My husband and son are allergic to animals. My son was actually allergic to grass and trees and shellfish, oats, eggs, you name it. Soy. Pretty much any meat but beef. I call him my son. Technically, Zach is my stepson. But he’s mine. Mine. A little dog helped that happen.
Rod and I got married after a three year courtship in 2003. We were the Brady bunch but smaller. Rod had a son. I had a daughter. We moved into a little house in a small town in Kentucky and went about learning how to be a family. I was scared to be stepmom. It took a while. God sent an angel to help us.
You see, my daughter prayed for a dog.
Rod wasn’t having it. He had never had a dog. Allergies. They are messy and a lot of work.
That year, on New Year’s Eve, there was a scratching on our back door. I opened the door to see what looked like a large drowned rat. On further inspection, it was a dog. Wet, freezing, with half the forest in its fur. I scooped her up and took her to the bath and proceeded to clean her up. I went to the store and bought food, toys, dog dishes.
She fell in love with Rod immediately. Followed him everywhere. And his allergies weren’t affected. Zach was okay too. The dog didn’t bother them.
That night, we let her out the front door to go potty. She ran immediately to our driveway where there was a large lump, covered in mud. Upon further inspection, the lump was an overgrown drunken boy. The teenager next door had thrown a party while her dad was out. The boy had been thrown in the mud when he got sick. He was near 6 feet tall. I needed help but we dragged him into the house, mud and all. He was coated. I got him to the bathroom where he got sick again and we got towels and I started cleaning him up. A pick up truck arrived with a young man who wanted to put the lump in the back of his truck with trash bags. Get him home. Claimed to be a relative. He might have been 18.
My husband called the police. We also decided the lump needed an ambulance. He was that bad. My other neighbor began pulling inebriated children, some 13 and 14 years old, from the house. Soon we had 5 police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance in front of our house. Small town. The lump was declared to be in need of treatment, close to alcohol poisoning. They took him away.
The ball dropped. It was a new year. Angry parents arrived to pick up kids, threatening military school.
We found out the next day a kid had died of alcohol poisoning at a different party across town. Suffocated.
The little lost dog had saved our muddy lump-boy.
My son saw a flyer in our neighborhood. We called. The joyful owners came and claimed Butters, the white shih tzu who had so quickly touched our hearts. A few hours later, the lump boy, now sober, showed up. His mother stood behind him as he apologized for his behavior and offered to help clean up the mud from my bathroom. It was coated. I let him. I think he learned his lesson.
We went to a breeder a few months later. We needed a shih tzu. My husband couldn’t let the idea go.
He was a boy. Black and white, a puppy. Tiny. Binary. He looked like an ewok. We named him Poco which means “little bit” in Spanish. A Chinese dog with a Mexican name. And Rod became Daddy. I became Mommy. He forged us into a family.
He would wear UK jerseys and cheer on our team. His toys were mascots of the other SEC schools. We walked him. Zach walked him a lot. Fed him. Took him camping and canoeing. He went to work with me. I bought him ridiculous Christmas sweaters and an elf hat. A little fedora and bow tie. He hated storms but insisted on going outside if there was lightning. We nicknamed him Thunder poop. He followed me everywhere. Worked with me every day. He was my shadow. My fuzzy alarm clock. He went on trips with us. Hiking at Bernheim. He’d try to pee on every tree. He played with the kids. Helped with birthday parties. Ate the vegetables they (and Rod) tossed him secretly from the dinner table. He loved broccoli. I put him in the petting zoo at Patti’s. That story is true He met Dinker and Dozer at Camp WOW before they closed it. Slept in a cabin. When Dad died, Poco cuddled with me.
In the hard times he comforted us.
The kids grew up and the nest was empty but Poco was there. He loved on the grandbabies when they arrived. Zach even got his own shih tzu. Named him Johnny Cash.
When the vet told us he had heart disease, and up to a year to live, my heart broke. We started giving him medicine twice a day. He would be on it the rest of his life. He lasted two more years.
Saturday night he passed. We buried him Sunday morning, weeping. A little ghost is haunting me today. I’ve said Jax from Sorrowfish was based on my dog. I meant it.
My son brought his sons over to see us yesterday. Overcome by loss. He and his lovely Darby let us cuddle the boys. It helped. He hugged me and said he loved me when they left.
Poco taught us to love. He made us a family. He was a gift from God.
Sometimes a dog is more than a dog. He was a ministering spirit. There’s no replacement. But I’m intensely grateful for his precious life. This morning the house was so empty.
The dog is gone. The God who answered Emily’s prayer is not. And I know Poco’s little life was just one expression of His love. I can’t get this song out of my head. I know it’s Cosmic DJ. God is singing to me. He is here.