Contributor Story: Flash the Rescue Dog
Puppy love is like any other kind of love: It’s rewarding but not without its hard decisions. Our contributor Alex shares the story of her rescued Chihuahua, Flash, and the lessons she learned along the way.
On a bright Sunday morning some four years ago, my cousin, Tiffany, along with a group of men and women, walked through the deep marshes and wildlife of the Florida Everglades with one intention; to save as many dogs’ lives as possible. In South Florida, the Everglades are an unofficial dumping ground for unwanted pets, and rescue groups like my cousin’s are important to saving animal lives.
I saw the ears first on my cousin’s Facebook page — one of the rescues from that day. Within two minutes of her posting the photo of this tiny and scared Chihuahua, I knew he was supposed to be in my life.
He was cute, but a tough pup to rescue. He was scared and bit one of the women on her first attempt at nabbing him. I could tell right away that this was going to take some work.
Two weeks later, I joined Tiffany at a local vet’s office to meet Flash for the first time. In the “cone of shame” and still a little fuzzy from surgery, he looked at me skeptically. After an hour, I started to lose hope; it didn’t seem like I was his person.
But eventually he warmed up to me, and my cousin decided to bring him over the next day for a house inspection. When I stepped outside to greet them, he began to squirm in her arms as if to say, “Let me down! Let me down!” and ran right to me, then jumped at my feet for me to pick him up. It was love at first snuggle.
Within a few months, he gained three pounds, which was enough to fill out his tiny stature, and we went to an event for the rescue group, 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida Rescue.
To their surprise, he gave kisses and wanted to play and love on all of them. “Was this the same dog?” they asked, half joking.
Two years later, we were bonded. As a way to socialize him more, I decided to foster another dog, Lola, in hopes of later adopting her if all went well. While Flash was initially unhappy with the decision — after all, Lola was a boxer and significantly bigger — he went with it, learning to share my affection, and got better around other dogs.
I was offered a job four months later in San Francisco and decided it was time to leave the comfort of sunny south Florida for the cooler temperatures of the West Coast city. My parents watched Flash and Lola while I searched for an apartment and settled in before bringing them to live with me.
One fateful day, just one month before I was scheduled to go back to Florida to pick them up, Lola got aggressive with Flash. She grabbed his neck in play, and he went limp. My parents rushed Flash to the hospital while trying to figure out a way to tell me the horrific news — that they weren’t sure yet how bad it was; that he might be paralyzed; that I would need to make two of the toughest decisions of my entire life. The first would be what was best for Lola — after all, she wasn’t inherently an aggressive dog; this incident just happened. Worried and scared, I knew that I would forever be watching Lola, that Flash would never trust her again and that that would stress her out. I asked her original foster to pick her up.
Today, Lola lives happily with her adopted family and has not been aggressive since. Even though it was hard to let her go, I know it was the best decision for the both of us.
The second decision — if the worst-case scenario occurred — was I willing to put Flash down? I cried from across the country for four days straight at the thought. But Flash slowly made progress. The hospital recommended a neurosurgeon in Miami who took X-rays and provided a sigh of relief. While he was not sure whether Flash would walk again, he did not think surgery was the right option and recommended physical therapy and lots of love. Slowly, Flash got better. By the time I got to Florida, he was eating on his own again and making small movements. By the time we left, Flash was running and figured out how to bark again, though it was low and muted.
It has now been almost two years since the incident. It took us some time to get back into our groove, but we’ve managed. There are old behaviors that I miss, such as his jumping into bed when my alarm clock would go off for morning snuggles or his “Mom’s home” happy dance.
He’s always marched to his own rhythm and continues to do so, even if it means running a little lopsided or eating out of one side of his mouth. But I wouldn’t trade the loving cuddles every time I pick him up for the world.
If Alex and Flash’s story of puppy love overcoming ruff times inspired you check out the story of Michael and Sally the Great Pyrenees and share your stories below.
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