The Yorkie who helped me recover from a traumatic brain injury
By Amy Zellmer
The truth is, I had always been a “cat” woman.
I had never owned a dog, and had heard how much work they were to take care of, so getting a dog wasn’t ever on my radar.
I was recently divorced and feeling a little bit lonely, and even though I had two cats at home, I still felt something was missing in my life. Soon, I was thinking I could handle a little dog.
New best friend
I reached out to the Carver-Scott Humane Society. A little Yorkie had come into the pound over the weekend. She had been abandoned by the side of the road and was looking a little underweight and shabby. They warned me that she wasn’t very friendly; she would bare her teeth at anyone who tried to pick her up. But they were happy to bring her to my home for a meeting.
This lonely, scared little Yorkie showed up at my house and promptly peed in every section of the house. When she finally let me pick her up, she licked my face and looked at me with her big brown eyes. It was puppy love at first sight.
Pixxie went with me everywhere dogs were allowed. Friends thought of her more as my child than a dog, and even friends who weren’t “dog people” would allow her to come to their home, and then say how sweet she was.
At the Starbucks drive-thru her cuteness would command the attention of the entire staff, scoring her a “puppuccino” (mini cup of whipped cream). She was also my new road-trip partner, traveling to 36 states and Canada.
Icy injury, warm puppy
We moved to a new city where we both easily settled into our new loft. I was beginning to realize how much of a companion she truly was for me.
Then on an Arctic-cold February morning, I fell on a patch of ice and landed full force on the back of my skull. Pixxie was in my arms when I fell. Although she was quite shaken, she wasn’t hurt. She looked at me with great doggy concern, and for good reason. I had suffered a traumatic brain injury, along with whiplash and a dislocated sternum.
For the first several months I was dazed and confused and would sleep for 12–14 hours at night. I worried that Pixxie would have a potty accident being in the bedroom during my long night’s sleep, but she didn’t. She knew I wasn’t okay, and she would give me extra snuggles and puppy kisses and let me sleep in as late as I needed.
Pixxie could sense when I was in a lot of pain or was feeling depressed, and she would always come to my rescue, giving me reassuring licks after crawling into my lap. She was by my side with those big puppy eyes, letting me know that she was there for me—even if I couldn’t remember whether or not I had fed her dinner yet. She was my motivation to get up, and having a routine to take her out for her morning walk was a godsend.
Just in time
Having Pixxie kept me going when things got really hard. If I was frustrated or confused, sad or lonely, I would hear the sweet sounds of the little Yorkie I rescued. It’s hard to be sad when a dog is licking your face!
While I rescued Pixxie from a life of abandonment and mistreatment, she came into my life at just the right time to rescue me from an unexpected accident and period of darkness.
It’s the proverbial cliché—who rescued who?
Amy Zellmer is an award-winning author, speaker, and TBI survivor located in Saint Paul, Minn. She contributes to the Huffington Post and produces a podcast for survivors. Her book “Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury: Finding the Road Back to Normal” received a silver medal in the Midwest Book Awards. Her book “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength and Inspiration” is a collection of stories by brain injury survivors and caregivers. She travels the country with Pixxie. Follow her on Instagram & Twitter: @amyzellmer