Confession: It Took a Trip to the Emergency Vet for Me to Love My Dog

The adoption didn't start well, but a near-death experience brought Hadley and I closer.


All my life, I’ve grown up with mutts and misfits. My mom, an outspoken animal lover, activist, and rescuer, was constantly adopting cats and dogs and bringing them home. We sometimes fostered, but mostly foster failed. I grew up with the same love and passion for animals and animal rescue.

In college, a colleague of my mother’s found a Chihuahua wandering the streets of a rough Chicago neighborhood. Through some investigation, she was able to locate Cookie’s family, who said she had become aggressive with their newborn. Cookie loved shredded cheese and belly rubs, and was indifferent to everything else. Cookie became Luz, and Luz became my best friend for five years. Declared “fugly” by some, her looks didn’t matter to me, even when her eyes clouded with cataracts, her hearing and teeth gone. Through boyfriends and apartments and adventures, Luz had a good life with me, and passed of natural causes at the estimated age of 16.

Months later, with a new boyfriend, new apartment, and new roommate, I adopted a red Miniature Pinscher from Animal Control. I dubbed her Corazon, and again, my heart was full. Cora took to me immediately, ignoring all others, much as Luz had done. She despised her crate, but her anxiety caused her to have frequent accidents, so she learned to tolerate it. She ate to stay alive, but seemed indifferent to most things, except chasing squirrels and burrowing in blankets. Never in my life had I been loved so much by any creature, and it made me content and fiercely protective of her. “Go out to dinner? Sorry, I can’t; my dog is waiting for me.”

A year later, a new roommate and new dog arrived. Cora was indifferent. After some time, she began to play and wrestle with Yaz, a Taco Terrier (a Chihuahua/Toy Fox Terrier mix) of the same size. They would sometimes sleep near each other, and Cora suddenly finished all her food all the time, and would run to her crate for a treat. Though she never took to toys as Yaz did, Yaz taught her to be a dog, and it was refreshing.

Cora’s life ended abruptly when she got out of her harness on a walk and was struck by a car. The Earth could hold no oxygen. Suddenly my reason for existence was gone. I had had the privilege of spending just 13 months with her.

I needed to ease my grief and aching, so the next day I started looking at adoptable Min Pins online. This one was too fat. This one looked too much like Cora. This one didn’t have her floppy ears or her cute button tail. This one was too far away. No matter where I looked I couldn’t find a suitable replacement. And then it hit me: I couldn’t replace her.

I unrefined my search to small dog, female, Chicago. I looked through pages and pages, and knowing the stringent adoption process for renters, applied for two dogs: a Dachshund mix and a Chihuahua/Jack Russell. I was rejected by the Doxie, and drove out the suburbs to meet the Chi. She clung to her foster mom and was uninterested in the treats I brought, but she was so stinking cute. And just like that, we were driving home.

She loved toys. And she ran around the yard in circles. A dog that liked to play?! What a novelty. She hit it off with Yaz immediately, too. Rosita Chiquita Juanita became Hadley. After an intense week of diarrhea from the food change, her personality started to come out. A constant barker, she would lunge at other dogs on walks and pee in the house. I started to think maybe I had adopted another dog too soon. Each friend that met Hadley loved her: “Not like Cora. She wasn’t the friendliest dog.” But somehow, as her mom, I seemed to love her the least.

And then one day, a month after I adopted her, Hadley found her way into a bag of chocolate chips. She seemed to get the majority out of both ends, but her resting heart rate was alarming. Late that Sunday evening, we went to the ER vet. Golden Girls was on the only television they had; dogs in the waiting room lay on the floor vomiting blood and scratching their stitches. Finally it was our turn to see the vet, and after a look over, the staff started her on fluids and needed to monitor overnight. As I said goodbye to my little Hadley, her front legs shaved for IVs, I lost control. The techs assured me she would be okay, but I left in hysterics.

Her fur grew back. Her taste for danger didn’t subside, causing me to purchase activated charcoal after she sampled coffee on more than one occasion. My intense mama bear instincts have kicked in, now that I live with a canine toddler. Every day is a battle against noises that simply must be barked at, but things are better. Though Yaz and roommate have moved on, Hadley does just fine as the only dog and the center of attention. She is the single largest source of joy in my life, and I am thankful she has loved me from the start.

Erika Felix is a part-time nanny and a full-time dog mom living in Chicago. Her passions, beside animals, include cooking, reading, snowboarding, and crafting. Hadley still enjoys a sampling of human food when she can get it.

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