In memory of my dear sweet Bichon, Spanky, born September 2001, died June 14, 2008.
The video I made was too large to put here, so I am posting a couple of the pictures. One is the last picture taken of him, on June 6th, and the one with the striped spread was taken in Oct 2007. And know this was much harder to write than it may be for you to read.
As I work through the grief of loosing my dearly loved pet, I find I want to let everyone know of at least one danger they face living here in Costa Rica. First I want to talk some about his live, and then I will relay the details of his untimely death.
Spanky was a feisty, energetic pup of one year old when he came to live with me. His girlfriend, Snuggles was just about to throw a litter of 7 puppies. The owner felt it would be better to find a good home for Spanky to ease the over population that would soon be a reality in their small home. It was perfect timing, because I had just suffered the loss of my first Bichon, Monty, age 2, to and untimely death. Spanky was everything one could want in a pet and he returned my love and affection 100 fold. He brought happiness back into my life, and joy into my heart. 2 weeks later, his pups were born, and the runt of the litter chose me from the very beginning. I visited every weekend, and brought him home near Christmas to be Spanky's co-heart in crime. Spanky would get into enough trouble for both of them, and if you have been reading my blog, you know of incidences when Spanky caused such upheaval in our home. Sunni would wait to see if Spanky was going to 'catch it' before he would participate, and I could hear Sunni saying "Oh-oh, you are in for it now, just wait 'til Mom sees this!" Even that said, he was loved beyond belief! It was as if he knew he had to make his life a great adventure, because he knew he was not long for this world. The years I had with him were the best. He was such an "in your face" dog, always wanting something, and mostly wanting me to sit down so he could rest in my lap and sleep. We , the three of us, spent much of the last year sitting on the patio, enjoying the beautiful days, while I knitted and he and Sunni would play or sleep next to me on their chairs or in my lap. I have a lounge chair, and 2 patio chairs pulled up to it, so they can both be close and they could rest too. I can not count the hours that Spanky spent sitting out in a chair, enjoying the beautiful view of the valley, even when Sunni was not interested in being out doors. I would be on the computer and could see him through the window. I would tease him about 'reading the paper' each day, and meditating. What a joy he was. Happy, demanding, and so self assured that no matter what, it was always time to eat. As many Bichons have such awful food allergies, he wore a cone for most of the time from around turning 2 until almost 4 months ago, when I changed from regular dog food to home cooked meals. Good dog food down here is hard to find, and very expensive when you can get it. Spanky and Sunni responded very quickly to their new diet, and with the readily available fruits and veggies here, cooking stew for them was very easy. He no longer dug at himself, and no longer had 'hot-spots'. He was happier, and no longer required antihistamines to maintain a calm. He was a challenge, faithful companion and would protect me literally to the death. He died doing what was his nature, and not understanding the extreme danger he had just encountered.
Saturday was WWKIP day, World Wide Knit in Public, and I had spent the whole afternoon with friends, knitting and sharing with friends. I arrived home about 5 p.m. and fed the boys. They were most happy to see me return, and hungry as usual. Near 7 p.m., I put them out for their second round of potty duty. I had been watching a TV program, and decided to get a dish of ice cream while they ran on there leads to do their thing. I was tired and never gave 'checking the patio before coming back in the house for that minute' a thought. I heard them bark, and yelled at them to "go potty", and put the ice cream back in the freezer and rushed back outside. No more then a minute of time had passed. To my horror, Spanky had one of the Sapo toads in his mouth, and was giving him the standard 'clamp-down' and 'I'll teach you not to invade our space', lesson. I pulled them back into the house on there leads and it was already way too late for Spanky. Sunni had licked the toad also, and both were showing the effects already. I never dreamed the poison was so deadly. Sapo toads, click on the name to find out more about them, and see a picture, grown, are about the size of a softball, or larger. I immediately took Spanky to the kitchen sink, running water, and forcing his mouth under the water. This was met with much resistance. I did the same to Sunni, and meanwhile, Spanky started going though all the symptoms listed about the toad, and I would add that it had to have burned where it entered through his gums to the blood stream, for he was using his front paws to violently scratch his gums and teeth. I felt so helpless, and the shock I was in rendered me almost motionless. From the scratching his gums, he started to bleed, and the hallucinogenic effect of the poison was evident in his huge eyes, and rapid heart beat. Thus, speeding the venom through his body in seconds. I am told that the Mayans licked the toads in ceremonial rituals for the 'trip'. I grabbed both of them and rushed to the car to drive to a neighbors to call the vet. After frightening the daylights out of them, they called, and the vet was still at the clinic so I drove there. I should not have driven in my condition, but by then was in 'command' mode. All I remember was I screamed and yelled the entire trip to town, about 12 minutes. Begging Spanky not to die, and people to get out of my way. Because the following day was going to be Father's day, many families were already gathering, and Saturday evenings are the night everyone comes out, if there is no rain, and walk down the street, will total disregard for cars in the streets. I really knew already that Spanky was no longer with me, but only hoped that he was unconscious. He had passed as I drove from our road onto the black top. Sunni was on the front floor boards, scared so bad, and I did not know, could not see if he was even alive, in the darkness. My panic was extreme. Upon arriving at the Vet's, I rushed Spanky into David, returning just long enough to pick Sunni up also and take him in. When I saw that David was still trying to find a heartbeat, I knew Spanky was gone. Spanky had been through 2 near death situations after rabies shots, and because it took days for him to show any symptoms, it took two years for us to realize that he was allergic to the rabies shot. The last shot he had, we were able to prep him for it with a shot of Benedril, and he was absolutely fine. Perhaps, because of these experiences, he had a weaker heart already, and he did not have the resources to fight this situation. Not all dogs died from this venom, but many do. Since, several people have told me they have lost a pet to this toad also. Sunni did not get as much, and maybe it was so little that he was able to counter it quickly, and rinsing his mouth under running water possibly helped also. This was by no means, a less difficult loss than when I lost Monty, and both times the hole in my heart was and is the size of TX.
I have found such comfort and peace from my dear friends and neighbors. With only a couple exceptions, we are all dog lovers, and have pets, and I truly felt they really understood my pain and were willing to share the load with me. I count each one as a blessing in my life.
Sometimes, at that particular moment, we do not understand why a seemingly unimportant event will later make such a difference to us, and be the answer to a situation before it even happens. I have been so busy this month, I have not had time to write in my blog, but did manage to get pictures downloaded of the time my daughter spent here with me, and a couple of gals who are doing veterinarian practicals came to stay also. While I was traveling with my daughter, a little street dog came up to our table at an outdoor soda (cafe), and very politely sat and never even begged for food. There are not as many street dogs now, due to the efforts of many who have provided sterilization for many of the small animals who roam the streets. This little dog was so cute, and so gentle, I am sure you know that I want to bring her home with me. My daughter would not give in to holding her, and insisted that I surely did not need another dog. So I did not bring her home. Perhaps someone else came to her rescue. And this is the first time I have been so moved to open my heart to another pet to be added to our family. Now you must understand that I have allergies to most dogs and cats, and most animals. I did walk away, without too much "oooooohhhhh" to boot. Then while the vet students were here, one of them is the daughter of one of my childhood friends, I took them to a friends to ride horses. My Tica friend thought they may enjoy meeting a friend of hers, who lived just down the road about a mile+. This lady, Helene, who I had spoken with a couple of times in San Ramon, in stores, but had never exchanged names, (imagine my surprise) helps poor dogs who are homeless, need medical attention, or need to be fixed. On that day, she had 58 dogs in her compounds. I saw several I would love to have, and one really was so sweet. I told her that I would come back for her later when she was spay. Helene has a heart of gold and can not say no to a dog in crisis. Little did I know that within the week, I would loose my precious Spanky. And my heart was already prepared for an addition of joy and happiness to our small family. Oh my little Spanky, did you have to go to Rainbow Bridge...my heart aches for your warm body, and sweet kisses. I will place the poem here also, I am sure it has ease the pain many have suffered.
One last thing before you read the beautiful poem. Costa Rica does not provide cremation service, in this area anyway. I could not put my little friend in the ground, and wanted him cremated so I could save his ashes as I have Monty's. We learn the level of creativity for which we posses and to what length we willing to go to find what we need, while we live in Costa Rica. I have the dearest Tico neighbors, and after being offered the available options, I could not put him in a pet cemetery and could not bear to have him just disposed of in the waste facility, and really do think cremation was best for Spanky, I asked Geraldo if he could do the cremation for me. Sunday morning, he did this for me. And though some may cringe at this, I'm sorry, he wanted to be sure I knew he was giving me the actual ramains, he showed me a rib, a spinal disc, and part of the jaw bone, with a tooth still remaining in it. They were soft as ash, but still holding together. He wanted to show me before he crushed the ash to condense the bag to fit in the tin. Though this has been very painful for me to write, I know I will get through this also, and again feel the happiness living in Costa Rica has afforded me.
I could only edit parts of this, so if I have made mistakes, they will remain uncorrected.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here,
that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends, so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor;
those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again,
just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing;
they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes,
when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.
His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers.
Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass,
his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet,
you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
The happy kisses rain upon your face;
your hands again caress the beloved head,
and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet,
so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….