How to Refinish a Dog

For me, a house just is not a home unless there is an animal in it. 2011 was a difficult year for us. First my Freckles the Freak passed away in January at fifteen and a half years of age. Then, Douglas’ Sambucca died two months after her seventeenth birthday in November. Pets are an amazing source of love and comfort, but they sure leave a big hole when they go. Here is the Christmas card from our last Christmas together.

Christmas Card 2010

Suddenly, I was coming home to a silent house after fifteen years of canine companionship. I did not know what to do with myself and begged Douglas to get another dog. He did not think he was ready. I haunted, falling in love over and over again with the adorable dogs and cats. By the end of January, Douglas, sick of being bombarded with dog pictures when he came home from work every night, gave in, and we went to look at Onyx at the Goldens Bridge Veterinary Care Center. They were treating her for the rescue agency, Ruff Start Rescue.

First day home

Onyx had many of the qualities that we were looking for. We knew that we had to have a dog that would be good with other dogs, cats and small children. The beauty of is that it allows you to specify this. I wanted a small dog. Freckles at twenty five pounds was the perfect size for me. Douglas wanted a bigger dog, one that he could go running with, but he understood how much I had struggled to help Bucca once she began to have trouble walking. Onyx at thirty five pounds, seemed like a good compromise. After having a white dog and a black dog in the same house, we knew that going forward we wanted all of our animals to be the same color. Black animals are less likely to be adopted, so we decided we wanted them. I wear a lot of black so the fur does not show up as much on my clothing. As her name suggests, Onyx fit this criterion as well. I do not like puppies and wanted to get a dog that was already housebroken. On the other hand, we did not want a dog that was too old. We had spend several years caring for elderly dogs, and we were not looking forward to starting again. Onyx was between two and three. It all sounded perfect.


Our visit was scheduled for a Saturday afternoon, but a sudden snowstorm cancelled our plans, and we had to wait until the following day. When we arrived, everyone began singing Onyx’s praises. We were told that she was very shy but sweet. Everyone loved her, and we could see how good she was with the other animals and the people that worked there. However, we were there for forty minutes, and she did not let us touch her once. We knew that she had heart worms, it was in her file on, but we did not know that she did not have very much hair, and what hair she had was course. She did not look good.


Douglas was determined not to look at a lot of dogs. He was afraid that he would want to take them all home. I knew that he was not going to be able to leave her behind. Sure enough, he started  explaining to me why we should take her. We both knew that the chances of her getting adopted, looking the way that she did and as shy as she was, would not be likely.  The vet’s assistant cried with happiness when we told her that we were going to take the dog home. Everyone was sad to see her leave; Onyx was sad too.

First day home

That is how the Cape of Dreams, one time a home for geriatric dogs, became a refinishing school for one lucky girl. The first thing to change was her name. Douglas has had the tradition of naming his pets after alcohol. Good friends of ours also have a dog named Onyx, and we knew that it would be confusing when the dogs were together. Hence, Onyx became Kahlua.

Kahlua and Jessica

Her trials were not over, however. She had never been spayed. They were waiting for her to get over the heart worms before they operated because surgery would be riskier if she still had the worms. A couple of days after we got her home, she started dripping blood from her back end. We called the vet immediately, and they told us that had been happening. They believed that she had cysts and were planning to remove them when they spayed her. This was the first time that cysts had been mentioned. She was even sicker than we had been told when we adopted her.

Kahlua and Douglas

We had to go out and buy her a diaper. We put maxi pads in the diaper and changed them regularly. Very little is more disgusting than changing your dog’s maxi pads, especially for Douglas. Luckily he has medical training and was not as disturbed by it as some men might be. ******* Edit: Douglas got upset that I said he had “some” medical training. In reality he is a certified Athletic Trainer (Field of Sports Medicine).

Dog in diaper

A couple of weeks later, we went to visit my brother and his wife. The bleeding became worse. Soon, we were changing the pads much more regularly and blood was all over the floor. I appreciate my family so much for putting up with it and not throwing us out. We took Kahlua to the vet when we got back. They did a blood test and determined that she was still not in a dangerous enough situation to warrant the risky operation. We kept changing the pads and taking care of her as best we could. She rewarded us by huddling in a corner and hoping that we would not touch her. You can see the blood on the bed in the picture.

Dog in diaper

That week things got worse. By then we were putting two maxi pads in the diaper and changing them almost every hour. She was bleeding so much, and we were scared. Then, she started peeing on the floor. This alarmed me because she had never done this before. I called Douglas immediately to tell him that I thought she had a urinary tract infection. He told me that the vet had told him that could happen. He never relayed that information to me. I told him that I wanted to take her to the vet right then. He did not think the UTI was very bad. “ALL UTIs are HORRIBLE!” I responded. We took her to the vet. They did another blood test and realized that she was in a bad situation. They did not think that she would have survived another day if we had not sought medical attention. They had to do an emergency surgery immediately that was very risky. We waited at home with our hearts in our throats. All I could think of was the fact that Douglas would probably leave me if she died. He had told me repeatedly that he was not ready to bring another dog into our home. He was scared to open up his heart again after losing two dogs in one year, and I had not listened. I had introduced him to Kahlua and made it possible for him to care for another dog, one that was now on the operating table fighting for her life. If she did not make it, I was scared that he would never forgive me.

Dog after surgery

Luckily, our little girl is a fighter, and the people at Goldens Bridge Veterinary Care Center were wonderful. She survived her surgery and came home weakened but alive. The real refinishing began at that time. Kahlua had spent much of her life on the streets in South Carolina. She was afraid of people and would not eat food that was given to her. She was wary even of eating out of her bowl. She would take a bite of food, bring it into the living room and eat it there. She never ate very much. Slowly, by giving her a lot of love and patience, we started to earn her trust. She loved to be outside, and Douglas would take her on runs daily. She was getting stronger. Sometimes, he would take her to work with him. The kids loved her and would shower her with attention that she hated at first and came to endure. She was coming out of her shell. We gave her a high brand of dog food and supplemented her diet with a couple of cooked eggs a week. She started to gain weight, and her fur was growing back softer.

Kahlua on the mend

In the past year, she has changed so much that it is hard to imagine the scared, sick, little girl that she used to be. She now lets people pet her, and she greets us at the door when we get home. She still runs every day and ran twenty nine miles last week.

Douglas and Kahlua

Adopting the cat was one of the best things we could have done. Crème loves Kahlua so much and refuses to take no for an answer. She has gotten Kahlua to start playing; they snuggle together every night.

Kahlua and Cream Kahlua and Cream

Last Tuesday, January 22, 2013 was Kahlua’s one-year anniversary with us. We, Douglas especially, spoiled her rotten that day. We love her and could not imagine life without her. With Kahlua and Cream our house is a home.

Kahlua and Cream

We would like to thank, Ruff Start Rescue, and Goldens Bridge Veterinary Care Center for making this adoption possible. I hope that you will consider adoption if you are looking for a pet. You can also donate to them to help make adoptions possible for other people.

Happy Homemaking!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

I am a teacher, traveler, artist, writer, homemaker and a whole lot more. In January 2009, I bought the Cape of Dreams. It was the second house that I had ever owned, but it was the first that I bought by myself. I now live in the house with my husband Douglas, our dog Kahlua, and Crème de Menthe, the cat. Because, what life is complete without a little Kahlua and Cream? I love arts and crafts of all kinds, and I refinish furniture as well. We are slowly redoing our entire house. You can read about my projects on my blog

Tagged with: , , , , ,
9 comments on “How to Refinish a Dog
  1. Stacey says:

    Such a sweet story, Jessica. You saved a life… and now she gets to share it with you. We have always adopted pets from the humane society and usually they are adults because I always feel like they may be the last to get adopted.
    Pets do make a home and fill it with love and happiness. I can’t imagine life without our kitties. Inspiring post! She’s in the best home ever!

  2. Jenilyn says:

    Jessica! This story has me in tears. You and Douglas are so awesome!

  3. Lori says:

    You guys are the best. Having been doing this for many years I can honestly say that there are not a lot of adopters that would do for their dog like you have. Thank you so much for saving, loving and da,ring for Kahlua. She looks beautiful and your story brought tears to my eyes.

    Lori, Ruff Start Rescue

    • Thank you Lori for all that you do to help dogs. I think that an even harder job than we had with Onyx/Kahlua would be seeing so many dogs that have been abused and not being able to help them all. That is why Douglas limited me to only visiting one, because he would have wanted to bring them all home.

  4. WOW! What an amazing and heart-warming story! I can’t believe how stressful that must have been in the beginning, not knowing what was wrong and how best to take care of her problems. And I agree – any UTI is an emergency! Been there, done that! I wouldn’t want anyone or any animal to suffer through that longer than necessary. I love that Creme got Kahlua to play, too. When we adopted Bonkers (our 2nd black rescue cat), he was a mess, too. Scared, shy, missing fur. Darwin (our first black rescue cat) taught him to play over time and now they play all the time. And sometimes snuggle, but not often. Bonkers snuggles with me every night – I love it! Great story! Amazing. Kahlua definitely found the right forever home!

    • Jessica says:

      Isn’t it wonderful to see the difference in rescued pets after they spend some time in a good home. I do not understand how anyone could mistreat an animal. We adopt black animals because they are the ones that have the hardest time finding a home. It seems that you do too! Thank you for making a difference in animals’ lives!

      • It’s amazing to compare photos of our beloved rescues (yours / mine / everyone’s) right after taking them home versus after a few months/years of living in a happy home! They all have that vacant, lost look in their eyes at first – so heartbreaking. It’s wonderful to see them perk up, and see their spirits, fur and eyes brighten when they realize they can relax and start to enjoy life again! Yes, we gravitate towards the black ones, too! Poor Birdie (our 3rd rescue) had been at the shelter for over a year!

3 Pings/Trackbacks for "How to Refinish a Dog"
  1. […] Quite contrary, I would have to say, at least that is how my garden has grown in the past. I am hoping that this year will be different. To be honest, it always starts out well. I love to garden in the spring, and Kahlua is happy with how things look. I finally got a great picture of her. Have you ever seen such a happy dog. It is hard to believe that merely a year ago she was on the brink of death. […]

  2. […] nearly as important as other aspects of my life. For this reason I have also written posts about our dog, our cat, my husband, our wedding, my trip to Venezuela, our trip to South Carolina, […]

  3. […] popular post with my readers was “How to Refinish a Dog,” Kahlua’s adoption story. I still get choked up when I read it and am glad that other […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *