No dog ever lives long enough but somehow I feel short-changed with Rowdy, a mere seven years is simply not enough. He was a planned puppy, not an impulse puppy where you see a cute or orphaned dog and just feel compelled to bring them home. Not Rowdy...it took nearly three years for me to talk my husband into even entertaining the idea of getting another dog as he had taken the loss of his prior two dogs hard, stoically, but hard. My husband is the smarter of the two of us and can see far into the future with each decision he makes and always knows how the story ends long before it begins. Eventually, however, I wore him down to the point where he would at least look at the dogs advertised on Craigslist. Now that was a start! There was always a reason why this one or that one was not the one but I kept chipping away at him until one day he saw the pictures of the pups and said maybe. Well I took that maybe for a yes and badgered him some more until he said that maybe we could call later. Later? Later when they are gone? I was on the phone the next minute and a meeting was set up for the following day.
We took Hunter, our grandson, who was five at the time to be part of this great adventure and we met in the parking lot of a Walmart on a cold and dismal winter day. There were three or four of the little guys and girls wiggling around in the back of a Suburban, dirty, smelly and adorable. Hunter and I immediately picked our favorite which was not the one Gramps was interested in but two against one wins and we paid the puppy peddlers their fifty bucks and were on our way. Names...what to name a new dog? We went through lists online and silly things we made up and Rowdy won out. Not original but as it turned out, due to his temperament, it was the perfect name for him. Over the years we did call him other things like Lambert (after Lambert the Sheepish Lion) when he would slink down in fear pretending to be invisible when he saw a flock of geese hanging out at the lake where we walked, we called him a hobo dog when he'd be off on his own checking things out, long and lean and on a mission, my husband often referred to him as Meathead when he wouldn't get out of the way while we worked in the kitchen and later on when he developed epilepsy we would from time to time call him Little Caesar...trying to keep things light.
Our goal with this dog had been to keep him healthy in a more natural way and we made homemade dog food with all sorts of natural ingredients, many included from our garden. Neither of us had ever put so much into a dog before and we were determined to see him into his old age with a healthy disposition. I balked when my mother-in-law would sneak him treats of Puperoni or Milk Bones and threatened mentally to tie him up to prevent him from going next door begging. In the end this mattered little and it's made me re-think many of our decisions not only about Rowdy but about the way we take care of ourselves...maybe it's all just a crapshoot, you win, you lose, it all comes out the same in the end anyway I suppose.
Time passed and we had so much fun, walking, hiking, running and swimming. Life is never dull with a dog and he soon had us trained in all sorts of ways. His favorite was the frisbee, not just any frisbee, but his frisbee which was originally bought at a garage sale for a quarter and replaced a couple of times on Amazon when he had simply decimated his. We took him to mountain lakes and ran with him around the small lake we live on and often remarked that for his breed and age he was kind of a wimpy dog. He tired easily and seemed to lack the stamina we thought he should have so we never over-exerted him and just accepted him for who he was. The grandson spent a lot of time with us when he was young and he and I and Rowdy spent countless hours at the lake, Hunter fishing, Rowdy and I often getting bored after a couple of hours of watching. To entertain myself, I taught my partner to do a routine at the kiddie playground including feats of climbing steps, going through a tunnel, down the slide and the grand finale of jumping over the swing. He performed in a haphazard but eager fashion and we had great fun.
From six to seven years of age we managed pretty well. When he was just over seven and after six months of being seizure free he hit the wall. Multiple seizures early on a Sunday morning that were stopped only with a double dose of emergency valium prescribed by the vet for just this purpose. The next day he was lethargic and throwing up so it was off to the vets again where it was discovered he had developed pancreatitis. He was treated for that and we picked him up and brought him home where he appeared to have snapped right out of it. We increased his meds to full dose and things went well for another three weeks until he was struck again hard on a Sunday night with another bout of pancreatitis. I spent the night on the floor of the living room with him, trying to give him comfort and knowing that things were not going well for poor Rowdy. My husband and I had both noticed over the past month that while we had been trying to fatten him up he was losing weight and he had the tell-tale sign of getting skinny in his hind end, never a good sign. He acted as if he were starving and wolfed his food down which I attributed to the side effects of his increased medication. We talked in length that night about what to do about Rowdy. We both agreed that if we thought he could be cured we would do it in a minute but we also both felt that we were fighting a losing battle and we would not allow him to suffer. Through that long night we came to the painful decision to have him euthanized and with heavy hearts it was done the next morning. We brought our beloved dog home and gave him a proper burial beneath the cedar tree outside our kitchen window.
It's been several days and though we don't regret the decision, I miss him like crazy. His eyes, always following us, figuring out what we were up to, where we were going, what we were going to do. His uncanny knack of sticking his head into the bedroom every morning at 6:20 to see if I was going to get up, which I promptly did. The routines he instilled in us, walks at 7:15 and 2:15 every day, rain, snow, winter, summer, sick or well, we walked, every darn day, year after year. All the little things that you don't even realize until they are gone.
In hindsight I have no regrets, he was lucky to have us and I often wondered what might have happened to him had he ended up with someone else as he definitely was our special needs dog. We were lucky to have him as well as he freely shared his love and trust with us all the way to the bittersweet end. If we killed him with anything, I'm pretty sure I can say without hesitation that we killed him with kindness. He will stay in our hearts forevermore.
Lying awake in the early morning hours before daylight simply missing his presence and listening to the rhythmic breathing of my husband I am starkly reminded of the fragility of all life. I sigh and curl tightly into my husband and wait for another day to begin knowing logically, but resisting emotionally, that this too shall pass.