Monday, October 31, 2016

A Wagging Tale: Enter Justina

In early Fall 2006, I started researching doggie day cares and kennels. I had no immediate needs but wanted to know where to take Jasmine if a quick need did arise, as in if Ed’s mother visited.
At such a facility one day, five tiny, fluffy, white puppies scurried past, following a Vet tech. They were like no other small dog or puppy I’d ever seen. “What are they?” I asked breathlessly. Coton de Tulear. The Vet had more or less accidentally acquired them. My heart panged and I thought, “When Jasmine eventually says farewell, that is my next dog.”
Not long before that day, our daughters’ Pug and Shiba Inu cross had moved out. I was enjoying the freedom of having just one dog in our home.
Over the next several months, Jasmine became quite lethargic. Our vet at the time said she was depressed because Frodo and Nakima no longer lived in our home
and she had been with them since she was five weeks old. He recommended getting her a doggie sister or brother. I was disappointed that I could not keep a one-dog household without jeopardizing the health of my Boxer.
By this time I had extensively researched the Coton and fallen totally in love with them. I called the facility where I had first spotted them. No, they had none left – the doctor’s family and friends took them all. They had no idea where I could find one. I called every vet within 50 miles. Not one had a Coton client. I started looking for breeders within 75 miles of home. Zip.
Eventually, we adopted Gypsy from Wayside Waifs. She was about as far from the personality and temperament of a Coton as any dog could be. It took awhile but we finally fell in love with Gypsy. How could you not love a dog who had such great remorse when she broke a house rule, that with her little ears flattened against her, and Beagle eyes as soupy as possible, would not perk up until you said, “I still love you.”
(As it turned out, that doctor did not read Jasmine’s blood work very carefully. She wasn’t depressed, she needed thyroid help.)
Jasmine died suddenly of a heart condition in July 2015, and Gypsy became more attentive and phenomenally well behaved overnight (we think she was afraid at first because her sister was suddenly missing). By that time I had found a Coton breeder within a day’s road trip, but I knew that I could not introduce another dog into our home.  Though Gypsy got along remarkably well with children and other dogs, she still shone best when she was the only dog. Since she was a mutt, I expected her to live at least another seven years past Jasmine. I hoped the breeder I found would  still be raising Cotons when Gypsy left us.
On May 20, 2016, I came home from work to discover a tumor about three fourths of an inch in diameter popped out under the outer side of her left eye. I took her to the vet whose sample determined it was a mast cell tumor. Mast cells are common (and extremely common in Gypsy’s mix of breeds) and, though cancerous, not necessarily fatal - as long as the surgeon is able to remove them with good margins.  This happened a week before we were to head to Colorado for our daughter’s wedding. So we left Gypsy and many instructions with our house sitter. Our house sitter did a remarkable job as the tumor grew. When we returned two weeks later, it was about four times the original size. She also had one on her hip. We scheduled surgery for a few days later.
The bad news that the margins removed were negligible because of the location of both tumors, made us sad and uncertain. The tumor on her hip was stage 2, the one on her face, stage 4. Yes, they would return over time and we would discuss options then. To say we were heartbroken was an understatement.
A few days before we left in July for a writers’ conference in Chicago, a new tumor just touching the bottom eyelid by her nose, popped up. This time we left her with another the house sitter, complete with instructions and a prednisone prescription.
By the time we returned a week later, another on her cheek and one on her esophagus had reared their ugly presence.
If you read my other posts, you know that the progression of this ugly cancer was rapid.
Dear Gypsy left us on September 20, just four months after her initial diagnosis.
Back up here to early July when I told the breeder to put me on the list for a female from the next litter. I expected Gypsy to live until Spring. Soon I learned that I could possibly have a puppy by January 1; I thought Gypsy would be okay with that. We made arrangements to meet the breeder and her dogs on October 15.
On October 2, the breeder asked if when we came up I would like to take home her retired dam named Justi. I assured her I could not afford to buy two dogs right now. Through the kindness of her heart, she believed Justi would have a good life with us and said she would gift her.
On October 15, we met Justi Joy and drove three hours to home with her.
I cannot describe how perfect this ten year old dog is. She is cute, energetic, smart, and quiet. Though she is extremely friendly with all people, she has been totally attached to me since the night we came home.
We have changed dogs’ names in the past. Our Shih Tzu Scruffy, 10 months old when we adopted him was originally Frank. And Calah, our Bichon who was five years old when we adopted her, was originally Dena. However, we decided it wouldn’t be fair to a 10 year old to completely change her name. So we adapted for her with Justina. Within two weeks, she responds quickly to her new name.  She even responds to Justina Girl or ‘stina Girl.
It occurred to me the other day that her birthday of September 2006, was just about the time I first spied the Coton de Tulear. Of course, I know she wasn’t one of those pups but it’s like God confirmed, “Yes, that is your next dog and I have the perfect dog planned for you at the perfect time.”
He surely did. We’ve had dogs in our home everyday since 1987. Thank you, God, for filling the hole in our home with the perfect fluffy white dog.

She was needing a bit of grooming when she arrived! 

This is Justina with her full coat. We will always keep her hair short - she's cooler (but wears coats in the winter, of course!) and SO much easier to maintain by my nightly brushing.

                                             We call her Justina Joy - because she IS a joy!

If you’re looking for an awesome dog for your household, check out this breed atWikipedia

And if you’re looking for a fabulous breeder with healthy and beautiful puppies, contact Carrie

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