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Pets have special place in our hearts, lives

Over $95.7 billion — no, it’s not how much we spent on recent elections — it’s how much we Americans spend each year on our pets, our “fur babies,” our “four-footed friends,” “our cuddly companions,” our… well, you get the picture.

We Americans love our pets. Over two-thirds of Americans (about 85 million) own pets; 42 percent own at least one cat and over 63 percent own at least one dog. While the majority of pets are cats and dogs, pet ownership includes birds, fish and reptiles. The average monthly expenditure is $125.

Our first family pet was “Bebe,” a mixed-breed black kitten we adopted from another military family in Belgium. If Bebe had a passport, it would be full of stamps. Bebe traveled with us from Belgium to Germany to South Carolina and finally Las Vegas. She lived a full life for almost 19 years.

After Bebe passed away in 2006, we waited a while before considering another family feline. What was supposed to be a one-cat household eventually became a three-cat household. Two of them are still with us.

In 2010, my bride, Judy, decided she needed a puppy. A visit to an animal shelter to adopt one left her shaking and in tears because all the lonely puppies wanted to go home with her and she wanted to take all of them home. Luckily for her (and costly for me), a neighbor had accompanied her and they eventually arrived at a pet store.

Not a “pet store,” I was told, but a “boutique.” “Boutique” must be French for “leave your mortgage payment here.”

Dani, so named by my bride because we shared a birthday, arrived home notwithstanding my objections to buying instead of adopting a shelter dog. My concerns melted away after holding 3 pounds of “cafe latte” fur in one hand as she licked my face. (This purchase turned out to be a reverse rescue. The store owners later tried to burn down the business in an unsuccessful insurance scam. The pets were rescued and the suspects went to prison).

I made all the small-dog aspersions: “A dog that can fit in the mouth of another dog is not a real dog;” “that’s not a dog, that’s a hairy hamster;” and “that’s not a dog, its a ‘purse puppy.’”

An ensuing veterinarian visit revealed defective hind legs, a common malady in toy poodles. Of course, the “boutique” had a money-back guarantee, but the bond, with my wife, of course, had formed.

I learned of a medical specialty called “veterinary orthopedic surgeon.” The high-end Mercedes in the parking lot was a forewarning of the surgical costs.

The surgery was successful. Dani was living the full life of a toy poodle. She was an organic door bell supplement and excellent companion for Judy during my graveyard shifts in Boulder City and Moapa.

Dani fell victim to the tainted dog treats imported from China in 2012 and suffered from pancreatitis, which left her with diabetes. The diabetes affected her eyesight over the years, but treatment prescribed by an ophthalmologic veterinarian slowed her blindness.

Dani again recovered and enjoyed her life as a toy poodle celebrity as she was pushed in the neighborhood and from business to business in her fully enclosed customized stroller. Senior citizens and children were especially fond of her.

Her prowess as a 7-pound watchdog was legendary.

Dani fell ill the day after Christmas (another bout of pancreatitis) and was hospitalized for three days. She came home and we were prepared for the worst. Judy nursed her back to health with no-fat liquid foods every two hours, night and day. Dani gradually recovered to eating solid food. This glimmer of life gave us a glimmer of hope. She was walking around and barking at visitors at the door.

It was a short-lived rally, but we were grateful for those five days. The day after New Year’s Day, a Saturday, we knew it was time. We made the tearful call to the veterinarian’s office for her final appointment. We owe it to our pets to take care of them, but must let them go when it’s their time.

Dani was face-to-face with her mother and listening to her sweet Southern voice as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

We grieve for our pets, but we take comfort in knowing they are free from illness and pain. “Fur”thermore, we look forward to that heavenly reunion.

Dan Jennings is a retired Army captain and a retired BCPD lieutenant. He can be reached at bcpd267@cox.net.

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