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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Crazy Dog Lady??

In my life I have experienced more than my fair share of death. Beginning when my brother and I found our grandfather shortly after he committed suicide by shotgun when I was 7. Since then, I have had 3 husbands die; my father; my best friend in the whole world; 3 boyfriends (3 seems to be the magic number with me doesn't it?); my beloved sister & the usual aunts, uncles, classmates. Yet, I carried on and dealt with each of them. Of the above deaths, my sister's death has affected me the most I think. However, with the exception of my sister, none of these has affected me nearly as much as the recent deaths of my 2 dogs. How strange is that?

Cole (short for Nat King Cole) was a 158 pound black Huskador. Gorgeous dog. Each of his eyes were half sky blue. He was handsome and so very smart. I bought him and his twin sister (Bennett - short for Tony Bennett) when they was 6 weeks old way back in 1997 and Cole was my shadow until June, 2009 when I had to have him put down. Bennett accidentally hung herself trying to jump a fence when she was about 2. Unfortunately, had she not done this, I would have had to have her put down because she was EXTREMELY mean.

Quincy (short for Quincy Jones) was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Thick red hair, I called him my Irish boy. Smartest dog I've ever seen. Of the two, he was by far the most attached to me and I was the most attached to him. Cole loved me but Quincy adored me. I rescued Quincy back in 1997 from my mother. Quincy was born in 1994 and for the first years of his life, he lived in my mother's yard. She lived in the country on some acreage and he had the full roam of it. However, she wasn't the best at making sure he had food and water and she never allowed him to come inside no matter how harsh the weather might be. She didn't pet him or spend time with him. Finally, on Thanksgiving in 1997, my daughter and I went outside to play with him and noticed that his water bowl was frozen solid and there was not a sign of food anywhere. We looked at one another and put him in our car and took him home to Memphis and he stayed with me until May, 2009 when I had to have him put down.

The hardest two things I have ever had to do was have these guys put down. I struggled with both of them longer than I should have for their sakes.

Quincy had glaucoma to the point where he couldn't see 2 inches in front of his face any longer; his hips had gone out on him and towards the end he could only drag his back feet; he had suffered from diabetes for the past 3 years requiring twice daily shots of insulin; he had become incontinent. The last 4 months of his life, he was in considerable pain all the time.

Within 2 weeks after Quincy died, Cole developed bone cancer in his shoulder. The last week of his life all he could do was lay around. He could no longer walk to the yard to do his business, he had the most difficult time walking anywhere. He was in a lot of pain.

I find it more than coincidental that Cole would develop cancer shortly after Quincy died.

Cole and Quincy were two peas in a pod for over a decade. You never saw one without the other. They took their doctor visits together, they took their naps together, they played together, they lay side by side in the yard and watched the world together.

When I lived on a lake, every morning they would go down to the lake and Quincy would lay on the dock while Cole swam in the lake, then they would go for a run for an hour or so until time for me to call them in so I could go to work. They always came back together. There were times when a pack of stray dogs would come into our land and Cole and Quincy would stand side by side as they backed those strays off and oftentimes it would come to a fight and Cole and Quincy would be slugging it out side by side. They always won.

Every Sunday for over a decade, I would put them in my car and we would go for a ride. Sometimes it would only be for an hour and sometimes we would ride all afternoon. Always, we would stop at either Sonic or Burger King afterwards where I would buy them each a bag of french fries (I know - not good for them) and once they had eaten their fries, we would head for the house.

It was amazing at the shear volume of words they completely understood. It wasn't the "tone" of my voice that they understood or body language - they completely understood much of what I said. My children and friends used to try so hard to trick them by saying words they were familiar with in different tones or by going into another room and saying something like "want to go for a ride?" to see if they got reactions and they always did. They could be sound asleep and if I said "want to go for a ride?" or "treat" or "bedtime" or any hosts of other sentences with which they were familiar, they would immediately jump up and pay attention. They understood. You'll never convince me otherwise.

I have had a lot of emotional pain in my life as has everyone. For 12 years whenever I cried, no matter where they were, they would always come to me and comfort me. They slept in my bed, they went with me whenever I visited friends, they went with me on vacations, they went with me to the park, they went with me whenever I had to go the doggie grocery store so they could pick out their food and treats, they even attended my dinner parties that I used to have at my house as well as my yearly Christmas parties. They knew to never get around people food or close to people when they were eating. They would get a safe distance away and would both sit there side by side watching people eat but they would never approach the people or get near the food. I could put a plate filled with steak on the floor and walk outside and when I came back they would be sitting at a distance staring at it, but they would not touch it. I would like to say I taught them this, but I didn't. It was just a natural thing that they knew. They knew if they were good when the people were eating that I would reward them afterwards and I always did. They were the best friends I have ever and will ever have.

I told them everything and they listened. That's the greatest thing about dogs. They listen to whatever you want to tell them and they never ever pass judgment or try to give you advise or tell you how silly or stupid you are for feeling that way. They just maintain eye contact and listen and then once you're finished, they give you lovin.

Quincy used to sing with me and Cole used to love to dance with me. We used to sit by the lake and after we moved from the lake, they would sit on my deck with me, for hours each of us in our own thoughts. Quincy on one side of me and Cole on the other. We'd sit there for hours and watch the sun go down over the lake and the geese on the water. No need for conversation. We were just enjoying the view and the company. Occasionally I would pet them and occasionally they would lick my hand. We were just comfortable being together.

I couldn't go with them when it came time for each of them to die. I just couldn't. They loved me and trusted me to always take care of them and I felt that I had let them down. I just couldn't go. My son in law (God love him) did it for me. They are both buried in my daughter and son in laws back yard beneath a tree.

When I first got them, I asked the vet what their life expentancies were and he said that for Cole it would be 6-8 years and for Quincy it would be 8-10 years. Cole made it 12 years and Quincy made it 15 years. I'm thankful about that but I sure wish they could have made it much longer.

I can't tell you how much I miss these guys. I have since found two strays puppies and have taken them in. They are cute. They aren't Cole and Quincy. I try to love them but I compare them constantly to Quincy and Cole. They will never be as handsome or as smart or as good as Quincy and Cole. If I live to be 1000 years old I will never again find dogs as smart and good as them.

Quincy was always a good dog. His only vices were the litter box (he loved brownies) and the garbage. I found that as long as I kept the kitchen garbage can empty and kept the litter box where he couldn't get to it, we were good. Those were his only shortfalls.

He had another issue which I wouldn't really call a shortfall and that was to open doors. Quincy loved my cats (Miss Billie Holliday and Hank). Whenever they wanted to go outside, Quincy would take his paw and hit the door knob until he heard it click and then he would take his mouth and pull the door open for them. Unfortunately, he never saw fit to shut it behind the cats so there was more than one time that I woke up in the morning to find the back door standing wide open. It became my habit after a period of time to make certain that the deadbolts were turned as well as the knobs before I went off to bed.

Cole, was a very BAD puppy for the first full 2 years of his life. He ate my inside plants, he ate my shoes, he ate my phones, he ate my extension cords (while they were plugged in) he ate a hole (literally) through to the outside brick in my den, he ate the frames around my kitchen door, he ate his glass water bowl, he ate my steam cleaner, he ate the siding off my house - getting the picture??? He was BAD. My vet had told me that if I could just not kill him until he was 2 he would be a great dog. I kept telling myself that every day after work when I would come home to find that he had gotten my closet door open and he was found surrounded by my shoes with one hanging out of his mouth. I kept telling myself that when I would have to come home at lunch everyday and clean the carpets because he had overturned all of my houseplants and played in the dirt. But the vet was right. When he was 2, he turned into the perfect dog. Never again did he chew anything he wasn't supposed to. Never did he do anything bad again for the rest of his life. He was the perfect dog.

When he was maybe 1-1 1/2 years old, I tried to keep he and Quincy in my back yard while I was at work (hoping to keep the damage inside my house to a minimum). I had a decent sized yard with a privacy fence all the way around. I also had an abundance of mature oak trees in the back yard which prevented sunlight from getting to the yard. A perfect place for them to be in the heat of summer. I bought them kiddie pools (one for each because they didn't care to share) and they would play in it - Cole liked to just lay in his.

I worked about 10 blocks from my house. EVERY day - EVERY day one of my neighbors would call me at work to tell me that Cole was at his house. I would get in the car and go home to find Quincy being a good dog in our back yard while Cole would be either at Bill's house or at Larry's house or next door at Steve and Tina's house being loved on and fed. We lived in a small very tightly knit neighborhood and we all had dogs that we were obsessive about. I would brag and brag about how good Quincy was not to get out and how bad Cole was to get out until one day Steve and Tina told me that Quincy got out every time Cole did BUT Quincy knew the sound of my car and whenever he would hear it rounding the corner, he would stop eating his treats and high tail it back to the back yard where he would be waiting for me - like a good dog. I spent every weekend and God knows how much money trying to fortify that fence so they couldn't get out. It never worked so they went back to staying in the house while I was gone.

God I miss those guys. I can't believe I'm using my blog to talk about it. I just can't seem to get over it. I still walk past their favorite places to lay and I think for just a second that I see them. They both liked to sit beneath my desk whenever I was on the computer, and still I am very careful as to where I put my feet because I don't want to step on them. I still think about it being time for Quincy's shots and I still sometimes hear the very distinctive sound of Cole's fingernails on the floor as he is walking to the bedroom at bedtime. I still have the last bottle of insulin and his needle in my fridge and I have Cole's pain medication in my purse. I don't think I'll ever get rid of either. It's all I have left of them.

For 12 years, every night of my life when it became 10 o'clock, Quincy and Cole would come to me and Quincy would bark and do this silly little dance he did where he would turn in quick circles and I knew it was time for bed. They would follow me as I turned off the lights and checked the doors and then they would run and jump on the bed each getting into their favorite spots. I started out with a full size bed when they were smaller, then I upgraded to a queen size and finally to a king size mattress. Cole was 158 pounds and Quincy was 112 so I had to have a bed large enough basically for 3 people and still I would wake up in the mornings clinging to the side of the bed to keep from falling off while they were sprawled out on my pillows. The last 2 year's of Quincy's life he could no longer jump onto the bed so I took an old rectangular coffee table, I cut the legs down some and then I put it at the foot of my bed so he could climb onto it and then onto the bed. The last 6 months or so of his life, he couldn't even do that any longer and he would just lay on a doggie bed that I had made for him which was next to my bed so I could reach my hand down and pet him.

Years ago, I discovered that if I kept the TV on tuned to the cartoon network while I was at work, they were very good all day. If I forgot - destruction would occur. If I had the TV on but on a different channel - destruction would occur. They liked their cartoons. When my son got out of the Army back in 2002, he came to live with me. I told him that the TV had to be on the cartoon network while I was at work and he laughed at me and said that was crazy. One day, he left the house while I was work and he turned off the TV. He came home and the house was in a shambles. He thought it was a fluke so the next day when he left the house, he left the TV on but it was not on the Cartoon Network - again shambles. So the next day he left the TV on cartoon network and when he got home - perfection. He became a believer at that point.

I used to think sometimes that it would be great when I could have the bed all to myself and when I didn't have to buy Quincy's insulin and needles anymore (not cheap) and when I didn't have to schedule my day around his shots and their bathroom breaks and when I didn't have to buy 100 pounds of dog food a month, 2 large boxes of treats a month and 60-62 cans of wet dog food a month. Not to mention the vet bills! The last year of his life, Cole had to have a very large tumor removed from his paw and Quincy had to have a super large tumor removed from his chest - neither of which was anywhere near cheap.

But I found the money for it somehow. I had to. They were my best friends. As melodramatic as it sounds, they were my soul mates. I've never had a person who loved me as much as they did or was as loyal as they were or as forgiving or as patient or as trusting. I never will. I love them with all of my heart and soul and I always will. I have turned into this crazy dog lady that I used to make fun of.

I remember many times working in offices when I would see a secretary with photo's of her dogs or cats plastered around her desk and I would think CRAZY. I would think how sad that they have pictures of animals on their desks and not people. They must be lonely souls. I didn't get it. Now I do. But I wish I didn't. This is more pain than I want or need.

My foster son (Dusty) lived with me off and on since 2002 and he loves to say that when he dies he hopes he comes back as one of my dogs because Cole and Quincy had a good life.

I hope they did. I tried as hard as I could to give them a good life. I just miss them more than I ever imagined I could ever miss anything or anyone (other than my sister).

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