When I was 7 years old, my mother decided we had to give away our Doberman Pincher. Mom was pregnant and single. The Doberman was a great dog, but very hyper. We gave the dog to a friend of Mom’s who lived on a farm. The dog was very happy. I, on the other hand, was very sad. So, Mom told me that when I turned 12 I would be able to get another dog. Her reasoning was that my sister would be 5, I would be responsible, and perhaps I would even forget. I did not forget and Goldie, a Golden Retriever, was born on May 4, two days before my birthday. We got Goldie a few weeks later, and she and I immediately became best friends. She slept in my room; I walked her many times a day; I taught her tricks; and I trained her for dog shows. After our first dog show, I was told that Goldie did not have the physical attributes needed to be considered show-quality. I was devastated, and almost punched the judge who gave his (what I later learned was accurate) opinion on my wonderful dog.

However, a friend of mine encouraged me to keep working with Goldie and compete in Junior Showmanship events, where I would be judged on my ability to handle my dog. We were great together. We went all around the South (TX, LA, Mississippi) competing, and winning. The best was at a major event in Houston. Goldie and I had just finished our routine and were “set” for the judge to come by to look at how I had positioned my dog, look at her teeth, etc. Interestingly, after the judge came by, Goldie looked back at me – something she had never done and was not supposed to do. I snapped my fingers and pointed at Goldie, signaling my displeasure and telling her to turn around. She did not obey, and in fact looked at her left back leg (I was on her right side). I looked down the line, and the judge had moved each dog’s left hind leg, and no one had noticed – except Goldie. I corrected the problem, and Goldie (and I) won the show. A few years later, I went off to college and Goldie could not come with me as I was staying in a dorm. I went home often and each time Goldie looked older and older. Every time I left, I told her “if I don’t see you again, know I love you and that you have been a great dog.” A few years ago was the last time I saw her. Goldie got older, had a cancerous growth in her mouth and could not see. She had hip dysplasia as well (why the judge said she would never be show-quality). My Mom called one morning to let me know she had put Goldie down. I love that dog.

In 1997 my fiancé (and now wife) and I were living in an apartment in Monroe, LA and decided we needed a dog. My wife is a strong believer in adoption, so we adopted. We went to the local adoption center, and picked the most rowdy puppy out of a litter of 5 or 6. She smelled awful at first and we gave her numerous baths immediately after arriving home. Letting her out in the common area to run and dry off, we decided on a name. I had put down my adult beverage (beer) to light a cigarette, when the dog ran up to me and, not noticing my drink, knocked it over. As I picked up my now empty beer, she grabbed my cigarettes and ran off with them. Her name is Millie Marlborough (Miller Lite, Marlborough cigarettes). We enjoyed Millie for the first few days and then noticed a few problems: worms and a runny nose. We took her to the vet and got medicine for the worms. The runny nose, however, was a serious issue. Apparently, Millie had distemper, a rather common disease, but very serious.

The vet told us that most dogs (90%) don’t live very long after contracting the disease, and of those that do, upwards of 90% have serious complications throughout their lives. We took Millie home and hoped for the best. A few nights later, after hours of listening to Millie have trouble breathing, wiping her nose repeatedly, and helping her outside to go to the restroom (literally holding her up), I told my fiancé I was going to take her the next morning to the vet and have her put to sleep. We both walked into our kitchen to tell Millie we loved her, and shut the door (we kept her in the kitchen because she was unable to control her bodily functions at this point). Kim (my wife) and I went to bed – crying. The next day we woke up. I made my way to the kitchen to get Millie, expecting that she might have already passed. Instead, I found an absolute bundle of joy. As I opened the door, the little ball of energy came rushing through, pouncing, playing, even barking (something she had not done for three or four days). Kim came out, and looking amazed, asked what was going on. I could not come up with an answer. We took her to the vet, but not to be put down. We ran tests. The doctor looked her over, took her temperature, etc. He said she looked pretty good. “Pretty good?” I asked. I had never seen her like this. We got the test back – no trace of distemper. And to this point, more than 10 years later, no sign of any problems at all, except her teeth, which are discolored considerably, a result of the disease. But other than that, she is healthy, happy, and a great dog. Oh, and she still enjoys and occasional sip of Miller Lite.

Barry from Texas

4 Responses

  1. Julie Says:

    What a great story!!!

  2. Tony Says:

    You’ve been blessed.

  3. Diane from California Says:

    I’ve owned many dogs over the years. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced distemper. It’s a terrible death. In fact, I can’t remember even hearing about a dog who survived distemper before. What a wonderful blessing, and a great story!

  4. Barry Higgins Says:

    From Barry in Texas
    Thanks all. We really have been blessed. Diane, it is really interesting: every time there is a new assistant at our vet’s office, they are called in to look at Millie’s teeth, given it is such a rare occurance to have a dog survive distemper, and with literally no problems. My wife and I are still in awe that she survived and talk about how amazing that morning was.
    thanks again
    God bless