Archived Story

Part 2: How Gizmo got his groove back

Published 1:38pm Saturday, October 22, 2011

Column: Pass the Hot Dish

I can’t explain why some of us connect with dogs and some of us don’t. I only know that the relationships we have with them are as steadfast and deep as any we have with people. Sometimes I wonder if they’re not a little bit deeper.

When I left you last, friends, I was hovering over Gizmo’s lifeless body on a bleak Saturday morning. A few seconds earlier I’d heard him wail and saw him drop to the floor. His body went stiff and then limp. His eyes never closed. He looked at me like he wanted me to stop what was happening to him, and I felt helpless because I couldn’t. We would get used to this scene, but the first time terrified us both.

The seizures were the initial sign that something was wrong. They became more frequent and usually occurred in the middle of the night. At 3 o’clock in the morning a dog’s scream is an adrenaline shot through the heart. It gets you out of bed pretty fast.

I learned to lure Gizmo out of his post-seizure daze by repeating his favorite word, “chicken.” After a quick trip outside, a drink of water, and a couple bites of the promised bird, we’d fall asleep together on the sofa. It was an uneasy routine.

It took a year to piece together Gizmo’s diagnosis. In the meantime he grew weak and lost most of his coat. His tiny body had become a jigsaw puzzle of sickness: growth hormone imbalance, colitis, high triglycerides, Cushing’s disease, collapsed trachea and bad knees. I came to appreciate how important a good veterinarian is.

Dr. O never looked at my sick friend as a lost cause, but he didn’t dodge the reality of the situation either. Managing Gizmo’s illnesses required commitment and diligence from both of us. We agreed that the intention of treatment was not necessarily increased lifespan but increased quality of whatever life Gizmo had left in him.

He didn’t look or sound like a Pomeranian anymore. The lady down the street who chain-smokes in her Toyota Tercel ran a running commentary on Gizmo’s peculiarities.

“That dog sounds like a duck.”

“That’s a funny looking dog you got there.”

“What’s wrong with that dog?”

Sidney, his Yorkie brother, defended Gizmo with snarls and snaps. Finally, one morning I, too, snapped. “He has a hemorrhoid!” I yelled. I don’t know why I said that. Hemorrhoids are about the only thing Gizmo doesn’t have, but it worked. All she mustered in return was, “Oh.” That lady never said another word about my dog.

Dogs will tell you when they’re happy, but you have to listen with more than your ears. After several months on many medications, Gizmo’s symptoms abated and he was happy again. In the last few weeks his coat has even begun to grow back. I can tell he’s particularly proud of that because he’s grooming himself like a cat.

Gizmo is dancing for his dinner again and delighting in killing and rekilling my hair dryer. When they’re separated for more than 10 minutes, he and Sidney run to each other and kiss noses like two halves of the greatest love story of all time. The Gizmo who followed me around until I promised to be his person is back.

The last time we saw Dr. O. I asked him, “How can a dog with so much wrong with him enjoy life so much?”

Without a moment’s hesitation he replied, “Because that’s a dog with a great spirit.”

I know Gizmo’s remission may not last and I will have to make some tough decisions. At that point what’s best for Gizmo may not be what’s best for me, and that’s OK. Until then Gizmo and Sidney and I will take each day as it comes. We’ll enjoy the afternoon sun and roll in fresh snow. We’ll spin in circles of excitement and stare quietly at the rain. We’ll protect each other and comfort each other. Someday, if we have to, we’ll let each other go because that’s the way it is with dogs and people and love.

That’s the way it is.


Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at