Small Dogs & Chihuaha Breeds

Share antics & issues about small dogs, particularly chihuahuas.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Tribute to Nugget 1994-2006

My constant companion for the last ten years, Nugget, a little tan Chihuahua, got her wings last night. I gave them to her at the emergency vet’s office. I did not choose to watch her go to sleep, but did say my goodbyes to her as she lay trembling but otherwise docile in her little bed on the vet’s table before giving her over to their care. She had suffered enough, I felt, through the apparent neurologically-based problems she had been having for the last 5 years.

This year it had gotten progressively worse, with the deterioration of her eyesight and the worsening of her rear legs. I was constantly attending to her: rescuing her when she was too weak to get up with only the traction of her front legs; or rushing to prevent her from falling off uneven ground or steps or from bumping into things she couldn’t see below her nose. I even had to hold her rear down when she ate or drank to prevent her from rising off the ground or twisting around and falling into her food or water dish. It must have been extremely frustrating for her. In fact, it did affect her weight, as she was a mere 4 lbs. and you could feel & see all her bones.

She became “my baby” and I attached a lot of meaning and love to her. She reminded me of many life lessons: Persistence, faithfulness, even-temperedness, a positive and expectant attitude no matter what. That tail was always wagging! And most of all she reminded me of God’s own love, faithfulness, companionship and comfort to me in times of trouble. I was never alone. I talked to Nugget all the time. It seems as if I had never loved anything as much as I had loved Nugget. I felt so alone all of a sudden when she was gone.

I went home and removed all her things and the pillows that had barricaded the family room to protect her from banging into things, or from escaping to the non-traction kitchen floor. Then I vacuumed up all the nuggets of her dried food around the place. I could not stop the tears from flowing, as I realized my little friend was gone forever, and there would be nothing or no one to ever replace her and the memories we had together.

Nugget was with me during times of great loss, and now she seemed to be my greatest loss. I could not stop from bawling like a baby. And I knew going to my art gallery where she was “The Gallery Dog” would be harder still. At least I knew she would be immortalized in a painting I did of her wistfully looking out the front door of my home with the light shining on her in an amazing way. I feel this was my masterpiece painting. And how many dogs have their own calendar?! She was immortalized in many ways. There are hundreds of photos of her taken over the years which capture just how much a part of our family she was. She is shown with everyone in some way, often dressed in the symbolic costume of the occasion – Santa hats, wings & halo, silly hats & sunglasses.

It’s not so much the fact that you have the companionship of a pet for such a long time, but the fact that you are the provider and protector of that often helpless creature. I felt so bad for her as she struggled with life’s daily routines. She never complained until the last couple of months when I heard her occasionally “screaming” very loudly when she got stuck and couldn’t get up after a long while, or whining when she was in pain. I knew then her days were surely numbered, but I prayed to God that he would spare her life until I was through dealing with the issues surrounding my mother’s and father’s health.

Nugget was a comfort to me when my mom passed away after six months of watching her progress from a seemingly strong, healthy, young-looking and very active 80 year old to a stroke victim unable to communicate logically, while fighting infections and heart problems as well.

Nugget was there the same weekend I got the news that my father, who had been on dialysis for six years, was not expected to live and they were sending him home from the hospital to die. Because of that report, and the fact that he expected his death was imminent, all my brothers and sisters were in town the next day. When I visited my mother that evening, I could see her own demise was imminent as well. So the family had one last hymn sing at mom’s bedside, putting a big smile on her face, then met there again the next day just as we got the news she was passing away.

Two weeks later, after round-the-clock shifts by the family at my dad’s bedside, he passed away too. So I clung even more tightly to my precious Nugget to console me in my losses, as she was someone who needed me to care for her so much. And she was all I had to hug and talk to during the day when my husband Steve was at work.

Besides, Nugget “knew” about all the losses and times of trials my son Philip (now 25 and out on his own) and I had had in the past 10 years together. In fact, she came to us in an amazing way in answer to a very specific prayer at a challenging time in our lives.

Philip and I were living in Atlanta in 1996. It was the year of the Olympics being in our city and it was very exciting to be part of all the preparation and festivities and events. After the loss of my husband in 1992, my son and I had packed up a year later and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to be involved in ministry opportunities and to have a change of venue. During that time we were still going through our grieving process and were very vulnerable and in a new town with not a large support system in place, away from my family in Virginia Beach. I became involved very briefly with an abusive, sick man who isolated us and took advantage of us in many very cruel and hurtful ways. But once we were finally able to physically get away from him (it took a month of waiting for the right opportunity to do so safely), he stalked us to our new home in Atlanta. After quite some time of living in fear of when he would show up and what he would do, a good friend of mine there helped me break free from the bonds he was trying to continually place upon us, and we were finally free from that evil.

It was after that when Philip said he wanted a dog as a companion and someone to care for. I concurred and saw this as an opportunity to help my son rebuild his faith in a good God and let him see God in action. So we agreed in prayer together to a very specific description of a dog (a tan Chihuahua), the price (free!), and the time limit. We gave it a month, with the end of the Olympics being the deadline.

To make a long story short, we called a blind ad in the paper with no price listed and on the day before the deadline, we took home our tan Chihuahua at no cost and with several bonuses to boot! The older couple who found her said it was a miracle they saw her on the side of the busy interstate I-20 and that when they stopped, she allowed them to pick her up. We knew right away this was our miracle dog! Philip picked her name based on the Olympics motto (“going for the gold”) and her color and size. He was thinking of a gold nugget, so “Nugget” was the name that stuck.

And she was indeed that – a precious nugget, our “angel pup” and a gift from God. Every time I looked at her I thought about the miracle of God’s grace, and his love and comfort for us, sending us a little nugget of himself in doggie form to remind us of eternal truths. She was always an inspiration and encouraged us and many others in her brief life with us. She also gave me the opportunity to share her story many times and witness to God’s direct answer to specific prayer. So it would seem that her purpose on earth has been completed. It is my hope that the love and grace of God would live on in the hearts of many who were touched by her life and endurance in spite of her physical afflictions.

Since the time Nugget has been in my life, I have learned many things about the love and faithfulness of God in many situations. God has been my Rock and Fortress, a Husband, and a Father to the fatherless. And he’s been a Guide and Comforter through the storms of life. Even though Nugget has moved on, God will never change. He knows exactly what I need in my life, and his grace is sufficient for me. His mercy in allowing Nugget to be with me for a couple more months after my parents’ passing has been a blessing. But now it is time for me to let go of her, to give her the mercy and love that has been given me by letting her go to her eternal rest. Thank you, Nugget, and thank you God for your special gift during this time in my life.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nugget’s Aging Issues

It’s been a while since I uploaded an entry. That’s because I have been dealing with the passing of both my mother (for whom I’ve been caring the last six months) and my father (who’s been on dialysis for the last six years then developed cancer). They passed on from this earth two weeks apart.

Too tired to even get all the way into her
bed, Nugget hangs half out the back!
Nugget’s Knees
During all that’s been going on with their health issues, Nugget has also been a challenge. She is about 12 years old now. We got her when she was approximately 18 months old, according to the vet at the time, so that would make her 12th birthday around Christmas time. In the last year in particular, her knees have been giving her huge problems. She has her good and bad parts of every day, but quite often, I am picking her up off the floor when her back legs have collapsed and she can’t get enough leverage to get back up. I keep her on carpet as much as possible, otherwise it’s like skating on ice for her when she is on the hardwood or laminate floors.

She sits like a little person, with her back legs straight out in front of her. When her knees get out of joint, she can’t bend them to get back up. Even her back feet seem to be just limp and drag backwards when her legs are moving forward at times. I take her every few months to an animal chiropractor who has helped her comfort factor a lot, with her back being so arched in the first place, which he attributes to a breed tendency coupled with perhaps some malnutrition when she was a puppy. But the vet said that the operation that corrects her knee joint problem would be too much for her to take at her age, and doesn’t always work as well as we would like for a long period of time. There’s also the fact that the dog has to be kept still for six weeks to recover. That alone would be extremely difficult!

Going to the bathroom…
When she needs to go to the bathroom, if she can hold it long enough till I get her outside, she looks like a helicopter coming in for a landing when she has to pee. Her back legs are way up in the air, moving side to side to try to keep her balance, with her back arched up. Then she comes down for a landing, but often will lose it, and get stuck sitting with her legs straight out again. When she has to do her business, she is often sitting on it and getting it on herself. It’s a little hard to get it out that way too, I imagine! So I am the one who has to wipe her rear and keep her clean!

Bathing, eating and drinking are another problem…
She doesn’t even lick her fur to give herself a bath anymore, as it’s just too painful and she can’t even reach the spots to clean herself very well. But usually that’s not too much of a problem, as she will often trip over her water bowl or something nearby, whirl around as she loses her balance, and fall in backwards, splashing water everywhere and getting her butt thoroughly wet in the meantime. Although it looks funny sometimes, her inability to care for herself and to even eat or drink without me holding her in place are heart wrenching. When she leans over to eat her food, her back legs rise up off the floor. If she is unable to maintain her balance or get her legs to come back down to earth again, she will twist around sideways and fall into her food or whatever else is nearby. She is constantly tripping over her dried food and scattering it everywhere. I have to change her water often, as it gets contaminated with everything from food particles to dog hair with her falling into it.

Sleeping & hanging out…
I have barricaded her into a padded area so she won’t hurt herself or get stuck when I am away from her or trying to get a good night’s sleep. I used to have her in the bedroom at night, but couldn’t get a peaceful sleep, as she was always restless and would pace for hours, banging into the wall and furniture in the meantime. When I first moved her downstairs for the night, I was awakened at midnight by the loudest howl I ever heard Nugget make. She hardly ever makes any noise, other than an occasional little groan or whine if she is hurting. She never really even barked. At this amazing sound, my sister (who was visiting) and I both bounded out of bed and raced down the stairs to see what the matter was. Apparently, she had fallen over the pillow on the marble hearth and gotten wedged between the fireplace and the home entertainment center, and couldn’t get up. She must have been trying for a while and decided it was time to voice her frustration!

When I hear her struggling in another room at home, I will call out to let her know I am coming to rescue her. She often will stop struggling and just sit there, looking up at me pathetically, waiting for me to come and save her strength. In struggling she sometimes has gotten sores on her rear, sometimes bleeding, and the fur on her tail is getting scarce where she sits on it. I keep thinking I should put her in doggie diapers or some other padding for her rear.

What are your thoughts? Have you had any similar experiences with your dog? Let me know what you are doing with your dog’s aging or other health issues. Maybe we can pass on the information to help each other retain just a little more sanity, and in the meantime, help our best little friends out too!

Enjoy your little blessings!
Nugget’s Mom

P.S. If you're interested in seeing other pictures of Nugget, she has her own calendar with lots of pictures at

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Small Dogs & Chihuahua Breeds - Nugget's Dog Blog:

Welcome to Nugget's Dog Blog!

This is where I talk about my aging chihuahua's antics and issues and post the latest pictures and video clips. I also welcome your comments and questions about your own pets, especially chihuauas and other small dogs.

I look forward to offering helpful insights and information that I come across in regards to daily living with a (thankfully!) good-natured chihuahua. I am sure there are many of you who can relate to being uplifted and encouraged when you arrive home to see your dog excitedly waiting to greet you with tail wagging.

Can you imagine what kind of world this would be if we ALL greeted each other with such unbridled enthusiasm?! Frankly, I have learned (or at least been reminded of ) a lot of life's lessons through Nugget's actions and reactions. Perhaps we can remind each other of the great things in life we have to be thankful for. Even our small dog breeds seem to be aware of the good things in life, as eternal optimists. Perhaps our thinking of them as our "babies" and "angel pups" and other pet names may have something to do with their effervescent personalities and expectant attittudes?!

So... let's begin the dialogue and see how we can encourage and inform each other with our daily dog insights!

Nugget's Mom