Emily — the Schipperke Dog

posted July 15th, 2009 by
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By Alice Benavides as told to her by Kaye Lynn.
Alice Benavides is a writer and freelance editor from Jenks, Oklahoma.

Emily, only eight weeks old and a tiny ball of black fur, was Kaye Lynn’s Christmas gift from her son Matthew and his fiancée Jennifer. In an effort to help Kaye stave off the empty-nest syndrome, the engaged couple looked for the perfect companion for her.

After some research, Matthew and Jennifer decided on a beagle. But when they visited the kennel, Jennifer noticed a little back bundle crouched in the corner behind the mother beagle. The kennel owner explained that the little schipperke pup was abandoned by her mother, so they put her with the mother beagle who had just delivered a litter of her own.

When Jennifer bent down for a closer look, the little schipperke waddled toward her and Jennifer fell in love. After more research, the young couple decided this little puppy was just the one for Kaye.

With Christmas still a week away, Matthew took care of the little pup in his apartment. Then on Christmas Day, with the little dog nestled in the palm of his hand, Matthew and Jennifer presented their gift to Kaye.

“What are you going to name her?” they asked Kaye. Jennifer had started calling her “Squeakers” since her bark was not fully developed, but Kaye liked the name “Emily.”

Kaye loved little Emily right away but found house training to be a challenge, particularly in the middle of winter — a wet winter. And Kaye’s big back yard made it difficult to find the tiny dog when she was let out.

“Miss Emily and I had to get used to one another,” Kaye says, and it was the purchase of a book on puppy care and training that saved her life … and Miss Emily’s!

Kaye also purchased a large crate and lots of toys to keep Emily occupied and out of trouble while she was at work. She set the crate by the window so the puppy could see out. When Kaye returned home each day and let her out of the crate, Emily wiggled with excitement. At last, the two were becoming friends.

At six months old, Kaye took Emily to have her spayed. Later that day, the veterinarian called to explain that during surgery Emily suffered a cardiac arrest, but that she was alive and doing well.

“My heart just broke. It was at that moment I realized how much that little black ball of fur lived in my heart,” Kaye said. Emily recovered completely from that incident, and as time went on, the two became even closer friends.

Kaye’s mother became ill and moved in with Kaye. Seeing her mom so ill was difficult for Kaye and Emily knew it.

“When times would be tough, I would walk and carry Miss Emily. When I cried, her black fur would catch my tears.” And when burdens overwhelmed her, Kaye noticed that Emily would climb up next to her and would place her paw on her leg as if to pat her and say, “It’s okay, I am here.” And after the death of her mother, Kaye realized how Emily had grown to understand her.

That’s when Kaye began to notice that something was not right with Emily. “When I would pick her up, my hand on her chest, I could feel her heart beat. It was slow and irregular.” Kaye also noticed that Emily’s activity level had become sluggish. Emily could hardly run to chase a ball one time. Kaye, a cardiac nurse for many years, also noticed other symptoms that indicated a problem.

Kaye took Emily to the vet who performed an EKG, but his diagnosis was simply an irregular heart rhythm that many dogs have. He did not feel any other treatment was necessary. But after Emily developed other health problems, Kaye requested a cardiac exam. When Kaye found herself at odds with the doctor, she asked for a referral.

Dr. Patrick Grogan, DVM, performed another EKG and an echocardiogram while Kaye stayed by Emily’s side. Kaye did not tell Dr. Grogan about her profession but watched as the EKG printed out the results. Then she asked the doctor if the squiggly lines could be read the same as for a human heart. When the doctor said yes, she knew Emily was in trouble.

At only four years old, Emily had a bad conduction in her heart that was not telling it when to beat. The results also showed that Emily’s heart rate dropped to the twenties with eight- to nine-second pauses between beats. Kaye was astonished and knew she had to do something. Emily had so faithfully looked after Kaye while her mother was ill, and now it was Kaye’s turn to look after her. If Emily was to survive, she would need a pacemaker.

After Kaye pressed the issue once again, Dr. Grogan made the arrangements and secured an appointment for Kaye and Emily to see a cardiologist at Texas A&M University. Dr. Sonya Gordon and her staff placed a pacemaker in front of Emily’s right shoulder. She recovered well from that surgery and has lived a good life with Kaye. Emily will soon be thirteen years old and currently functions 50% of the time on the pacemaker.

“Not everyone has the money to help their pets,” Kaye admits, “but if they want to take responsibility for their animals, there are ways to do it.” Kaye encourages other pet owners who may be struggling with their pets’ health issues to not give up and to take responsibility early.

Kaye says, “A schipperke life span is between fifteen and twenty years. We had a talk and she (Emily) agreed to stay with me at least ten more years.”

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