This has been a year. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t been affected in some way by all the curveballs that 2020 has thrown. In June, we lost one of our best buddies of all time. Li’l Guy as he was known, had the best outlook – he was always happy to see you, always had LOTS to say, and was always fearless in his pursuit of life.
My parents adopted Li’l Guy from the animal shelter in Tupelo, MS when he was a few years old. Someone found him on the side of the road and brought him in, where it was discovered that he was paralyzed from the waist down. His story is wonderfully told in the book From Rags to Wags that was published in 2018.
Although he had paraplegia, “LG” as I called him, had magic legs in the form of a bright red cart, his very own “race car hot wheels!” He was so fast that he could out run ALL the other dogs and even lots of people. His upper body strength was LEGIT. He could do pretty much anything that abled dogs could do, and the things he couldn’t physically do, he was masterful at coming up with a work around.
One of my favorite memories of LG was during a visit home one summer a few months after he became part of the family. I had let all the dogs – all being my parents’ 5 (yes 5 dogs) + my dog outside into the back yard. I smiled seeing LG bound down the stairs in his little red “race car.” I went back inside to catch up on work stuff.
A little while later I heard LG barking. It was strange that he was the only one barking because with that crew when one started, they would all chime in, swelling to a full barking chorus. I was like uh-oh something’s up. So I went to investigate. I walked the yard and didn’t find anyone or anything out of place. All the other dogs were lying around napping and snoring and completely unaffected. I told LG that there was nothing going on that he needed to be barking about, and I went back inside. The barking continued.
About an hour later my mom got home, and I told her about LG’s incessant barking. She asked if he was in the yard or on the porch, and I replied that he was in the yard. She said that’s what he does when he needs to go up the stairs. Then it dawned on me how truly brilliant LG was – he could easily get down stairs but needed a “boost” to go up, so he used his masterful barking skills to communicate his needs.
The same scenario happened the next day. But this time I knew what to do! So when I heard LG barking (and no one else was) I went down the porch stairs and asked him if he needed a boost. He nodded by jumping on his front legs so I lifted the back end of his race car, and he bounded up the stairs, turned around and gave me a “thanks friend” look and then found his nap spot next to his “brothers and sisters”. It was a great moment, and I marveled at how special he was. From then on, when LG barked and there wasn’t a clear reason why, I looked for his cue as to how I could assist.
Earlier this year my parents had said that LG showed signs of slowing down and had developed advanced arthritis in his front legs. He was still first in line to eat and would never miss treat time, and while his spirit was still as chipper and as sweet as ever you could catch glimpses of pain in his eyes.
In April, my husband, my dog-child, and I made an emergency trip to Tupelo despite the COVID outbreak. My dad had a stroke on Easter, and there was no keeping us away from being there to help out while he recovered in the hospital. Remember, they have 5 dogs – AND a cat! It’s been said a hundred times, and I echo, that one of the myriad cruelties of this virus is not being able to see your loved ones while hospitalized, COVID diagnosis or not.
As with anything in life, time is not guaranteed. When we were there over the spring, I knew that LG had more time behind him than ahead of him. A few weeks after we returned home to Florida, we got the call that LG had crossed the rainbow bridge.
We think that Li’l Guy was about 11 years old. In the nine of those years that he was part of our family I learned a lot. I learned that it is disrespectful to feel sorry for people and animals who are disabled. They have as much, if not more, to give than any able-bodied person or animal. I learned that you have to advocate for yourself. We need to be better about speaking up for ourselves and truly listening to what each other has to say. I was reminded that life is so much better when we can move forward together, and to always be kind and to be willing to help someone else get what they need, not because they are helpless, but because sometimes all you need is a “Li’l” boost to get ahead.
By Mary-Margaret Dale. November 15, 2020