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To Hell and Back: A Puppy Story

The puppy that almost broke our family

By: Sonia Jones

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Featured photo Cindy Hughes at Muddy Love

I didn’t love my puppy at first… I didn’t even really like her. And it took two years and her almost dying before I finally came around.

When we got Poppy (our fourth Husky) we were cautiously confident. We already lived by the cardinal rule with Huskies: expect the unexpected. And we’d successfully raised three young Huskies at the same time and survived, we could do it again… right?


(That resounding silence is me eating my words.)

In 2020, like so many people, we got a puppy. It had been eight months since our first Husky, Eve, passed, and I couldn’t bear the thought of eventually having a dog that didn’t know any of our original three, so I started to look.

And then, as if by some Husky magic, a litter of puppies that had previously been waitlisted had a spot. Call it fate, kismet, “meant to be”, whatever… I wholeheartedly believed that in that moment we were destined to welcome another Husky—the “perfect fit” Husky—into our family. But destiny has a very funny sense of humour, as I was about to find out.

Because the puppies were still developing personalities, we were told they would be placed in the best home based on their individual temperaments. Tentatively, we were supposed to get a very sweet grey and white puppy, whom I had already, against all advice, named Olive. And then, one day, I did the stupidest thing imaginable: I mentioned that I liked spirited dogs and asked if we could get (and I quote) “the crazy one.” My husband still reminds me daily of this glaring error in judgement.

All of a sudden, we were getting the runt of the litter: a tiny red and white husky with “personality” who didn’t really seem like an Olive at all. We ended up naming her Poppy, and our lives have literally never been the same.

I’m not sure if there are enough words in the English language to describe Poppy (aka Satan—said tongue-in-cheek and with love MOST of the time).

Poppy is the antithesis of chill. She has absolutely NO chill. Ever. She screams constantly—and not that deep Husky woo-woo that people narrate on YouTube and everybody finds so charming. No, no… Poppy screeches—loudly and at all times.

She screams when she’s happy, she screams when she’s tired, she screams when she wants anything: food, water, a belly scratch—which she curiously demands ANY time the car stops moving. And no, I’m not exaggerating. She’s actually staring me directly in the eyes as I’m typing and high-pitched whining at me for no reason.

photos Cindy Hughes at Muddy Love

At first, I think we both thought we had just forgotten how hard it was to have a puppy, but when we bumped into our neighbours of 12 years, we realized we weren’t overreacting: “Uhhh, what’s with your new Husky?” Uh oh, I thought. What now? “I think she’s louder than all three of your original Huskies, combined… for all the years you’ve had them.” Which is basically Poppy in a nutshell: extra in every way to the point of being (borderline) unbearable. Even my in-laws had a no-Poppy rule for a while—and I don’t blame them.

“It was pure and utter chaos. And it carried on like this (strained, injurious, and borderline murdersome) for two years—until she almost died.”

At 10 weeks, she decided to make our senior cats her “best friends” and would chase them around the house, growling, play-bowing, and pouncing on them despite all corrections and endless “cool downs” in her kennel. When she tired of that, she tortured, bit, and jumped on our old dogs, which became dangerous as she got older (and stronger) to the point of them needing pain meds, acupuncture, and chiropractic—and ultimately required separate walks.

And that’s when she started injuring us. Despite extensive training, when you turned your back to talk to someone on a walk, or check on traffic, or pick up poop, she would get the “zoomies” and literally sprint, full speed in the other direction, almost dislocating your shoulder out of its socket with her leash. We started visiting the chiropractor too.

And don’t get me wrong, despite all of this, we cared about her and FOR her as well as our beloved senior dogs who were 12 and 13 at the time, but we also found it impossible to connect with her and really fall in love with her.

It was pure and utter chaos. And it carried on like this (strained, injurious, and borderline murdersome) for two years—until she almost died.
Last summer, we met up for a hike with our Instagram friends (@ourwildestories) who were in town from Eastern Canada. After spending the first half of the hike apologizing for Poppy’s psychosis, we set up camp for lunch beside a beautiful river: three humans, a normal dog, Poppy, and a baby. It was serene and peaceful and yet, somehow, Satan managed to covertly ingest enough sand (it’s a rock beach) to completely block her intestines.

I still don’t know how she managed it. She was on leash, she was supervised, and she wasn’t actually EATING the sand—she was digging holes and biting the water as it filled back in. And yet, there we were at two a.m. at the emergency vet with a limp and freakishly quiet Poppy.

Terrified, with so few options. Surgery would put her at risk of getting sand all throughout her abdominal cavity, and every day she didn’t pass the blockage put her at risk of sepsis. This was life or death, 24/7.

We spent the next four days moving her from vet to vet, depending on who could give her the best care at any given time of day (we wanted her at our vet during the day and would drive her to Emergency at night). We didn’t eat. We slept in our car between transports and visited her any chance we could.

The game was “Get Poppy to Poop,” and we were all failing. Despite endless different medications, enemas, IV fluids, and even acupuncture, she was getting worse. Every morning we would drop her off at our vet with a half-hearted “pray-for-poop” joke, and by mid-day would get the same horrifying update: no poop, but she’s so calm and lovely and sits quietly all day. Poppy quiet and lovely? Something was REALLY wrong. It was not looking good.

photos Cindy Hughes at Muddy Love

On day five, we brought her home in the afternoon between transports to see our other Huskies and “gently” walk her as instructed by our vet. We walked slowly up and down our street in silence, her weak little frame swaying woozily from medication and lack of food. She was a shell of her former self: her pitiful little body shaved in spots, with IV ports sticking out of both her front legs.

And I remember her looking up at me, eyes glassy with a look of despair in them and just saying to her: “You are the strongest little s#*! I’ve ever met. Don’t you give up on me now. We have so much we need to catch up on and so much more to do.” And then the most magical thing happened: she circled for what seemed like eternity, she squatted, and all our prayers were answered.

I don’t think I’ve been happier about poop in my life. I was literally running and screaming and crying down the street—the neighbours probably thought I was nuts.

But it wasn’t until the next day that we knew she was in the clear. She went back to our vet the next morning as a precaution, to stay on fluids to make sure everything else moved through her. She was scheduled from nine to five, and at three p.m. we got a call from the vet. It was unscheduled, so at first, we were worried, but then we heard it… heard her.

Screaming so loud from the back of the building that you could hear her through the phone in the front reception area: loud, and violent, and clear. She was back. And I’ve never been so glad to hear her in my life.

The receptionist seemed less enthused:“Do you think you might want to come get her early?” she asked, obviously frazzled by her incessant noise. “Absolutely. We’re on our way.”


This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!

Last Updated:

By: Sonia Jones
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