Ten Legs to Sunset: Billy has heart(worms)

I don’t know any way to say it other than today my little guy, 24 pound ball of muscle and mirth, the lick-happy Chi-wheenie of legend Billy, has heartworms. His partner in crime, big brother Murphy, who has been overshadowing (literally) the little love machine for these past eight years or so, is fine.

For starters – it’s my fault. I take full responsibility. Heartworms are way more prevalent in the southeast and areas with higher humidity and misquote population, but also in any place with mosquitoes settling in and around other animals or wildlife so no place is free of the disease. When we began prepping for the move home to SoCal both dogs had a clean bill of health last spring, so I figured they would be ok without continuing the heart worm preventative. But somewhere along the way or once we got here, an infected mosquito bit him, and the rest is in the diagnosis.

Our vets and friends at the Yorba Linda Regional Animal Hospital know Billy and Murphy are special (or at least they make us feel that way), and have been amazing with discussions, information, and kindness this past week or so since the diagnosis.

Life is complicated for all of us, and this is a challenging time for my little pack, while daddy (me) works his way through unexpected underemployment for the past year. That has led us to challenging living scenarios, and that’s where we are right now. Billy, you see, is gonna battle his little butt through this, but he can’t keep living out of a suitcase while he goes through treatment. Billy has to be still for somewhere between 6-8 weeks. And that means our planned summer camping excursion across the US to Auburn to reclaim our belongings, hopefully including a “couch tour” of friends along the way for our ten legs (me, Murphy and Billy) is in jeopardy. His life is in jeopardy, and while I know if you’re not a dog person you might say he’s not a human, well, I can’t really go there with you. I know the realities here.

Billy is gonna need a place to chill. Someone who lets him lounge, and doesn’t take him on long walks or hikes, doesn’t let him jump up and down and rough house with Murphy or other dogs. I’m hoping one of my dear friends might be able to help us. I’m still looking for a place for all three of us to live, but that’s problematic these days, too, with Murphy’s size and my freelance/adjunct status, rentals are brutal. Frankly, a Master’s degree and thirty-plus years of working as a professional journalist and storyteller hasn’t prepared me for this portion of life. But I digress… Billy is the story here.

He’s been to the rim of the Grand Canyon, body surfed in the Pacific Ocean, chased fish in still Alabama freshwaters, lounged by Arizona swimming pools. He’s tested Hot Springs in Arkansas (too hot!), cold winters in Oklahoma (loves the snow!). He’s snatched pesky birds, and stood his ground against an aggressive and unchecked English Bulldog (though it took Murphy, myself and a nearby dog trainer to get him out of that one.) He’s challenged horse hooves, rolled in God knows what, eaten damn near anything he’s come across. He’s climbed little mountains, big hills, long trails, usually at my heels with Murphy out front. He’s watched a lot of baseball and listened to a lot of Jimmy Buffet, but smoked no weed nor consumed any alcohol (that I am aware of, though kids be kids…). Clean living has kept him legendarily strong.

And then a damn mosquito.

We’ve done almost all of it as a pack and a family, but if need be to save his soul, we are going to break up our pack for a little bit.

So if you know anyone you trust and love who could give my little Tatonka a place to root, lay around and perhaps even get fat while the medicine kicks the heartworms’ collective asses, let us know. He’s not going down without a fight – and our pack is gonna see many more sunsets as one.



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