This is my wee pal Levi.
Noel and I adopted him way back in 1997, after he, his sister Nyota, and two other siblings were born on Valentine’s Day in the same year. We drove down to Tekapo, where we had a caravan and Noel’s sister and brother-in-law lived, for Easter and fell in love with the little Chihuahua puppies one of Noel’s sister’s employee’s dog had given birth to. (You still with me?)
Noel and I told Gavin (the employee) that we’d look after Hayley (his dog) and the puppies while he was at work, and we gladly babysat them the entire day. Once Anne and Mel’s (sister and brother-in-law) restaurant closed, we could head back into the town to help clean up and drop the puppies off. We usually got a free dinner out of helping clean up.
Someone said to let the puppies run free, so they did. They were only small mites, and Nyota and her two siblings ran around the place like chickens with their heads cut off. Levi, on the other hand, was the runt of the litter and struggled to walk very far. Noel laid down on the carpet and called the puppies, and the first puppy to come to him was Levi.
Levi had big protruding eyes but was licking Noel’s face while wagging his tail furiously, not only back and forth but also in a circular motion. (Our friend Vladimir called this his “little piggy” tail.) While the puppy cuddled close in to him, Noel looked up and saw an advertisement for Levi Strauss jeans on the wall. He called the name Levi and the puppy immediately responded to the name; it stuck.
On ANZAC Day, we took Levi and Nyota home with us. And, while Nyota had the “I’m pretty! Look at me!” attitude, bossing her brother around a bit, Levi calmly did his own thing and didn’t let things ruffle his fur too much.
They grew up quickly and slowly, but surely, wormed their way into our hearts a little more each day. Levi had a condition known as cherry eye, so he had an operation as a puppy to cure it in one eye. Noel was on the phone to the vet, saying how well it had healed, when he turned around and it popped out again in front of his very eyes. Another surgery followed, and that seemed to cure the cherry eye… only to have it reappear in the other eye! A few surgeries and puberty later, he seemed to outgrow it and be cured of it. We’re not sure which.
One day, after work, Noel and I let Jenah, Levi, and Nyota out to play in the back yard. It was towards the end of summer, so all the trees that bore fruit were dropping that fruit, and the greengage tree in our back yard had dropped its fruit. Wasps were crawling all over the fruit, and, when Levi went to investigate, he was stung by a wasp on the foot. I remember hearing a noise, like a bird, only to look down to see Levi, standing on three paws, eyes wide, and realizing it was him whining.
I rushed him to the vet. Sure enough, it was a wasp sting. (I thought it could have been that he had broken his foot somehow.) The vet doped him up on antihistamines and pain killers so much that, on the car ride home, his eyes were very wide and he was looking around as if to say, “Whoa, man. This is some great stuff, man!”
While he had always been “Noel’s dog”, he suddenly swung around to like me a bit more. I’m not sure if it was the mind-blowing drugs I subjected him or just that he appreciated I knew he needed help and got that right away or even if it was because Nyota seemed to be crazy about me, but he seemed more willing to hang out with me.
The years passed. We moved into a new house, and Levi and Nyota loved it. They no longer had to be on the window sill to see what was going on outside; there were floor-to-ceiling windows in the new place and they could see out from the ground! Of course, being the little tyke he was (and still is), any leaf blowing across our yard got the full barking treatment. Threat level 10. DEFCON 1. Red alert. Shields up, captain to the bridge.
Levi remained (other than that) a very quiet dog. When he had to go outside to go to the toilet, it was Nyota who would tell us; that’s how quiet he was.
Nyota’s heart murmur was getting worse, but the vets didn’t feel we needed to start treatment until the next annual check-up, at earliest. Still, Nyota would demand that Levi chew the fur on her chest: something that calmed her down. The night we had her put to sleep, she was extremely agitated, and we didn’t know why. She had fallen over twice, but once we assumed was because it was cold and slippery on our patio outside, and the second time we thought was because of her collapsed trachea.
But Levi tried to calm her down through it all, chewing on the fur on her chest, which seemed to work. By the time we were ready for bed, it was very apparent that something was wrong with Nyota. And, after a visit to the after hours vet which saw her struggle for breath on the way home (which saw her return to the after hours vet), Noel made the decision at about 3 AM, after the vet told him she was suffering, to put her to sleep.
Levi blossomed on his own. Sure, Jenah was around, but Jenah was a big dog and he was a small dog. We started noticing little things, like him asking to go out. He seemed a lot better behaved and a lot more balanced.
One sad side-story: A few weeks after Nyota’s death, Levi came back from the vets after having his teeth cleaned, so he was still slightly under the influence. He spent hours looking around the house for his sister. The most heart-breaking sight for me was seeing him trotting to the garage (where their enclosure and bed was), looking in to see if she was there, and him pining for her. It was the only time I ever saw him looking for her. (We think he knew she was sick before she passed.)
He still has his moments. If it’s snowing outside, or cold outside, or raining outside, or any combination of the three, he won’t go outside to pee (or grudgingly go out to pee). As he gets older, he has his routine: we get home from work, he goes outside, he comes back in. I go to the bathroom, he scratches at the door and whimpers until I come out. He badgers Noel or me until we give him his afternoon treat, which he takes to the cushion in front of the fireplace and eats it. If I am on my computer, typing a blog like this one, he comes trotting down the hall, looks in the room, and beckons me to come sit down on the couch. When I’m sitting down on the couch, he jumps into my lap and cuddles until it’s time for dinner. He waits for any human food he can get (or plates to lick clean) during our dinner, and, after that, it’s time for his dinner. Then, he sits on our knees until about 9 PM, when he decides it’s time to lay down on his cushion in front of the fireplace until it’s time for bed: a very routine-driven dog.
But he’s my pal. The other day, he took a slightly funny turn after being ill earlier in the week with the runs, and it scared the daylights out of me. I think he just got up from bed too quickly (Chihuahuas never seem to do anything at half or even normal speed) and ended up either falling asleep on his feet or passing out. He thought I was nuts watching him the rest of the day, giving him tons of cuddles and petting him and taking him all over the house with me.
He’s not as young as he used to be. Levi’s 16 now, so he’s an old puppy. He doesn’t behave like an old puppy most of the time, though, but things catch up to him a little quicker now.
Noel and I will take care of him and love him as long as we can, like Celeste and Nyota and Jenah before him. And I sincerely hope Levi lives a long, healthy life, because I love him very much!