I wanted a dog. I always had a few pets roaming around my house as a kid. 2-3 cats, a dog, a bird, some fish. So I missed having pets. When I met Kevin, we talked about getting a dog, a little one. We like terriers both.
After watching some cheesy made for TV movie about dogs and a girl who walks them and meets a man whom she falls in love with Kevin declared - 'if we get a dog we are naming it Santana. That girl said Santana means Devil in Spanish and I like it.'
'Sure' I said with a non committal tone. I went back to reading my book. For more then two years we talked about this supposed dog. I wavered back and forth between wanting and not wanting a dog. I knew that a dog was a huge commitment. A change in our lifestyle that I was unsure we could afford or if we even wanted that change. We were young and carefree. Why be tied down like that?
Ironically I was at the YWCA, working out. I always drove home from the Y-W sweaty and hot, with loud heavy metal music playing, in tune with my mood. I parked the car in the car port at the ancient apartment we shared in Fort Wayne. It was an old place, well known by many because it has housed some 30 YEARS worth of people, a monstrous complex with a golf course, pools and various aged amenities right next to the university campus. We chose the apartment we did because it was the furthest from the college students who mostly populate one end. Well, that and the fire place and the wildness setting of it all.
I jangled my keys in the dark and jogged up the walkway and stairs to our apartment. As I came in the apartment I said 'howdy' to Kevin as I trotted in the door. He was hunched down leaning forward off the ugly green rental couch. All of our furniture was on loan from the hockey team, hideous but free.
'What are you doing?' I questioned.
He said 'should we tell her what we are doing?' and I heard a whimpered reply.
I stopped dead in my tracks and felt oddly unhinged. Then from behind the couch arose a tiny white dog with a black and tan face, chocolate brown eyes and shiny black nose.
So small he fit in the palm of Kevin's hand. Just six weeks old and filled with that personality only a terrier can have. I took one look at the puppy dog face and knew my life was forever changed.
'You didn't...' I countered.
'I did.' he replied.
I took the soft puppy, a Jack Russell/Fox Terrier mix, in my hands and bowed my head. I breathed in his fur and let him lick my hands, my face. I cooed to him. I looked at Kevin and shook my head.
'Are we ready for this?'
'Yes. I think so?'
'And I got him for a steal -$150 from a farmer out in the next county!'
It is 3:00am and cool outside. I am standing in the dewy grass letting Santana out to potty train him. Every day for the past five days and almost every hour on the hour all night long. I wonder if this is what it is like to have a baby. I had NO idea. All I knew was having a dog was exhausting!
On the sixth day, I held Santana my hands, sobbing. I think he is dying I told Kevin. Santana was throwing up and having diarrhea and was not eating or drinking. He was SO tiny and thin and frail. Kevin looked back at me, terrified.
We drove Santana to the vet. Indeed the vet said that Saturday morning he is dying. He us about Parvo. Not a very good chance he will live. Expensive. Nothing we can do but hope. And we had to leave him with the vet. He told us that saving him would cost us. And it did in more ways then one.
My heart broke over and over again that week. We would call and get the news. No change. Santana kept pulling his IV out so we put a halo on him, they said. He is so young and little and nothing changed, they murmured to us on the phone. After five days and several hundred dollars later I begged to see him, one last time. The vet assistant acquiesced. She led us back to the quarantine room. Before opening the door she said "see that door?", a back door out of the small room filled with cages. We nodded. "Once you have seen your dog, please go out that door to leave. AND do not come back into the clinic." We nodded again.
My heart broke into a million pieces. His neck was bent at a funny angle trying to compensate for the halo, he strength almost completely gone. The IV was in his leg and the other leg was bleeding and cut up from where the little bugger had pulled the IV out a few times. The moment he saw us, he perked up. If he had a tail to wag, he would have. I ripped open the cage and took him out. I felt the pain of losing something I loved so intensely at that moment. He was skin and bones and his head lolled at a funny angle into my shoulder. A sob escaped from deep in my chest. I held him as tight as I could.
We left through the door and I cried all night long. I did not go to work the next day. We had no money left to keep him alive. We called that morning to tell the vet to let him go. I was put on hold when I mentioned Santana's name. A Vet Assistant came on the line. She paused. 'Hmmm, ah your dog. It seems like a miracle...' She sounded stunned. 'Santana ate this morning, early. And held it down. And he seems, well he seems better?' she said this questioningly like she could not believe it. Neither could we.
A day later we picked Santana up. All ribs and fur and puppy again. The scar from the IV remains to this day. I touch it all the time when I think of that week. All of our pitiful savings went to keep him alive that week. It was worth it.
We get differing opinions about the effects of Parvo on Santana's life. He started to lose his hair from allergies around his 2nd year of life and it increased when we moved to B-town. Twice a year every year since Santana was little he gets very very sick, from allergies, we have been told. We spend a bundle on special food for him which may or may not help. He drives us batty with his barking and craziness which has definitely toned down in the past year or two. He sleeps more and plays less. He is not the happy go lucky dog like he once was. He is seven now and I keep wondering how that happened. That steal of dog has probably cost us in the thousands between the Parvo and various vet bills!
The day Kevin's mom died we returned to B-town and picked the dogs up from the kennel. On the way out of the back door that day, Lucy boxed Santana out and he knocked his back into the sliding glass door. Hours later he could not walk. He scared the shit out of me. He looked at me hopefully like I could make his backside work but his whole rear end was dragging, as he ran into the hallway wall. My first thought was a brain tumor. We called Kevin's sister, a vet. She asked about being hit or hurt on his spine. Sure enough a goose egg sized bump was present. The next morning he seemed better.
Earlier this week, he was noticeably unable to control his backside again and he seemed scared and upset, disoriented. The vet said it could be a few things: epilepsy or a brain tumor. We just need to watch him and if he has more episodes we would need to try some medicine that could kill him as it is hard on dog's livers.
My heart aches all the time for Santana. I love him. He is really seriously my first baby. I loved him like a baby from the moment I saw him, cradling him my arms. Snuggling his furry cheek to my mine.
We have had wonderful times with him. He was my constant companion the entire time Kevin was playing hockey, always away on the road. I never felt a moment of loneliness once Santana arrived in my world! And after that when I moved to B-town on my own at first.
He liked to drive to Fort Wayne curled in my lap or wrapped around my neck watching the cars go by. We taught him tricks and played ball and he ran around like a mad dog doing his turbo thing. He suffered through getting Lucy and her craziness and after Lucy, the arrival of Matthew and Marisa. He definitely likes the kids and seems particularly fond of Marisa for some reason. Lucy, he could live without.
He has endured my silly nicknames for him especially the one I finally settled on which is the title of this blog. My little Beans.
He still loves to just be petted especially on his head. I remember a dawning moment a few years ago that Santana was not going to last forever and my heart ached over this. I love him like he is a family member. He is my sickly child. He drives me crazy. He makes me wildly happy. He has soaked up my tears and been there for me unconditionally.
I can only hope that he will be okay selfishly for a few more years. I am trying to pay more attention to him, give him extra love and rubs and greet him as happily as he greets me at the door. I can only hope...