Over the years on the island I’ve had the wonderful experience to know many islanders and their pets. Those pets become as much a part of their everyday lives as their children, especially as we grow older and find the wonderful companionship and unconditional love of an adopted four legged little addition to our families.

Such is the case with me, for I have had the wonderful experience of having one of the most loving and special relationships with my own little four-legged friend since 2009. Her name is Maddie and she came to live on the island shortly after Christmas of that year.

I have to tell you the trip to Knoxville, Tenn., to visit the breeder with a good friend of mine was one I will never forget. We had originally flew up there to look at a newly born litter of Miniature Schnauzers which were only about three weeks old. The breeder came highly recommended to me by a friend who has two standard Schnauzers and was familiar with the breeder’s reputation and credentials.

Our intent was to visit with the gentleman, pick out one of the puppies and then about 5 to 6 weeks later return and pick up our little bundle of joy. The plan was after making the choice we would drive over to the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville for a tour of this iconic American treasure in all its holiday attire.

It’s hard not to fall in love with 5 little bundles of fur when they come out and snuggle up against you with their eyes barely open, while crawling and wobbling around on the blanket before us. You just can’t help but feel good being there and seeing the joy it brings to the eyes of another while she cuddles and strokes these adorable and innocent little creatures.

Dr. Karl, the breeder and a retired professor of Animal Husbandry at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, could immediately see the connection my friend had with the breed, as well as mine.

He then told me a story of rejecting a potential home for a little 8-year-old female pup from another litter. In his soft voice and German accent he told the story of a family which had come to pick up a puppy with two children who were just not “gentle” enough in his mind. To protect his little prodigy he chose not to sell it to them and refunded their deposit. It was like he knew there would be a better fit for his little girl and he would be patient; that had occurred only two days prior to our arrival.

To make a long story short it didn’t take too long for us to fall in love with this little 8 week old fur ball. We made the visit to the mansion as planned and thoroughly enjoyed that. We then picked up the necessary items to make the flight home and Maddie would become a permanent resident of our little island paradise.

Last weekend she came for a “sleep-over” and while here she must have injured one of her little toe-nails on Saturday afternoon while we played Frisbee. I knew something was wrong with my little girl that evening when she was favoring her left rear leg and was unusually sedate. The tremors associated with pain in an animal were also beginning to present themselves. So at about 10 p.m. instead of heading upstairs to fight for my measly 10 percent of the bed while she sprawled out over the rest, we took a trip to the clinic.

This required me to take her up to Naples to a 24-hour veterinary clinic right off Davis and State Road 951. She would lay very quietly on the seat next to me for the 25-minute ride up Collier Boulevard as I would try to figure out in my mind what could be wrong.

We all know what great medical services we have for us, but what many don’t realize is the quality of the services available for our pets. Another friend of mine went through a more serious scare with his dog and cancer and I’m happy to say that was resolved and his puppy is doing well.

Maddie’s little toes are just fine and will eventually heal without a problem. I now have a much stronger understanding of the special bond all of you have with your little friends who have become part of your lives and a better understanding of the great care system we have for not only ourselves but for those little innocent balls of fur we love so much.

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