Written by Betty Schueler of Maryland
One day, while out and about with a friend, we found ourselves near our local animal shelter. On a whim, I suggested we stop in and see the animals.
There were dozens of animals at the shelter ranging from little bitty guinea pigs to huge mastiff-sized dogs. One dog, in particular, caught my eye. He was a bony little terrier mix who looked like he hadn’t had a good meal in weeks. He had just come in a few days before as a stray.
An hour later I walked out with Ranger — my fierce little bed companion. They warned me that he was a biter, if provoked, and they had mixed feelings about offering him up for adoption. Their warnings didn’t worry me at all.
Working on the Urge to Bite
Animals that have been rescued often act out in response to the anxiety they feel. Shelters are, by nature, a traumatizing place for an animal to stay. I was pretty sure that I could get Ranger to calm down and become a trustworthy little dog.
We hadn’t been home more than a few minutes when he bit his first person. The guy totally deserved it as he sneaked up on Ranger and grabbed his tail. Ranger didn’t do any harm with the bite, but it warned me I had my work cut out for me.
Over the next few weeks, I let Ranger settle in and get used to our routine. He seemed to know what he was there for as he immediately claimed a place beside me in bed.
In an effort to let everyone know he owned that spot, he would growl at anyone who came near it. Since my husband slept beside me, and Ranger had claimed the area between us, I had to make him realize that we shared things in our household.
It wasn’t long before Ranger settled in and he declared a truce with my husband. Soon he was allowing anyone to get on the bed with us –even the grandchildren. By instituting some reasonable rules for the kids about how they should act around him, we eventually got to the point where we could trust Ranger around them (not that we ever left them alone together).
We taught Ranger to let us remove food he was eating, the proper way to greet people, how to walk on leash and all the other lessons a well-mannered dog should know. It was a long process but it turned out to be well worth our while.
I Began Having Blackout Spells
A year or so after we got Ranger, I began having spells. With only a little warning, the world would go black and I would either fall to the floor or, if in bed, I would wake up and minutes would have gone by.
I knew it was my heart, but a long string of tests were unable to reveal a problem. I tried to explain to my cardiologist what was happening but it didn’t make any sense to him. All I could tell him was that I would black out, and when I came to, I often had a sore chest. The next day, I would often have little bruises on my chest.
We tried a portable heart monitor a couple of times with no results. By now, I had broken a number of bones in my body from falling, and the situation was dire.
So my cardiologist tried one more time with the heart monitor. The results were mind boggling. I was going into heart arrest over and over. Sometimes for minutes at a time. That solved part of the mystery, but it didn’t explain the pain in my chest or the bruises.
One night, while waiting for the surgery, I had another spell but this time, when I came to, I found Ranger on my chest. All of a sudden I realized where the bruises had been coming from: Ranger was jumping up and down on me when my heart delayed restarting.
Ranger would repeat this act several times before I was finally able to clear my body of blood thinners and get my pacemaker. I had saved Ranger’s life, and he, in return, had saved mine — many times over.
Sometimes, when I try to be helpful, it seems my efforts are all in vain. When that happens, I wonder why I even bother to try. Then, I remember Ranger and I know I have to keep trying because sometimes miracles can occur. One last photo of Ranger here.
Brought to you by The Great Animal Rescue Chase
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