Often, we hear the age old “it’s just like riding a bike!” but I can say that if anyone is going to even hint at my life (especially with my husband and the “misfits”) being “like riding a bike” I will agree – only if that bike is on fire with one flat tire and someone sticks a crowbar into one of the wheels! But it is our hot mess, and we would not want it any other way – just like all of you and your very own adorable “misfits”.
A year ago, I can easily say my life was absolutely and dramatically different than it is today (I mean can’t we all agree on that when looking at our lives in the last year?). In that short year I lost the loves of my entire life Maggie & Roscoe, I left a job that I had adored but was burned out mentally and physically, all these ups and downs are happening so quickly and closely it is hard to not feel a bit of vertigo (and resist throwing up).
The one thing that had changed and is an ongoing adventure is our very own Maxwell. A year ago, today while still at my former clinic a co-worker (who is now my best friend) approached me about a miserable client with this tiny pug puppy complaining that the doctor wanted x-rays and we were clearly “ripping her off” – the pug puppy came in to see the doctor for back leg paralysis.
Reluctantly the “owner” agreed to the x-rays and the images told such a story – dudes spine twisted and turned in ways unimaginable.
The “owner” we found was actually a backyard breeder with no emotional connection nor empathy for the tiny pug who was the only one out of 10 puppies that had this condition.
The doctor and my best friend approached me in a joking manner and asked if I wanted a pug puppy. I briefly saw Maxwell in passing but did not pay him much mind, my heart was still hurting from losing Maggie Mae that January.
The doctor spoke to the woman about the small pug puppy and her concerns. The woman was agitated by the diagnosis, “I have already sold him! I took the deposit and everything!”
When the doctor explained her concerns again the woman was uninterested in the discussion, “I just need you to sign the form saying he is healthy so I can get him gone!” (I may have spared a few foul words in there).
By then the doctor was sensing the hostility in the woman and then asked if she would be interested in surrendering him to someone on the staff who is patient with these types of pets as well as a former pug owner.
Reluctantly the woman agreed to sign the small puppy owner to me only before remarking “if I was going to have to take him back home, I was going to drown him in the sink”
After that regardless of if I wanted another dog, regardless of if I was even ready, I knew this little guy was never ever going to go back to that woman ever again.
Agreeing to a puppy that an hour earlier I had no intentions of taking home I immediately called my husband who (to the shock of absolutely NO one) was not surprised that I had elected to take the broken lad home to our adorable misfits, or that I had refused to hand him back to the toxic woman that was breeding pugs for financial gain.
Surreal does not begin to explain those first 48 hours – I best explain it almost as if you had a baby but had no idea you were pregnant to begin with? We only had elderly dogs in the house and had never had a puppy together in the adorable house of misfits (let alone a handipup) so we were ill prepared at home to accommodate a puppy – let alone a puppy that we had no clue what exactly was wrong with him (aside from his spine being drunk). I would describe those first few days as walking like a newborn calf, but we made it work you know. We accepted the boy into our misfit crew and just like the goonies we never say die! So, in the thick and thin of it all we would figure it out (sometimes not so successfully)!
Honestly the first two weeks were rough for the small little pug (that I was calling “tater” at that time because he was no bigger than a baked potato) and myself because of many reasons – my mind and heart saw a pug and yearned for it to be Maggie and then I was sad yet resentful all over again and I could not help it, I was struggling to have an emotional connection with the tiny pup and that filled me with guilt, in addition to that we did not know exactly what his issues were at the time and were unaware of what he was capable of doing on his own or needed assistance with or for as morbid as it sounds we did not know on how borrowed of time we truly were with him so subconsciously we put up an emotional wall in a failed attempt to protect us from the inevitable (see how that worked out right?!) But again, just like riding a bike each day we did a little better, we all got a little stronger and we “trekked on” with caring for Max and his brothers.
We also at that time struggled because though he could pull himself around with his front legs, he seemed to leave a rather noticeable “snail trail” of urine behind him so for the sake of cleanliness (for him and for the environment) he had his own little pen that was actually ordered for a rabbit because he was still so small.
In that year I have learned a wealth of things both animal and non- animal related. Ever heard the saying “never piss upwind?” well as a 30 something female I never had that distinct pleasure until having Max.
- Do not sweat the small shit because it is all small shit. – In one of Max’s early on baths he decided to gift me with some code browns while in the bath and as I held max dripping soapy wet over the tub wondering what I should do next all I could do was bust out laughing!
- Also, as a follow up to above said advice, I now also have the honor of knowing what it is like to literally have someone pissing on my shoes all while giving me the saddest love eyes in a failed attempt to convince me that his perfection could never do such a thing and clearly it is raindrops.
- The resilience of an animal (especially a young one like a puppy) is remarkable in so many ways! Maxwell enjoys taunting his brothers and especially loves the game when Bifford swishes his poof all around and max attempts to air chomp it (sometimes he connects, most times he does not because Bifford gives him the drunken angry pirate look and failed left hook).
- With resiliency also comes extreme stubbornness – Maxwell receives at home physical therapy exercises (in hopes he may use one of his back legs someday) as well as water therapy and some days max looks more like a turd floating in a punch bowl than a dog committed to walking (I often joke it is one of the greatest tragedies in Maxer’s life that he cannot in fact, be carried and thus never have to use his legs ever again). So often we have a “standoff” to see who cracks first – full disclaimer it is usually me who cracks first, I am weak willed in some arenas and the handipets are on the top of that list (they also know this).
- From now until the cows come home, we will forever get people telling us how sorry they feel for me/my family/max (one of the biggest offenders is my grandpa, despite loving max so much and gifting him with toys anytime he sees him) and that’s alright because you must learn to meet that with humor and a dash of education! I ALWAYS follow up whenever someone is lamenting how sorry they are with, “well, why do you feel sorry for me/us/him? What makes you feel sad?” Because from where I see it the little dude who is hand fed snacks, has a crib full of toys and a wait staff I am failing to see the downside for the dude (especially one that must put in zero effort to wiz).
- Which leads me to this point, and I know it is like a broken record but be your pet’s OWN ADVOCATE! Your friends, your rescue, your veterinarian, and their team can all tell you what to do, their opinions and how to handle things but at the end of the day it is YOUR responsibility and decision! I will give you a great example: Maxwell had been in my life for a solid 6 months before we took him to the neurologist, by then we had a semi-firm idea of what to expect from him and how to best help him, we knew what was normal for him (he loves to huff and puff his lips especially when he is meeting new people or pouting) and what was not! So, when the neurologist came to me with major concern for Max’s overall quality of life because of the “way he would breathe” – it was alarming for someone who did not know max, but it was normal for those who see him daily. So, you can get instruction on what your vet would do but that is what THEY would do! Get a second opinion before making any rash decisions (but use good judgement).
Stay tuned for more Maxwell Misfit wisdom and the ongoing journey that is the adorable land of misfits!