Thursday, November 4, 2010

In memory of Dusty the wonderdog (1993-2010)

Dusty was already a senior citizen when he came into my life. 

At the time, I was working in a veterinary clinic in Las Vegas and three Pekingese were dropped off for adoption.  The owner had passed away and nobody in the family wanted to take them.  Their names were Snowball, Prince and Dusty.  Although they weren't related, they looked similar because they only had one eye each.  To be completely accurate, Prince did have two eyes but only one was functional.  Clearly, the previous owner did not do a very good job at looking after their ocular health. 

I love the Pekingese breed.  They are gentle dogs who don't bark a lot.  They aren't demanding of your attention but they love it when they get it.  Although they are prone to eye problems, they are generally low maintenance in the health department.  They are cuddly and cute and they make a blissful snoring noise when they are in a deep sleep.  No, they aren't intelligent or obedient but that's fine with me; I don't want a dog that needs to be challenged.  And Pekes are okay with being who they are. 

Prince was adopted right away by one of our clients and after a week had passed without any offers on the other two, I decided to take them home.  I wasn't looking for two dogs but I just couldn't separate them.  Snowball was white, of course and Dusty was black but the differences weren't only in their colors.  Snowball was extremely affectionate and mischievous (forget about trying to get pills down his gullet) while Dusty was skittish and shy but polite.  The two of them got along great and I was blessed to have them. 

Several months later, a Peke was brought into the clinic to be euthanized.  He had been hit by a car and had a broken leg.  The owners couldn't afford to do anything and wanted him "put down".  As luck would have it, my receptionist recognized the Peke as Prince and after an extensive surgery, he came home with me and joined his brothers. 

Here they are posing.  To get this shot, it took A LOT effort but I finally managed to get it.  You may have heard the expression "like herding cats"?  The same expression could be used for Pekes. 

I no longer have Snowball or Prince.  Prince developed paralysis of his hind end due to back injuries that he sustained after his accident.  Snowball lived to nearly 15 years of age and was euthanized after developing a neurological issue that made him walk constantly in circles. 

They were incredible dogs and both of them were very well loved, by me and by the people who knew them. 

Dusty always had lots of energy.  He loved to run and play, even as the years crept up on him.  I had an old couch in my backyard (yes I know, it was ghetto) but he loved to jump on it and sit on the top. 

I would like to say that Dusty missed his brothers but I think the opposite was true.  After they were gone, Dusty became much more outgoing and affectionate.  Of course, he got ALL the attention which he didn't seem to mind one bit. 

As the years passed, Dusty developed a lot of health problems.  His kidneys started to fail, he developed a heart murmur, his discs in his back deteriorated and he grew a cataract in the only eye that he had.  I figured I didn't have much time with him so birthdays were a big celebration.  McDonald french fries were his favorite and he probably wondered why every day wasn't his big day.

For another birthday, I gave him a dog cake from Three Dog Bakery.  Not quite as good as the fries but still pretty good.  Or so he told me. 

When I took off four months for a sabbatical, I really didn't think Dusty was going to be in earthly form.  I was wrong.  He was quite content to sit in the backseat all the way from Los Angeles through to Savannah, Georgia.  He then flew with me up to Canada for another month and finally returned to California. 

By the time Dusty reached 16, he was a sleepy guy.  Still, life was pretty good. 

Dusty left me when he was 17 years and 8 months.  Like most owners with senior dogs, I knew the day was coming but I didn't know exactly when. 

Clients ask me all the time when "it's time".  I tell them to watch the quality of life.  Is the pet comfortable?  Does he still play?  Does he still get around well?  How well are we managing the diseases that may be causing him discomfort?  These are easy questions that I ask but the difficult answers I leave up to the clients.  With Dusty, I knew exactly what they felt like.  How in the heck do you really know when to say goodbye??

Dusty developed pancreatitis and he quickly declined.  I suppose he made it easier for me although I briefly thought that he still had one life to use up.  But in my heart, I knew.  I knew that it was "time" and I hope all my clients have that peaceful feeling when they know that there is only one thing left to do. 

Being a veterinarian, I could never take one of my pets to another veterinarian and have it euthanized.  I suppose I consider it a blessing that I can do it myself.  There is a private grief that I have to have.  A final private moment between myself and the dog that has given me so much love and laughter over the years. 

Dusty lay on my bed eating his McDonald's fries.  When he was done, he quietly, peacefully and happily went to sleep.     

Dusty, you're my buddy and I miss you so much. 

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