Hopelessly Devoted
Pet owners strive to keep their dogs, cats and other companions happy and healthy
by Bill Donahue

Her name was Penny, and I didn’t want her in my life when she first set foot in my house.

It stings to admit such a thing now, but I would be lying if I said otherwise. At the time I was going through some personal issues at home, and I thought adding another dog into the mix would only complicate matters. So I was cold to her—Penny, we named her, this chubby little boxer puppy with a spot on her nose and one “gloved” white forepaw. Instead I kept my affections centered squarely on my 5-year-old Weimaraner, Moose.

It didn’t take long before Penny defrosted my heart. She gave me too many reasons to love her: her sweetness; her sad, soulful eyes; the softness of her copper-colored fur; her playful thrashing of her chew toys; the way she bullied Moose even though he outweighed her by at least 30 pounds. That was nine years ago, and these days I can’t imagine life without Penny. (Moose has since passed on.) Recently, however, circumstances dictated I consider what life might be like without Penny by my side.

From my experience, boxers don’t typically last long when compared with other dog breeds, even when compared with other large breeds. Boxers are prone to cancer and other insidious diseases that take them away too soon. In other words, if you get nine years out of a boxer, be thankful for those nine years and move on. So a few months ago, when Penny’s docked tail suddenly ballooned to alarming size, I thought its diagnosis might yield news I didn’t want to hear. I researched the Internet for “swollen boxer tail” and other such things that might suggest something innocuous. My search, however, was fruitless.

Sure enough, after taking her to the veterinarian’s office, a biopsy turned up unfortunate news: sarcoma, cancer, a threat to Penny’s life. But that wasn’t all. The night before taking Penny to her vet appointment, she was running around the backyard like any happy little dog does. When she came back in, she was favoring one of her back legs, and her limping persisted, even got worse. It turns out that she had torn her anterior cruciate ligament—or the canine version of an ACL—which would require additional surgery. I was immediately reminded of Moose’s last days, when his body started breaking down, ultimately betraying him.

“What will it take to fix her?” was the only question asked.

The two surgeries to mend Penny’s health—a tail amputation to excise the cancer, along with possible follow-up treatment, as well as surgery to heal her leg—came with a hefty price tag. It was at least one zero too many, but we didn’t give it a second thought. You do what needs to be done for the important people in your life, whether those “people” walk on four legs or on two.

Of course, any pet lover has at one time or another had a Penny in his or her life. We spend what is needed, sacrifice what is necessary in order to keep them healthy, happy and by our sides—for their unconditional love, for their companionship, for their ability to make us smile and keep us young, for all the other gifts they afford us in their all-too-brief lifetimes.

Penny is now on the mend. She still walks with a limp, as the ACL recovery takes several months to fully heal. Also, she no longer has a tail to wag and let us know when she’s happy, but that’s fine because she’s the happiest little brown dog I’ve ever met. In its place is a sizeable and somewhat gruesome scar, but I’ve grown to love that scar. It reminds me that she’s still here, and it makes me grateful that she ever walked into my life in the first place. 

Animal Instincts

Every pet lover has a special place in his or her heart for their dog, cat, bird, hedgehog, snake, toad, goldfish or whatever animal they choose as their companion. A number of exceptional boutiques, pet spas and other service providers in the Philadelphia area help ensure that your pet’s life is as rich and fulfilling as possible. Here are some of our favorites.

BONeJOUR Pet Supply and Dog Wash
bonejourpetsupply.com | 215-574-1225

Buzzy’s Bow Wow Meow
buzzysbowwowmeow.com | 610-617-3300

Center for Animal Rescue and Emergency Services
vetcares.com | 215-750-2774

Doggie Style
Multiple Philadelphia locations

Dogs & Cats Rule
Maple Glen and Newtown

Kazoodles: A Pet Boutique
kazoodlespetboutique.com | 215-887-9663

Perfect Pooch
King of Prussia
perfect-pooch.com | 610-337-7698

Pet Imagery
petimagery.com | 610-324-1755

The Pet Snobs Boutique
thepetsnobs.com | 215-922-7662

Picky Paws
Lambertville, N.J.
pickypaws.com | 609-397-7297

Richboro Ritz Pet Resort
richbororitz.com | 215-357-4411

Rittenhouse Pet Supply
rittenhousepet.com | 215-569-2555

Red Paw Emergency Relief Team
redpawemergencyreliefteam.com | 267-289-2729

Unleashed Pet Spa & Boutique
unleashed-spa.com | 610-645-6063

Wagsworth Manor Pet Resort
wagsworthmanor.com | 610-251-9247