It was late Friday afternoon and I arrived home from work to greet Mary. She had good news. Earlier that day she found an ad for a couple of Shih Tzu puppies. She called the number in the ad at about 2:00 PM and talked with Diane. Mary let her know we were interested in the female. Diane said that she would be meeting another family to sell one of the two puppies around 6:00 PM. If this first family chose the male, she would call back and we would meet to take ownership and greet a new family member. She said she was driving a dark green Ford Explorer.
Mary’s Shih Tzu search had been going on for months. She spent many hours each day searching the web and the many, many options for Shih Tzus. There were new puppies and foster homes for rescued dogs. It now looked like her efforts were about to pay a dividend.
At about 6:30 PM, our phone rang. It was Diane. The other familiy chose the male and she would meet us at the Jack in the Box off Highway 290 in Waller, Texas at about 8 PM.
We grabbed the kennel, a couple of old towels, and headed north. At about that same time, the coldest cold front for the winter was sweeping across east Texas. The winds were gusting up to about 40 mph.
As we arrived at the Jack in the Box, we searched the parking lot for the dark green SUV, but she wasn’t there yet. We did notice another woman sitting in her car looking like she might be waiting for Diane also. Mary got out to go get some coffee and the cold wind caught the door and pulled it from her grasp. She closed the door and went around to talk to the other lady and then got her coffee.
Mary came back with her coffee and some orange juice for me. She found out from the other woman that Diane had had a flat. It wasn’t but a few minutes later and Diane drove up. She had several dogs including our Shih Tzu to deliver. Mary was the first one there and brought the puppy back to our car and got inside out of the cold. Diane took care of the other two families and then came to sit with us while we completed the transfer of ownership. Diane provided proof of her short medical history, she was born on November 6, 2005, and insisted that we get to our vet ASAP to get her checked and stay on schedule for shots and de-worming.
On the drive back, the puppy spent the entire time in Mary’s lap – love at first sight. This was the 14th week in the puppy’s short life.
Saturday was a slow day. Mary called the vet and set an appointment for Monday at 10:00 AM. The puppy seemed depressed and unhappy, but she began to drink and make the usual deposits. We were prepared for this and tried to minimize the effects. Occasionally, we took her outside hoping she would make a deposit there instead. It was cold, so we didn’t stay too long.
Sunday was a much better day, but still cold. Our daughter, Dawn, and her Shih Tzu, Samantha, came to visit. The puppy was beside herself and really perked up from that point on. She started eating and holding up and wagging her tail all the time.
While Dawn and Samantha were there, we worked on picking a name for the puppy. We came up with lots of names that Mary did not accept. Finally, but without much originality, we settled on Pepper.
After Dawn left, Pepper and I spent time outside, it was mild and she seemed to be enjoying the romp around the yard – breathing in all that fresh air.
Monday came and I had to return to work. Before I left, I let Pepper out of her kennel. She was just so excited and happy. This was the start of her 15th week. I took her out for a short, but cold, attempt at getting her to relieve herself outside. But nothing happened and we quickly returned to the warm house.
Mary called during the day to keep me posted on Pepper’s progress and vet visit. The vet reviewed her medical record, examined her, and gave her the required shots including her second one for Parvo and Distemper. He spent 45 minutes with her and pronounced she was quite healthy.
When I got home Monday from work, Mary was at the store so I got Pepper from her kennel and we went outside for a while and waited for Mary’s return. That evening Pepper had a couple of BMs in the front yard and was praised for her good deeds.
Tuesday was not like Monday. Pepper was listless and her kennel bedding was wet. As the morning progressed she was vomiting and had diarrhea. Mary rushed her to the vet where she spent the day. She had a temperature of 104 when she arrived. The vet got her re-hydrated and stopped the loss of fluids, got her temperature down, took blood and an x-ray, but had no diagnosis. He let Mary bring her home that evening.
We spent the evening, night, and early morning watching her. She was having difficulty breathing and kept moving from one spot to another to try to get comfortable. At about 2:00 AM Mary woke me to say Pepper was having dry heaves and she was taking her to the emergency pet clinic. Her temperature was at 104.6. The vet diagnosed distemper and little hope.
Pepper is with God and we miss her immensely.
We’ve learned several factors contributed to this tragedy: The cold (distemper virus does not survive when it’s warm), time outside in a neighborhood populated by wild carnivores, a puppy between 3 and 6 months old, the effects of the last vaccination had weakened, the Monday vaccination was too late, and we were not aware of all of these facts until it was too late.