Thursday, September 24, 2009

All dogs go to heaven because, unlike people, dogs are naturally good and loyal and kind.

This is a post about dogs. One dog in particular.

This last week I've been worried about my friend Lisa's puppy Chloe. The little gal was stricken with parvo and almost didn't make it. Lisa's ordeal in dealing with her worried kids and corporate vet brought back a lot of memories about the best dog I ever owned; Loey.

Loey was a Border Collie/ German Shepherd mix that looked like a black German Shepherd with the white Border Collie markings. He was a beautiful dog.

We adopted Loey while we were living in sin before we were married. He was a big part of our life and even came up during the priest's speech about marriage during the wedding ceremony: "sometimes love means a passionate hug and sometimes in means an argument where you find yourself sitting on the back porch pouring out your troubles to Loey," he said.

While he was still a puppy Loey got very sick and we took him to a nearby animal hospital. They immediately diagnosed him as having contracted the parvo virus and set about on a very aggressive, very expensive week long treatment. This particular vet had very poor people skills which is not something you want to deal with when your worried about your dog and, less importantly, your wallet.

One particular exchange with this guy went like this:

Me: "What are Loey's chances?"
Vet: "It's hard to say. Some dogs live and some dogs don't."
Mrs. Wormer: "Well doctor, some vets get paid and some vets don't. He dies we aren't paying you."

Did I mention that Mrs. Wormer kicks all sorts of ass?

Loey pulled through and lived to be a joy AND a pain in the ass for years to come. We moved from the suburbs with a tiny backyard to a country home on six wooded acres a short time after the parvo incident.

Once in a while Loey would get excited by some animal in the woods and spend the entire night running around the house barking, keeping us awake. During these incidents he seemed to completely lose his mind. He wouldn't come when you'd call him but would only stare at you from the darkened woods with those glowing eyes.

Once we had kids Loey became sort of a doggy uncle to them. When we were outside if one of the kids would start to toddle away he would run in front of them and stop, blocking their way. It must of been the Border Collie in him but he tended to herd us together when we were walking around the property.

My parents moved next door to be near their grandkids. Since the kids now consumed so much of our time and Loey was a bit neglected so he quickly adopted my dad as his new owner. He would spend days following my dad around or sunning nearby as dad tinkered on his cars. They went everywhere together.

I haven't written about this next part on this blog because there's still a lot of pain associated around what happened but I think in as much as Loey played a part that makes it so very relevant to how I feel about him even years after he died I'm going to see if I can get this out.

One night my dad called to say he was bringing up a pizza for dinner. At some point a while later we heard a strange noise outside the front door and rushed out to see what happened. My dad and collapsed on our front lawn after a massive heart attack.

The rest of what happened is pretty much a blur of surreal images and emotions. Mrs. Wormer and I took turns performing CPR on dad. It was January and pouring rain. It seemed to take forever for the fire department to get there. We kept having to shoo our kids back into the house because they were obviously upset and worried about grandpa. And then there was Loey...

At the time the dog was the last thing I was thinking about. But as I reflect back he was ever present that night. As the paramedics arrived and started working on dad he paced around them in circles, whimpering loudly.

Dad didn't make it.

There are more jumbled memories here. The EMT so gently reviewing all the stuff they'd tried and asking me if they could stop. The guys packing up their medical gear. My oldest who must've been seven-years old at the time curled on her bed saying "this is just a bad dream" over and over. The coroner arriving, again after what seemed like forever.

As they gingerly zipped the bag shut, put my dad's body on the stretcher and moved him into the hearst Loey started to wail mournfully, something I'd never heard him do before. A sad punctuation on to our awful grief.

I hadn't thought about how Loey reacted in years until my friend's puppy got sick and I started reflecting on my own dog that had parvo. I'm not a PETA guy, but I do believe after Loey's reaction to my dad's death that dogs do have an emotional connection with us, that it goes beyond the pack instinct. Their emotions may not be as complex as ours but they are there.

As for Loey- he lived a few years more but continued to have hip joint problems common in German Shepherds. His ability to move around and quality of life slowly decreased. One day he disappeared and wouldn't come when we called him. After two days of worried searching a neighbor called and had found Loey lying in his creek, barely alive.

Our vet was a gentle soul who told us Loey wouldn't walk again and we should consider saying goodbye. Though we've had to make this call before with pets this decision was agonizing. Eventually we decided that it was the best thing to have him put to sleep.

As I said goodbye I leaned over him and whispered in his ear "take care of dad when you see him."

I'd like to imagine that's what he's doing right now.