04 Nov Today We Will Be Strong
Olive is our “sweet” dog.
She’s the one that always wants your cuddles and pets, and just wants to be around you — wherever you are. Even if you want some personal space, you know, like in the bathroom, Olive wants to be right there with you. Now, I don’t want you to think that Nola Mae isn’t sweet, but she’s not like Olive. She’s got that typical beagle personality — headstrong and opinionated. “I’ll be loved when I want to be loved.”
We adopted Olive when we lived in Chattanooga, TN. One wintry Saturday morning in February, DJ and I were sitting on the couch watching TV. I had out my laptop and looked at the puppies available at the shelter we adopted Nola from and thought I’d look at local shelters.
That’s when I saw her. Her picture was grainy and dark and she blended right in, tucked tightly back into the corner of the cement cage. Her head was downcast. I’d never seen such a sad-looking dog that hadn’t been obviously mistreated.
The shelter listed her as a 9-month old catahoula cur or catahoula leopard dog, a breed neither of us had heard of. Her profile said that hunters found her in the woods in north Georgia the day after Christmas, so by the time we saw her she’d been in the shelter almost two months. I had to go play with her; she looked so sad. That’s what I told myself. We’ll just play, just for a little bit.
Two hours later, we were at the shelter looking for “Riley” (her shelter name). When we found her, we hooked her up to a leash and headed out to the astro turf covered play yard for “Potential Families.” She wouldn’t stand up, she just hunkered down, but you could see in her eyes that she was desperate for attention and love. We moved away to see if she would start to stand or run — anything. She did; she army crawled over to the other side of the play yard to be near us, never once standing.
After some negotiation, I convinced DJ that we needed another dog, that we had to make this dog’s life happier than it had been.
I wish that I could say that it was smooth sailing after her adoption. When I took her into the vet for a checkup, they found that she had (still has) about 8-10 shotgun pellets lodged in her body from head to tail. Someone shot at our sweet Olive when, judging by the completely healed wounds, she must have been less than 7 months old.
They also discovered that she had every intestinal worm possible. One round of antibiotics didn’t cut it, neither did two. And all of those strong medicines wrecked her body, producing seemingly uncontrollable bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive thirst leading to the inevitable frequent urination — most of which seemed to happen inside the house. For three weeks, I made her boiled chicken and rice because regular dog food was too rich for her digestive system.
All this, and I haven’t mentioned the severe separation anxiety she experienced for years whenever we left the house, or even the room. Olive was always with you. And if she wasn’t, nothing was safe. Most notably, we lost five PlayStation DVDs, two remote controls, a whole pizza (with jalepenos), carpeting, salmon skin from the trashcan, and a Costco-sized box of MiniWheats (yep, the whole thing).
Did I think about putting her back at the shelter? Did I think she untrainable? Too wild? Yeah, I thought about it. But DJ kept me strong; we knew she was ours and we were hers.
Three years and three moves later, Olive has become a great sister to Nola Mae, a wonderful companion, and while some things on the counter might get “misplaced,” it’s usually our fault for leaving them out where she could get it.
All this to say, when we noticed a small bump on Olive’s chest in August we were worried. But we’d taken Nola in before for a similar bump on her thigh and it turned out to be a pimple (color us embarrassed). So we wanted to watch it and see if it got bigger.
It was weird. Sometimes it was bigger and sometimes it felt like it wasn’t there at all. We thought that maybe one of the shotgun pellets was emerging and the body was reacting and creating scar tissue around it.
But on Halloween we decided that the bump had been there long enough and she needed to be seen. The doctor didn’t seem to be worried; he talked to us about benign cysts and, of course, pimples. So we felt pretty good when he took Olive to the back and aspirated the area. When the vet came back you could tell something was different. He said, “You know, it’s just not looking consistent with cysts. I should talk to you guys about mast cell tumors.” And there we had it. The “tumor” word had been said. Our worst nightmare.
Our vet sent off the sample and we found out today that his diagnosis was confirmed; Olive has a mast cell tumor. Right now we don’t know much else. Friday we’ll go in and Olive will get a chest x-ray to attempt to see if the cancer has spread to any other organs or into her bones.
Right now, Olive is in great spirits. She’s running around our little temporary apartment trying to get Nola to chase her. I’ll hate to see her down after the surgery, but I know dogs are so resilient, she’ll be fine. It’s us I have to worry about, I think!
So, with Friday in mind (and all the other tough days ahead), please keep us and our two furry kiddos in your thoughts.
Sarah & DJ