By Kimberley Corby (and Trooper)
It was quite apparent from the onset that I was different from the others. I heard humans joyfully laughing and cuddling with my littermates, when suddenly, I was scooped up and turned upside down and around. “Now why are they doing this,” I thought to myself. After several minutes of this annoying behavior I heard someone say, “This one is not going to make it.” I thought my already weakened heart was going to stop! Who did they think they were? Could they not feel the heart of a trooper beating in the palms of their hands? I whimpered silently, “Don’t count me out yet.” Just then, I was gently placed back with my littermates.
Due to the fact that I had been the last one of nine to make my final descent down that long dark tunnel, I was determined to not be the last one in the food line. However, over the next several days, I began to notice that my appetite just wasn’t what it should have been and I wasn’t gaining any weight. On the eighth day, I could no longer suckle and the humans were becoming quite concerned. They tried desperately, to no avail, to bottle-feed me. Later that day I began to have trouble breathing, I could barely lift my head. I could hardly hear my heart beating. Suddenly I was scooped up and briskly whisked away. I could feel my weak heart trying desperately to beat faster. I told myself, “I have got to hold on, I haven’t even learned to play with tennis balls, go for long walks, and do all the other things Golden Retrievers like me love to do.”
We were moving at a rapid pace now and all the bouncing around was not helping my breathing. Suddenly, I heard, “Technician to the lobby, stat.” This woman lifted me up and kissed the tip of my nose. She swiftly transported me to another room, setting me on something very cold and putting this mask on my face. I could breath. “Thank you,” I barked silently. “You’re welcome little one,” she said as if reading my mind. I must have dozed off for a bit, but I awoke to voices shouting all around me. “Oh my, the poor little guy only weighs one pound at eight days old.” “Heart sounds are displaced, his respirations are labored, and heart rate is very weak and slow.” “Get a lateral chest X-ray, blood glucose, and then we will go from there.”
The technician kissed the tip of my nose again. “Ouch,” something poked my paw. I cried again and then there were bright lights shining down on my tiny body. I heard funny sounds all around and my chest hurt very badly. Then I heard more voices, louder this time. “Don’t get attached to him. ” “Wow, look how large his heart is.” “Surgery, he’ll never make it.” “Please don’t put him to sleep, I will adopt him. Yes, I know what his chances are.” “All right, but don’t name him.” These humans were speaking as if I wasn’t even there. I wanted to bark at them, but my heart was just too weak. The technician picked me up again, kissed the tip of my nose, and said calmly, “It’s okay little buddy, you’re safe now, I’ll take care of you.” She gently sat me down on a pile of fluffy blankets.
Then something was placed over my face again, which made me sleepy. It was cold and dark and something was moving around in my chest. It was a hand. How did they get a hand in my tiny chest, and why was it there? Was this a dream? I wanted to wake up. Someone shouted, “We’re losing him!” The silence was deafening. “We got a heartbeat.” A sigh of relief filled the room. Again, the technician kissed the tip of my nose. “It’s okay little buddy, sleep now, you’ve had a rough start in your short time in this world.”
I must have slept for what seemed like days, because when I awoke a bottle was being thrust into my mouth. Wow, it felt good. I was starving. My heart was beating stronger and faster. I could breathe with ease, and my tummy was full. I heard the technician again, it sounded like she was crying. “Can I name him now?” she asked excitedly. I hear someone else shout from across the room, “She probably already had him named that first moment she held him in her hand.” “You’re right,” I heard her say. “I named him Trooper.”