When Life Feels The Most Real

In Advice by Mindy WhiteLeave a Comment

My name is Mindy and I’m an animal addict. If you know me at all, you’ve known this for a long time now. Dogs, cats, otters, birds, cows, pigs, fish, even most reptiles—you name it, I’m obsessed. I’ve always had a deep love for them. I can’t explain why, but I think it’s their pure hearts, the fact that they can’t speak for themselves, and how they generally need our help and love. In my opinion, animals hold this innocence that not even babies or young kids have—it’s just so pure and sweet. I feel they were put on this earth to keep us sane.

10 years ago, I got my little Derby (aka Derbear aka Bear aka love of my life). I had been searching for a yorkie pup for a year but didn’t want to buy from a breeder (which is usually the only way to get a purebred yorkie) so I just waited patiently until an opportunity arose. One morning, I woke up at 6am on a whim to check the Classifieds and low and behold, a lady was selling her family dog’s pups for just $150 each. I drove as fast as possible, hoping to get a female, but when I got there, there was just one single pup left—the runt, Derby. He was shivering out of nervousness and fear from seeing strange people come into his home and take his brothers and sisters away. I’ll never forget, he had this tiny blue bow tied on the top of his head. In that moment, I loved him so much already. I didn’t ask any questions, handed over the money as fast as possible, scooped him up, and took him home. The whole ride home he never cried, yelped, barked, or complained. I think he knew I already loved him and that we were going to be best friends forever. I did everything with Derby. We went to the park, had picnics together, got chased down in stores multiple times because of health code (and had to explain that I thought he should be able to pick out his toys, haha), and I even took him on road trips to other states. I have never loved a dog so much in my life, and he knew it. He was always such a great boy, too. No behavioral problems with chewing, barking, aggression, or anything—he was always just so content, happy, and sweet.

About a year and a half after I got Derby, I had the opportunity to join a band called Lydia and tour the world playing music—something I had dreamed of doing my entire life. It was the hardest decision ever to leave Derby home with my mom knowing I would be gone on tour often, but my mom is a big reason why I have such compassion for animals in general—she loves them more than life itself—so I knew he would be in great hands and would be completely content. I ended up touring for 9 years straight with a few months home out of the year. Every time I came home, Derby was there to welcome me with kisses, cuddles, and so much love, just like I had never left, but he obviously grew very fond of my mom overtime. I eventually slowed down on touring and was able to spend everyday with Derby again, which was the best thing ever.

Unfortunately, last 3 years of my life have been insanely difficult with lots of tough family situations, childhood trauma suddenly beginning to affect me, and just lots of big life changes happening, causing me to have uncontrollable anxiety with panic attacks. I don’t talk ever about this stuff because frankly, it’s not something to be proud of. My mom went through a really rough situation right at the beginning of it all (which hit me extremely hard) and then lost her dog, so in trying to help her cope with everything, I offered to let her keep Derby for emotional support instead of having him come live with me. This in itself killed me because he’s my BABY and I needed to catch up on missed time! But I was trying to do whatever I could to keep her spirits high and they both adore each other so much, that I knew it was the right thing to do. Plus, I got to visit all the time.

This past week I woke up to a call from my mom, hysterical, saying that Derby was in the ICU from being hit by a truck and wasn’t doing well at all. I can’t describe the moment much besides that I absolutely lost my mind. Derby is my baby. How could this happen? Why did this happen? Is he going to die? She said he escaped out the front door and a big truck hit him and drove off. I threw on whatever clothes I found first and sped to the animal hospital. We found out he’s got major head trauma, a severe hernia, a fractured pelvis, fractured hip, fractured knee with torn ligaments, and more possible damage inside that they can’t see. The doctors were already beginning to prepare us to say goodbye but wanted to continue monitoring him for a few days. I can’t explain the pain, anguish, fear, and racing thoughts that were going through my mind. It was my fault, I felt. I had extreme guilt because I felt this wouldn’t have happened if I had been there to throw myself in front of the truck—yes, I would have.

We were told to go home, let Derby rest, and just wait for updates from the doctors. Terrified, anxious, sick, depressed, confused, and angry, I tried to remember that if he is supposed to make it, he will—point blank—but that still didn’t feel fair. After 2-3 days of the ICU doctors witnessing Derby having both horrible and decent moments, they tell us a neurosurgeon said his brain swelling went down and vitals are good enough to begin his many surgeries, but that it’s still a big risk for any surgery because he is technically a senior dog now and they also discovered that he has an enlarged heart. We told the doctors to do whatever they had to do in order to help Derby survive, unless, of course, he would have a bad quality of life after, because we’re not trying to selfishly keep him for our own reasons. They agreed it was worth a shot because he deserves a chance.

As of today, Derby has made it through ONE of at least THREE surgeries. We are now waiting to hear if and when he will be stable enough to move onto the next two, as theres always a big risk he sill could not make it. He is going to need a lot of time resting in the ICU after all of these surgeries, if he survives them all, along with tons of rehabilitation and big life changes. And you know what? The fear, stress, money, anguish, tears—it’s all worth it. Obviously, none of us are permanent and we all have to go at some point, but he doesn’t deserve to go like this.

Some people don’t understand loving and caring for animals like you would your own child or family member. In fact, I’ve actually had legit backlash from friends or others through social media for calling my dog “my baby” before, telling me I have “no idea what it takes or feels like to be a mom” and that “dogs are just dogs”. Frankly, I am shocked anyone feels that way and legitimately am sad for those who aren’t open to accept the unconditional love that comes from a pet. Pets are happy, kind, supportive, hilarious, concerned, loving, and have never hurt me, especially not the way humans have. Derby is more than just a dog to me, he’s been my baby, my support, and my best friend for 10 years. I have deeply loved him with all of my heart and as much as I ever would my own child.

All in all, if anyone is actually still reading this insanely long and open post, I just want to say that I am truly appreciated for the support I’ve received from friends, family, and strangers. I’ve never written anything this personal anywhere online, but for some reason if feels therapeutic and I guess it’s a way of coping. I just know that it’s not until life knocks you down that you realize how many things in life don’t matter, how much we take for granted, and you really see who truly and deeply really cares about you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and for those sending prayers, positive thoughts, good juju, whatever—please keep it coming.