It had been a month since our beloved little Pekingese, Simcha, had been put to sleep. She had developed heart disease at eight years of age and with the help and thoughtful caring of our vet, and lots and lots of tender loving care and understanding, we helped her to live an extra three years in a good quality of life. We were still grieving and so heartbroken, but we knew it was time to add a new member to our family in the hope to help us through the misery we were experiencing.
No one could ever "replace" Simcha - she was truly a gem - but we needed someone to cuddle with, someone to fulfill the need we had in our hearts to receive and give unconditional love - we just couldn't live in a home without a dog in it any longer.
We knew that we wanted another Pekingese, and at that time, we weren't aware of the breed rescue organizations, so we looked around in the newspapers and such for ads for Pekingese puppies. My husband spotted an ad from a breeder in New Jersey, our neighboring state, so we checked it out. We picked a darling little female fluffball and named her Sweetcakes.
She was four months of age when we got her. All checked out fine for her initial visit to the vet, but a month later when I took her in for shots, my vet mentioned that in the future we may need to do some x-rays on her hips. I questioned why as she kept studying Sweetcakes and she said she wanted to be sure all was okay. Before I left that day, she said that since I was already there and if it was okay with me, she thought she'd better just do the x-rays right then and there and then we would know for sure if there were any problems.
Well, a few seconds after she went in to view the x-rays, she came out of the room waving her hands above her head and yelling, "This dog has no hips! That's just great! Damn breeders! How could anyone even THINK about selling a dog in this condition!"
I was shown the x-rays and saw that on one side there was part of a socket for the hip joint and on the other side there was no socket at all. She was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia. My vet ranted and raved - she knew what we had just gone through for the past three years with our dear Simcha. "It a shame - you should have a normal, healthy dog now after what you have been through." She explained that the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital does hip replacement surgery, but it runs about $1,500 per hip. She went about helping us to get our money back for Sweetcakes.
At first, my husband said we would have to return her - we just could not - no way - afford that kind of money. We had come home from shopping one night and Sweetcakes greeted us when we got home. My daughter picked her up and sat down on the sofa with her and started to cry. "We can't take her back - I love her too much already!" Then I sat down next to her and of course, I started to cry. I was worried what would happen to her if we took her back, and I, too, loved her. My husband looked at us as we sat and cried on the sofa and assumed the expression of defeat. "I guess we'll have to keep her and hope for the best", he said.
We requested The New Jersey Pet Regulations from the Department of Consumer Affairs and found that we had three options. One: We could take the dog back and get another dog of similar quality. Two: We could take the dog back and get our money back, or Three: We could keep the dog and get our money back from the breeder. We decided on #3.
We first took Sweetcakes to an orthopedic surgeon for his opinion. He advised that we should do nothing now and see how things went. She was too young at that time to have the surgery done, anyway, and he said that she may never need it. We would have to wait and see how she got along as she got older.
We then took the x-rays, a letter from our vet and the diagnosis and prognosis from the orthopedic surgeon to the breeder and told her that under the terms and laws of the NJ Pet Regulations, we wanted to keep the dog and that we wanted to be reimbursed for the purchase price. Needless to say, she was not too happy with the fact that she had to give us our money back. She said, "Well, you have the dog and the money and I have nothing." I replied, "You have your reputation." I told her that she should probably have Sweetcakes' siblings x-rayed for hip dysplasia since it is inherited, but she didn't answer and I don't think she ever planned to do so.
So... we went on about our daily lives, having no choice but to wait and see what the future would hold for Sweetcakes in terms of her congenital condition.
In the process of going about our daily lives, one Saturday the phone rang and it was the receptionist from our vet's office. She said that Dr. Jeffers wanted to know if I would be able to stop by the office that day - that she had something she wanted to show me. When asked, she said that she had no idea what it was. Instantly my daughter started yelling, "Maybe it's a puppy! Maybe it's a puppy!". Well, I had just had Sweetcakes in the previous day, along with a fecal sample. It seems she had probably picked up a little virus or something from outside in the yard - nothing serious. I figured she had the results of the fecal sample and wanted to discuss something about it with me.
When I got there, she took me back into the hospital and started telling me that she had two of "Jerry's kids" in the back that she wanted to show me - a male Rat Terrier and a female Shih Tzu. (She refers to the handicapped ones as "Jerry's kids" - as in Jerry Lewis).
The Rat Terrier had a heart condition and the Shih Tzu had a problem with her knees - something I had never heard of before - lateral luxating patellas. She was seven months old and only three-and-a-half pounds! She had a severe case of kennel cough and we later found out that she also had a bad case of seborrhea and a belly button hernia.
My vet started to explain to me what lateral luxating patellas were. It is a congenital birth defect where the kneecaps (patellas) of the (rear) legs have slipped to the outside of the knees. The tendons in her rear legs, therefore, shrunk and when she walked, she looked like a seal. It was a pitiful sight. Dr. Jeffers continued to say that it was a terrible thing she was asking me to do, (to adopt her), and that there weren't many people she knew that she would allow to take a dog in this condition, because she had no idea what to expect. She said that we may even have to put her down in six months, but that she would rather see the dog have a happy life in a good home for six months than nothing at all.
She had been given the dogs by a pet shop who said that if she couldn't find a home for them, to put them to sleep. Well, I instantly fell in love with her and now the only problem was to figure out how I was going to talk my husband into letting us have a second dog - a second handicapped dog. I told my vet that I would take her home right now but I had to work on my husband. She said that she wouldn't be able to go home with me anyway until she had gotten over the kennel cough. Dr. Jeffers explained to me how to go about stretching her legs in hopes of stretching the tendons. She said that if we could stretch the tendons enough that they could do the surgery and that the surgeon there would probably just do it for us.
So... I stayed at the vet's office for a while and played with "Jellybean", which is what we named her, and tried to do the stretching therapy, which she did NOT like at all. At that point in time, she wasn't even in a mood to play. She just wanted to crawl into your lap and go to sleep and that is just what she did. I held and comforted this scrawny, helpless, depressed and definitely-in-need-of-a- bath furbaby. Depressed? I think she really was. What was life for her? She only knew of a cage since she had been taken from her mother (and by the way, her mother has the same problem with her knees - who would be stupid enough to breed a dog with a genetic defect such as this?) - no exercise, no love, no attention and no one ever noticed something was wrong with her knees until she was seven months old and then they figured she wasn't worth the time and trouble to help. She wasn't going to make any money for them - only be a liability - so she was shipped off for disposal. Well let me tell you, she was DEFINITELY worth the trouble, which to me wasn't any trouble at all. She is the most affectionate dog I have ever known and a little stinker to boot! As long as you are in tongue's range of her you will be kissed - and kissed and kissed and KISSED!
Well, I went home and all I could think about was what was I going to tell my husband when he asked what was up at the vet's? "Well, hon, she got these two handicapped little furbabies and they are SO busy over there that she wanted to know if I would be able to donate some of my time to do some therapy on this little Shih Tzu with bad knees. I told her that I would be glad to and so I have to stop in once a day to do the leg stretching." (My vet told me that I could lie and she would swear to it! She's great - you gotta love her!)
When my daughter found out, she was thrilled and she became another accomplice in our attempts to adopt Jellybean. Faithfully, we visited Jellybean every day for about two hours and took toys in to interest her and to get her moving. She was on medication and the kennel cough was getting better, thus she was feeling perkier and found out that playing was really fun! It was both funny and pathetic at the same time to watch her run and scamper around after toys. Our times there were mostly spent in getting her to run around as much as possible and then when she tired out, we would just hold her and talk quietly to her and love her. She was responding well and it came close to the time when we would be able to take her home.
We were on our way out to do some shopping, my husband, my daughter and myself, and I said, "Hey, let's stop at the vet's on the way out and you can get a look at Jel, er uh, this little Shih Tzu and see how you think she is doing." We went in and I could tell that he thought she was cute - under all that definitely-in-need-of-a-bath mess he saw. From then on, my daughter and I started in on him and he didn't have a chance!
It was a bit of a challenge - he had professed to being a one-dog person - "one is enough", but I think his heart told him that she really needed someone and he was grateful to our vet for all the help and kindness she had given us in the past. Jellybean came home with us and a day or two after we had her home, my daughter and I knew that he was hooked. We listened to my husband talking to Jellybean while we were out of sight in another room and we heard in a baby voice, "Jelly-Jelly-bean- bean, Jelly-Jelly-bean-bean".
Well, needless to say, she has been smothered with love since the inception.
It took three weeks, however, for Sweetcakes to accept her. Pekes are pretty territorial and VERY jealous of their possessions, which, of course, includes the "hoomins" they own. It all worked out, though, and they became good buddies and Sweetcakes realized it was kinda nice to have another woof-muffin to play with. Now they are "partners-in-crime"!
Well, here we are again, going about our daily lives, which have been significantly enhanced by the presence of these two little ten pound woof- muffins. They are so wonderful to have around and all the love that is constantly showered upon them, I'm sure, has been a source of therapy and healing in itself.
Both woof-muffins are presently doing great. Sweetcakes is now (in 2001) eight years old and Jellybean is six years old. They chase each other around at about 50 miles per hour with occasional episodes of "going nuts" play sessions of speeds up to 70 miles per hour! Jellybean's tendons have stretched considerably on their own with all the running around she did and she now walks more normally with only a slight limp. We just say that "she has a little hitch in her git-a-long".
We hope and pray that both our woof-muffins will continue to stay in such good shape as they age. Lots of tender loving care and prayers - that's what has gotten us by so far and we'll continue doing all we can for them for the rest of their lives. They deserve it.
- Our thanks to Joanne Porter, who kindly contributed Sweetcake and Jellybean's story.