Last month I had to do one of the most difficult things in my life and let one of my beloved dachshunds go on to the Rainbow Bridge. Cricket, a red, smooth dachshund, had been diagnosed with IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) when she was four years old. In the end, her back pain was getting to be too much for her, to the point that I carried her everywhere – inside and outside – and the crate rest was no longer a guarantee to heal her enough to be strong. She lived long enough to have a very gray muzzle, with gray eyebrows and gray fur all down her back. But she never lost her insatiable puppy curiosity.
This is a tale of how a little dog changed my life.
Getting the pair of dachshunds was not my idea. I was married at the time and my then-husband wanted dachshunds – two of them because he wanted a female just like the one he had growing up and a male one so he could name it Frodo. Neither of us raised dogs on our own. We had just grown up with them so getting a puppy would be a big deal. Looking back, getting two of them at the same time was rather crazy.
A breeder nearby had dachshund puppies for sale: two males and one female left. The little red male was so small and wrinkly, he was destined to become Frodo. The female was a bit different. I guess there was a reason she was the last one to be picked. She had pretty light red coloring and was amazingly soft. But her tail was malformed. It had a crick on the end of it, bent, so it didn’t look quite right. Also she had an umbilical hernia, something that would need to be taken care of when she was later spayed (because there was no breeding her, she would never pass AKC regulation). Regardless of her apparent flaws, she was female and therefore was what my husband wanted.
He left the naming of her up to me. I thought of different Lord of the Rings names to go with Frodo but girl names were not that much fun to yell out. And all dog names stand the “yell out the back door” test. (Except Rosie but I didn’t want to name her Rosie.) So in honor of the little crick in her tail, I named the dog Cricket.
I had no idea what I was in for, getting dachshunds. Personality-wise, they were unlike the golden retriever I had growing up. Frodo was a good boy. He listened pretty well but he was definitely a follower. Cricket was the true instigator. From the beginning, she was a little devil in a sweet candy-coated shell. Crafty, clever, with way too much energy for her own good, we matched wits against each other almost daily. She would get into the most random sorts of trouble, just for the fun of it. By the time she was 6 months in age, I was ready to get rid of her. My nerves were shot. But my husband adored her, and oh boy, did she know it!
Years passed pretty much the same way. Frodo was much like me – quiet and laid back. Cricket was barky. She would bark at anything and everything. She would chew things up. Tear up the carpet. Whine and whine to get everyone out of bed. She was the drama of the house and before we even realized, it all kinda started revolving around her. Just like she wanted it, I’m sure.
And even though she could be such a pain, she could be the snuggliest sweetheart that ever existed. Her amazingly soft fur she had as a puppy never went away. She loved to curl up on your lap or against your chest and put her head against you. Then she would just melt, so warm, into you, as if you were the best place on earth to be. Yes, we all adored her. Frodo especially adored her. They never fought and were never separated from each other. They were a very bonded pair.
Then came August 2007.
It happen quite quickly. I was up one morning with the dogs, husband was out late the night before so he was sleeping it off. Cricket’s behavior was strange. I couldn’t put a finger on what was wrong but I just knew. A look in her eyes? The subtle way she moved differently? She didn’t whine or yip in pain. After watching her for a while, I finally thought “screw it” and woke up my husband.
It was the weekend so the only vet open was the emergency vet and they were 45 minutes away. We made that drive several times that weekend, with our hearts in our throats and ice in our stomachs.
Today she didn’t seem to be doing any better and this afternoon she lost strength in her back legs. She could still thump her tail a little though. So we rushed her to the emergency vet again. The vet tested her reflexes and Cricket felt the pain of the pinch on her feet. We had to leave her there overnight for steroid IV treatment. God, I miss her and hope she is doing okay. Both my husband and I got emotional having to leave her there. We don’t have children…Cricket is my little girl.
I pray pray pray that she responds to the treatment tonight and doesn’t need back surgery. Back surgery is so serious. And the outcome is not guaranteed. My poor baby girl. My lovely. This will be a very long night for all of us.
She was only four years old and we were facing a huge decision. Do we opt for spinal surgery that would cost around $8,000 or do we put her down?
We bundled her up in her fleece blanket, packed the car, and drove over 3 hours to the place where we prayed would heal our baby girl.
It was one of the few times I saw my husband truly get emotional. He held Cricket as I drove. He sang “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s to her, changing the lyrics. That song seemed to come on every hour and since then, it’s become known as Cricket’s Song.
The whole time up to the surgery seemed a blur. I have journal entries here from my old LiveJournal that details the waiting.
We are in Detroit now. Cricket is paralyzed in her back legs. We rushed her to a specialist. MRI being done now to see how extensive the damage. Disc disease. My poor little girl. She will go into surgery today. We are over 3 hours from home and looking at a very large bill. But if it makes her well again then it will be worth it.
Post Surgery. Doctor called and Cricket came through just fine. Everything went as he expected so that is very good. We will hear more about her tomorrow morning. Now my husband and I are just in the hotel room, trying to spend the hours away. I called my mother and she had my other dachshund, Frodo. He doesn’t know what to do about anything. He keeps looking for Cricket, expecting her to come bounding out behind a corner, ready to play. He watched for her all night long last night. He is really concerned and out of sorts. He doesn’t know how to handle being without her.
Other updates for the following days and weeks are here.
Out of all that happened, all the worry and pain, the single shining moment of hope for me came when I first got to see Cricket post-surgery. I have never forgotten that moment and even recorded it with my cell phone.
That was the moment she wagged her tail.