Tribute to Indy by Janie Dobbins

Angels in Disguise           By Janie Dobbins

You may have heard that my little Indy went to help Jesus last Thursday 12/30/2021. But you need to hear his story…Indy would have been 14 years old at the end of January 2022. He was a mostly black 10-week-old pup, with four white paws, that a guy in the country was selling, as a Shih Tzu. Turns out he is Pekingese!

Indy traveled all over with us as we went to Indy car races all over the country at the time, staying at the track with our friends, lots of people to love on him. He was a professional traveler in no time, and we continued to make our annual RV trips to Montana to visit with our friends, a thirty-hour drive one way. As soon as we opened the RV door, and he smelled the Montana mountain air, he knew where he was, his happy place.

When he was five, on Labor Day weekend in Montana, he developed a problem with his back legs not wanting to work properly and intense back pain. Of course, it was a holiday weekend, on vacation, but we started looking for a vet to diagnosis the problem correctly. After going to the third vet, over the course of three days, he recommended we head immediately to Great Falls as he thought he needed emergency surgery. Finally, a vet that saw his severe pain and inability to move his back legs!

Over the mountains, we drove, about three hours to another vet that was waiting for us, after hours, at his hospital. Indy was in my arms for the trip and passing out from the pain, panting and totally miserable. Arriving at the fourth vet, he decided Indy probably had a disc injury in his spine, and he would need to do emergency surgery late that night, to try to save his ability to ever walk again. A Pekingese has a long back, and long back dogs are prone to spinal injuries. Only three vets in Montana could do this surgery and our vet looked like he was 12 years old! Hours later after we had checked into a local hotel, our belongings miles away in our RV, the vet called with a report. He said he had taken Indy’s fat and padded in between four of his vertebrae, but he didn’t know if he would regain any use of his back legs, only time would tell, and we should plan on coming to see him the next afternoon.

With great relief and a lot of anxiety the next day we headed the two hours back to get our RV and drive it to stay in Great Falls for the estimated three or so weeks Indy needed to recover at the hospital clinic. My husband and I traveled down the interstate in our RV towing our car, enjoying the Montana prairie scenery, relaxed and looking forward to getting settled in our new Great Falls RV spot which we had already picked out. Boom, thud, thud, thud, we were flying across all lanes of traffic, down through the median and up the other side, across all oncoming lanes on the interstate, wildly out of control, leaning far to the left and then far to the right, crossing the frontage road, taking down a barbed wire fence, ending up in a rancher’s field. We were upright, tow car was upside down, detached far behind us, RV windshield on the brink of being blown in by impact. Our air suspension bags had blown, dropping the coach down on the two front tires, ripping them to shreds. (The air bags had been inspected less than six months before, and verdict was they were safe.) Three feet of debris strewed up and down the inside aisle way of our RV, all of our interior cabinet contents had unloaded on the floor from leaning side to side while going through the median. Not a cut on us, miraculously we were not hurt nor did we crash anyone else. Hours later we were rescued, rented a car, and checked into a hotel in Great Falls once again, with nothing except our clothes on our backs. Indy would have been killed if he was in our RV with all of that debris being flung around the coach, thankfully, he was in the hospital.

Our vacation changed into figuring out our crash disaster and caring for our beloved Indy in the hospital, being taught how to do Physical Therapy with him, water Therapy, and how to manage a dog that could not use his back legs. We were taught how to use a sling to help maneuver the back end, to help move him and help him eliminate. Several weeks later, once he was well enough to head home, we rented a U-Haul truck. We unloaded our totaled RV and packed our 75 boxes of belongings in the U-Haul and put our totaled car on a trailer to pull behind the truck. We headed home leaving our totaled motor home “home” behind. Buzzy made Indy a platform to fit between the U-Haul uncomfortable bucket seats, and we snuggled him in a new doggie bed for the 30-hour ride home.

Fast forward a year and a half, many PT sessions with me that he hated, walking him in a big bathtub of water so he could float to exercise, and lots of encouragement to him and each other, he regained his ability to walk and run, never to jump again. Thankfully he was a comfortable and happy dog to be 90 percent normal in the back leg department. I knew the time would come when the back injury would raise its head again and cause issues but for years, I could put that out of my mind. We had a happy dog!

Over the years, with Indy being so social, we noticed a special quality of his being able to seek out people that needed a special bit of attention. He would stay by our side if we were sick, seek out our family and friends that needed emotional support by sitting on their feet till they picked him up or reached down to stroke his unusually soft fur. He stayed by the side of a cousin of ours with Parkinson’s, the whole weekend she was visiting with us and he ministered to her. Another visitor was going through emotional turmoil and Indy sat with him. Our oldest grandson would hold him and mention how calm Indy made him feel. It was at that point that the light went off for me and I knew I needed to get him into pet therapy, even though he was probably already ten years old. I kick myself for not figuring it all out sooner.

Indy passed the WAGS of KY evaluation and we had hopes of visiting in the hospital on cardiology floors and open-heart recovery, near and dear to my heart because my husband had two open heart procedures and I knew what it was like on the caregiver’s side, frightening and terrifying. I thought we could help give emotional support and dog therapy love.

The day came that Indy and I had our very first visit with our team at Baptist Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. I had observed a visit or two, thank goodness, but not been on my own. My team mate and I went up to the Women’s floor, 6th floor Tower at Baptist Hospital, and checked with the nurses to see if there was anyone’s room we should not enter or bother. The nurses said don’t go into room 95, sure okay, no problem and on with our visit. I finished my side of the floor, visiting lots of patients, putting down the disposable sheet and placing Indy alongside the patient, letting them stroke his ultra-soft human like hair all snuggled beside them. You could see the color in their faces improve, their smiles expand and the stress relax from their facial muscles. Truly amazing to see Indy “work”. It gave him purpose, and love and strength. Waiting on my partner to finish her side of the floor, I sat in the waiting room by the elevator talking with a grandmother. She was interested in what a Therapy dog did and I explained. At that time, she told me her granddaughter was in room 95 and just delivered a baby but the baby died at birth. My heart just dropped and I felt so bad for the grandmother and family. I told her why don’t you go see if your granddaughter would like me to bring my dog to her and I will visit with her. As we entered the very dark, curtain drawn room, I could see the patient, her sister holding the deceased baby, and the patient’s mother, tear-stained faces and very sad expressions. The patient wanted Indy in bed alongside of her so I prepared a place for him to lie next to her. He was placed between her side and inside of her arm, his head snuggled up to her arm pit leaning into her and sharing his love. She stroked him and a small smile slid across her lips, no words needed to be spoken. When Indy started to get too warm, being so close and his very thick hair, I had to sadly end the visit. This was just one of many where I witnessed Indy trying his best to press into his patient the love that he felt in his heart. I want to think that he might have worked a miracle someplace during his visits.

About four months ago I discussed with my vet that Indy was a bit wobbly on his back legs, and I was concerned that his back may be giving up. I was to watch him and help him the best that I could, making sure that he didn’t over do the walking or trying to keep up with his puppy brother from another mother. Indy did his Christmas visit at Baptist and in the next week after that I noticed remarkable problems with his ability to use his back legs. I called the vet, watched Indy a couple of days and he progressed to get weaker and I noticed it was affecting his front legs too. At that time, we had to make a decision to put him to sleep. God has him now, hopefully my very special dad will snuggle with him in heaven.

We miss Indy.