I am feeling a bit disoriented today. It's hard to believe that it's May 10, 2013 and Phoebe is sitting on my lap as I drink my morning coffee and read the news. You see, today is a day that I was told would most assuredly never come. My little girl, Phoebe, turns 15 years old. It seems that since the day I met her there has always been a challenge to her health and survival and, yet, she always prevails.
I met her on May 7th, 1999 when I went to the Manhattan CACC (New York City's kill shelter). I was looking for a companion for my dog Blackie. The only dogs available that day were too big for him and for my small studio apartment, so I was leaving with the intent on coming back another day. That's when the cops rushed in with a small tan and white chihuahua who appeared to be dead, wrapped in a blanket. I waited around and watched them from a distance working on her. She stared at me and our eyes met and I knew I needed to rescue her. I enquired as to her status and they told me it was unlikey that she would survive her ordeal; Her owners moved out of their apartment, chained her to a radiator and left her without food or water for days. When the landlord went in to inspect the apartment to make sure his tenants moved out, he found what he thought was a dead dog- Miss Phoebe. He called the cops and they found her alive and rushed her to the CACC. I told them I was still interested and if she survived, to please call me. I got the call from the CACC when I was up in Albany visiting my grandmother and mother for Mother's Day weekend that she survived and that I had 24 hours to come and get her. So I went back to New York, headed to the CACC and rescued her.
Phoebe's next challenge that she survived was a near-death bout with IMHA when she was just 2 years old. I was told that 50% of the dogs who have this died before 3 years out and greater than 85% were gone by 5 years out. So when we made it past her 7th birthday, my attitude was that we were living on borrowed time.
When Phoebe was diagnosed with Cushing's disease in February 2007, Michael and I were devastated. We knew this was a possibility, as she had been on steroids for over a year (which increases the risk of Cushing's later in life) but it never occurred to us that Phoebe might live into her old age. We were "over-prepared" for the idea that she would most likely not live a normal lifespan for a small dog. In new territory, dealing with later-in-life health issues, we became immediately determined to get her whatever the latest, cutting-edge treatments were to restore her health. We put her on a new (at the time) drug, Trilostane and hoped it would work. Thrilled when it did, our vet was always cautious to tell us that the mean survival time on this drug was just 2 years. That was over 6 years ago. Again, she survived.
It has not been easy in the past year and a half. Phoebe is definitely showing signs of her age. Her bout with Idiopathic Vestibular Dysfunction last year wore her down. Like her brothers Blackie and Chandler when they became very old, Phoebe also has difficulty hearing us. The dog who used bark when she heard cars pulling up to the driveway from up in her bedroom can now easily sleep through my arrival at home and all the jumping and noisy fanfare her two younger brothers create for that nightly event. Phoebe also tore her ACL last year and we opted against surgical intervention (for a number of reasons). She's adapted well to her limp though she is sometimes frustrated by having only one good, strong, reliable rear leg. Still, she runs around and chases her brothers, explores the yard and she often makes a mad dash away to the far end of the Zen Garden when I tell her it's time to come in from the walk. She's still got spunk.
For me, Phoebe personifies survival against all odds in a way that no other person in my life has. She has taught me to see the "odds" and the "statistics" as mere numbers that suggest patterns but that say nothing about the exceptional individuals who defy them. She has inspired me to be exceptional, as she is. Most of all, Phoebe's tenacious, fierce, loyal and intensely loving personality has rubbed off on me and I can now see that I have become much like her in the third of my life- these past 14 years- that we have been together. So on her "Quinceañera", I say to my sweet survivor girl, Happy Anniversary my love. You have changed my life for the better and I will always be grateful to you for that. As is the case for adopted/rescued companion animals, your anniversary is also your "birthday". So, happy 15th birthday my darling. I look forward to enjoying today with you and every day to come for as many years as we have left together.
All my love,