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by Mike Reed

In 1979, when my son Bobby was 3 years old, I was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Bobby was asthmatic, and at least twice a week, either my wife Kay or I spent a night in the emergency room, trying to get his breathing right. The little fellow really had a rough time.

On one occasion, a Colonel (a pediatric specialist) told me: "Get a Chihuahua." I laughed when he told me this, but he was dead serious. Upset that I questioned him, he took me into his office and said, "Son, I have practiced medicine for well over 25 years, and although I know there is absolutely nothing in the medical books to validate what I am going to tell you, I'm still telling you to get a Chihuahua."

So, with Kay pushing me out the door and Bobby in my arms, we made our way home.

Reading the paper, I found the name of a lady who bred and sold Chihuahuas on the backbay side of Biloxi. We placed an order, and when the litter of two pups was born, she called to let us know.

About 6 weeks later, she invited us to her home to let Bobby pick out which one of the females he wanted. Bobby, who really was nothing more than a toddler, leaned over into the box and held his hand out. One black female Chihuahua with a white mark on her little pear shaped head bobbled up and tried to get into his tiny hand. In no time, she was selected.

Bobby rubbed her, and she went back to sleep. We had to leave then, and although Bobby wanted the pup to come too, we had to wait two more weeks, per the lady's instructions.

I must say, the $200 I paid for the new puppy -- we named her "Asthma"-- was the best money I have ever spent in my life.

When we took her home, Asthma slept with Bobby. She cuddled beside him at night, and we could hear them frolicking around the bed.

Over a period of about two weeks, Bobby's visits to the emergency room mysteriously began to subside. His breathing problems were few. In less than six weeks, Asthma's eyes began to appear to do what some would think was crying; they watered a lot and ran often, but otherwise she was fine and playful.

Asthma continued to sleep with Bobby until he was in high school and left for the Army, where he became Special Forces, and later a Paratrooper, qualifying in Halo, (High Altitude/Low Open). He jumps from as high as 30,000 feet.

Whether or not Asthma performed some medical miracle, I don't know -- and frankly, I don't care. Our trips to the ER stopped; Bobby wheezed at times, but even that wheezing subsided. Asthma had earned her place forever in our hearts, and yes, she was family, and she knew it.

We took Asthma to England with us when we moved there in 1986. Getting her into the country cost me $3,000 because under British law all animals that come in must be quarantined for six months to protect against rabies.

When I retired three years later in 1989, we moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and by then the ole girl was showing age. She still was the "Matron" of the house, and no one entered withour her approval. She was Bobby's little girl, but she loved Kay and me and, of course, Becky, our daughter. She considered herself high protector, and you have never heard such a noise if she thought something was wrong. That dog would get between us and anything -- and she didn't even weigh 2.5 pounds. She had guts!

Finally, age crept up on Asthma -- she was blind, couldn't hear, had no teeth, and was so frail. Our veterinarian finally told me he could keep her going, but he asked, "Mike, just how long do you intend to prolong this?"

It hit me then -- Asthma was dying. This precious canine friend who had stood between us and harm so unselfishly was now allowing her existence to be placed into my hands. I couldn't give the okay to put her to sleep. I was in my late 40s, and I cried as if my parents had died. I loved this little creature with four legs, a frail body and eyes that could pierce your heart. She was family, and to put her down, to me, was nothing more than murder. I cried.

I went back and talked with the vet. I sat down and he told me that life comes to an end for all of us, whether we die naturally, get killed or whatever, and in animals, when they reach the point of being unable to do as they have always done, we have the responsibility as their trusted and loyal friends to care for them; in doing this, yes, we must keep them from suffering.

The day I finally took Asthma in, I apologized to the Vet. There I was, a grown man crying as I stood there, rubbing her and holding her close. Yes, she was just a dog, but to me she was far more -- she was family, and she got us through a hard time. She traveled the world with us, and we had fond memories of her puppyhood.

Letting her go was practically like losing a child and almost unbearable. The Vet came in, put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Mike, you can hold her if you'd like. I give you my word, this is painless. I just give her a larger than normal anesthetic, and she goes into a deep sleep . . . and it's over."

We did it -- but not before I told her I loved her and thanked her for the joy and pleasure she brought into our lives. Then she was gone.

After I dug her grave, I placed the tiny casket into the ground. We all cried, and my son, who never cried, was inconsolable. He said he never wanted another dog, and he meant it.

I hope and pray there is a rainbow bridge to Heaven for our beloved pets. In my own way I do believe that. Really, who's more deserving than our faithful animal friends?

Our pets love us regardless of the circumstances. They accept us and what we dish out, and they're always there to comfort us.

Indeed, they love us when we don't even love ourselves . . .


Mike Reed lives in Eupora, Mississippi, but has worked overseas in the Middle East for the United States Government over the past four years. He is retired Air Force, and married to Kay, his wife of 35 years. They are the parents of two children, a daughter Becky and a son Bobby.

For more pet stories at USADEEPSOUTH, visit these pages:
My Dog Bob by Jody Correro
Cats by Tom Givens
Eulogy For My Dog by Frank DiGianni
Snowball by Clyde Boswell

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