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    Tuesday, September 22, 2015

    Sad News Part Two

    Peggynol’s Alaskan Gundog – aka Bobo, aka G-Dawg, aka G, aka Old Man, aka Handsome Boy, most commonly known as Gunner. 07/17/99 – 09/24/15

    As if the Magic news wasn’t bad enough, Gunner has also been deteriorating rapidly lately. Over the past year he has started having spells where he has no physical strength and he is mentally gone. They’re becoming more frequent and lasting longer, coming now at a pace of about one a week, lasting about a day. The one he had this last weekend was especially bad, and he’s only partially back. He’s quit eating and has great difficulty breathing.

    After a long talk with Lesa after I told her about my decision with regard to Magic, she suggested that maybe it was Gunner’s time too. My mother had suggested the same thing. I hated to agree, but I knew they were right. The vet is going to put Gunner to sleep at the same time he come for Magic.

    I’ve already explained what these dogs have meant to me, so rather than belaboring that, I’d like to share some of my favorite Gunner memories.

    I wasn’t there for this, but Lesa likes to tell how she chose Gunner. Or rather, Gunner chose her and Drew. A friend of Lesa’s was a breeder of Welsh Springer Spaniels who’s main dog had a litter. She told Lesa she could come pick out a dog. Drew was about 20 months old at the time, and was roaming around like toddlers do. The puppies ignored him, except for Gunner, who followed Drew around wherever he went. Lesa’s friend told her that Lesa didn’t have any choice in which puppy to choose because one puppy had already chosen them.

    Another memory I love is from a few years back. Springer Spaniels get their name from the way they approach game. They spring at birds, causing them to take flight. Bot Magic and Gunner are jumpers, but Gunner much more so than Magic. I had the dogs in the front yard one late spring day, and the birds in the oak tree were chattering at the dogs. One bird took to swooping down and buzzing them. It was coming in for another round when Gunner jumped at it, hitting it with his paw and knocking it out of the air. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. He wasn’t trying to hit the bird, he did it accidentally. He went running after the bird, but it was able to straighten itself out and take off before he got there.

    But my favorite Gunner memory is this: It took a couple of weeks after we brought Ethan home from the hospital before he would sleep in his crib at night. But once he did, Gunner slept beneath the crib every night til Ethan moved to a bed. It was as if he was saying to us ‘It’s okay, you get some sleep. I’ve got this.’

    I love both of these dogs so much. It’s only hours now til they’re both gone, at least from this physical plane of existence. (My father is going to have a lot on his hands when they join him in heaven.) I hope Gunner has had a good life, and that he knows how much he was loved and how much he will be missed. 

    Monday, September 21, 2015

    Sad News Part One

    Samson’s Merry Magic – aka Circus Dog, aka Little Miss Magic, aka Dammit Magic!, aka Magic Stop!, aka Magic No!, aka Magic Don’t!, aka My Girlie Girl, most commonly known as Magic. 11/27/01 – 09/24/15

    Magic has had numerous medical difficulties, starting in July 2010 when I rushed her at night to Bright Eyes, Bushy Tails in Iowa City. She having trouble breathing, shaking, clearly in discomfort. She was there for four days, they having discovered that she was suffering both from Lyme Disease and a completely non-functioning thyroid.

    Approximately 14 months later, she collapsed while in the front yard. By then I was taking her to Farm and Family Vet in Victor. Dr. Cheney - a great, great vet - recognized that she had the symptoms of Addison's Disease, a disease vets so rarely catch that they call it the Great Imposter due to it presenting as several different diseases. There is only one treatment, and she started on it as soon as tests confirmed that's what she had. For the last several years, I've spent about $140 a month on meds, an amount I'd gladly spend forever. Unfortunately, time had other plans. 

    Magic had a small stroke the night we had off before we opened Death of a Salesman at ICM. She had a major stroke the week after the show closed.

    The stroke really affected her balance and her sense of direction. It didn’t help that she was already nearly blind. Dr. Cheney said that if she didn’t begin to recover within the first two weeks of the stroke, she wouldn’t recover at all.  I spent the end of May and the first part of June thinking any day would be the day I would have to make the decision to have her put to sleep. But she gradually recovered a lot of her abilities. Not all. She couldn’t climb the steps to the bed anymore, meaning I have had to lift her onto the bed. She also never was able to walk in a straight line, meaning no more running free outside. She seemed to like being on the leash after that, though. I imagine it made her feel safer, knowing someone was there near her.

    I worried that she wouldn’t make it through the summer, that I would need to say goodbye while Ethan was still here. But she made it through, and was still doing okay til a couple of weeks ago. That’s when I noticed her ability to walk at all was deteriorating. Shortly after that she began having trouble standing, and most recently trouble breathing at times.

    English Springer Spaniels always look sad. That’s their thing. But there’s a light in their eyes, a spark behind the sadness. This past weekend I realized the spark had gone. She seemed tired, weary. I had silently promised her that when she was ready to go, I would do the right thing and not hold on to her for my sake. So today I called the vet, and made the arrangements. He’s going to come here on Thursday, and that will be it.

    I’m writing this with a broken heart. She has been my constant companion since Lesa and I got her in January 2002. I have spent more time with her over these 13+ years that I have with any other living creature, even Gunner (who was with Lesa in Pennsylvania for about half a year). Magic fit in a baseball cap when we first got her, and now, as I tease her when I have to lift her upstairs on onto the bed, she’s a ‘heavy heavy dog’. I love her.

    I cannot overstate how much she, and Gunner, have meant to me. I went through some very dark times when Lesa took the boys out east. There was a good three year period where I felt so meaningless, so insubstantial that a breeze could have carried me away. Many was the night on the way home, especially after Ethan had just left here to go back to Pennsylvania, where I was tempted to just keep driving until the money ran out and just start over someplace else, with no contact with anyone I knew. Magic, and Gunner, stopped me from doing that. They were my anchor, my tether to this life, my sanity. I don’t need them for that anymore, fortunately, but that doesn’t make the pain any less acute.

    She’s laying on the floor right now beside me, licking my feet as she likes to do. Of course this has been one of the rare recent days where she seems engaged with life. But that doesn’t change the fact that no matter what I do, she’s not long for this world, and I’d rather let her go out on good days, with dignity, then prolong it. I owe her that.

    I can only hope she’s enjoyed her life, that she knows how loved she has been and will always be. She will always be a part of me.