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A Tribute to Tika Marie Markowski

57 weeks ago, I was lying in bed one evening with the late Chance Markowski (our bull mastiff lab), and via Instagram's explore feature, I saw this picture below from an account I didn't even follow @narps2015.

At the time, Chance, 13, had been declining in health, and while I knew we were not going to adopt or foster another dog until he went home to heaven; something about this little girl's eyes made me stop and save her on my IG account. I remember whispering to Chance that he was the king; we were going to let him live out his life before we got another dog; and I reassured him that we would carry him up and down the stairs as many days as he wanted to stay here on Earth.

He passed two (2) weeks later; about mid-week, I remembered the dog from my feed, and I asked if she was still available. That Sunday, my husband (fiance at the time) and I were on our way to Pennsylvania to meet Tika. I cried tears of joy when I first said hi to her because she was so beautiful and had no idea I was going to be her forever mommy (see picture below).

The way she was described to us, Darryl and I thought she was going to have to be separated from our dog Noelle, forever. It seemed that the trauma of being used as a bait dog left her more triggered by dogs than humans. She was delivered with a supplement for the evening to calm her down and help her sleep; and Trazadone for separation anxiety during the day. Tika was great with people, but seeing unfamiliar dogs put her into this possessed frame of mind; her eyes would get really big; her ears would go up; and she would be waiting for an attack.

Interestingly enough, Tika did not take long at all to accept Noelle as her sister. Despite a handful of incidences where we had to keep them apart, they got along really well; we learned to be mindful of food and toy aggression (mainly from Noelle). Once Noelle would growl at Tika to warn her away from food or toys, it would be game on. Unfortunately, in those incidences that we had to pull them away, Tika would be the one who would need to be cared for because her nub of a nose was very sensitive and would bleed.

In between those shameful incidences was a ton of love. She loved to sleep on top of Darryl or I. She was a big fan of naps, sleeping, walks, rides, and FOOD! When we first got her, she would eat poop from the yard; we assumed it was a survival strategy from her early years, but over time she broke the habit as she realized that she was getting great food and a ton of treats from

She settled into our home after a while, and seriously, I was just obsessed with love for her. I must have taken at least three or four pictures of her a day. I was so proud when she was asleep and happy. It was hard in the beginning to look at her and not imagine the kind of pain that she endured. I am sure the thoughts haunted me and her father more than her. She still knew how to love, she knew how to be happy, and really at the end of the day, that is all she wanted. Unlike a human who might be vengeful, her past was so far behind her, the only residue left behind was with her reactions to unfamiliar dogs. Her resilience was just so inspiring to me - her desire to move along and soak in all the love she was given.

After a while, we didn't see her injuries, and didn't contemplate her past; it was just all about how she pretty much owned us. Everything was about Tika and her sister Noelle. Tika's needs dominated, but she really didn't need or want anything but us to be on the couch or bed with her, fed, taken on walks and rides. She wasn't big on going outside; she was a homebody for sure. The living room belonged to her.

When we would take her anywhere for walks, she became the topic of conversation with almost everyone we passed. As her mom, the best responses were always when people were sweet to her, didn't treat her differently, talked about how sweet she was, and stopped to pet her. Even if they asked about her nose, the fact that they weren't startled by her appearance was such relief; I just wanted her to be loved. Of course, there were always the few (mostly kids) who would be taken aback and maybe say something snarky, but they didn't know any better.

People were always curious about how she ate, wondered if she could smell, and whether there was a surgery that could be done to protect her nub nose. She ate just fine; we learned that the flat dry food was easier for her to eat than round; she had retained 100% of her sense of smell after the injury; and really, surgery to reconstruct her nose would have been extensive, and was not necessary because she was in an environment where she was protected (most of the time).

About three (3) months ago, Tika was chewing on a bone (which she loved to do) until it became sharp and (we think) it poked her in the nose. Her nose would NOT stop bleeding with pressure, and I rushed her to our veterinary hospital, Bayshore Vet Hospital. The doctors there were so amazing; they were able to stop the bleeding, sedated her, and gave her fluids to replenish her hydration after what she lost. While the doctor was examining her blood under a microscope, she notice heartworms. She came to us and asked if we knew she had them; we did not. We knew when she arrived at the rescue in Pennsylvania that she had it, but was treated; however, she also had more pressing issues - the nose injury and high anxiety that was so unhealthy it required medication.

Nonetheless, she survived the bleeding episode, and as traumatic as THAT was, at least we learned about the heartworms THEN as opposed to it being unknown. Long story short, we started her treatment for the heartworms.

During the nosebleed incident, and the beginning of her heartworm treatment, Tika's sister Noelle took the journey home to heaven, dying of natural causes. Shortly thereafter, we adopted a dog from Home Free Animal Rescue, Ginger, who was saved from a kill shelter in South Carolina. True to form, in the beginning, Tika was not happy about the new addition, but Ginger's disposition was perfect for Tika! She was submissive, about the same size, and Ginger would never growl at Tika, thereby inciting a potential fight. Ginger was the complete opposite. After about one month, Tika had no problem eating her food and then meandering over to Ginger's dish WHILE she was still eating! She went from being protected to being a boss lady! We had to monitor eating times to make sure Tika minded herself.

Two weeks following Tika's final shots, we had to rush her back to the vet, for what (unknowingly to us at the time) would be her last visit. Tika loved our veterinary hospital, and they loved her. We had to make a very hard decision between putting her through a very lengthy and risky surgery, and letting her go, comfortably, warm, in a place that she loved, with both of her parents present.

I do not want this blog to be about how and why her soul finally returned to heaven, so I am going to leave it at, she eventually passed away as a result of complications from heartworm treatment.

What is important to me, is that people know how very special she was; how much joy and love she brought to our family; and how we would take her in and love her all over again, even knowing the final outcome. There isn't a price to the level of satisfaction and contentment we experienced in knowing that she never had to worry about being abused and neglected again. Every tail wag, every smile, and cuddle was worth being a part of her journey as challenging as it was at times.

There is a ton of peace in knowing that she is now in a state of perpetual peace, love, treats, walks, and also, she can see how much she meant to so many people. fine. And we will be, too; it just might take us longer. We wanted so much more time with her than we got; but I am not sure any amount of time would have sufficed, and since when do our desires dominate God's "Plan"? Only God knows why what is what, and what is best - for us AND for Tika-mimis. Until we meet her again, my husband and I hope her story is an inspiration for everyone to choose to adopt and save a dog; love them unconditionally for whatever time we have them; and respect that the grief of dog parents is real, but worth it.

Slideshow of Tika