Purdy was rescued from an illegal puppy mill in Arkansas in 2006. She was suffering from heartworm, and many of her teeth were loose due to poor nutrition and a calcium deficiency, and had to be extracted. She was so horribly emaciated that they guessed her age to be 12 when she was actually probably only six.
After being treated and spayed, she was transferred to Jacksonville Florida where she went into a foster home.
I could hardly contain my excitement when my husband and I went to fetch her, and the thrill of the first time I held her in my arms will always be with me. At that time I had no idea what far-reaching effects the neglect and abuse would have on her health. She quickly made friends with our Yorkie boy, Frank and they played tag around the dining room table.
Purdy bonded with me immediately. Whenever she sat on my lap, she would face me and stare into my face. If I spoke to her, she would push her head into me and snuggle to show her love. It was always such a humbling experience to be the object of such adoration.
She couldn't jump. The muscles in her hind legs were too weak from living in a small cage all her life, so I placed her bed on the floor beside me. I wanted her to be free to get up and move around in the night without having to wake me and have me lift her off the bed. She soon learned that a cold winter's night all she had to do was groan and I would reach down and cover her with the blanket.
Purdy's liver was badly damaged from years of neglect and poor nutrition, and subsequently her immune system didn't work properly. Flea control is a must in Florida, but she was allergic to the flea medication and it caused her to throw up and scratch even more. It became such a nightmare and I felt so desperate I sometimes sat up all night just holding her so she could have some relief. We also had to stop giving her the heartworm preventative most dogs need in Florida. Her little body just couldn't handle the poison in it.
We fed her a diet of kibbles and chicken thighs that I cooked especially for her, but when she landed up on a drip in the veterinary hospital with pancreas problems, we learned that she couldn't ever eat any fat of any kind. I changed her diet to skinless chicken breasts, but every now and then she still suffered from pancreatitis attacks, which were very painful, and all we could do was give her medication to ease the pain and wait helplessly for the attacks to run their course.
Purdy was allergic to shampoo. Whenever she had a bath she vomited and broke out in hives. I tried human baby shampoo but it made no difference. I eventually figured out it was the sulfates causing the reaction, and I had to bathe her in pure soap with no additives. It took years to get rid of the dirty marks that were ingrained in her skin from lying in her own waste in the puppy mill.
The flea pill was a great help to her at first, and for a while it seemed to be safe for her. Eventually it must have accumulated inside her, though, and she became more and more resistant to taking it, and started throwing up more and more often.
My veterinarian suggested I try a tiny dose of Prilosec for the nausea and indigestion, with disastrous effects. Purdy vomited all night and pooped blood. I was terrified she would die, and that was when I decided she couldn't ever have any sort of medication again.
My relief was short-lived though. Purdy's hind legs started giving her problems. They seemed to collapse and jerk around uncontrollably. This happened at any time day or night and for a while it became a very worrying and frightening problem. My veterinarian had not witnessed anything like it before and anyhow, any sort of medication was not an option. I figured out eventually that it was probably the organo-phosphates in the cat flea powder that were having a bad effect on her nervous system. I stopped using it. The problem slowly seemed to get less and less after that.
I was thrilled when I finally found Flea Free, an all natural liquid that I added to her water. Finally, Purdy's digestive system and flea control seemed to be under control and life eased a little.
That was when her front legs started to develop arthritis. There was no chance she could take any sort of medication for it and we could only watch it get worse and become more and more of a hindrance to her until she could hardly get around, and she started losing her footing and falling. That was when I knew I would have to make the decision to put her to sleep.
I was determined to be there for her to the end. I couldn't control the tears, but I'll always treasure the precious few minutes I held her in my arms for the last time, and I'll never forget how tiny her little body looked after she had gone.
It's been over a month now and I miss Purdy every single day and tears come to my eyes without warning when I think about her. She had a very hard life all caused by the inhumane treatment she was given at the puppy mill.
If you are reading this you are probably a dog or animal lover. Pet shops in the USA often obtain their puppies from illegal puppy mills and you would be helping dogs all over the country just by warning your friends not to purchase a puppy from any pet store without first verifying that they came from a legitimate breeder who takes proper care of their dogs.
Although it is primarily a romantic comedy, my most recent novel, Backwoods Boogie is designed to create awareness and to send a strong message against illegal puppy mills. I've dedicated the print version to my wonderful, loyal and brave little companion who will always hold a place in my heart.