Still Life from Quimper

Still Life from Quimper
A shot of an almost-completed still life needlepoint

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dave the Dog

I know, I know, it's over a year since our sweet friend Dave the Dog died, but I was not in a good place when he passed last spring, and I just didn't have it in me to write out what should be a masterpiece of puppy passing. Then full-time Temp gigs starting picking up, creating a positive cashflow at home, but also taking over my daytime blogging hours.

And then on evenings I was often at my storage unit filling orders (yay orders! They just keep comin'), and weekends I've spent gardening and reading and working on my stash (both stitching and knitting), especially the 5 baby sweaters I knit over the winter, and there was just not the time to write out all the wonderful things that Dave was. Plus, this time delay helped me consolidate what my thoughts were and where my pictures were (always helpful in a blog posting!).

Here's the picture that we showed at his memorial service, thanks to the great folks at Paws, Whiskers, and Wags:

Yes, for all you Atlantans, this IS the snowfall from March 1, 2009. We knew that it would be Dave's last opportunity to play in the snow, and we wanted him to be able to enjoy it. Even here he looks unhappy, with his hindquarters not even able to hold him up and his normally happy face all kind of downward-turning. (For those who don't know, PW&W is a local pet crematory that is a wonderfully compassionate place, staffed by people who love pets and know the grief of losing one. They have an annual ceremony where people who've used their services over the past year come together in a Celebration of Life to grieve and see all the other sweet pets who have also passed. It's a wonderful healing time. The website for Paws, Whiskers, & Wags is here.)

Here are some more photos of Dave, taken when we brought him with us to Webmaster Bill's brother's house up in Springfield over Thanksgiving, 2008. We had to opportunity to see our new great-nephew, and our newly-wedded niece who lives in Chicago who brought her dog, too.

He still looks kind of sad, even though he had visited the Springfield folks before. He certainly enjoyed the visit this time, having a little boy and another dog to sniff, too.

And here's a picture we took on the way up to Springfield, when we stopped by a place called Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky at a wildlife preserve where we saw red wolves, a bald eagle (and two in the wild!), and other wonderful animals under the care of some very loving Park Rangers. We were taking Dave out to sniff and to go for a walk:

Dave loved to sniff. In fact, he sniffed sometimes to the exclusion of all else, even walking. No matter how hard I tried to persuade him that he could smell things as he walked along, he still had to at least try to sniff out what was under a bunch of leaves.

Dave came to us via a phone call from a mutual friend who had a friend working at the Lithonia Animal Hospital. A box of puppies had been dropped off at the vet (fortunately, it was at the vet and not on the side of the road), and they were looking for good homes. All of the puppies who were left (there had been a total of 12) were either black or yellow labs with their big puppy feet and square heads. Dave, though, had this small body, these legs longer than his body was tall, and this pair of ears that stuck out straight to the side as he literally perked up his ears to hear what was going on around him.

With the streamlined shape of his head, his loooong legs, and his large barrel (chest), he had all the makings of a whippet with the constitution of a lab. He loved to run, he would somehow curl up his legs on his bed to make a "Dave ball" (I still don't know how he did it), and he was a little high-strung when it came time for training. All whippet traits, but with the coat of a lab and the desire from his earliest puppyhood to be right where his people were (very much lab traits). I still remember him as a brand new puppy jumping up and down on those long legs of his to try to get onto the bed, because that's where his people were. When we moved to Decatur, during the winter months, he would jump with his Lassie jump (oh, so graceful) over the back rail of the bed, then stop instantly and curl himself up into a Dave ball where he hoped he would be unnoticed by us. And he'd never get up on the bed in the summer, except to sleep on it when we weren't there (I guess it was cooler?).

He also had learned about shoes and humans during the time we still lived on 11th Street in Midtown and I had injured my knee in martial arts. I was job-hunting at the time, having been laid off from a computer company, and one afternoon Dave needed to go out. I was having a hard time walking around because of my knee, so Dave took himself into the bedroom and got my shoes AND my socks, to alleviate any extra walking on my part. Just like that - no prompting, just knowing that his Susan was injured and needed help. From then on, he would bring us our outdoor shoes from wherever they were in the house, pretty much until 3 years or so before he died, just when we adopted Max. Maybe he saw that other dogs didn't have to bring their persons' shoes to them in order to go out?? Still, it was a great trick and we really loved to be able to encourage him in that "endeavor" of his.

Dave was the first dog I had for whom I realized the necessity of crate training and formal dog training. He had a penchant for chewing when we first got him - rugs, my left shoes (never my right ones), skirts, and a little bit of a table leg. Never mind that we had chew toys all over the apartment for him to chew - he had to chew what was forbidden. It all was too much, and we went down to our locally owned pet supply store where we bought our first dog crate. He had some anxiety about going into his crate as some dogs do, but then we saw the movie "All of Me" with Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin. We were both working for an Indian-owned company at the time and laughed during the parts when the Indian guru is trying to make sense out of what the silly Anglos wanted him to do with Lily Tomlin's spirit. We chose the phrase "Back in Bowl" to be Dave's training signal for stopping all activity and going in the crate. And you know what? The crate training worked. After a few months Dave learned what we wanted him to do and not do, and we never had a problem after that.

He was never a rambunctious dog for all of his high-strunged-ness, but he was always there to greet us when we came home, to let us know that he would like one more ear scratching before bed by thumping his tail against a hard surface, and that it was time for me to stop staring at my computer for so many hours when I worked at home on Tuesdays by poking me with his nose round about 4:00 every Tuesday afternoon to go on a walk around the neighborhood.

He was so loyal in the ways that dogs are, and despite the fact that he was in obvious pain - the walks were becoming shorter, he couldn't stand for more than a few minutes without his hindquarters giving out, he couldn't jump on the bed that last winter - his heart was still good and loyal and he just didn't want to leave his people. But as so many people have said to themselves and to their vets, we just couldn't stand to see him suffer any more. Our vet was kind and loving, too, the staff as well as the veterinarian herself, and when I had to make that phone call to say "it's time," they set up the appointment for the next day, let us in by a back door to give us some privacy, have some last time with Dave, though they still had to sedate him in order to put the tubes in by which they would administer that last dose. But he had looked so sad for so long, he had suffered with pain for so long, and it just wasn't going to get any better. Even our veterinarian was crying when she administered the shot - she was a professional who had worked with us every step of the way to make these last few months possible.

Dave was born during that horribly hot summer of 1993 (when the temps were in the 100's for several weeks), found his way to a caring vet to get the care he needed to come be our canine companion, helped bark away the homeless guys when we lived in Midtown, barked fiercely when we first moved to the 'burbs until he realized he didn't need to, did a Lassie jump onto our bed during cold winter nights, and brought us our shoes for nearly 16 years. He left us on April 21, 2009, and we will always remember him.