I wonder if he’s even breathing.
That was my thought on a mid-December Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago. It was 5:45 a.m. and Percy, our 11-week-old Vizsla puppy, hadn’t stirred in hours. That was quite unusual.
I got up and went to where he sleeps on the floor next to my husband Peter’s side of the bed. I reached down and felt Percy’s head. It was all wet. He was all wet. The bed was all wet.
Oh no, I thought, he’s peed in his bed. I woke Peter. We got him outside for a wee and cleaned him up. I took him back to bed with me while I read to work on this annual year-end column.
Percy was so sleepy -- like he’d been out all night at Club Canine. Soon, I felt wetness through my pajamas. And I realized -- he’s not wetting the bed. He’s drooling in his sleep. A lot. That’s a sign of distress in a dog.
I rushed him downstairs and set him down. His legs buckled. I picked him up and his eyes rolled back in his head. I yelled for Peter. He yelled at me to throw some clothes on.
We rushed to the 24-hour animal hospital, each of us telling the other not to panic or cry, Peter driving recklessly fast (for which I said, "Please don’t compound our problems by getting arrested!" He slowed down a tiny bit to placate me), and me praying out loud for Percy to survive.
Our grief from losing our Vizsla Jasper earlier this year was coming back to us in waves as we worried that our new little puppy might be dangerously ill at an age where they can be struck down by diseases of all kinds before they’ve had all of their vaccinations.
Walking into the hospital where Jasper died in September 2021, carrying Percy, was like moving through thick molasses. I didn’t want to be there. But I had to be there.
The good news was Percy didn’t have a disease. An X-ray showed he had two pebbles in his colon. As much as we tried to keep an eye on him at all times, the little Hoover had sucked up and swallowed two rocks, the sneaky little devil. His drool was from his discomfort as the pebbles passed through his small intestine. Thankfully, he wouldn’t need surgery — they’d just have to come out on their own. Ouch!
So… why do I tell you all of this?
Well, it’s because the column I had started to write before we left the house that morning was about how I hoped that everyone who had lost a pet and had not gotten another one would change their minds.
I had heard from so many of Fox’s fans after Jasper died, that they, too, had lost a pet. Many had taken in a new furry friend, but several said they’d never get another one because the grief was too acute and they’d never get over it.
I understood that pain. And yet I believed it is important not to cut yourself off from the love that comes from adding a new pet to your life.
And then, just as I was writing that piece, I thought Percy might die, and I said oh no, I can’t do this again. I already love him so much.
My mind flashed forward to a future without a dog -- a human survival instinct to protect yourself against future heartaches. That would be fine. I could do it. I’d have to if I lost Percy so soon after falling in love with him. Fortunately, none of that came true.
After several hours at the doctor’s office, Percy came home with us from the hospital and played with his toys like nothing ever happened. We breathed many sighs of relief.
And I realized -- our love for Jasper didn’t end with Jasper. It expanded with Percy. And our love for him and for each other makes us more resilient and compassionate.
We laugh and cuddle more. We’re so busy with him, we don’t have time to sit and be sad.
Percy is a perfect blend of our previous Vizslas: Henry and Jasper. Peter says he’s an old soul. "It’s like he was here before," he said. I know he won’t be here forever. But he’s here now. And he has made us whole again.
So if you’re in the mode of personal reflection as we end one year and begin another, and you’re denying yourself the love and joy of a new pet, please reconsider.
My hope for you is that you be good to yourself. Yes, you’ll probably have to say goodbye to him or her because as a veterinarian told me, "It’s very rare that a pet outlives their owner." Love makes you more patient, happier and more fun to be around.
And now, I must go see what Percy is up to now. I can hear Peter laughing at something Percy is doing. I don’t want to miss any of his life.