Today I had to leave our beloved twelve year old Dalmatian at the vet. He’s been ill the past three days; he can’t hold down any food. Twelve is a long life for a breed of dog whose average life span is about eight years old. Despite being so sick, this dog of mine is as happy as he can be. His tail thumps and he still wants to follow me everywhere I go — this even though his hips are so arthritic he can no longer climb up on the couch easily or jump on the bed or even get up into the car for the trip to the vet. I picked this picture because it is so typical of his alpha-dog personality. Rather than sleep on his bed that actually fits him, he curled up in his 10 pound “sister”‘s dog bed. Looks comfortable, huh?
Sometimes when I’m being “dogged” (I’m on the couch and both dogs are clamoring for space in my lap) I sit and wonder what it must have been like for Adam back when God created the animals:
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
This blog is for the best doggie friend I’ve ever had the pleasure of naming: Shiner, Earl of Tetbury. Actually, the name was my husband’s idea. Someone had just given him a case of Shinerbock, and our new puppy had black spots over his eyes.
Shiner got himself into some hilarious scrapes…like the time he developed a liking to the taste of the wood on the outside of our house. Yes, our dog ate the siding. Talk about getting your fiber! Or the time he consumed an entire leather belt that was longer than he was! I was very glad he stopped short at the belt buckle; that wouldn’t have tasted very good or gone down very well, I’m sure. He used to do incredible gymnastics moves in the air as he chased after water coming out of the hose, and he will play ball with anything round that can be retrieved…even peaches, apples, and rolled up socks.
And the food. Oh my goodness, can’t forget the food! Shiner hasn’t met a food he doesn’t like…except maybe for lettuce. Tomatoes he’ll eat right off the tomato plant, so we have to put a fence around the garden! This sneaky guy has taken advantage of the babysitter and, when her back was turned, jumped up on the stove and devoured an entire large pepperoni pizza, by himself. (burp)
Not to mention the non-food items he has an affinity for, such as kleenex (he once ate almost an entire box of them before I caught him), the aforementioned siding on the house, and particularly dollar bills. The higher the denomination, the more irresistible he finds them.
Speaking of dollar bills, he is essentially our million dollar dog. Well, maybe not a million, but at least our ten thousand dollar dog. The day after we got him we had to take him to the ER because he had parvo. Two weeks and $2000 later, we got to bring him home! Then when he was four he had trouble with his bladder and had to have surgery and go on prescription (read: pricey!) dog food. At age seven he tore his crutiate ligament and had the TPLO surgery. At age nine he tore the ligament in the other knee, so he had another surgery. Plus he had hemangiosarcoma, a deadly cancer, removed from his skin.
Talk about spunk! His spirit just won’t quit.
Now we’ve learned there is a suspicious spot in his stomach. Could be something he ate that is obstructing his food….could be a tumor…could be nothing. I feel so blessed to have this crazy dog in my life, showing me what it means to have true love and devotion for another. No matter what, that tail thumps. My heart squeezes every time I see him drag his crippled hips up onto the couch so he can lay down and snuggle with me, laying his sweet head over my leg. He sighs in content and sleeps a precious doggy sleep, chasing rabbits, no doubt.
And although I know that death is a part of life, I am not ready to say goodbye just yet. I hope he fights through this illness…I hope this isn’t the beginning of a downhill slide for him. As long as he’s happy, wanting to eat, able to walk and able to climb up in my lap, then I know it’s not time for him to go. Until that day comes I will treasure each moment, as I do with my family. Even though he’s “just a dog…,” he’s my family, too.