Life is ruff

Potter describes her rocky journey with her lifelong companion

file photo

file photo

Story by Lauren Potter, staff writer

Born into neglect and mistreatment, some would say she didn’t stand a chance from the beginning. But that was all about to change.

While driving around town, my friend, my mother and I decided on a spontaneous trip to PetSmart. The glass doors slowly slid open and the smell of bagged dog food danced across my nose. Everyone was crowded into the corner of the store trying to catch a look at all the yappy puppies.

The pens of rescue dogs drew me in, just like they would anyone else, and the little dogs gave licks to any hand that reached in. Quickly, her chestnut color and large bug eyes caught my attention.

We had an instant connection. It was love at first sight. Her foster mom proceeded to tell me all about her. Julie, a short-haired miniature Dachshund, was one of 38 rescued from a house on the Arkansas side in 2012.

We started taking selfies, just like any 14-year-old girl would. She licked my face like we had been friends for years and covered me with her short, fine hair. She was the cutest thing I had ever seen. I had to have this dog.

But of course, my mom said no.

That’s why I was shocked when my bedroom door opened and the little pup popped into my room and attacked me with tail-wagging excitement.

Our relationship didn’t start off as I had anticipated. She peed on my bed the first night. She loved my dad more than me. She hated my mom.

Over the next few months, our relationship improved. We worked on our dance moves, played fetch and bonded over the hatred we had for my older brother. I had developed several nicknames for my new pooch: J-Bay, Jules, and the most popular, Princess J-Rooniekinz.

With summer just around the corner, I prepared to leave for five weeks to work at a Boy Scout camp in Mena, Ark., and go to church camp. I knew my dog was in good hands and would be fine.

I wish that had been the case.

My second week gone, I attended a camp in Alabama when my mom came and picked me up. I jumped into the car and immediately asked how Julie was and how the house had held up without me. With worry in her eyes my mom said something that I will never forget.

“Julie’s in the hospital, and she has a 50 percent chance of walking again.”

Tears began to roll down my cheeks. My mom told me the details, but all I could think about was if my best friend would be okay.

When we got home my parents explained what had happened. A couple of days after I had left they had noticed Julie was really stiff and later that she was unable to walk. After taking her to the vet, she was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease, a condition where the cushioning disc in the spinal column burst or bulge, and in Julie’s case, cause paralysis.

The vet presented them with two options: starting steroids or a surgery to open up the space by removing a portion of the bony vertebrae over the spinal cord.

Naturally, my parents chose the steroids after the vet’s recommendation.

After 24 hours, Julie’s condition did not improve, so the prep for surgery began.

Her surgery went as expected, and my mother constantly kept me updated while I was out of town. After leaving the hospital, Julie was expected to remain on crate rest for six weeks and start physical therapy.

Weeks went by, she continued to take her medicine and strengthen the muscles in her legs. The pain decreased, she was more playful, she wagged her tail and even stood up. She was getting better.

When the incision on her back healed, we were able to start water therapy. Letting her take a dip, took pressure off her back and allowed her to get the feel of walking again. This helped tremendously in her healing process.

When the physical therapy was in its prime, there were many maneuvers we had to do for her daily: moving her tail, bicycle pedaling and even little pup squats.

Julie never gave up and always pushed herself. Despite the odds, a year later she can run through the yard, jump off the bed (when no one’s looking), sneak down the stairs even though she knows she’s not supposed to, and trot through the house like she owns the place.

Not many understand the relationship I have with my dog. She is my everything, my baby and as some would say, “bae.”

She’s not just a dog. This experience has not only made me realize that but has shown me that even though she’s only one “little” part of my life, I would be lost without her.