Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lost a friend last week.

Crickett the puppy chewing Mom's shoe.
I know she was just 10 pounds or so of, not to smart dachshund, but it was like she was one of my people.

My first dog was called Happy. Happy was a mix of Cocker Spaniel and miniature Collie. 
When I was a 12 or 13 my family started a tradition. Our neighbors at the time, the Newtons, had a dachshund named Cheer. Cheer had a litter of pups.  We all loved Happy as far as I knew, but when we lost her we had the chance to get Dachshunds. Mom insisted we get 2. My mother having been brought up on a farm had strict rules about livestock. 1.) Animals don’t go indoors. It isn’t civilized. 2.) Animals don’t have faces. They have a head, and that’s as specific as it gets. 3.) You don’t generally name farm animals. The milk cow maybe but not ones you might have to kill or eat. She didn’t like the idea too much but Mom couldn’t see a way around naming pets.
The reason Mom liked Dachshund was because they didn’t shed much, when they did shed the loose hairs were short and fine. No balls of stray dog hair collecting dust like with Happy. She had heard also that they didn’t have much of a doggie oder. This was true-ish. (We did find later that much like humans as they get older they do start to develop an unpleasant oder.) The thing about Dachshunds having a pleasant demeanor was . . . well true . . . except when it wasn’t.
Sugar was a sweet dog, all red. The other dog was red with a black racing stripe down her back. Her ears, eyes and tail were fringed in black. She had a tiny row of hairs in a kind of peak going down her muzzle. Also black. We called her Fancy. Pretty standard family dog names. They weighed in at 22 & 20 pounds.
After Sugar and Fancy the family went through some re-configuration, eventually Mom & Dad moved back into the family home. The 2nd set of Dachshunds were Thor & Apollo. Thor was red with black trim kind of like Fancy. Apollo all red but got darker as she aged. They were a bit smaller at 18 & 16 pounds.
Apollo & Thor as pups

Both of the first pairs of Dachshunds have many stories attached. The one I retell the most is about Thor & Apollo. Not only were they named after norse gods but were both males. We had only had females before and found out that not only human males tend to have an automatic competitiveness with other males. Thor was the more high strung of the two but in general l kind of way. Apollo a mellow kind of dog in general, would growl and the hair on his back would raise just walking past Thor. It wasn’t too bad the first couple of years. As they got older vicious sounding fights would break out. We even had to take them to the vet for puncture wounds a couple of times. Apollo didn’t get mean like some Doxies do, but after a while you just couldn’t talk to him, it was like he was distracted all the time with being pissed off that Thor existed.
Dachshunds are notorious for back troubles. After one of their fights Thor started being in pain all the time and had trouble walking. The vet said he had damaged the first couple of vertebrae and his spinal cord was pinched in between. Another part of Mom’s rules about animals was about not going nuts and paying big vet bills. The surgery would have cost $$$. 50/50 chance of survival. If he did survive 50/50 chance he would be out of pain.
After having Thor euthanized it took a couple of days for Apollo to figure out the he was not coming back. Suddenly Apollo was the sweetest most friendly dog you’d ever met. He had us all to himself. To the victor goes the spoils. Apollo lived another 4 or 5 years. The last 2 years no one could stand to be near him because of a skin condition that caused him to ooze slimy malodorous secretions that would get on your hands. I had moved back in with the folks and had a room off in the far corner of the house with a patio entrance. I let the dogs come and go as they wished but finally had to make Apollo sleep outside. I did feel bad about it and made a point of wrapping him in a towel and giving him hugs and pets.
Mom gradating for the nursing program 1973

My mother was a piece of work to put it lightly. She had gone back to school at age 40 to become an RN. When I was in high school I would come home to the dining room full of nursing students cramming 4 years of college into the 2 year program BC had at the time. Her nursing jobs were not the glamorous ones like you see on TV. Since her previous career had been in business and bookkeeping  she got jobs in administration like running a whole floor at a big convalescent hospital. When she turned 56 she had to stop working. She had an aggressive form of osteoporosis. As her bones degenerated she got shorter. Her spinal cord got pinched and squeezed and she lived with terrible pain everyday her last 10 years. The years of quiet living, pain medication and age made her kinder and kind of sweet.
It was decided that a puppy or two would be nice company for mom. The search was on for 2 female doxies. The first puppy was all black but the breeder didn’t know what they were doing and gave us a sickly one who died within a few days. A family in the south part of town had a litter. They came home with Crickett the runt of the litter a cute little girl dog with a bright personality. Her colors similar to Fancy and Thor. As the runt she had a crimp in the end of her tail. It took 3 months to find a suitable companion. An all red (orange I call it) pup  came to live with us. It took some trial and error in naming this one. Finally Muffin was decided on. Crickett and Muffin sounded like sorority girls to me. 12 and 14 pounders this time.
Previous dogs had been allowed in the house for up to 30 minutes a day. Times having changed and mom getting softer these two were allowed inside for whole afternoons. And were also TV watching companions. Attempts to house break these 2 went no better than it did with the others. Retractable gates limited their access to parts of the house. We were not totally incompetent pet owners. We found out that Dachshunds are also known for stubbornness and are often not house breakable. Those 2 small life forms supplied my mother with considerable comfort and joy. Even Apollo who had gotten to be a grouchy old man would play with them sometimes.
Dad and his girls Muffin & Crickett

In 1996 when we’d had the pups about six months mother had a massive stroke and died. I spent time with dad as much as I could. He got a lady friend to spend some time with, but the girls were always there for him. Apollo was quite old and ailing when I had him euthanized. In 1997 Dad developed cancer. He died on my sister’s birthday in 1998. I have been all alone since then.

I sold the parent’s house 2 years later. It didn’t sell for half of what it would have in 2005. Having no real reason to stay I was tempted to travel and live some kind of vagabond life. Maybe a condo or something like that. I decided I needed a place with a yard for the dogs. I had enough for the down payment on a HUD repo. The small house under the big tree where I live now. It’s kind of a joke to make life decision based on the needs of pets. So much in our lives is disposable, I just couldn’t see them that way. Someone would have wanted not house trained dogs, right?

As it turned out in 2001 I had a medical crisis that put me in the hospital for a week and changed the parameters of my life. Other medical problems and side effects of the medications arose and I was taken further out of circulation for most of the last decade. At times I was barely functional. I got by re-selling newspapers. As luck would have it having a garage and a yard were very useful in sorting storing and assembling newspapers. Most of this time my only companions were two small dogs named Muffin and Crickett.

Muffin, the orange one, is easy going. Content to have a minimum amount of attention. Treats have become a growing interest over the years. Starting at 13 pounds she is over 18 now. She takes after me. How sweet.
Crickett was very lively at first as a pup. She loved the biting game. She was always snapping and biting in a playful way. I’m not sure what it was, maybe being the runt, but I saw it in her eyes one day when she was just 2 or 3 months old. “Oh crap these people are F-ing huge. They could crush me in an instant” From that time on she was the high-strung nervous one. Always more interested in attention than treats. Out in the yard she was the one first to bark and keep barking all day to make her point.
The first couple of years we lived here I made them live outside. There is a foliage covered hill at the back of the lot. They both would spend whole days chasing down mice, rats and other varmints. A few years ago I started letting them stay inside in winter. The back door (with doggie door) leads to a laundry room where I put their bed. Retractable fence keeps them from smelling up the place when I’m not around to watch them.
Muffin, Me & Crik webcam shot for Christmas 08?

About a year ago the smell of dog pee was getting everywhere. I had to start keeping tighter control on their movements. Crickett would start screaming any time I would reach to pet her. Then some times not. I couldn’t figure it out. They are both still very sweet dogs but on the side of being cranky old ladies. Crickett was getting thinner than I have ever seen her. My new business hasn’t taken off yet and I can’t even afford for me to see a people Dr. Even if I could afford it I don’t think a vet could have done much. I started feeding her canned food. She perked up for a while. I knew the end was coming. I would find her just standing in a corner sometimes whining because she couldn’t figure out to turn around or back up. She no longer tried to hide and would pee where she stood. Two mornings this past week I woke up to her crying in the back yard. Her paw trapped by a piece of wire or something she should have been able to get out of or known to avoid.
Old Crickett on her last day
She wasn’t crying and didn’t seem in pain the rest of the time except sometimes when I’d pet certain parts. I just couldn’t stand to face her deterioration. I knew it was only a matter of days, afraid to find her dead and bloated in the back yard I found a way to have her euthanized on the cheap with the help of the Humane Society at the SPCA.

I had done all of my crying and saying good by at home. The folks at spca are kind and understanding but didn’t ask and placed us a little room to say good bye some more. I’m a liberated man and all. Not afraid to show emotion. I didn’t want to lose it in front of this office full of people as much as they seemed to think I should. Mom never cried. Women who cried easy got no respect from her either.  I don’t think about mom very often but I was that day.

She lived to be 16, good run for a small dog. I will miss her so much. I refused to look back. The image of Apollo looking at me as I walked away is burned into my memory. One is enough.

It’s been a couple of days, Muffin seems alright. Follows me around just like always. Wants treats like always. Since she was not the pee’er I let her sleep by me watching TV and at the foot of my bed. She used to greet me with flirtatious barking and growling. When she does that again I’ll know she’s okay.
Kind of worrisome that she drags her back legs sometimes. She’s 16 too.

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