What About Chuy?

What about Chuy indeed! I post a lot about Maisie, as she and I are joined at the hip, but Chuy is a big part of our family too! So here’s his story and some pictures (of course).

Back in 2016 I lost my minpin Pharaoh to heart disease. (I’m still not over it; he was a wonderful dog!) We still had our little Curly, who was really Pete’s dog, and I had my parrots, so we made the decision that we’d become a one-dog family for the first time ever. But it wasn’t long before I felt the need for a little dog on my lap again and went online to start the search.

Now let me back WAY up: in 2008 I had a stroke and one of the less endearing things I was left with was a different brain. I can go into this more if anyone wants to know but for the sake of Chuy’s story I’ll share that I was left with a processing disorder (among other things, like “chaos” during my attempts to do or understand certain things). This new brain struggles to process things like sensory input, drastic changes in the environment or routines, etc. Its ability to organize or prioritize input was greatly reduced, and attempts to overload it – like adding the phone ringing to background music, a car driving past, and one of my birds landing on my shoulder as an example – resulted/results in either a blowup or a shutdown. In one case my lack of these particular filters results in an explosion of…well, I don’t know what, but it’s not pretty and can be violent; in the other case it simply seems to stop me from conscious response at all. Either way, I never knew when too much was too much or had advance warning or any way to prevent or stop it from happening.

Back to 2016: I was looking through HUNDREDS of small dog descriptions on shelter and rescue websites, petfinder, online classified ads, etc. And while quite a few caught my eye it wasn’t until I saw Chuy that I instantly knew he was the one, and stopped looking. I wrote a letter to the seller (they wanted $30 for him) right away, and shortly after received a reply. They had had loads of interested buyers and planned to use the first-come-first-served method of determining a suitable home (!). But when they got to my letter, the teenage daughter insisted he go to me.

I learned that Chuy was from TX, this family had adopted him 6 weeks earlier from the previous owner, and that’s all they knew. They didn’t know his age or medical history or anything else. The family from whom I acquired Chuy told me they lost their lease and had to move in with a relative and couldn’t take Chuy with them. I arranged to meet with them that afternoon.

We were early (of course) and saw the family arrive. Chuy was standing on the lap of the dad and looking out the window. I grabbed my money and jumped out. The whole family “unarsed the vehicle” (as Pete would say) as the dad handed Chuy to me. Chuy looked confused and lost but responded friendily (?). The whole transaction only took a few minutes and we were on the road.

As Pete drove back to the motorhome Chuy spent the entire trip trying to crawl down the back of my shirt. And 5 years later he still hates riding in the car. He settled in easily with Curly and they became good buddies within days. Then I noticed something different about him…

Whenever an overload situation would start to happen in my brain (I wasn’t aware of them until the aftermath, remember) Chuy would jump on my lap with his front paws on my chest and stare into my eyes. I soon realized that when he did this I had maybe a split second of warning, enough time to prepare at least. It was an amazing thing though! And over time I was able to work with it and learned to stave off some of these episodes…more and more I learned what I had to do when he told me one was coming, that second made all the difference.

Over the next couple of years we lost Curly and decided – again – to just keep one dog. Chuy was amazing and helped us greatly with his intuition. At some point I read about a supplement, an animo acid actually, that is known to calm anxieties and stresses and help such responses. Because these episodes were physical responses (as opposed to emotional) I decided to try it in combination with a B complex to aid my nervous system. Within a few weeks my brain started managing things a little better, and even the “chaos” improved. At some point the blowups/shutdowns also started to slow down. That’s not a good way to describe it exactly…but the onset became less sudden and gave me a precious second or two as Chuy always provided. While I still can’t take hold and control things, I can recognize it coming, the same as Chuy had helped me to do.

Meanwhile, Chuy started spending more and more time with Pete, who was undergoing therapy through the VA for PTSD (he is a Vietnam vet), and less and less time with me. He switched sides šŸ™‚ and now he acts as an ESA for Pete, helping him as he used to help me. How does Chuy know? How did he just respond appropriately to our needs? We’ll never truly understand it but we’ve learned through life depending on God that He doesn’t always explain Himself when He meets our needs.

So it was about a year after Chuy defected šŸ˜‰ that I realized I had other needs due to a different disability that a dog could help me with…and that’s another story altogether.

Here are some photos of Chuy that I took a few days ago. When he came to us he hated riding in the car, was terrified of things like fly swatters, brooms, and raised hands, and had no clue how to play; he didn’t react or respond to toys at all, or even to other dogs’ attempts to engage him in play. So here we are over 4 years later, and we got this when Maisie walked away from one of her toys on the bed earlier this week. What a thrill!

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