Tippy the 3-legged cat

For as long as I can remember, adopted pets have been a part of my life.  My first pet was a 3-legged cat named Tippy who my mom rescued after he showed up at my great-grandparents door and they couldn’t find his owner.  He slept with me every night and as he got older, it eventually became difficult for him to jump on the bed (especially with three legs!) so we bought him some portable stairs.  He lived to the ripe old age of 19 and I still miss him dearly.



Sweet old Bear

My parents have always taught me to treat animals with love and respect.  One day when my dad was on a fishing trip in Florida, my mom came across a 13-year-old, 110 pound black Labrador named Bear on the AHS website.  He had been surrendered to AHS because his owner had died.  Hearing this broke our hearts and we were on a mission to give him a loving home…except there was one obstacle—my dad.  We already had a basset hound (Toots) who was a handful and he thought the last thing we needed was another dog. Well, my mom couldn’t help herself and ended up going to meet him (remember, my dad was in FL fishing).  Somehow that “meeting” turned into an “adoption” and Bear ended up in our living room that same day.  My mom says it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission, LOL!  Luckily my dad is a big animal lover too and he fell in love with Bear just like we did.


When we adopted Bear, we knew we probably didn’t have a lot of time left with him, however we were lucky to have him for 2.5 more years!  Bear was the sweetest old boy…he had such soulful eyes and was a big old lug!  The AHS even featured our adoption story in their quarterly magazine which was neat to see!  At the age of 15.5, Bear crossed the Rainbow Bridge in June 2016.  It was so hard to say goodbye but we felt lucky to have had him for as long as we did.  What a gift he was!   



Handsome Sam

Summer and fall went by and before we knew it, the holidays were upon us.  One night we were out celebrating my mom’s birthday and I happened to be scoping out the available dogs on the AHS website.  I came across a darling 7-year-old basset hound named Sam and of course immediately showed him to my mom because I know she is a softie for basset hounds!  My dad said “no” (again) but with him, no sometimes means yes.  So we were on a mission once again.


My dad left for a work trip and I was bound and determined to get Sam into our home.  My mom said we couldn’t adopt Sam without getting Dad on board, but she said we could at least go to meet him and see if he would be a good fit.  We drove up to the Coon Rapids AHS and asked to meet him but they said he was on “hold” (which meant that someone had put a deposit on him and had 24 hours to come and get him before he would be put back up for adoption).  On the one hand, I was so disappointed but on the other hand, I was happy that he might potentially have a home!  The staff said it was their policy that we could not have one-on-one time with him (since he was on hold), but that we COULD go to meet him in his cage.


When we walked up to his cage, Sam started barking and carrying on and making a big racket!  I am guessing many people would be intimidated by this (basset hounds have a VERY loud bark!) but since we already have a basset hound, we knew he was just “talking” to us and telling us how much he wanted to get out of there. We squatted down to pet him through the bars and he was SO happy to see us.  The AHS staff said that if he wasn’t adopted by the next day, he would be put back up on the website after 8:00 PM. As we drove home, my mom said that if it was meant to be, he would find his way to us.  Plus she said we HAD to get Dad on board.


The next day, all I could think about was Sam.  When it was 7:59, I kept refreshing my internet browser…and at 8:00, he was back up on the website!  I screamed and told my mom and she said we would have to get Dad up there to meet him first.


My dad came home that afternoon from his work trip and we told him we were taking him out to a surprise place for dinner.  So we got him in the car and started driving toward the Coon Rapids Animal Humane Society.  He kept trying to guess where we were going and could not figure it out.  When we finally got near AHS, he saw the sign and said, “HA!  I know what you tricksters are doing!” and he figured it out. But he was a trooper and went along with it.


We got to meet Sam and finally spend some one-on-one time with him.  My dad is such a big softie that I knew he could not say no to this sweet boy.  We don’t know the circumstances of why he was surrendered, but he was such a happy-go-lucky, friendly guy that we guessed maybe the family had fallen on hard times.  My dad finally gave the OK to adopt him and he was OURS!  I couldn’t believe it!


We finally did get dinner (Chik-Fil-A…probably not what my dad had envisioned for his surprise dinner, ha ha) and we were on our way home.  Sam and Toots met and it was like they had known each other forever.  Our hearts were full and we now had two basset hound bookends!


Unfortunately, our time with Sam was way too short. On Super Bowl Sunday, Sam had a slight nose bleed (which is very uncommon for dogs). The next day, he had a dental cleaning so our vet decided to take an x-ray. The x-ray showed that there was something wrong but in order to tell exactly what it was, he needed a CT scan.  He was referred to specialty vet and the CT scan showed there was an aggressive malignant mass in Sam’s nose that was growing through the bone into his brain. We were told he only had about 3-5 months to live.  WHAT?!?  As you can imagine, we were totally heartbroken. This was so hard to wrap our heads around because we had JUST gotten him in December—just two months earlier!  I just couldn’t believe it.  We all felt so depressed.


Sam acted pretty normal for 2-3 days after his diagnosis but then one day it was like a switch went off.  Sam started pacing in our house like an animal in a zoo.  It’s all he would do—if he wasn’t pacing, he was sleeping because he’d exhausted himself from the constant pacing.  He had no emotion, wouldn’t look anyone in the eye, his tail never wagged, he kept getting stuck in corners, and it was like he wasn’t even “there.”  He started “listing” to one side, having accidents in the house, and couldn’t get up or down stairs without assistance.  It was just AWFUL to witness. 


After a week of this (and trying specialty medicine), my family and I made the difficult decision to put Sam down. In our house, we strongly believe in quality of life, not quantity.  We are lucky to have a family friend Dr. Sandra Soucheray who owns a mobile vet service (Dr. Soucheray’s At-Home Vet Service).  She came to our house with her assistant and Sam crossed the Rainbow Bridge at 3:00 on Feb. 23, 2017.  I was petting and hugging Sam as he left us.  It was as dignified of a death as we could hope for.  If you are ever in the unenviable position of having to put your pet down, I highly suggest having a mobile vet service come to your home.  We felt it was the greatest gift we could give to Sam, even though it broke our hearts to do it. 


Though I didn’t get much time with him, I wouldn’t change a thing and I would do it all over again even though there were many tears. My family and I are just happy that we could provide this sweet and loving boy a soft place to land in his final days.


I sincerely hope Sam’s story doesn’t deter anyone from adopting a shelter pet.  Some people have speculated that maybe this was the reason Sam was surrendered to the Humane Society.  In reality, it is HIGHLY unlikely that his former owners would have known about his condition because he appeared totally healthy so there would have been no reason to get a CT scan (besides the fact that CT scans are over $2,000).  Like I said, nasal cancer is extremely rare.  This was just a fluke thing.  We are thankful that we were able to give him a warm and loving home for his final days.


I know we will adopt another dog when the timing is right (hopefully sooner rather than later).  It has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done and it fills my heart with joy helping rescue animals find their forever homes, especially when it is with me and my family.  I will continue promoting my platform because I strongly believe that the best things in life are rescued!

© Ava Ernst 2020

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