It was through the search for my nephew's missing dog, Corbin that I came to understand the need to establish a free, nationwide database for lost and found pets. That search ultimately led me to this cause and to this page. But it was my love for my own dog that made me understand the importance of helping a lost pet get home to their family, a message I shout from this page as often as I can.
When Spike came to us in 2002, he was just a baby. He was so tiny and his skin was shriveled with almost no hair covering his body. He was just coming to VISIT for the night. We'd had the discussion. Let's just see how things go. We placed him on the floor and his little body shook. He was terrified in this home with strangers. But we loved and coddled him and let him know he was safe. That night, my husband wanted him to sleep in his crate. You know, let's not get too attached. We placed him in his crate, covered him with a blanket and went to bed. Within 5 minutes he was crying. The kind of tiny puppy cries that just melt your heart. I started to get up but my husband assured me he would handle things. In my head I envisioned him being tough but firm and getting him settled in his crate. I soon drifted off to sleep and morning came. As I walked out into the living room, there laid my husband on the floor. Beside him was the crate. As I peeked into the cage I noticed the door was open and the crate was empty. "Where's the puppy?" I ask. My husband lifted the blanked off of him and out crawled this tiny puppy yawning and stretching from a good night's sleep beside my husband. Yes, he had wrapped this big guy around his tiny little paw in just one night. It was safe to say that he was ours and he was home and he was the BOSS!
Just days after we welcomed this little guy into our home, my 10 year old step-son was diagnosed with cancer. He spent months in Egleston Children's Hospital undergoing treatment. It was a stressful and terrifying time for him and for our family. Laughter and smiles were hard to come by. But the one saving grace was this tiny new puppy we had welcomed into our home. He was a bundle of love, energy and mischief all rolled into one. We would go to the hospital to visit and share stories of his latest antics. On one visit we shared the story of how we came home from the last visit to find him curled up at the bottom of a 4 ft. tall laundry basket. We all laughed as we tried to imagine how he got in there. We later learned that he had mad jumping skills and most likely used those to hoist his way in. On one visit we brought Michael a get well card signed with paw prints and told him the little guy was waiting on him to come home. We also told him that the family had voted to let him pick his name. When Michael got well enough he announced to the family that he had chosen to name him Spike. It was a very fitting name for the tiny, spunky little guy.
As the days went by, he settled into his new surroundings. He was no longer afraid because he knew this was his home. He was the baby of the family and the kids doted on him, played with him, slept with him and above all they loved him and he unconditionally loved each of them. He took them to the bus each morning and sat at the door waiting for them to come home from school each day. When he saw them coming down the driveway he would jump up and bounce around the room and then wait at the door with his tail wagging and as the door opened he would squeal with excitement.
As the years went by, our family grew. We welcomed new family members and then grandchildren. But no matter how many people came into our lives, Spike's heart always had room for one more. He loved to get on the floor and play with the kids. I would warn him to be careful of the little ones because they didn't know to be careful with him. But I would turn around and see him sitting right by them. At times he would back up and sit right in their lap. He was going to love them and be with them and they were going to love him... and they did... and that's just the way it was.
For almost 16 years, this little guy was part of our lives. He was not just a pet or a dog, he was a member of our family. He went on family vacations with us, consoled our family through some very difficult times and taught us all what unconditional love truly means. He was a blessing to us in so many ways.
As I worked on this page over the last few years I would often look over at him and imagine the pain I would feel if he were lost and we couldn't find him. We would be devastated. It would be so hard not knowing what happened to him or if he was safe. I also thought of him and how hard it would be on him not having his family by his side and not knowing how to get back home to us. We are the only family he'd ever really known. It was those thoughts that kept me motivated and inspired me to write some of the blogs on our website.
During his life Spike overcame many medical issues. At approx. 12 years old he was diagnosed with Cushings disease which we were able to control with medication. In the last year of his life he was diagnosed with both kidney and heart disease. We fought hard to get him the best care available and maintain his quality of life. Then in January we discovered a sore in his mouth that wouldn’t heal. Under the recommendation of his doctor and a recommendation that we agreed with, we opted not to make him undergo a painful biopsy. With all of his medical issues, the treatment would be the same. We were hopeful that it was just an ulcer that would heal in time and we treated accordingly. But by late March it became clear that he was steadily losing weight and declining. By early April we knew we had to take him in to see our vet and we knew in our hearts what that meant. How do you take the next steps needed to help your baby? It was hard but it was clear that we couldn’t let him suffer.
The visit confirmed what we already suspected. The sore was cancer and it was not going to heal. He was not going to get better. We had to take him home and prepare to say goodbye. Just a week later, he gave us the signs that we needed to see to understand that it was time to let him go. As I drove to the vet I understood unconditional love and doing whatever you have to do to for someone you love. He died peacefully in my arms with his favorite blanket and his daddy’s shirt. It was a heartbreaking experience but it was much harder watching him decline the weeks before his death. I’ve found peace in knowing he is at peace and no longer suffering.
As I write this post and think about my volunteer work for Lost Dogs Georgia, I want Spike’s story to highlight an important message. Pets are so much more than animals. They live with us, grow up with us and grow with our family. They develop a strong bond with us just as we do with them. They are not just dogs or cats, they are our babies and they are our FAMILY just as we are theirs!
Spikes story also teaches us not to judge a family based on the condition of the dog the day they're found. Spike lost from 12 lbs down to 7 lbs during the last few months of his life. He was under constant doctors care and was being hand fed a special diet to help him gain or maintain his weight. He was on daily medication for Cushing's Disease, Kidney Disease and Heart Disease which averaged around $200.00 a month. This was in addition to the cost of doctors visits which were approx. every 2 to 3 weeks in final months.
As I took him to his visits the last few months, I held him a little tighter. Had he been lost he would have looked emaciated to someone else, his coat was no longer the shiny coat it once was and someone may have easily assumed he was neglected. But the truth is he was very sick and we were fighting for his life! Had he been lost and not returned to us immediately he wouldn’t have made it long and he wouldn't have have had the comfort of those who loved and cared for him for 16 years by his side.
Spike was an official Lost Dogs Georgia volunteer. He and I once wrote a blog titled, “Spike’s Story - Lessons on Found Dogs.” It seems fitting to share his story again today in honor of his passing. May his message and lessons carry on long after he is gone!
My final thoughts as I close:
Let's help more lost pets in Georgia get back home!
Written in Loving Memory of Spike
June 2002 - April 2018