anytime I have ever been asked to describe our dogs, I never have to search for the right words. With their distinct personalities, it's remarkably easy to do. With Dolly, it has always been a breeze. She is my shadow. If I am sitting in the chair at night, she's right next to me- cuddled up against my left leg. If I'm working from home, she's literally laying under the chair I am sitting in and directly under my feet. If I go to bed, she is the first dog in bed with me and the only one that actually stays with me through the night. She is my "cuddle bunny."
About a week ago, Kevin and I noticed that Dolly was having issues with her right front leg. It was odd. It was like she was occasionally losing awareness of it. She would stand in the kitchen, for instance, and all of a sudden that leg would slightly and slowly start to drift out from underneath her. She would notice and then quickly try to recover from it. After a couple of days, that issue was more pronounced. So, Monday, I took her to see Dr. Richey and Dana with Animal House Mobile Vet. They have known Dolly for years and have been her vet and tech since we got her back in 2009. They love Dolly too. It's impossible not to.
Over the years, Dolly has been prone to throwing her back out. Dramatically, I might add. After an examination, we decided that it was possible, because of the way she was gingerly moving her neck, that she had thrown something out of place again. I came home with the usual- muscle relaxers and pain pills. On Tuesday morning, Dolly seemed to be doing a touch better, though I noticed another odd symptom.
I was standing in the kitchen and Dolly came in, like she always does, to stand at my feet. Only this time, she had her head pressed firmly against my leg. She has always wanted to be right next to me, but this was extreme, even for her.
Then, Tuesday night rolled around and it happened. Sometime between 8pm and 9pm, Kevin was on the couch and I was in my chair. We were getting ready to start watching The Voice finale. Dolly, as always was trying to sit to my left, though I noticed she couldn't get comfortable. Then, she stood up on the ottoman and, without warning, suffered an agonizing seizure.
I immediately grabbed hold of her. I knew I had to do something to protect her. I had to keep her from falling. I had to brace her and help her through whatever this was. But it was savage. She wouldn't stop shaking. She was foaming at the mouth and the writhing was relentless, violent. Kevin was on the phone trying to call for help. I was clutching Dolly, not letting go minute after minute after minute after minute of a seizure that just would not end. It was finally more than my heart could bear. I was sobbing, screaming, "I'm sorry, Dolly! I'm so sorry!!"
As I am writing this, I am reliving those moments. I don't know how I am ever going to cut them loose from my memory. I'm the guy who, if I have an ounce of control over a situation, always knows what to do. In those seven minutes, I didn't have a clue what to do. The truth? There was nothing I could do. Our Dolly was being ravaged by that delicate line that lies between the exquisite beauty of life and the inescapable brutality of it.
The seizure finally ended. But that's when reality opened the door and waltzed its miserable ass in. Those seven minutes were a harsh wake up call that Dolly didn't just throw her back or neck out. The worst case scenario was THE scenario. Dolly had a brain tumor, apparently a rapidly growing one, and there was no fixing it. Though the after effects of the seizure started to subside, Dolly really couldn't walk anymore. When she did, she walked in a complete circle to the left. She couldn't get comfortable anymore either. She was only comfortable when she pressed her head into the cushion of the couch or let her head dangle from the front of it.
Kevin and I stayed up with her the entire night. We took turns holding her, petting her, telling her we loved her. We knew we were going to have to take her to see Dr. Laura and Dana first thing in the morning. We knew the prognosis wasn't going to be good.
The other dogs knew it too. Yogi, who loves to take care of and groom Dolly, made the first move. Immediately following the seizure and all through the night, any chance he got really, he would go to Dolly and start licking her eyes and her face clean. Before Tuesday, Dolly would give Yogi about four licks before she started to growl at him to tell him to stop. Tuesday night, she let him clean her repeatedly. For ten minutes at a time even. She would lean her head down for him and Yogi cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. I suppose he was relieving some of the pressure in her head. What used to be annoying to her was now comforting.
Simon is the only dog we have that Dolly will snuggle with. I am not sure why. Maybe it's because he's the newest. Maybe it's because he, like Fuzzball, was scared when he first arrived at our house after being rescued. Maybe since Dolly was pulled away from her puppies, she adopted Simon as her son? I don't know why, but she loved to snuggle with him. Tuesday morning, before we left for the vet, Simon went to the couch. Dolly was there, swaddled in a blanket. Simon went over, pressed right up against her and didn't budge from her side until it was time to leave.
Ellie, who's the boss and the Miss Know-It-All of the house, didn't know what to make of any of it. She ran to Dolly during the seizure, but backed away immediately. In fact, she kept her distance the entire night. When it came time to take Dolly to the vet Wednesday morning, I asked Ellie if she wanted to say goodbye. She walked over to where Dolly was laying on the couch, but wouldn't get close to her. Ellie was anxious, confused and I think a bit scared. Unlike Yogi and Simon, she didn't seem to know what was happening and it was very clear she wanted to keep her distance from whatever it was.
We drove to Rockport to meet Laura and Dana. Kevin sat in the passenger seat with Dolly. We had her wrapped in a blanket. Dolly typically hates riding in the car and lets everyone know it. On this trip though, she didn't make a sound. We didn't either. When we got out of the Jeep and approached the mobile clinic, Dolly looked up. She recognized the truck and immediately started to whimper and cry. She looked at me, then at Kevin, then at me, then at Kevin again. See, we left the house that morning knowing, in our hearts, that Dolly wouldn't be coming back home with us. I am convinced, that in that moment she saw and recognized Dr. Richey and Dana, Dolly knew it too.
Kevin did so well carrying Dolly into the truck, but I knew he wouldn't be able to stay to let her go. I had to. I always do. I took off my mask so Dolly could see me. This may sound silly, but I didn't want a mask to be the last thing she saw. I'm the face that greeted her that day in the rain at the radio station. She was going to see the same face the brutally cold day she slowly drifted away from me. I placed one hand on her head and the other over her rib cage. I felt the last beats of her heart and only moved my hand when it had to make way for Dr. Richey's stethoscope, which confirmed it. Our Fuzzball was gone.
Dolly was the heart of this house and, admittedly, it feels so different now. To me, to Kevin, to Yogi and Simon. As for Ellie? See, I didn't think she understood what was going on. But, last night, Kevin and I sat down to watch The Voice finale. It remained on the DVR from the night before. Kevin sat on the couch. I sat down in my chair. In an instant, Ellie came over to me. By the way, she rarely does that. She always sits at one end of the sectional and is always within an arm's length of Kevin. But last night, she came to me. Without any fanfare or drama, she jumped into the chair, climbed over to one side and laid down. Right next to my left leg. Right where Dolly would have been. She laid there for hours. Letting me pet her. Being my Fuzzball.
And now, as I write this, she's lying on the couch, cuddled right up next to Simon. I guess she's being his Fuzzball too.