Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ode To The Best Dog Ever

Chief was born on our farm almost 15 years ago (Sept 19th). His parents were farm dogs ~ HE is a farm dog. Chief is catahoula / lab mix. Chief's mom, Dixie, was pure catahoula, his dad, Bear, was a lab mix - but looked like every pureblooded black lab you ever saw. When this litter was born, my spouse, Jen selected Chief as a pup she wanted to keep. So when the pups were weaned and adopted out to other homes, Chief stayed. Chief was not a chained dog, he was a dog that lived outside, had an enclosure he slept in at night and was free ranging for most of the day. We worked with him to learn his boundaries and he was a quick study. He loved tagging after us as we went about life on the farm. We live on a 29 acre farm, so there's a lot of investigating, a lot of patrolling that needs to be accomplished in the course of a dog's day. 
     One day, Chief wandered in the wrong direction, crossed his boundary, and found himself in the road, and was hit by a pick up truck. He was rushed to the vet who told us he would live, but may well lose his left front leg. He could not extend that foot enough to get the pads on the ground, therefore he dragged the top side of that foot on the ground. Chief had a crack in his shoulder blade, and possible neurological damage to the leg. The vet gave us options ranging from taking our boy to Purdue (we live in Indiana, huge Vet school at Purdue University) - and maybe they could save his leg. We looked at each other knowing we could not afford the Purdue vet school surgery bill, and asked about other options. The other option was, take him home, crate him, keep him calm and immobile for a while, only out of the crate for food and potty breaks. We were so sure, that Chief would 100% hate this, he was a bouncing off the walls ball of energy (If you know Chief - stop laughing, he really WAS). The crate seemed the most viable option, and against the odds, Chief recovered quite nicely, he was able to use his front paw again, and walked with a limpish gait for a while. He never did regain fine motor control over that leg though, if he is playing with you, its rather like a club he wields, than an actual living appendage as far as control is concerned. During his convalescence - Chief became a house dog, and a housedog he has remained. 
Chief loves his life on the farm, he absolutely must help with whatever we are doing, fixing fences, digging in fenceposts, moving animals around, landscaping... he is right there, helping. Of course to the casual observer, it might look like the dog is totally crashed out in the grass near the job site, but rest assured, he's helping. 
Chief has always been fantastic with the kids, the grandkids, and visitors to our home. He lets the kids lay all over him, dress him up, put barrettes in his hair - actually clipped to his skin. One dress up episode he had a row of tiny claw clips running over the top of his head, he totally looked like a Klingon! He just looked at us while his beloved Ayanna inflicted this on him - as if to say "really? geez make her stop would ya?" Never a snarl, a snap, or a growl. 
     Chief has so many fans, people who know him personally, people who have walked with him on charity event walks, and, people who have only seen him on Facebook. He is a dog of many names. Chief, Chef, Chiefy, Weefy, Weefles, The Chiefster, Sparky, and The Original Log Dog. Chief's temperament is amazing, he has seen so many animals come and go from this house... dogs and cats that have been fostered or nursed back to health. Hedgehogs and birds that have lived here... a fawn that lived in our house for a couple of months and swore Chief was its mother.
Baby goats who came in when they needed TLC after a rough entry to the world. Down in our barn, we have rabbits - as in - we raise rabbits. Every now and then, a kit will get out of its cage, and be aimlessly wandering around on the floor... Chief picks it up in his mouth, very gently, and brings it to us - unharmed - all dog slobbered up - so we can get it back where it belongs.
     Over the past year or so the old boy has really slowed down (that's why I started calling him Sparky in truth). He's having more and more trouble getting up, his hind quarters are not very sound any more. Chief is rather lumpy in his old age, with growths of various sizes in multiple locations. The vet says they are fatty tumors and removal would be more traumatic than helpful. 
     Our sweet boy is getting grumpy, he and the other dog, a 5 yr old pug named Olive, were having words almost every night over nothing. There are times, when you look in his eyes, it just looks like no one is at home there. I think that doggie dementia is setting in. He has meds to keep his pain under control, but about 2 weeks ago, he just stopped being cooperative about pilling. We tried it all, cheese, hot dogs, liver sausage, mixing in his food. He just would.not.take.them. If we tried the bit of pushing it down his throat, even though the pill really went DOWN... he tried like the devil to hack it back up. He! So we kept on with the liquid med that he doesn't mind, and just stopped the pills. We could see his pain level increase. His tolerance for Olive, and the feline housemates, went to near zero. 
     The vibrant bouncy 90 lb ball of exuberant loyalty, was fading out and the situation was untenable. A week ago, we made an appointment to have our devoted companion euthanized... that appointment was cancelled earlier this week, due to a death in our human family. Saying goodbye to both of these beloveds at the same time was more than we could deal with. 
     Its been interesting, since the appointment was cancelled, I happened on a way to pill him that is working. Now Chief seems more present with us, he looks like he is "at home" in his eyes, and the nightly quarrels with Olive have ceased. I had him outside with me yesterday as I was doing chores and he kinda scampered part way to the house.

It is so hard ( #impossible ) - to know when it is truly time. My spouse is so bonded with this dog, and he to her... that I know it will be a devastating scene, this parting. I love him too, he's been with us his entire life and he seriously is THE BEST DOG EVER. He was born on this farm, and when it is time, he will be laid to rest here. 
     As I type, the old boy is crashed out on the floor, and I wish that he could just go peacefully in his sleep... sparing us the decision, and sparing him the trauma of loading up and traveling for that final vet visit.
     I guess the point of me doing this writing ~ is to stand as witness to the life of an amazing dog, an amazing friend. I have no idea - how we will do this when the time comes. no.idea.whatsoever.

1 comment:

  1. Addendum: today has been brutally hard. After a good night's sleep, Chief was unable to get up - it was around noon before Jen was able to get him on his feet. By that time he had loosed his bladder, 3 times. He has such a look of apologetic misery in his eyes as I cleaned up. Heartbreaking. It is Sunday - in the morning, we call the vet and figure out how in the name of all that is holy, to do this next right thing, this only loving dog parent choice, this impossible to fathom - thing.