“Who needs me the most?” I asked.
Without hesitation, Dixie, the rescuer, said, “Sunny.”
Sunny’s owner was homebound and immobile. Therefore, so was Sunny. The only way she could show him how much she loved him was by giving him treats.
When she passed away, her family relinquished him to the Humane Society of Utah. They said he was about 14-years-old. Sunny’s fur was so matted, that they shaved it.
Placed in a foster home, Sunny couldn’t walk up/down the two stairs to get to the yard.
The summer of 2012 was my summer of discontent. My ex-husband, who happens to be 42-years older than me, moved into an assisted living facility. It triggered concerns about my estate. . .who would take care of my furry companions?
Bringing Sunny into my pack seemed natural.
* * *
Sunny and I met in the parking lot at the local liquor store at 6:45 pm on Monday, May 6th.
I was shocked when I first met Sunny.
I’d never seen a dog his size.
Having had the matts shaved off his pudgy body, his pink skin peeked through thinning fur. When he was placed on the passenger seat of my Honda Element, he looked at me with watery eyes and snuggled into his seat. It was as if he was saying, “Thank you. We’ll both be okay. I promise.”
By 7:15, we were home. He met Faith, the Bernese Mountain Dog; Booker, the Cockapoo (almost his twin) and Gus, the poodle rescued from the puppy mill.
Before coming in the house, Sunny pooed and peed. He is well mannered.
I dipped him in the tub to clean up the poops under his tail, dried him off, and showed him around the house.
He weighed in at 21 pounds.
When we went to sleep, Sunny snuggled in the middle of the bed and I rested my hand on his chunky chest. I whispered, “You will always be warm, safe, dry and loved.”
I fell asleep worrying about him. . .worrying about his breathing. . .his snoring. . .his joints.
* * *
Tuesday, August 7th: Day 2
At 7:15 am, I scooped Sunny off the bed, cradling his rear in my left elbow, and carried him down the stairs and outside. The rest of the dogs bounded out to get busy.
While the summer Olympics happened in London, we started the Hooker Olympics in Park City after a cup of coffee. I carried Sunny almost a block to the open space where we play catch. Well, Booker fetches, Gus occasionally chases Booker and Faith strolls along next to me. Sometimes, she plays blocker to Booker’s quarterback.
After breakfast and a nap, we went to the vet. The doctor’s eyes widened when he saw Sunny and he said, “I bet he has Cushing’s Syndrome.” But, after testing his thyroid, decided to start thyroid medication and reduced-calorie dog food.
When I walk toward the kitchen, Sunny follows me – either physically, or with his eyes. I know his sweet companion loved him the best way she could. When she ate, he ate.
I posted pictures of Sunny on Facebook. My friend, Jaci, wrote, “Julie, you are a beautiful person with a huge heart. Sunny is lucky to have you.”
I’m the lucky one. I’m the one who is blessed.
I’m fortunate to have a warm, safe, comfortable home with enough discretionary dollars to make a difference for one little dog.
* * *
Wednesday, August 8th: Day 3
After playing our version of The Biggest Loser, the dogs had breakfast. Sunny didn’t really eat. Apparently, he doesn’t care for the low-fat food. I don’t blame him.
I went upstairs to sort laundry. Between the whites and jeans, I heard a squeaking. Sunny walked up six of the fifteen steps to get to me.
That night, we walked to open space to meet our neighbor and friend. He, too, was shocked by Sunny’s size. But, like everyone, he was taken in by Sunny’s watery-eyes that said, “I trust you,” when he rolled over and asked to be petted.
When it’s time for bed, Sunny’s spent. I carry him up the stairs and put him on the bed each night.
* * *
Thursday, August 9th: Day 4
Sunny wasn’t eating anywhere near enough to support himself. I added pumpkin to the dry kibble. He ate all the pumpkin.
When he followed me to the kitchen, I gave in. I rewarded his attention with carrots. He squeaked with delight. His voice is small.
* * *
Friday, August 10th : Day 5
Sunny weighed in at 20 pounds. That means since Monday night, he’s lost a pound.
* * *
Saturday, August 11th: Day 6
After breakfast and our workout, Sunny weighed 19 pounds.
Gus has changed. When we’re out and about exercising, he bounces and explores. That’s because of Sunny. Until Sunny, I worried and wondered about Gus because he spent the first five years of his life in a puppy mill and they said, “He’ll never be a normal dog.” So, to ensure that, I doted on him. . . .watched him. . . photographed him.
With Sunny, Gus grew confident. He’s grateful. I think he’s saying, “Thank God. The old broad is focused on someone else. I can be a dog.”
Today, Sunny started speaking. While he’s squeaked for attention, today he barked. His voice is soft.
However, for the first time, I really wondered if Sunny would be okay. He hasn’t been eating his prescription kibble. Today, I added green beans to his pumpkin and kibble. Sunny snarfs his pumpkin and loves his green beans, but leaves the kibble. I worry about his nutrition.
This evening, I was afraid. When we went on our evening walk, Sunny was slower than usual. . .and that’s pretty slow. Then, just a few houses down, he turned and started for home.
I told him, “Sunny, I’ll carry you to the open space.” I scooped him up, supporting his bottom in my left elbow and we walked. Faith’s leash wrapped around my legs as Booker tugged to get us there faster.
I wonder if Sunny looks at the other dogs and asks himself, “Why is it so easy for them to walk, to run, to chase the ball, to chase each other?”
Sunny’s voice is soft. When he says “hello” to other dogs through the fence, his raspy bark sounds shallow and weak.
Walking home, Sunny waddled. His tongue squished out from between his teeth as he panted. But, he made it.
* * *
Sunday, August 12th : Day 7
Sunny ate pumpkin, green beans and some kibble while I emailed Sunny’s vet, his rescuer and posted questions about overweight dogs, thyroid conditions, and Cushing’s Syndrome.
Then, we went out to exercise.
Because I’m worried about the strain on Sunny’s joints, I carried him to the open space. He prefers to walk on the pathway. After unleashing everyone and tossing Booker’s green tennis ball with the Chuck-it, we were off for our version of the marathon.
Sunny walked all the way down the path so I could dispose of the poop bags. On our way back, we ran into our neighbor, Bruce.
His reaction to Sunny was like everyone’s – surprise. I explained Sunny’s story.
Bruce has a big heart, enormous compassion and an adopted dog. He looked at his dog, George, and said, “I worry about that with him. What would happen to him if something happened to me?”
Prior to Sunny’s arrival in the Hooker home, I’d been thinking a lot about my legacy and my memories. Sunny forced me to finish my will and document directions for all of my animals. I am fortunate to have friends and family that will ensure my four-legged companions are loved.
But, it is important to document this.
My neighbors walked me home from a barbecue tonight. When they saw Sunny, they said, “he looks better.”
I carried Sunny upstairs. He rooted in the basket of toys. I stepped into the shower.
When I came out, twenty minutes later, he’d waddled down five steps and was eating the other dogs’ food. Fortunately, they are also on prescription dog food, so it wasn’t too bad for him.
* * *
Monday, August 13th : Day 8
Sunny’s breath smells terrible. He argued with me about taking his tiny blue thyroid pill. I’m worried.
Today, I have to go to school for about four hours.
It’s like Sunny knew I was concerned. So, he walked up and down the stairs twice.
He weighed in at 20.5 pounds.
* * *
I’m falling in love with Sunny. He whispers and snorts when he snuggles in next to me.
At 6:30 am, Sunny’s weight is still sitting at 20.5
Sunny started eating kibble.
Instead of documenting every single day, I’ll start noting his highlights.
When Sunny pees, it is bright yellow. I snuck in behind him during his first pee of the day and grabbed a sample. It sat in my icebox next to the beer and orange juice until I left for town.
* * *
Thursday, August 16th
It’s Cushing’s Syndrome. The levels in Sunny’s urine were elevated to 473. That’s high. Typically, you wonder if a dog has the disease when the cortisol level in his urine is 30.
This isn’t a story about Cushing’s Syndrome. But, you should know that Cushing’s Syndrome causes dogs to gain weight, drink excessive amounts of water, urinate frequently, and lose their fur. Often, people use these signs and prematurely euthanize.
There are treatments for Cushing’s Syndrome. Sometimes, they are worse than the effects of the disease. They are also expensive.
My doctor told me, “Julie, treating a dog for Cushing’s would break me.”
Therefore, Sunny will continue to take his thyroid medication because Cushing’s pushed his thryroid low. Sunny will eat a low-fat diet.
Sunny will live with my pack and me.
Sunny will rest on the sofa where he rolls over onto his back. His little legs stretch straight out.
Sunny will be loved.
I will not ask Sunny to do anything more than he’s comfortable doing. Sunny’s rescuer, Dixie, bought him a stroller. When it arrives, Sunny will cruise the neighborhood in it while his pack walks next to him.
Some days, Sunny’s eyes are filled with with watery tears. Sometimes, his legs are weak.
* * *
Every single day, we are going to live. Some days will be easier than others.
Sunny will tell me when he’s tired. He’ll tell me when he’s done. Sunny will tell me when he wants to cross the Rainbow Bridge and be with the others that packed with me.
* * *
For now, I’m reaching out to you. Please, consider how you can make a difference in the life of an animal. Do you have room in your home? Do you have room in your heart? I’m not suggesting that it’s easy. If you do not have room in your home right now, consider making a financial contribution to support the rescue of dogs like Sunny.