Tales about an old dog
Dixie (nee Erica) had a tough go of it at the beginning of her life. When we met her she was in a cage in the parking lot of a local Petco put up for adoption by a Labrador rescue organization. She was not our first choice because the purebred puppy was gone before we even arrived. She was our second choice, though, even though she was timid and afraid of her own shadow. We were told she had been living with a foster family, that she liked to run and that she was potty trained. We bought a new dog collar and leash and took her home with us a couple of weeks after my daughter’s fifth birthday. Our first dog, Buttons, had to be put down on my daughter’s birthday. I digress.
After we got the dog and the paperwork we read through it and found out a bit more information about this dog. She had lived on a farm. When they spayed her they found that all her internal organs were bruised from the abuse she took. We assumed the person who abused her was a man, because most all humans who abuse dogs are men, and that proclivity was manifested in the way she would not come in the same room I was in for two weeks. She loved my wife, though.
She needed a lot of love to build up trust with us and she displayed new puppy tendencies like chewing up my new $100 dollar running shoes with my new $250 orthopedics that were in the shoes. For good measure she chewed up my son’s friends new $250 orthopedics after he left his shoes on the ground despite the numerous warnings not to. She also crapped and peed all over the house leading us to believe that the adoption agency was less than truthful with us. Alas.
A puppy turns into an old dog
Well when my wife went to pick up one of the poop bombs she left for us on our living room rug, she noticed there were little white bugs crawling around in the fecal matter. One trip to the vet and pills to eliminate the worms she had cleared up that little matter. We were told that when a dog has worms they always feel like they have to go to the bathroom, which explained why she pooped and peed all over the house. The pills cleared up that little mess and she never again had an accident in our house.
Through time we noticed she had other little habits we had to deal with on a daily basis. She does not like strangers and does not like men and will in general keep a healthy distance away from them. She does not like strangers petting her but has never growled or bitten or acted aggressive when this has happened. Over time she has relented and will sit (although her body language shows us she leans away from the love) and get petted and belly rubs.
She loves my wife. She sleeps with my wife on her side of the bed….which is a lot of fun with a 70 pound dog. She sleeps downstairs on the couch when my wife goes out of town. She waits at night until my wife comes home and is at the garage door when she comes through it. She does not extend this courtesy to me. She loves my kids as well, but my wife is the bomb!
She loves to run. When she was young she would pull hard on leashes, snapping two of them, so that we had to invest in a Gentle Lead leash. Now her snout has a line where the Gentle Lead runs over it, where she has wore the fur down to nothing from pulling. She would run and run and not come back for a day or two and there were many nights when my wife would go out looking for the idiot who did not know how good she had it. She also ran when we let her out to go to the bathroom and we had to invest in a shock collar in order to protect her from running into traffic.
She was my running partner for about ten years, maybe a little less, until she was too old to run. She let me know by not wanting to run the full route we usually took, by wanting to go home, by making me pull her a bit for parts of the run etc. The day she could not run with me any longer made me cry because this was a dog who truly was born to run; she thrived on it and loved it and looked forward to it every other day.
Old dogs heading towards a sunset.
The past few years we have noticed she was slowing down. Labs do not have a long life but she was a mix so who knows? Right now she is either 13 or 14 (we never got a true age from the adoption place) and she gets an aspirin every morning and every night (tri-buffered for her tummy) and she is on Prednisone for allergies from early to late July until the first hard freeze. This causes her to bloat up in the summertime. She cannot jump on our bed with ease anymore. She cannot jump down off our bed with ease either. She takes the stairs one at a time. When she gets up from a nap, and now there are a lot of naps, she moves slow as if frozen in place.
She can only walk every other day or else she gets too sore. She goes to the dog park sometimes and while the other dogs run and rip past her, she ends up trying to trot, moving at a speed somewhere between a walk and a run. She has lumps on her body and we really do not want to know what they are because what the hell could we do about it anyway? She is too old for surgery.
She has come to love me, but not at the same level she loves her mom. I was the one who always walked her and fed her and took care of her most of the time but I was cat poop compared to her mom. Wait, she likes to eat cat poop so that analogy may not be apropos. She does love me in her way and I know she is happy when I am around.
She is getting so old I know she will not last the year. Like all the other animals in our lives it will be up to me to put her down and I will cry like a baby for a couple of days after. Dixie had a hard life her first one or two years, but the last 12 years have treated her like the queen she is. I hope she knows, but she is a dog so who knows for sure what they understand? I like to think she knows that for twelve years we loved her as unconditionally as she has come to love us. She knows she was walked or ran whenever we could, almost every day, and that we made sure she was up-to-date on all her shots and things to keep her healthy. I hope she knows we bought her the best food and the nicest treats we could find.
I hope she knows that when she dies that she will leave a tremendous hole in our lives and our hearts. I hope she knows she was loved.