My dog's separation anxiety has always been somewhat severe -- but this past month, it became life-threatening.
On Dogster, the pup-centric pub I run by day, we have a recurring feature called the “Monday Miracle,” where we profile dogs who have faced great odds and somehow muddled through. The column covers everyone from the rescued bait dog and the puppy mill escapee to the wheelchair-bound (but still waggish) hound and the Katrina survivor.
Pretty soon, it may feature the last dog I ever expected it to: my own beloved Italian Greyhound, Mr. Moxie.
Mox and I go back a long way, and because of the nature of my work, most of our love story lives on the Internet. I’ve written about how I won his trust as a wee pupster, documented his strangely endearing little quirks, outright declared my undying love for him right here on xoJane and even taste-tested dog treats with him on camera at the office (because … science?).
In October, I wrote about how close I came to losing him when my partner of seven years and I called it quits. But two weeks ago, I came closer than I ever have to never seeing him again, and I am still horridly shaken by the event. He’s lying next to me as I type this, breathing peacefully, although his leg dons a neon green cast and a cone of shame encircles his neck to keep him from messing with the stitches he has in far too many places.
But all I can think about is what miracle it is he's here at all.
Two weeks ago, I left Moxie at my friend Lori’s apartment in San Francisco’s Sunset district to have lunch down the street with her, as I had many times before. Mox and I had spent many a week at her flat over the course of the breakup period, and he was familiar with the place. Still, in the past my dog has made unsuccessful attempts to bolt out front doors. So we made sure to close Lori's securely behind us and weren’t worried for his safety.
An hour later, we were walking back down Lori's street when we noticed that a sizable crowd had gathered around her stoop. From a distance it looked like teenagers loitering, so we didn’t make too much of it –- but then Lori gasped and noted that they seemed to be standing around a small dog on the sidewalk.
I felt sick to my stomach.
I dropped my things and ran, and as I got closer, I saw what no dog parent wants to see: that the dog on the pavement is your own pup. There was blood on the ground, and his right paw was trapped in his martingale collar, twisted 180-degrees backward at the ankle as though it was ready to snap off ... a horrifying sight. He was breathing, eyes wide and alert, though in shock. His knees and chest were bloody and bruised. And yet Mox was somehow miraculously alive.
Lori saw her front door was securely locked, so we were perplexed and panicked as to how he could have gotten out. Then a neighbor's child pointed to her window (three stories up if you count her garage, which is at street level), which was ajar. The only logical conclusion was that he had leaped from it in an attempt to come find me, and had somehow trapped his paw in his collar as he plummeted. I would later learn that Lori’s neighbors were with Mox for at least half an hour, and had prevented him from getting up and crawling into the street where he almost certainly would have been killed.
My body goes cold when I think about what could have happened.
When I saw Mox on the sidewalk, I fell to my knees and started babbling nonsensical but hopefully comforting words into his ears. It was the kind of embarrassing dog mom things you say when no one is around to hear but now there was a whole crowd.
"I love you. I'm here. Mommy's here. Be strong. You're okay. You're going to be okay. I love you, Mox, I love you," I whispered as he looked at me afraid and shaking.
I freed his paw from the collar, and let Lori take charge. She later confessed that she fought the urge to throw up at the sight of Moxie’s twisted paw as she ushered us into my car and drove to the closest animal emergency clinic –- the Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services center in the Inner Sunset area. The moment the car door shut, I started bawling like a lost child and clutching Mox to my chest, and she insisted I calm the hell down so as not to freak him out.
"You have to be strong for him right now," she said, and called the clinic to alert them of our arrival.
As soon as we got there, Mox was swept away by doctors and nurses, and we were left to wait and find out what the next steps would be. I was taken into a small room and shown the painful estimates for what the treatment would cost, and signed my life away without blinking an eye.
You can't haggle when your baby's life is on the line, and I was told they could not start the surgery without the minimum payment (over $6K) up front. I was told it could cost as much as $10-$14K in a worst-case scenario, and wilted as I handed over several credit cards for them to split the charges.
It’s times like these when you hear your dad’s voice in your head chiding you for not having that all-important emergency fund. But my ex’s departure meant I was now paying double the rent, and I clung to that thought as I continued to mentally berate myself for not being in a better place to accommodate this freak accident.
My new boyfriend (who is another happier story for another time) left work early to be there for me, and came into the back with me to see Mox before the first of his surgeries. My dog was pumped full of painkillers and grinning like a drunken thing despite his injuries, and all we could do was kiss him goodbye and hope for the best.
Long story short, let’s just say he is one incredibly lucky creature.
Not only did Mox somehow survive the three-story drop onto the concrete, he also managed to be treated by Dr. Sharon Gottfried, a surgeon at the clinic who is a bit of a greyhound specialist, having had the dogs herself. She understood how important it was to salvage the flexibility of Moxie’s ankle instead of fusing his paw into his leg (which was the worst-case scenario option) -- and salvage it she did.
Two days and two successful surgeries later, we were able to pick him up and take him home. I cannot tell you how happy I was when they handed him over to me -– cast, stitches, cone and all -– but still somehow in one piece.
My brother Marcel was visiting from Los Angeles just as Mox went in for his second surgery, and he told me I had to suck up my pride and lean on friends and family to help offset the insane medical bills. And when I refused, because asking for help is just not something I know how to do for myself, he started a crowdfunding page on our behalf. As of this writing, he’s amazingly managed to raise $3.5K of the $8K bill, and we’ve received so many kind notes of support from people we know and complete strangers on the Internet. I think I’ve cried more in the past two weeks than I have all year. In anguish, in shame, in joy and in sheer gratitude. I will never be able to repay everyone for the second chance they’ve given me with Mr. Mox.
I’ve started a Facebook page for folks who care to track his progress, and have been posting an update photo every day. He is bright and alive and determined to run again, and I hope you’ll follow along the next few months until I can post a little video of him doing just that.
If anything good can come out of Mox's story, I hope his ordeal might serve as a cautionary tale. At the emergency vet's office, I was actually told that dogs leaping from several stories up is more frightfully common than you might think, and they've seen it all.
So for anyone reading this who is a dog parent: I hope you will keep your heart wide open -- but your windows shut tight.