The One About Duchess
Updated: Jan 22, 2021
Hear the story about Duchess, Lindsay's 3rd rescue dog! This blind, diabetic minpin showed her the joys of adopting an older special needs dog.
Also, hear about the feature adoptable dog of the week, Princess from Denver Dumb Friends League! Take a look at all their adoptable dogs and kitties at: www.ddfl.org and follow them at @dumbfriendsleague
Read the transcription below!!
Welcome to episode 4 of Just Add Dogs, where we get to hear the stories of how rescue dogs were given a second and sometimes a 3rd or 4th chance to have their stories completely changed.
This week I’m talking about my first ever small dog. A little 8-year-old miniature pinscher we adopted from our local animal shelter.
You know, I happily did it to myself with this third dog. And my husband, I have to say, had to have seen it coming.
“I’m just volunteering because I want to help dogs, besides Gracie and Ella want to volunteer too.”
And this was very true.
But I also knew that I’d end up adopting one. I mean, how could I not?! I just had to find the right one and then slowly work on my hubby to add a third dog. Three isn’t so bad. Easy really. Right? Just an additional food bowl and leash.
Yep, I didn’t know when, but I knew that my daughters and I were definitely going to walk one enough that we’d just eventually walk them right into our home.
So, the three of us girls, thick as thieves, sat through the volunteer orientation in the shelter while adoptable cats lazed about in the sun, gazing at us with disinterest from perches scattered across the room. Later that afternoon we’d officially become “certified volunteers” and walked our first few dogs, all of us proud and excited to start.
I want to say we went to the shelter at least once a week, maybe two times, really whenever we were able to sneak away. We walked or played with the dogs, stroked the cats, slipped the ADopt Me vests on each dog and dutifully wrote our names on the sheet when we came and when we left. W
Then, one Saturday afternoon in the fall, we were at the shelter when a woman drove up, her small dusty subaru filled to the brim with kennels and little small dogs, barking paws on the window. The gal was transferring dogs from a rescue/shelter in New Mexico to our shelter.
So just a side note here: rescues and shelters often do this to see if they can give the dogs their best chance. Sometimes they transfer dogs that continue to get overlooked in one place to see if they can get a second chance somewhere else. Other times shelters who have a lot of adoptions and not a lot of surrenders (like our shelter) need adoptable dogs. And others get so inundated with homeless dogs they need another rescue or shelter to take some of them for them.
It’s a team effort when it comes to rescue dogs and at the heart of rescue it’s all about the dogs and giving them the best chance.
Ok, back to that Saturday afternoon.
So it was just Ella and I that afternoon and we stuck around to watch and help where we could as the shelter staff unloaded and checked in the new arrivals as they ran around in the outdoor play area. Most were little chihuahuas and a few pomeranians and one very voluptuous miniature pinscher with cloudy eyes a few lumps and bumps on her little hips and with just enough salt to go with all that sweet.
The staff kept the name that she was brought to the shelter with: Duchess.
We didn’t walk Duchess that evening, but we were right back at the shelter the very next day bringing Gracie and the rest of the family along with us as we walked a few dogs, and Duchess.
It took exactly one meeting and one walk for my daughter, Ella, who was 10 at the time, to fall madly and desperately in love with that little minpin and so did I.
She’s a lot like me in some ways, when she wants something there is little that can distract her from reaching that goal.
And her and my goal, after walking Duchess, was obvious to us. To adopt that little soul and make her a part of our family before someone else snatched her up.
We walked Duchess consistently over the next month, walking her along the same trail each time, her little bowling ball body trotting along, sniffing at everything, I mean it felt like it took hours to walk her.
And don’t tell the shelter, but my daughter even started to refuse to put the Adopt Me vest on her because she couldn’t stand the thought of her not being a part of our family.
We knew she was meant for us, now it was convincing my husband, John, to add a third dog to our family.
He said “no” and then “no” again and then “three is too many” (oh if he only knew) and then went into a series of reasons why it wouldn’t be good, why it was too much . . . all the things and all of them completely true.
But that didn’t mean it still wasn’t right.
And he saw, like I did, how much Ella loved little Duchess, how much we all did. I think he knew, when he saw her slip the leash on and walk around with her that she was ours, he just didn’t say it out loud.
So one night, after all four of the kids were in bed, I asked him again.
“She doesn’t--we don’t--need another dog.” he said.
“Of course, we don’t. You’re right. But Duchess needs us. And really, what’s the harm in bringing another little soul into the family? It’s not that much more work besides an extra bowl of food, she’s old and low-maintenance and … and.” I kept going with all my reasons why “yes, maybe it wasn’t practical” but that didn’t mean we couldn’t do it, that we shouldn’t do it.
After a little back and forth, he finally gave me the “yes.”
“But I want to surprise everyone so we have to do it my way.”
He didn’t have to say any more. As long as Duchess belonged to our family in the end, I was up for any type of shenanigans he was cooking up.
I filled out the adoption application and adopted Duchess on a Friday, putting her lumpy little in the car and driving her home where she’d spend the rest of her life with us--wrapped up in a whole lot of love.
That afternoon, before I left to pick up all four kids, I tucked her into the crate that she would actually never use again, and drove down to gather them all from school.
“We’re going to meet Daddy for ice cream,” I said. And of course everyone was excited.
Once there, all sitting down, John announced in complete seriousness. “We wanted to bring you guys here to celebrate Duchess and the fact that she has been adopted. We need to be thankful and happy that she found a family.”
This wasn’t my idea and may seem a little mean, but knowing the outcome, I knew I could endure and keep up the charade for a little while.
Well there was nothing but tears after that, the thought of ice cream melted along with the hope that Duchess would be ours.
It was only a ten minute drive up to our house, but I’m telling you what, it was a long 10 minutes. The weeping and wailing that ensued on that car ride was to be remembered.
Once we got home, they all slumped into the house, dropping their backpacks and acting as if the sky had fallen.
“Why don’t you take your stuff up to your room,” I said. There Duchess was, in the kennel, I’m sure wondering what the heck was going on.
I am not a good liar, and though I love surprises, I get way too excited to see someone’s face that I pretty much give everything away.
But I kept it together, following up behind them and watching as they passed by the crate, stopped, looked in and all screamed.
Cries of “Its Duchess!”
Then there were nothing but happy tears.
And she was ours.
Duchess-we kept her name-- fit right in alongside Cowboy and Wally. They adored her, and she thought they were just okay.
Our Duchess was sweet and salty and sass and spunk. She loved and adored food, if her voluptuous body didn’t speak for itself.
Minpin’s are known to love burrowing under blankets and Duchess was no different. Before sitting down, you always had to double and triple check to see where she was on the couch. And she had a little pink pillow that she loved to suck on--yes, she didn’t chew on it--she sucked on it.
Now Duchess was not housetrained when we got her and she only kind of got it after being with us. That said, after having her for just under a year, I started noticing that something might be wrong.
She was drinking and peeing more than usual, she was losing some poundage (which wasn’t a bad thing), and she was sleeping a little more than usual.
But, that said, her spirits were still up and she was still ravenous for food.
And it was summer, I told myself, and we were going on walks and the weather was warm so that could explain it.
But it was when she woke up one morning and I called “Duchess” and she looked in the complete opposite direction, that I knew something was wrong. On our walk that morning, she didn’t seem to know where to go and was more tentative with each step.
I made an appointment at the vet that day and we got a diagnosis within a half hour. She had gone completely blind and had Type 1 diabetes.
That afternoon started me on a whole new journey of taking care of a dog with special needs and special medical needs. I went from never holding a needle in my hand to giving insulin shots twice daily, and making sure that the house and furniture and everything else was safe for our little girl.
And she took it all like a boss and taking care of her in this way was more special to me than I even realized at the time.
She was our baby girl for 4 years. She trekked up mountains and tucked herself into our camper, we did multiple photo shoots with her and she spent every single night tucked into my daughters bunk bed.
Unfortunately, the spring of our fourth year with her, our old lady started not wanting to eat--something that was definitely NOT normal.
She was in renal failure. For two weeks we treated her at the vet and at home, giving her IV fluids while she sat on the couch watching movies with us or sitting with my daughter as she drew.
But rather than getting better every day it was getting harder for her--she lost her appetite completely and had little motivation.
After two weeks of watching her slowly decline, our vet helped us make the impossibly hard decision--it was time.
Wally and Cowboy were still alive and well, so our little Duchess was the first dog that we had to make that decision to say good-bye.
I knew I needed to be with her, to let her know she was loved until the very end, but I wasn’t sure if my kids wanted to be there or if I should let them be there.
But death, and being with her as we let her go, the sadness and the strange beauty of being with her as well was something I didn’t want to hide from them or for them to be afraid of. Life is made up of beauty and ugliness, sadness and joy and all the in between and I wanted them to know that I’d be there with them through it all.
That said, I was also not going to force them.
So I gave them the option of coming along. Ella said she had to be with Duchess too and my other three said their tearful good-byes at home.
It was gut-wrenching and heart-breaking, but also more special than I imagined to be able to be there with her, love on her, tell her how much we loved her as she took her last breaths.
Afterwards, still crying as we remembered and as we mourned, Ella and I took a walk on the path where we walked her when we first met her and volunteered at the shelter.
We’ve taken that walk almost every year since.
Each one of my dogs has taken my story in different ways than I ever thought it would go. Duchess, our little blind, lumpy, diabetic minpin made me unafraid to adopt a medical and special needs dog again. Something I was scared of doing and never thought I’d ever be able to do, was something that I figured out and learned and ending up owning.
Now the thought of adopting a diabetic and/or blind dog is not a big deal at all for me. Taking care of her uncovered a joy that I never knew I had inside of me.
And that’s another thing about rescuing a dog. It doesn’t change their story, it changes yours as well. It makes your story richer, more full, more expansive, more inclusive.
So today, I’m going to highlight an adoptable dog with a medical need. Could this be your next dog? Meet princess from Dumb Friends League here Colorado. Please remember, that ____ is available, now, at the recording of this podcast. He/she might already be adopted by the time you listen. That said, please visit the rescue’s website for more information on the other dogs waiting for their chance at forever. You’ll find information on Princess and Dumb Friends League on show notes at www.justadddogspodcast.com.
Dumb Friends League We provide life-changing services for homeless pets and horses that come to our shelters every day – animals who arrive in need of medical treatment, behavior training, foster care and the opportunity to find loving homes. The believe that by working with a compassionate community they can end pet homelessness and animal suffering.
Princess is a female, tan/black Chihuahua/Cairn female Terrier who is about 13 years old.
Shelter staff says this about Princess.
QUEEN OF YOUR HEART
Favorite Things: Lap time, cuddle time, giving you the biggest doe eyes known to man
Special Features: Has lived with (and ignored) a cat, tends to prefer being the only dog around so she has her own space and her own food, praised for being affectionate once she warms up! She is currently on medication for her liver, please call to learn more about her special needs!
Dream Home: She would do best in a one-level home with kids older than 12 and as your only dog. Please bring in the family to meet her– she’s earned the right to spend her golden years in absolute comfort
Go to their website at: ddfl.org for more information on adopting your next best friend and supporting this wonderful organization. And follow them on instagram at @dumbfriendsleague.
Now, in addition to subscribing to this podcast, follow us on facebook and instagram and go to www.justadddogspodcast.com to download my free resource guide called The Basic Guide to Adopting Your Next Best Friend. And if you have adopted your best friend, or maybe two or three or five, and would like to tell your story, please send me an email at email@example.com or a Direct Message on Instagram at @justadddogspodcast. Also, feel free to submit a rescue or a shelter that you love and adore to be featured on the show.
Thank you so much for tuning in and listening. Until next week, I’m your host, Lindsay.