“You have to return her to the breeder. The infection on her left eye is so far advanced. She’s going to go blind. The other eye can also get affected.”
That was the veterinarian, talking about Missy, my scrawny four-month-old pug, whom I brought home from the breeder only two days before.
Until the vet pointed it out, my untrained eye didn’t notice the white thing in the center of her left eye, like an eye within the eye, which was starting to swell. The vet said she could have nicked it herself, or a littermate did. The vet surmised the breeder knew but kept mum about it.
“I’m keeping her, Doc,” I said without hesitation. She’ll end up being neglected. Who else would buy her? Who would want to part with good money for a sick puppy?
Truth was, I had fallen madly in love with the bug-eyed, wrinkle-faced pup in the less than 48 hours that I’d had her. I could no longer bear to part with her. I was done for.
When the vet said they’d keep her for a few days, I relented. But I was in the clinic every single day to check on her. By day two, the injured eye was an angry, tumid boil.
It didn’t, however, for one bit quell her massive appetite—she devoured the treats I brought on each visit, her tiny frame quivering in excitement when I held her.
When it was apparent that she would have to stay longer in the clinic, I asked if I could take her home that weekend. It was Christmas, a Saturday in 2004. I promised to bring her back Monday. The vet sent us along with a cocktail of medicines.
For 14 years, I would spend the best Christmases with that one-eyed pug who enjoyed all the trimmings that came with the season: the endless feasts, the gifts (she was curious about everything that came through the door) and the gift ribbons I liked to tie around her neck. She grew up happy and confident, despite having only 20 percent vision on her one remaining good eye.
For 14 Christmases, she was the gift that kept on giving.
This year, on what would have been her 15th Christmas, I’m bringing Missy to the beach. She loved to swim. A gift ribbon will be tied around the neck of her urn.
I’ve made some bad calls in my life, but deciding to keep that sick pup wasn’t one of them.