I love the word "loyal." I love loyalty. But loyalty is hard to find these days. Whether it's to a friendship, a baseball team or even a country; loyalty just isn't what it used to be. There is however, an exception; our canine companions.
There's good reason and meaning behind the phrase "Man's Best Friend." I know in my life it's certainly proven to be true.
In spring of 2010, I was looking for some love and affection and wasn't getting what I needed from my ex (surprise, surprise) so I set off on a quest to get a puppy. It had been years since I had owned a dog. Actually, if the truth be told, I had never really owned a dog. We had a family dog growing up, but my mother was her primary caretaker.
Our previous dog, Lucy, was a chocolate lab so I started looking at those first. But labs are crazy expensive, especially puppies and I wasn't in the position to spend $500 on a dog. (That will prove to have incredible irony later on.) After scouring the Internet for a week or two I finally came across something that caught my eye. German Shepherd puppies for $75. I called and spoke to the owner. She said that the mother was their family dog ; a full blooded German Shepherd. And the father was the neighbors dog; a full blooded Australian Shepherd. They lived about two hours from us, but the pictures were so adorable and the price was just right so I took a day off work and the ex and I headed out to get a puppy. When we arrived they were in a pen in the back yard. The mother greeted us quite loudly (a trait her daughter would carry on.) As we approached the crate this little black and brown fur ball jumped up to greet us. I bent down and petted her. She was quickly followed by another little fur ball. There were three to pick from total. After standing there for a bit, I turned to my ex and said, "Based on personality alone, which one?" He pointed, "This one." It was the first one that had greeted us so cheerfully. And thus, Charlie (female) became a part of my family.
It turned out the ex had made a good choice. She was the most precious puppy ever. As she started to grow up she developed the most adorable traits and personality quirks. At one point in time, her ears stood completely out to the side causing us to give her the nickname, the flying nun.
I've read that German Shepherds often have one person in the family that they bond with more so than the others. And Charlie is no exception. Her subject of loyalty? Me. In the picture above she's waiting on me to return from being out. We were living with my mother at the time and she would tell me that almost every time I would leave the dog would park in front of the window or the door and not move until I returned. To this day, if my mom is keeping her and I return, she can tell what car is mine the minute I turn onto the street.
In June of 2011, I was on a work trip to NOLA when I received a phone call from my mother stating that the dog was sick. She had developed a spot on her skin that she had chewed so much it had become mangled and bloody. She was in extreme pain and needed emergency care. My mom took Charlie into the emergency vet for what would turn out to be a hot spot. It was quite an extensive visit that required a great amount of care AND of money. I don't fully remember the total, but it was in the $100's. The outcome? A coned dog.
Sadly, that wouldn't be the only trip to the ER for Charlie Girl. Just a couple of months later she was attacked by something in the back yard. We're not sure what, but the vet thinks it was most likely a possum. That encounter resulted in a fully shaved back for the poor darling and another several hundred out of my pocket book.
I wish I could say it ended there but it didn't. Since then there have been at least 5 trips to the regular vet and at least 2 trips to the emergency room. Since the first trip to the ER about a year and a half ago I have spent probably close to 3-4 thousand dollars on vet bills, with the most recent hits being a month ago (ER visit), two weeks ago (vet visit) and yesterday (vet visit).
As it turns out, Charlie is allergic to something which causes her to have constant hot spots. We're not totally sure what it is, but we're working on that. Testing a dog for allergies is not exactly the same as testing a human. It's also extremely expensive and can go up into the thousands for treatment.
With a baby on the way, my primary concern is making sure that I'm financially stable and secure for the future. And several times over the past two months I have had to seriously consider the possibility of getting rid of my dog. But every time I do, I get sick to my stomach. If there is one "person" that has stuck by me through the ups and downs of the past two years, it's that precious baby girl. No matter how upset I am (sometimes at her), there she is. There she is sitting at my feet with her head rested on my legs, looking up at me with a look that says, "It's all gonna be okay. I love you." Perhaps it's the hormones making me cry as I write this, but I doubt it. My love for my loyal companion is, and always will be overflowing.
My mom said to me last night, "You just have to decide if it's worth it. Does the good outweigh the bad?"
So what is the price of loyalty? It's expensive. It's tiring, it's stressful and even maddening at times. But yes, it's 100% worth it.