It was close to midnight one night last week and I was wondering why my husband hadn’t yet come to bed. I stumbled down our hallway and out into the living room, only to find him asleep on the couch. Nestled in the crook of my husband’s arm lay our 16-week-old boxer puppy, Gus, also snoring away with his own little puppy wheezes, his tongue hung loosely off the side of his mouth, his oversized paws up in the air.
I almost didn’t want to wake them.
It wasn’t that long ago, at the end of June, that my husband didn’t want to get too close to Gus. He didn’t want to get too attached and thought that my bringing the puppy home following a freak accident was a mistake. When Gus was 8 weeks old, I tripped and fell on him, leaving him brain-damaged, blind, with a paralyzed face and jaw.
But I brought him home anyway, following two weeks at the vet and a small fortune in medical bills. Our kids were ecstatic to have him home, and our 1-year-old boxer Maggie was, too, even with his health concerns. If anything, it would teach our kids a lesson of compassion, I thought.
We spent the summer taking Gus to ophthalmologist visits and vet checks, liquefying canned dog food for syringe feedings and applying eye drops and ointments several times a day.
We shared Gus’ story, not just through this column but especially on Facebook, where I’m a member of a page for people who love the boxer breed. We asked for prayers. Hundreds responded. In the first few weeks, I had an onslaught of Facebook messages and emails, people asking me for updates on the puppy’s progress and telling me they were praying for him. One day, I came home to two giant boxes of canned food from Chewy.com sitting on my front porch, a gift from people I’ve never met. A lady from Canada overnighted us a package of large plastic syringes to make feeding Gus easier. And then our veterinary office called, saying there had been anonymous donations on our outstanding bill.
It was an overflow of love and support that we never expected.
The experience has taught us multiple lessons, but one I took away is this: If I’m ever on life support, my husband is probably going to pull the plug. It’s just a fact, and I can’t blame him for it. But if he is the one hooked up to machines, he’d better buckle up for a long hospital stay, because I don’t give up easily. In Gus’ case, we are both now glad that I didn’t.
This experience has also taught us that there are so many good people in this world, a lesson I’m glad my kids were able to witness.
Within a couple of weeks at home, Gus’ eyesight fully returned as his ulcers cleared up, although scarring remains. The vet says that will likely go away too, with time. At first, Gus walked precariously around the house, somewhat unsure of himself. But soon, he was back to galloping around, chasing after the kids or our other dog, tail wagging. He often reminds me of a brown bunny, hopping around with his ears flipped backward.
Gus learned to walk on a leash, with my 10-year-old and 4-year-old daughters taking him around our neighborhood loop. We only made it halfway through our small neighborhood the first time, as my girls couldn’t agree on who got to hold the leash. But Gus didn’t seem to mind.
Gus has also become used to our routine. When someone is on the couch, he puts his front paws up on the cushion and whines, as he wants to be wherever we are, especially if that means cuddling on the couch. When the kids wake up in the morning, he gallops to our son’s bunk bed and tries to climb up in the bottom bunk with him, although he’s not quite big enough, just yet. And at night, he’s back beside that bottom bunk during book time.
In recent weeks, Gus’ puppy playfulness has returned. Although we still feed him by syringe - the only remaining injury from the fall is nerve damage in his jaw - that doesn’t stop him from trying to chew everything, especially shoes and my antique dining room furniture. More than anything, he loves to wrestle and play with our other boxer, Maggie. After our late dog, Dozier, died suddenly in January, Maggie was so depressed. But Gus has brought her back to life. She is a puppy once again. Things are as they should be.
When we got Gus, we were hoping that he would be a way to turn around an altogether awful year for our family. Dozier died the same week my grandmother passed, and two months later, we were dealt a terrible blow when my dad also suddenly died. After so much death, we felt we needed something happy in our lives. We got Gus. And then when the fall occurred, I wondered if things were ever going to get better. I prayed to God to let this puppy live - and he has.
Sometimes things don’t always happen the way you think they will. Sometimes, you think nothing will bring you out of the depths of despair or that a bad situation will never turn good.
But when it does, you realize that maybe this was the way it was supposed to be all along.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.