Tuesday, April 5, 2016

We Have Been Blessed With So Many....


...and then there were two.

(Bruce's Recollections)

Learning is a slow process, for humans and for dogs.  More so for humans, we make the same mistakes over and over before we get it right.  Dogs usually pick up after the first try.  So, one of the things all the dogs we have had taught us is that there are no ‘bad dogs’.  There are only dogs that have not been given their full potential.  But we keep expecting them to learn at our pace, not theirs.  We have since learned different.  We don’t teach dogs, they teach us.  We just have to learn to speak their language.

When Sue and I became a couple back in 2006, the children that we chose to have were dogs.  Dogs that were thrown away near the park where we lived.  Frightened souls that were cast out into the night through no fault of their own.  Yes, quite a few of those rejects ended up on our door, some we found homes for, some we kept.  The first was Bacchus. 

As a six week old puppy, he screamed cute.  He was a little stuffed bear come to life and he was super eager to please.  There were fliers and searches, but his owner could not be found, if they ever existed.  So he became a member of our pack and was raised in the ways of the Johnson Clan.  We were not going to have any lazy or disobedient dogs in our house, so it was off to school for Bacchus.  Lots of school.  We fell in love with that dude.  He made all dogs seems like perfect little angels as he grew.

At that time, Bacchus was home alone during the day so we thought that a companion dog might be good for him.  So into our life stepped Max.  I won’t go into details about Max, but you can read all about him here.  Needless to say, Max was the opposite of Bacchus.  He was a hellion and had a zest for life that was incalculable.  But Max proved his worth in the end, it just took a lot longer and with a different mind set than I had thought (see paragraph one). 

Then for reasons that I still don’t understand, we got Chella.  A six-year old Great Dane, that stood a yard high and weighed 135lbs.  We had never seen a creature with such power and stature that had such a gentle and loving personality.  Everyone bonded with Chella, even Max.  She was the matriarch of the entire house. 

So that was the Johnson Pack as of 2 years ago.  But time and tide catches ups with us all.  We are all just ghosts in the machine in the end.  Chella went first.  She was 12 years old, ancient by Dane standards, and she was ready to leave.  We hugged her as she closed her eyes and wept most of the remainder of the day.  Next came Max.  Terminal liver disease was his undoing at the age of seven.  That really hurt because he had to go before his time.  Being a responsible pet owner is one of the most difficult things sometimes, and one of the most important. 

Today, it was Bacchus.  Auto-Immune disorder did him in.  He was getting weaker and weaker and his quality of life was slipping away.  So we let him slip away this morning at 10 am, while we held his paw and stroked his long fur. 

And now there are two.  Poindexter, the stray puppy-mutt that we found in a Phoenix strip mall late one night in 2010.  We are pretty sure that he may be an escaped science experiment from a laboratory, but he blended in with the pack pretty well. 

And Coco, our Chocolate Lab / Doberman mix.  She was found wandering the borderlands of the United States and Mexico about 1/2 years ago.   Super friendly, super smart, and gosh darn, she is a beautiful dog. 

This evening as I sat reading my tablet, Coco comes up to me and puts her head on my knee and waged her tail.  I stared down into her deep copper eyes while I reached down to put my hands under her ears and scratched..  She squinted her eyes and stretched out her neck to let me know that had found the sweet spot.   I stopped scratching, looked into her eyes and said,  “You are the pack leader now and you stand on the shoulders of great dogs that came before you.  Don’t let us down.”

I know she won’t.  Her previous pack-mates were patient and taught us well.  

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(Sue's Memories)

Our Dog, Bacchus, has gone to Heaven.  It hurts so much…where do I begin?

Ten years ago, Bruce and I had recently married and were living in a Historic District in Central Phoenix called Encanto-Palmcroft (I remember the number of years instantly as Bruce and will soon be celebrating our 10th Anniversary in May).  When we started dating he had two cats, Ludwig & Miss Kitty, and I had Kodiak, Miss Helga and Tabatha.  It took awhile, but we blended “our children.”  It was an adjustment for all of us, but we slowly settled into a routine and all got along.

We became actively involved in our neighborhood and one day there was an email sent out to our exclusive group that a stray puppy, with no ID, had been found wondering our neighborhood and wondered if it belong to anyone or if anyone wanted to adopt it.  (Our neighborhood had stray cats and dogs dropped off all the time).  The picture showed a very furry brown-eyed puppy that was maybe 5-6 months old.

We both had dogs at various times in our past and we thought it would be nice to have a new family member.  Either a dog or cat that we got “together.”  You know how the story goes…”your” kids or “my” kids.  We wanted “our” kid!  So we decided just to go and look at this puppy and then decide.  Well, the rest is history.

We named him “BACCHUS,”  We were going with a Wine theme in our home and Bruce came up with the name, which means the ‘God of Merriment and Wine’.  I would tell people that Bacchus would make everyone happy, but drives you to drink and he lived up to his name.  Out of curiosity, we decided to do a DNA and showed he was definitely Chow, but also Weimerweimer!  Huh?  I had never heard of that breed and looked it up.  It fits…he looked like a Chow, but I think his personality was the Weimerweimer, i.e., loving, playful, always wanting to be touched and would roll over on his back so children could pet his belly.  He was just like a live Teddy Bear!!  He enjoyed visiting the elderly and everytime anyone who came up to us, he wanted to be petted. 

Anyone could touch him (something a full-blooded Chow probably would not do).  BUT…there were two incidents that I remember.  We were doing our daily walks in the mornings, and a man was walking towards us.  Normally, Bacchus is what I call a ‘sniff and piss’ dog.  All he does is sniff and piss, over and over.  And if anyone walks by us he just keeps on doing his thing or will try to nudge the person that he wants to be petted.  However, both times, he instantly walked close to my side and did a low growling sound as we walked on by.  I totally trusted his instincts when meeting people.  He was my protector!!! 

Reminds me of a funny story.  We have since moved to Bisbee, AZ and were having plumbing issues.  We met the plumber, including Bacchus, and he admitted that he wasn’t fond of Chows (they do have a bad reputation), however, we were all present when he petted Bacchus and he was very friendly towards him.  So the next day while I was at work, we had made arrangements for the plumber to do the work on our house and had left the front door open so he could go in.  I received a phone call from the plumber indicating that Bacchus refused to let him come into the house.  Quickly thinking, I told him that I had forgotten to TELL Bacchus that morning that the plumber would be over, so he therefore would not let him in the house.  So I drove home and explained it to Bacchus.  Bacchus had no problem after that.  [The plumber believe me!]

So many experiences with Bacchus, so many memories.  The car rides together, going to Rocky Pointe, snuggling together on the floor (he never could jump on the bed).  I think my favorite was when Bacchus and I went to pick up Bruce at the train station.  The train was running several hours late, so Bacchus and I huddled together in the car talking and sleeping while we waited.  The bond I felt with him was so intense.

Roughly 9 months ago, Bacchus stopped eating and was diagnosed with having an autoimmune disorder.  The vet, at the time, told us that the only thing that could be done was a blood transfusion, and then it was only a 50/50 chance of survival.  We decided to treat first with steriods (cheaper).  He health and temperment soon improved and his happy go-lucky spirit came back.  We were estatic and slowly weaned him off the steriods! 

A new vet Dr. Paula Tyler, came to Bisbee and took over the Cochise Animal Hospital, so we decided to have him re-tested and see how he was doing.  She was wonderful and we could see the compassion she had for animals.  The tests showed no signs of being sick.  She had never seen it disappear before, but maybe it had gone into remission.  That was August of this past year.

But that happiness disappeared a few weeks ago.  We started noticing similar signs of not wanting to eat and again being very tired.  So back to the vet.  Sure enough, it had returned.  Again we started with the pills (good old steriods), but this time, it did not work.  This past week it declined to the point of having to make that difficult decision.  Do a blood transfusion (with only a 50/50 chance & extremely costly), or send him to Heaven.  We did the latter.  He would have been 9 years next month.  And knowing him as well as I did, and being able to read each other minds, I knew…he was ready to go.

The staff and Dr. Tyler were incredible and till the end, we were with Bacchus loving and carressing him as he peacefully slipped away.  We each kissed him our last goodbye, including Dr. Tyler.

EPILOGE
We were curious as to how our other animals would react.  In the past 2 years, we put our Great Dane, Chella, down due to old age.  When we arrived back home that day, all the dogs were depressed, and Max literally would not come out of his cage for two days and would not eat.  She was like a mother to him.  The whole atmosphere was full of the realization that Chella was never coming home.

Then we had to put Max down due to End Stage Liver Disease.  However, when we came home, it was a whole different scene…more like “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!”  Everyone was happy, none of the animals were depressed and even our cats were struting around dancing with joy!  Our household became very calm and low-keyed afterwards and everyone got along.

So we weren’t sure what reaction we would receive from our other “kids”.  We walked in…they knew.  Bruce and I sat and talked about our memories, and I got up and played my favorite song, “Lucky Ole Sun.”  Went to the kitchen for a glass of water (and to blow my nose and wipe away more tears), and when I came back to the living room it hit me.  ALL of our remaining pets, Coco, Poindexter, Miss Helga, Ludwig, Copper, Holly and even Nico (who we have only had for 4 months), were in the living room.  As Bruce and I looked around the room, all the cats looked teary-eyed and were walking slowly, and then would stop…look around, look at us, and then slowly lay down.  Coco then jumped into the chair and prayed (one of the tricks I have taught her), and then hung her head on the arm of the chair. 

We have had many other dogs--some who have been extremely challenging.  But Bacchus, was the PERFECT DOG and he is now gone forever.  If it hadn’t been for Bacchus, we would not have become the dog lovers we are today. 

He will forever be in my heart.

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For those whose eyes still aren't teared up by now, you can always visit Bacchus' life in pictures that I have posted on Flickr (if you want to see what a really handsome and smart dog looks like)