Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Great Dog, Sadness

13 or 14 years ago Leslie saw a stray dog running free on our street with the dog-catchers after him. He got away from the dog-catchers and Leslie brought him home and he immediately ran from our home. I saw him later that day and thought, what a great looking dog and I brought him home. And so Judo (AKA Buddy) came to live with David, Leslie, and me. His first night with us it was snowing or sleeting and we tried to keep him inside, but he was going kind of crazy, howling and throwing himself about, so around 1am, I let him out in the back yard. I had some straw for the garden and I piled some up close to the back door, made a kind of hole in the top, got him in there and put some more straw over him. He slept all night, curled up, warm and cozy. As our friend Jay put it, he was saved.

David named him Judo, meaning “divine wind.” For months and months he would escape the back yard and at the end of the day turn up on the front porch. He would bring stuff home, like a horrible turkey carcass or a big piece of moldy cheese or most notably, a deer leg – and then another deer leg. He was always a little or a lot wild. It was several years before anyone would put their face close to his. We tried for awhile to find another home for him, but he was a tough sell – fortunately for us.

Judo was half golden retriever and half pit bull. His fur was gold and his head was big and his jaws were impressive. He was a warrior. He loved to fight and every male dog (especially the uncastrated ones) he caught out was sent running and crying or ended up on its back in abject surrender – except for Mr. G, an equally bad boy (chow) that Buddy hated and was hated right back with equal fervor. Their fight was epic and bloody and though Buddy got the best of Mr. G, the fight wasn’t over until Leslie soaked them both down with pepper spray. He was the King of our street.

Except where other male dogs were concerned Judo was a sweet dog. Well, he wasn’t sweet to cats, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and rats. But he was sweet with humans and female dogs, especially our good old Goldy. Maybe he wasn’t all that sweet. He never tried to get people to play (except for David and me). He never, ever played rough with us – too much of a warrior for that, I always thought. Maybe the best words for me to use to describe him are warrior and dignified.

See him jumping up on the trunk of the car, to the roof, across the hood, to the ground and away. See him leap at the black lab barking, running at him (Buddy never barked as a threat - he always went in silently or with come kind of roar) and see him take the lab down to complete capitulation and whirling in the air (literally) to race up the driveway after the cat that apparently thought he could just walk around any old time. Hear him talk, "Heelllooooo." See him leap up and then over the 5 foot high wall of the Christmas tree fort. See the greatest yawn and stretch, stretching. And every morning, beside my side of the bed - Good Morning to you too. Ahhh, Buddy.

Here is a journal entry 7/2006: Buddy went down for a long count. He hurt himself lunging trying attack two other dogs. For a couple of days he could barely stand until he'd had at least an hour of aspirin on-board. Even with the aspirin, he would fall over when he tried to lift his leg to urinate. Today he's eliminating in every way and able to get up and down without much difficulty. And, when he came inside this afternoon he was helicoptering. AV (Always Violent) Buddy.

Over the years he became uncannily skilled at predicting where we would walk and he would lie down in our path. Door-lying we called it, and he got really, really good at it. It made things interesting going to the bathroom or down the hall in the middle of the night - "Dammit Judo!" Here is another journal entry (3/2009): Door-lying (see photo above), teetering, friendly, earish, innocent (see photo below), perfesser, helicoptering, sensitive nose Buddy, awww, just plain sensitive, donutting, truck-stopping, cute, annoying, always violent, sincere, tufted, awkward-lying, hopeful, appealing, publicity pooping, handsome, noble (see 1st photo) Buddy!

The back injuries happened several more times, and each time recovery was a little slower. His hips were somewhat dysplased and this became more pronounced over time. He’s been on daily aspirin for more than a year and for about the same length of time, unable to negotiate more than a few stair-steps. For the past several months, he’s stumbled 1-2 times every time we walk (which is every morning and every night). His right foot drags when he walks. He has had increasing difficulty lying down and getting up. He has also lost about 90% of his hearing and has cataracts.

The day before yesterday, David and I were working on Judo’s dog house and while we were doing that Judo took one of his trademark giant leaps. It was his last one. Since then he had terrible difficulty lying down and getting up. He cried when he tried to lie down and again when he got up. He could barely walk, but spent too much time pacing restlessly.

So today we took him to the vet, who offered to try a glucosamine and prednisone, the latter requiring 4-5 days off aspirin – and since for a year, missing aspirin caused him pain and because his back and hips were pretty much wrecked on the inside, we said no. So the vet gave him a sedative and within 1-2 minutes he was resting for the first time in days. He was lying on Leslie’s feet and I was sitting on the floor. Oh, what a relief to see him relax. Buddy licked my hand twice. About 10 minutes after the first shot, the vet came in and gave him an IV and he died so quietly.

Buddy died with his balls on and his dignity intact. He was a magnificent dog and he had a great life.

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