The spring scramble is on and this one has nothing to do with golf. It has everything to do with weight and the arrival of summer. We scramble as fast as we can to anything that even hints of a fast, easy, summer-slim scheme. A new labeling on food packages and menus denoting a “Heart Healthy” food is a great asset for dieters. These foods are healthy, nutritious, flavorful, and low in calories. After last Thursday they have even a more significant meaning for me and Sadie.

Thanks to the mild winter, Sadie and I’ve been able to keep up our Dogercise regularly, and not spent too many days lying in front of the fireplace with hot chocolate. However, we even have some winter weight gain to shed. Before we began accelerated Dogercise though, we had a medical matter to attend to. Since she was a young puppy, Sadie has had a heart condition. It frightened me beyond words the first time she collapsed and couldn’t walk.

After consultation and testing with her local vet, we went to the veterinary clinic at Virginia Tech to Dr. Jonathan Abbot and his team of excellent third year veterinary students.

As Sadie went reluctantly off for her testing, I was told to go have lunch and relax, but I couldn’t eat. Instead I walked the streets of Blacksburg realizing how attached I’d gotten to this small puppy in such a short time. I recalled how miserable I’d been when I’d adopted her and how much happier and lighter everything was now.

The clinic confirmed that Sadie indeed had a serious heart problem. Maybe this medication for humans would work…maybe it wouldn’t. She was to take one-fourth tablet morning and night, continue monitoring at home and once a year at Virginia Tech. It was a somber and thoughtful drive back to Charleston.

For three years now, I’ve given Sadie the pills morning and night. It’s become a ritual with us. For three years now, Dr. Abbot and Dr. Settee have meticulously monitored Sadie and reassured me she was doing fine. The tests kept improving and then last July, she had a perfect reading. Dr. Abbott said it was time to wean her off the medication. I was in a quandary…the medication was safe, inexpensive, and had no long term side effects…what would happen if it was only the medication making her ECG reading perfect? Shouldn’t I just play it safe and continue it?

And so from July until January…..I pondered all of this, finally deciding to listen to the vets’ advice. I told them I was ready and the nerve-wracking process began.

When the final pill was given, I was scared and Sadie was confused. She still paused for her pill when she came in from the back yard in the morning. She still sat by the counter before dinner waiting for the pill…I substituted her favorite treats instead… Mellow Mutt and Happy Heart…chicken of course.

Finally the time came for another ECG and as we drove out to Hurricane to see Dr. Settee, I told Sadie that everything would be OK. Despite my reassuring words to Sadie, I was very nervous as she left the examining room. My hands shook and it’s a good thing I wasn’t getting an ECG because my heart was pounding. She returned joyfully and we had a few minutes alone before Dr. Settee returned with the good news. Sadie’s ECG was perfect!

Everything on the final report was cause to rejoice…even though Sadie had GAINED 5 pounds making my bending the truth to fit her into the 15 pound hotel restriction a little bit harder, but what the heck! We had celebrating to do and thanks to give. It all came full circle, as most things in life do you know. It seemed right that God had answered my many prayers to heal Sadie’s heart, because after all…Sadie had healed mine a long time ago.

DEAR PATTI AND SADIE: About a year ago, my girlfriend wrote to you about getting a dog. I wanted to adopt one…she insisted I buy her a miniature dog. After reading your last column, I wanted to write and give you an update. That girl is no longer a part of my life, but a rough and tumble dog named Casey is. It wasn’t just the dog disagreement that split us up, but it brought out a lot of stuff I’d overlooked. I saw, that if someone was materialistic enough to want a dog because it was a certain kind, had status of some worthless papers, and my feelings meant nothing…then in the end I’d probably end up with a marriage certificate that meant nothing. I found Casey at the shelter and he’s my fishing buddy, sidekick, and at the risk of being a girly-girl—I admit…I love him.

DEAR DOG DAD: I couldn’t be happier for both of you and I think you’ve left me speechless! I received dozens of notes about the February column. People need to realize…for every dog bought, dozens at shelters die and many of them are the mothers who’ve been used mercilessly to produce the pups for sale. Sadie and I are doing some events for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (S.P.C.A.). to encourage the adoption of wonderful dogs who only want a chance to love someone.