Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Friday the 13th Was a Bad Day for Me

My cousin Tom had Lady first. He is an enthusiastic hunter and wanted a Golden Retriever for his pheasant hunting. Lady was the result. She proved an unwilling hunter and her barking in the city was causing Tom grief. It was the Happy Hunting Grounds or find another home for Lady. Since Dad and I had been the repository for many "problem" dogs over the years, taking her in wasn't a problem.

I think she was still under a year old when she came to us. Naturally, there were adjustments to be made, mostly by my father and her. He liked to leave his overshoes that he fed cattle in outside. Lady liked to chew on things. This resulted in a pissed off farmer. She also liked sprinkler hoses and various other important things, like a liner in a motorcycle helmet. She adjusted by learning what was important and found other things to gnaw on, such as large sticks, and bones. Her favorite thing was to have her belly rubbed. I used to say I had a good looking blonde at home that was waiting for me to rub her nipples. We also discovered that she couldn't stand to be chained - she was literally dying on the end of the chain. She ate little and her whole personality changed to a beaten, mopey state. I think she would have died if kept chained.

She also discovered traveling. Lady loved to follow Dad to the field. She'd chase rabbits, scents and whatever until she was hot, then she would plop down into a muddy hole somewhere. She'd get tired and want to ride the tractor. Dad wasn't very wild about that idea - he liked legroom and he gave her his water, which usually dirtied it up. So, she figured out laying down in front of the tractor would stop him. One day when I got home, Dad told me in a broken voice that he had run over Lady. He had called her bluff. She seemed ok and her rear legs were stiff for a while. She always hid pain well, unless you touched what was hurting her.

She was just particular. Hunting was something she didn't care for when it involved humans and guns. She did fine on her own, but she was afraid of guns and was more concerned with being petted when hunting. If you needed a dog to pet while you were hunting, she was there to make sure your needs were met. Otherwise, no dice. She also liked to take a dip in the stock tank just to cool off on a hot day. In her later years, I bought a blowup kiddie pool so she could cool down, but her habit of chewing things took over and the pool was destroyed. You couldn't keep a collar on her. One day, she wouldn't have it on, and if you were lucky, it turned up somewhere. She was a fearsome watchdog, if it was smaller than her or didn't pet her. She would bark and raise bloody murder at a steer if something substantial, like a pickup, was between them.

We bought a new recliner and set the old one on the front porch. That was when she was living, man, she had her own chair. She loved it. She also chewed it up. I'd buy her some dog pillows, but they'd end up ripped to shreds as well.

Then my father died. I was on a trip. We figured Dad passed in his chair when asleep on a Thursday. It was Sunday before he was found. During this time, Lady hadn't been fed. My neighbor saw her at his shop during a rainstorm, bedraggled and wet. She wouldn't come to him. I got home Monday evening, and she showed up, a bit thinner but her personality was far different. She became very dependent. She would whine if she felt not enough attention had been given to her. At first, I let it go, but as it went on, it became obvious that she was better and it was just a ploy. One evening during a thunderstorm, she was scared, so I let her in the house. This just didn't happen very often. She immediately jumped into the recliner Dad passed in, and she caught his scent. The whimpers and whines were enough to break my heart.

Lady was getting older. Winters were affecting her. So, I decided to buy a doghouse - we had never had one before - all our dogs got along fine without them, but my girl NEEDED one. She loved it. I put an old blanket in it for her. Then she would drag it out to lay on in the sun. When it snowed and covered it up, she would be huddled in her doghouse, freezing. I would try to keep the thing in, but it was no use. I finally solved that dilemma by buying cedar chips.

During this time, I discovered a tumor growing under one of her nipples. I took her into the vet, who put her under and removed it. It wasn't malignant, but I found out this was common and that it was likely there would be more. I also discovered she didn't like riding to town - she knew what waited for her at the end of the trip. She would shiver and shake when it hit her that she was probably on the way to the vet. She hated it. Lady would hide under the chairs in the waiting room, tail tucked between her legs.

Then Babs (short for Babalicious, definitely not Barbara Streisand) showed up. She was a medium sized mix of some sort, black with white toes and a splash on her chest. She is shaped somewhat like a Newfoundland, but much smaller. She had been beaten, and didn't trust me. It didn't keep her from snarfing all of Lady's food, however. I spent a lot of time with dog treats winning her over. To this day, I'm about the only one that can pet her. My sister Kathleen can, but it has taken her years. Lady had a playmate.

They would travel all over, hunting creatures smaller than them. Cottontails, jackrabbits and chunks of cattle carcasses would find their way into the yard. One day it was a baby skunk. It wasn't hurt, but they had just about played it to death. I put it out of it's misery. Lady was the dominant dog. She always ate first from the dog dish. The dog dish was an old hibachi grill that Lady couldn't carry off. She didn't care to chew on cast iron, I guess. Lady also developed another tumor.

This trip to the vet wasn't as fun, not that the others in the past were. This would probably be the last time she could be put under, as she was getting too old. She made it through the operation ok, but this time her stitches got infected. So, another trip to the vet, shaking and whining and hurting. She finally healed, but not without trauma.

Lady and Babs were all over the local countryside. I heard of them being eight miles away once. They never hurt anything, but they were gone for several days at a time. Lady also got very thin when she "ran" a lot. What I didn't realize was Lady was going blind, and the trips were longer because she couldn't see at night. I had noticed she was going deaf, but didn't figure out her blindness until after one long trip, I looked her over. I could see the cataracts in her eyes.

I didn't have time to mess with her, but I did put a collar I'd saved on her. It had an old dog tag. I was thinking that she would stay since she couldn't see, but I was wrong. The very next day, I couldn't find her or get her to come, and I drove around calling for her. It didn't help that it was snowing heavily. In my off hours from the job, I'd drive around calling and looking for the next two days. No one had seen her, and there was no trace. I figured she was coyote bait.

But I was wrong. About ten or eleven days later, I got a call from the vet. Some neighbors over six miles away had called in the number from the dog tag - they had found a dog and wondered whose it was. Was it mine? It was a female golden retriever, blind and starving. I went to pick her up, and sure enough, it was her. She remembered me. The neighbors had seen her acting crazy in their pasture. She was spinning in circles. They thought she was mad and planned to shoot her, until they got close and realized she was blind and starving. They offered to keep her if I thought she would be too much, but I kept her. I brought her home and chained her. She wasn't happy about it, but she was just gonna have to be chained until I got a pen built. Luckily, I had been considering it before she took off, and had some materials lined up. I put up a pen for her, and she began to thrive again.

It was odd how the tables changed - Babs became the dominant dog after Lady's blindness. I had to really secure the gate to the pen, because Babs would break in, eat all of Lady's food, and kick her out of the doghouse. Babs had her own food and doghouse, but that didn't matter.

So, life went on. Lady was probably over fourteen years or so at the time. We all lost track. She may have been fifteen years old, we just don't know. She loved digging holes, and chewing bones and sticks. She would bury doggy treats. She dug holes with her nose rather than her paws. I always wondered if she remembered where she put her treats. But, there was a dark side. Her poor tummy erupted with little knots of tumors. The vet said maybe he could remove one of them with a local, but not all four or five of them at once. He recommended just letting it go until it got too bad for her. It was to be the twilight of Lady's life. She went for about a year and a half with the tumors.

But, one day, I noticed one of them had really taken off. It got to fist size in a matter of weeks. Then it got bigger faster. I knew I had to make a decision to put her out of her misery, but she didn't seem miserable. The tumor was swinging under her like an udder, but Lady was sharp and still responded to me the same as always. So I put it off. I didn't want to drive her to town. I thought that would be cruel to her, to haul her to town scaring her and then having her killed. I didn't want that. I didn't want to shoot her, either. It was suggested that I have the local vet give me the shot to put her under, or have him come out to give her the shot. Meanwhile, the other tumors began to grow. Lady was getting thin, too. The things were sucking her down.

Thursday the 12th, I noticed she hadn't eaten much of her food, and she was just laying without responding to me much. She obviously knew I was there and was petting her, but she didn't get up. So, I knew the time had come. The next day, Friday the 13th, I called the vet. He was going to be gone until the middle of next week. His receptionist recommended a vet in Dodge that did house calls. I called her, but she didn't come out of the Dodge City area, and was out of solution anyway. I thought I'd better check on her - I started calling when I woke up. Lady was breathing hard and deep, her eyes were sunken and matted, and her mouth was coated. Her head would come up, then lay down. There was no response when I touched her. She was dying and in pain. My girl was suffering badly.

So, I did the only thing I knew to do. I came in the house, loaded up a pistol, and went back outside to shoot my dog. I petted her, telling her I would end her pain, and that I was sorry. I stood back, and aimed at her head. She picked her head up, so I waited. It was just a reflex action. She settled down, and I aimed carefully. I pulled the trigger, she twitched once and was still.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

How Old Are You?

You Are 30 Years Old


Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Considering that I'm actually 45, I don't feel too badly about this test - Hah!

Are You A Republican?

I am:
"You listen to a lot of AM talk radio, don't you?"

Are You A Republican?