Playing Charades with Dogs

The True Value of Patience

I have a deaf Pug. He wasn’t always deaf, though. Auggie gradually lost his hearing over the past year and a half. Now, he’s as deaf as a post, a door knob, a rock.

My little old man

I still talk to him all the time, just like I always have, except now Auggie can’t hear me. And, I feel cheated, like I’ve lost a conversation partner, a confidant. An interlocutor.

I know he couldn’t understand a word I said before; but, now he can’t even hear the words. That he couldn’t understand before.

He no longer turns his head to look at me with that wonderful look of expectation when I say his name. I think I miss that gesture the most.

Auggie’s life has always been a grand adventure and he’s always seemed to expect the best in any situation. Especially if treats were involved.

Now, stuck in a world without sound, you can almost see the wheels turning in his head. Trying to figure out what’s happening or what’s expected of him. Trying to tell me what he needs or wants. Sometimes, it’s a little painful to watch.

It’s like Auggie lost part of himself when he lost his hearing and doesn’t know how to adjust.

Playing Charades with Dogs

Unfortunately, god love him, Auggie is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So, he’s never figured out referential signaling to the degree our other three dogs have – especially Millie.

Referential signaling is a non-verbal form of communication, a type of gesturing meant to convey a message. For instance, when Millie needs to go potty she comes over to me, stands up on her hind legs, puts her forepaws on my leg, and pushes while looking at my face. If I don’t respond right away, she pushes harder.

When she wants her belly rubbed, Millie lays on her back and wiggles back and forth – fast. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.

These are referential signals. I’ve tried to teach my dogs to use the Head Turn with no success whatsoever. The head turn is when your dog looks at you and then turns its head to look at an object s/he wants. Back and forth until you get the idea that your dog is pointing at something.

The variation I tried to teach my dogs is to walk in the direction I tilt my head. Like signaling someone across the room at a party that you want to head for the door. Never worked.

Referential signaling between dogs and humans is remarkable because it’s true inter-species communication arising from sharing existence for over 30,000 years. It’s especially amazing because young human children do it all the time.

What’s a Deaf Dog to Do?

But Auggie doesn’t seem to grasp the concept. So, he barks. A lot. His barking doesn’t really signal anything – unless he’s in his crate. Then, barking means, Let me outta this thing!

He also scratches the bottom tray of his crate when he wants out – like he’s trying to dig a hole under the prison walls. You know, that might be considered a referential signal because scratching at the bottom of his crate always means the same thing – Let. Me. Out.

Auggie’s barking is like being in a detective movie. We need to figure out what he wants because the poor guy can’t hear verbal queues any more. Outside? Drink? Toy? Treat? Walk? Those words, at least, he knew. Those words plus No Pee. Auggie has had a lot of practice with that one.

So, we need to figure it out. Fortunately, at 11-years old, Auggie is a creature of habit. He goes outside to the bathroom at certain times. He eats and gets his treats at about the same times every day. Others are trial and error.

Check the water dish to make sure our four dogs didn’t drink it dry – or wash their dirty paws in it. Toss his toy to see if he chases it – or give you that What’s wrong with you? look. Walk to the garage door where we keep his halter and leash – and see if he follows.

Or just give up and give him another treat. Probably what he wanted all along, anyway.

Driving in Circles

Having a deaf Pug is unfamiliar territory for me. Auggie’s learning how to cope without his hearing. Actually, he just plods along, oblivious to things like looking both ways before crossing the street. I’m learning that communicating with a deaf dog requires a new set of skills – and a healthy dose of intuition.

What I don’t want to do is be so focused on Auggie’s deafness that I drive around in circles – doing the same stuff over and over again – instead of exploring a circumstance that should bring us closer together.

How have you handled having your dog lose his/her hearing? How did it change your relationship? What did you learn from the experience? I would love to hear your stories.

Having a deaf dog teaches me the True Value of Patience

~ George

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. – Edward Hoagland

EXTRA STUFF:

Fantegrossi, D. (22 June 2018). Scientists decode the meanings behind 19 common dog gestures. Retrieved online at: https://iheartdogs.com/scientists-decode-the-meanings-behind-19-common-dog-gestures/

Wikipedia. (11 Feb 2004). Animal communication. Retrieved online from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_communication

Zachos, E. (06 July 2018). Dogs use 19 signals to tell us what they want. Retrieved online from: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/07/dog-referential-signaling-gestures/

Zuberbuhler, K. (Dec 2003). Referential signaling in non-human primates: Cognitive precursors and limitations for the evolution of language. Retrieved online at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251450107_Referential_Signaling_in_Non-Human_Primates_Cognitive_Precursors_and_Limitations_for_the_Evolution_of_Language

Baggage

The True Value of Second Chances

Now that I’m home, bathed, settled and fed,
All nicely tucked in my warm new bed.

You’re New but I’m Tired. Can I Trust You?

I’d like to open my baggage
Lest I forget,
There is so much to carry –
So much to regret.

I Didn’t Mean to Hurt You; But, I Was Excited.

Hmm . . . Yes, there it is, right on the top
Let’s unpack Loneliness, Heartache and Loss,
And there by my leash hides Fear and Shame.

I’m So Afraid You Won’t Want Me Anymore.

As I look on these things I tried so hard to leave –
I still have to unpack my baggage called Pain.

I Didn’t Mean to Bite You; But, I Was Afraid.

I loved them, the others, the ones who left me,
But I wasn’t good enough – for they didn’t want me.

Waiting for Adoption in the Loneliest Place In the World

Will you add to my baggage?
Will you help me unpack?
Or will you just look at my things –
And take me right back?

Table Chewing Millie
I Was Afraid You Would Never Come Back.

Do you have the time to help me unpack?
To put away my baggage,
To never repack?

Suitcase Stowaway
Please Help Me Unpack. I Want to Stay With You.

I pray that you do – I’m so tired you see,
But if I come with baggage –
Will you still want me?

Jailbird Auggie
Please Open My Door and Let Me Love You

Written by Evelynn Colbath

That’s the True Value of Second Chances

Learning Resilience from Dogs

The True Value of Resilience

I met a refugee in 1975, a South Vietnamese teenage girl whose family was granted asylum after the fall of Saigon. Think about it. Having to flee your home with just the clothes on your back and maybe a few valuables or be killed.

No time to say good-bye to friends, neighbors or any other family. Living with fear and uncertainty, dependent on the charity of strangers to build a new life in a strange country with different people.

Different people, different language, difference food, different customs, different religion, different laws, different social mores, different businesses and stores and schools. Different politics. Unable to return home and largely unwelcome in your new home.

I’m not sure why I was thinking about that Vietnamese girl today; but, it reminded me a little of how Millie came to live with us.

Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee

We brought Millie home on Saturday, 08 April 2017. In the space of 18 days, her life had gone through so many changes it’s difficult to imagine. So many things happen to dogs that they have no say and no control over.

Millie at Vanderpump Dogs
Millie & her daughter, Coco, at Vanderpump Dogs

And, yet, in many cases they are resilient and able to trust the humans in their lives. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about all rescued dogs.

Millie’s journey began on 032217 when she and her siblings, Coco and Coral, were dropped off at the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter with its reputation of being the highest kill shelter in Los Angeles County. A page on Facebook calls this shelter a death camp for dogs.

Baldwin Park Shelter ID
Millie’s Shelter ID

Her journey ended on 040817 when Millie arrived at the last home she will ever need.

Millie's Ride to a New Life
Millie’s Ride to a New Life

So, in 18 days, Millie went from her home to a shelter to a veterinary hospital to a rescue to her new home. In the process, she was permanently separated from her sisters. She was given no choice.

How would you handle that? Could you handle that? Could you learn to trust again? To love again? And, yet, rescued dogs seem do it all the time. Almost every dog I’ve known was eager to trust and love – despite bad things happening to them at the hands of humans.

What can that teach us about Resilience? What is Resilience? The dictionary defines it as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. Strength. Flexible. Bouncing back. Pliant. Adaptable. Endurance. Tolerance. And, my weird favorite: Indefatigable.

I will say this about rescued dogs. We, as the pawrents (cute, huh), need to recognize that our pups have been through a traumatic experience and give them love, patience, and time to adjust. On her first night home, Millie looked fearful, uncertain, and a little shell-shocked.

Millie's First Night Home
Millie’s First Night Home

What was going to happen? Would we give her food and water? Would we get mad and give her back? What did we want her to do? Were we kind and loving or would we hit her or just ignore her? Was she allowed on the furniture or the bed?

At first, she slept with one eye open – wanting to trust, but afraid.

Adopted Dog Developing Trust
You’re New but I’m Tired. Can I Trust You?

After a few days, Millie would sleep but suddenly wake up terrified. She’d look up, see me, and fall back asleep. It took weeks for trust to finally (mostly) replace her fear. Consistent love and patience has been winning the day.

Fearful Refugee Millie
Refugee Millie

I started taking Millie to work the very first week – not just to cement our relationship; but, to start building the better life implicitly promised in her adoption. I believe that the reason why most people adopt dogs is because we look at them and say: That dog needs Me. I can give it a better life than the one it knew before.

It didn’t take long before I could walk away (in sight) and come back or ask someone to babysit while I attended a meeting (out of sight), then come back again.

Millie and Miley, Razor USA office dogs
Millie & Miley, Razor USA office dogs

Millie was resilient enough to embrace and enjoy her new life. And, make friends with Miley, another rescued Razor USA Office Dog.

Three Ways Dogs Teach Us About Resilience

1. Live In The Moment

I think the most important thing that dogs can teach us about Resilience is not to fixate on the past. Dogs live in the moment. They don’t regret the past or worry about the future. If we can learn to appreciate and focus on what’s happening in the here and now, we’ll experience a richness of living that other members of the animal kingdom enjoy (Cesar Milan, 2009).

I’m not a big Dog Whisperer fan; but, he hits this one out of the park.

Buster Keaton Clock
Buster Keaton Clock

Living in the moment means letting go of pressure, fear, worry, and other emotions that prevent us from fully experiencing and enjoying our lives RIGHT NOW! Living in the moment is a source of gratitude and appreciation (Newman, 2016).

2. Never, Ever, Ever Quit

Have you ever seen a three-legged dog running like every other dog also has three legs? Or a blind dog? This is Simon and he’s my favorite blind Pug in the world. I don’t recall when he lost his eyes – maybe seven years ago. He comes to just about every Los Angeles Pug Meetup and has a blast! He doesn’t walk around like a blind Pug. He just walks around like a Pug.

Simon the Blind Pug
Simon at the Bonyard LA Pug Meetup_052017

When Simon lost his eyes, he had to either adjust and use his other senses to compensate or sit in a corner and mope. So, he adjusted. He uses a dog door at home just like my dogs use one at our house. He can climb stairs, just like my dogs. He explores the dog park, just like mine do.

Dogs can teach us that, when unthinkably bad things happen, we don’t have to stop participating in life and those bad things certainly should never be allowed to define us.

We can improvise, adapt, and overcome! My children grew up hearing this line by Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge every time they felt overwhelmed by a problem.

3. Keep a Positive Attitude

Attitude is everything. Attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior. I think the most important part of that definition is that attitude is typically reflected in behavior.

One thing I am absolutely sure of is that I have never seen a pessimistic dog. All the dogs in my experience were optimists though-and-through. People have bad attitudes. Dogs, eh, not so much.

My attitude determines what I think. My thoughts determine my actions. My actions inform the world who I am. That, I believe, is what Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain) is talking about:

That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.

Do I try to find the best in situations or am I a chronic complainer? Do I try to change my life for the better or do I seem to be happier moaning about how bad things are? When bad things happen, do we get stuck there; or, do we decide not to let those bad things define who we are?

What About Your Dog?

One True Value of Dogs is Resilience and I’ve listed three ways that dogs can teach us that trait. How about you? In what ways have you seen resilience in dogs? How have they inspired you by overcoming the bad things that happen to people and animals alike?

Hurricane Harvey is a real-life, current events example of how bad things happen to us all – people and dogs. Both people and their pets have been separated from their homes, the lives they knew – and from each other.

Hurricane Harvey Man and Dog
Hurricane Harvey Man & Dog

~ George

Tell your dogs every day that you love them. They won’t understand the words, but the sound of your voice is their music. And, telling them every day will reinforce those positive feelings when they pee on the rug.

As always, if you’re writing a paper for Mr. Waznewski’s English class, here are a few sources that might help.

Cole, L. (11 Dec 2013). The five “personality types of dogs.” Retrieved from: https://www.canidae.com/blog/2013/12/the-five-personality-types-of-dogs/

Milan, C. (2009). Act like a dog! Retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/543739354987529401

Newman, S. (2016). What dogs can teach us about living in the moment. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/01/27/what-dogs-can-teach-us-about-living-in-the-moment/

Stein. G. (2008). The art of racing in the rain. HarperCollins.

 

If Dogs Could Talk, What Would They Say?

The True Value of Love

My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be painful to me. Remember that before you buy me. (or adopt me)

Vanderpump Dogs Grooming
Millie’s Gotcha Day_040817

Give me time to understand what you want from me.

I don't know what to do!
I don’t know what to do!

Place your trust in me. It’s crucial to my well-being.

Boy and Dog Playing
A Boy and His Dog Playing

Don’t be angry with me for long, and don’t lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your entertainment and your friends. I only have you.

Auggie the Pug
Please don’t be mad. I try to be a Good Boy.

Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don’t understand your words, I understand your voice when it’s speaking to me.

Stella Got a New Dress On
Stella Got a New Dress On

Be aware that however you treat me, I’ll never forget it.

Millie the Toxirn
Treat me right, treat me right. Open your eyes, maybe you’ll see the light. – Pat Benatar

Remember before you hit me: I have teeth that could easily crush the bones of your hand, but I choose not to bite you.

Dogs at Play
I got chompers. You got chompers. Let’s go chomp someone!

Before you scold me for being un-cooperative, obstinate or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right food, or I’ve been out in the sun too long, or my heart is getting old and weak.

Stella the Frenchie
Snuggling with Daddy helps when fireworks go big bada-boom. (Name that movie!)

Take care of me when I get old. You too will grow old.

Rocky the Boston Terrier
Rocky recently was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure.

Go with me on that final difficult journey. Never say: I can’t bear to watch it or Let it happen in my absence. Everything is easier for me if you are there.

Lucy with Cushings Disease
Lucy Elliott (2001 – 2014)

REMEMBER THAT I LOVE YOU.

This is the True Value of Love

Heaven goes by favor; if it were by merit your dog would go in and you would stay out.

(Man) is the most detestable. Of the entire brood, he is the only one that possesses malice. He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain. ~ Mark Twain

~ George

Be kind to your dogs – they love us more than some of us deserve.

 

Dogs as Family

The True Value of Belonging

Kids at Grand Canyon_1997

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you seen the letter from a woman who used the Internet to shame those of us who call ourselves Pet Parents?

I guess she took exception to calling dogs our babies and our apparent ignorance of the difficulties in raising human children compared to the lowly canine.

I raised four (human) children – my son and daughter and twin step-daughters. I had sole custody of my son and daughter and very often found myself having to fill the shoes of both Mother and Father – from when they were toddlers until middle school.

Our children were raised with dogs and Arabian horses – great lifestyle choice, by the way. And, no, raising dogs and horses was nothing compared to the mixture of trials and triumphs that come with human kiddos.

My Babies

I was recently interviewed for a college project about the Los Angeles Pug Meetup.

Q: Do you call Auggie your child?

A: No, my wife does cuz she never had kids – although she helped raise mine for a few years.

Q: What about your baby?

A: Baby? They’re all my babies!!

So, there you have the awful truth. I refer (in public, no less) to my domesticated canines, descendants of majestic wolves, as my Babies! Because I’m a Pet Parent and proud of it.

I draw the line at calling them my children; though, in many ways, pet owners are also pet parents. That doesn’t make my pups my children. But, you’d never know it.

Part of the Family

Flower Millie_052417

I came down to the Kitchen this morning and Ellen said, “We need more children’s hangers for Millie’s clothes.”

Okay, so my Toxirn wore dresses when she went to work with me. Every day.

Since this blog was first posted, I went to work for the largest alcohol, drug, and mental health treatment center in California. Hospital setting = no Millie.

It’s weird, though. The pups all have sweaters for when it gets chilly; but, other than that, I would have never dressed a dog in clothes. Are you kidding me? Clothes on a dog?!

Of course, then I met Millie, the Heart Grabber, the Affection Stealer, the…well, Daddy’s Little Girl.

Kimpton Goodland, Santa Barbara_070717

When I come home from the gym or wherever, Ellen says, “Your daughter cried when you left.” When Auggie marks in the house, I tell Ellen, “Your son peed in the house.”

I guess I can see how that would be a little confusing to someone like the woman who wrote about Pet Parents.

Our dogs are our Family in a very real sense. When we walk in the door, the pups run to us – and I mean run – just like my son and daughter did when they were young and I picked them up from daycare. Beatin’ feet, Baby!

We come home to happiness and unmitigated joy every single day; so, is it any wonder that we call Millie and Stella our Baby Girls; and, Auggie and Rocky our Boys?

Pet Parenting

Why are pet owners, in many ways, like Pet Parents? Because the average dog has the mental abilities of a 2-year old child. The really, really smart dogs (like yours)? The same as a 2 ½ year old child.

Have you raised a 2-year old?! If not, I hope you have children someday so you can experience the joy. No, wait. That sounds like some kind of curse.

Collin & Ashley_Jun 1991

Seriously, though, I wouldn’t trade the experience of being a single father with sole custody of a 3-year old son and 2-year old daughter for anything.

The world is filled with wonderful things to a 2-year old. Everywhere you go, there are things to see and touch and, if Daddy’s not careful, to taste. Things to learn. Everything new and exciting.

It’s the same with dogs. I daresay it’s exactly the same with dogs. And, both children and dogs depend on us for their very lives.

Let’s face it, your 2-year old child cannot survive on its own any more than your designer dog can. (The further away from wolf-like a breed gets, the more it was designed to be that way.) They depend on us for literally everything to continue living; and, if POOF, we’re suddenly gone? They die.

Nirvana Sweatshirt Auggie_070817

Would a German Shepherd be alright, you ask? Yeah, probably. If it could get out of the house. And if it got out of the house, if it could get over the fence or wall.

And, if it managed to get out of the house and over that 6-foot block wall around your back yard, all it would have to do is find water and chase down a rabbit or squirrel or three.

Every day. And fight every other animal trying to do the same thing.

But, your miniature Poodle or my Pug? Forget it.

So, it falls on us, the Pet Parents to meet their needs, keep them safe, and teach them how to act – exactly like a 2-year old human child. (Sorry, letter writing woman.)

That’s the True Value of Belonging

~ George

Your dog loves you; but, it also needs you. Be a good pet parent.

Want to read more about dog intelligence?

American Psychological Association. 10 August 2009. Dogs’ intelligence on par with two-year-old human, canine researcher says. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810025241.htm

Bryner, J. 8 August 2009. Dogs as smart as 2-year-old kids. Retrieved from: https://www.livescience.com/5613-dogs-smart-2-year-kids.html

Unknown. 12 November 2017. Dog intelligence. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_intelligence

 

Do Dogs Grieve?

Do you believe dogs are capable of feeling grief?

I don’t believe all dogs, as a species, experience grief. They aren’t even sufficiently self-aware to recognize themselves in a mirror. I think many dogs instinctively react to the grief we, ourselves, feel – to our distress, to our sadness and sense of loss. But not all dogs.

Indian Elephant at Los Angeles Zoo_111017

There are species that we know do experience grief: elephants, dolphins, otters, doves, wolves, to name a few. I wonder why wolves grieve but not domesticated dogs? In any event, grief is not something uniquely human any more than love is uniquely human.

Let me tell you a story that I believe shows that some dogs can, and do, grieve.

Baby Lucy_Dec 2001

Lucy was 10-years old when we adopted our second Boston Terrier, Rocky, in 2011. The relationship between these two was more of Oh, so you live here, too? rather than Oh, you’re my favorite brother! Until 2014.

In January 2014, Lucy started losing her hair, growing a pot belly, getting eye and ear infections, and having urinary and gastrointestinal problems, and was always thirsty. Our veterinarian, who had done her cancer surgery a few years earlier, said the hair loss and pot belly were due to age and treated the infections as unrelated issues.

Lucy kept getting worse and we switched to a new vet in April who conducted an ultrasound and diagnosed her with Cushings Disease. With treatment, a dog with Cushings can live as long as three years; but, the disease ravaged Lucy and she crossed the Rainbow Bridge just eight months after onset of symptoms.

Lucy Cushings Disease_071514
Lucy – Three Weeks Before the End

As Lucy suffered and her symptoms improved from the treatment, then got even worse, the one constant throughout the entire ordeal was Rocky. For the last three months of her life, he never left her side.

During Lucy’s illness – or, perhaps because of it – she and Rocky formed a strong emotional bond. He became her constant companion right up until the end. Rocky ate when she ate – or didn’t eat when Lucy was too ill to eat. He sat or lay beside her. He slept when she slept. He even adjusted his bathroom habits so he went outside when she went – no matter how often she had to go out.

Rocky Never Left Lucy’s Side

For the last three months of her life, he never left her side. Then the day came when we took Lucy to the vet and returned home without her. Rocky was disconsolate and kept searching the house and yard. And he grieved. Oh, how he grieved. He would stand or sit in his crate by himself, facing the wall, obviously depressed. He wouldn’t eat. He wouldn’t play.

It was as if all the oxygen had been sucked out of Rocky’s world. All the happiness and exuberance – all the things that made him, well, Rocky, were gone.

Animal emotion and cognition expert, Marc Bekoff, writes: Animal’s emotions are raw, unfiltered, and uncontrolled. Their joy is the purest most contagious of joys and their grief the deepest and most devastating.

My concern over his well-being led me to agree with Ellen’s suggestion to get a French Bulldog puppy. Even though Rocky and I were still lost in our grief.

And so, baby Stella joined our family.

Slowly, incrementally, things began to change as his interest in her grew.

And her interest in him grew.

And Rocky became her guardian and constant companion.

And slowly but surely, he got his Happy back.

But sometimes, when I couldn’t find him, I’d go into our bedroom where Lucy’s bed was still in the corner. And I’d find Rocky there. Sometimes sitting there staring like Lucy had been on her bed the entire time and his were the only eyes that could see her. Sometimes just lying there surrounded by her lingering scent, smelling her more clearly than my nose ever could, as if she had just that moment left the room.

I would sit or lay beside him, just Rocky and me, sharing a few minutes of silence, remembering Lucy, missing Lucy, grieving Lucy. Most of all, loving Lucy. In those moments, I knew that Rocky felt the same soul-crushing grief that I felt.

And that’s how I know that some dogs, at least, can grieve.

Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives. – John Galsworthy

~ George

If you’re interested in reading more about animals and grief, check out these resources:

M. Bekoff. (29 October 2009). Grief in animals: It’s arrogant to think we’re the only animals who mourn. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/200910/grief-in-animals-its-arrogant-think-were-the-only-animals-who-mourn

A. Heguy. (26 February 2016). Do animals grieve? Retrieved from: https://www.quora.com/Do-animals-grieve

C. Lewis (07 November 2016). Do animals grieve? Retrieved from: https://www.buddhistdoor.net/news/do-animals-grieve

C. Safina. (08 July 2015). The depths of animal grief. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/nature/animal-grief/

Unknown. (03 May 2017). Animal grief. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_grief

Wish I Knew You When

The True Value of Second Chances

I saw a Great Dane puppy today that made me think of you. Tall and gangly, boisterously romping and tromping through grass and shrubs and flower beds. Excited by everything, as if this puppy had suddenly sprung into existence; and, was experiencing life for the very first time!

Saved from http://www.dogtricktips.com/great-danes-information-and-facts/6/

Nothing about the Great Dane pup I saw was anything like you at all. It was all legs and tail and ears moving in several directions at the same time.

You are short, compact, and muscular. Its muzzle was long while you’re a card-carrying member of the Flat-Faced Dog Society. The Great Dane was still a puppy, whereas you’re a senior. Although still a puppy, it was already a big dog and getting bigger – did I mention how short you are?

What I want to believe is that what I saw today in that very large puppy is what you were like once, when you were young. When life, for you, was new. I love everything about you – except the illness that will take you away forever. Someday.

I love the adult you that I met six years ago. But, I wish I knew you when you were an innocent puppy – when life was new. Before you were given away by the person you loved and trusted. Before you were forcibly removed from the only home – the only life – you’d ever known.

Familiar sights, smells, tastes, and textures were gone forever – replaced by an unknown, scary place where even your food and bed were different. And mommy’s cats were gone. Mommy had lots of cats and you peed in the house so she wouldn’t forget about you. So she would remember to love you, too.

My Rocky Boy_070217

Then, we met. You were in a crate inside Choice Pet Market at Scottsdale Road and Shea Blvd, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Driving by, Ellen saw the Arizona Boston Terrier Rescue Adoption Event sign.

On impulse, we stopped and went in. I wasn’t even looking for another dog. We already had a Boston, a Boxer, and a Pug at home. When I saw you for the first time, I turned to Ellen and said: “That’s him! That’s my dog!” You sealed the deal by jumping onto my lap and licking my face.

I have to confess that I. Did. Not. Like your name. Rocky. Who names their dog Rocky?! Turns out a lot of people do. The American Kennel Club (AKC) reports that, in 2016, Rocky was the 6th most popular name for male dogs. I learned to tolerate it, and later actually like it – after The Beatles played Rocky Raccoon in my head for a few months.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/0jwzCXYERls

Rocky, Rock, Rock Monster, Rock Star, Rocky Boy, Rocky the Rock Elliott. My good boy. My best boy. We’ve grown older together, you and I – you, a little faster than I. Six years ago, you were 3 ½ years old and still had a little puppy left in you. We ran, played, tugged and went exploring when we got sidetracked on our walks. We played in the snow in Denver, ran on the beach in Los Angeles, and panted in the heat in Phoenix.

Your enthusiasm and unbridled joy has never diminished. You love absolutely everything! You always start every walk tugging on your leash, like we’re embarking on the Greatest Adventure Ever!

When you started reaching the end of even short walks with a loose leash, breathless, and needing to be carried up the stairs, our vet at San Dimas Animal Hospital confirmed that you’re in Congestive Heart Failure.

How I hate that three-word death sentence. My grandmother – the one person I loved more than anyone else – died from congestive heart failure.

I know that you could live for years – just not the life we lived before. You don’t even know you’re sick.

Today, our walks are shorter and our rest times longer. Today, we sit together on the floor or stairs or sofa while I pet you and you lick me with more saliva than a Saint Bernard. Or, I talk to you while you look at me like you understand every word – and then lick me with more saliva than a Saint Bernard.

We don’t get to hike and the camera captures fewer action shots of you; but we always have each other. I think I’ll get one of those K9 Sport Sacks or some other backpack dog carrier and lug your 30# around on my back. He ain’t heavy, He’s my puppy!

So, when I saw a Great Dane puppy today acting as if every moment was the Greatest Adventure Ever! it made me think of you. I am jealous of everyone who knew you as the rambunctious, pocket-sized tornado that Boston Terrier puppies usually are.

Mostly, I found myself wishing that we had met sooner so we could have lived more and loved longer.

You’re a Good Boy, Rocky. You’re the Best Boy.

That’s the True Value of Second Chances

~ George

Hey, please feel free to share stories about your dog(s). I would love to hear from you!!

BTW, what was the most popular name for boy-type dogs in 2016? Find out here:

Kriss, R. (2016, December 5) These are the most popular dog names of 2016. Retrieved from:  http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/popular-dog-names-2016/