Thursday, July 03, 2008

Chester's heading for the end

It's inevitable that we will outlive our pets, but it's still difficult when you see it coming. Chester has been having more and more trouble getting up and staying up when he does. He staggers and falls, and can't get his legs under him. We canceled our holiday weekend camping trip so we can stay home and keep an eye on him. I think it's getting close to the end. Arthritis, heart problems, and lung problems have all been taking their toll, and an old dalmatian can only take so much.

Chester has been with us eight years and was an adult when he came from the rescue. He was brought to Chehalis humane society, after he was found wandering the countryside. He was starved and sick and had skin problems. The local dalmatian rescue, Spotted Paw, went and picked him up after the shelter called and said they needed to come get him or he would be put down, the shelter couldn't afford his medical care not knowing if he would get a home, and he'd never get a home looking like that.

So the rescue, two incredibly generous people who loved dalmatians, took him home, and started nursing him back to health. They discovered he was fine with cats, and good with other dogs. They had already adopted a dalmatian out to us, but we discovered that dog was NOT good with cats (or dogs or people as it turned out), and we returned him before anyone got hurt. They talked us into giving Chester a try.

He was young and goofy, but grown up enough to control himself. He was good with cats, and except for trampling Alki once and hurting her back, he was good with her, and backed down when she told him to back down. But we soon discovered his true self - he was dumber than a post, dumber than dirt, he was 'special' in a 'rides the short bus' kind of way. We were used to Alki, who is smart as a whip and regularly out-wits us. Alki knew all of her toys by name, Chester ate them all. Alki knew a ton of tricks, Chester knew one, and he got nervous and peed on the floor if you tried to teach him anything new. Alki had nearly earned her CGC, Chester took two trys to get anything out of basic obedience class (there was that nervous peeing on the floor thing again). In his defense, his previous owners had apparently beat the tar out of him. He threw himself on the floor and squeeled if you made a move towards him too fast. I think he was beaten to the point it left him retarded.

In addition to his personality quirks, he had some serious health problems. He had bladder stones and required special food and medicine. He also had severe skin allergies, and that required special food, but we never have found a food that works for both. The skin allergies manifested in ear infections, so he had stinky ears that needed to be regularly cleaned and have special medicine put in them for the first 6 or 7 years we had him, until we found a food that didn't trigger the allergies. Because of the skin problems you can't pet him without getting a sort of stinky, Chester-slime on your hands. Regular bathing helps, but he hates it, and if you do it too much it dries out his skin and makes it more irritated. In his later years he has gotten arthritis which caused one back leg to atrophy and hang useless, he has a heart murmur, and he had an incident a few months ago that the vet thought was caused by a tumor in the lungs, but medicine is controlling it. With all the medicines and prescription foods and vet visits, he has not been a cheap dog to own, not by a long shot.

He whines when he wants something, when he's confused, when he's tired, just about anytime really. Constant, neverending, whining. It drove us mad. The worst part was him begging for his food. He was constantly hungry, probably from being hungry when he was lost on his own for who knows how long. He can suppliment his diet with field mice and bunnies, he was amazingly good at catching them when he was younger, and just the other day he proved he's still got it by catching a chicken, but he'd rather you just feed him - whhhiiiiiiiiine. It got so bad we bought an automated food dispenser for him. It's programmed to feed him two meals a day plus small snacks in between so he never feels hungry. In short order he learned to go whine at the machine, then he eventually realized it didn't care and he would just go stand over it and stare at it and sigh.

Whenever anyone admired him we offered to give him away, but they always thought we were joking. He's not exactly a fun dog to live with. He is whiny, and doesn't understand things, and charges into things without thinking about it first (like walls, often). He hurts himself and suspects you did it, but thinks he deserved it anyway. His health problems caused him to have accidents in the house, frequently, and so we built a dog 'courtyard' and a dog door for him to have access whenever he needed. He would still forget, often while standing over his food dish waiting for it to go off, and he would either not want to step away long enough to go pee, or he'd forget, and suddenly there's be a puddle on the carpet. Worse was when he realized he was peeing and would then run for the dog door, all the way in the back of the house, and we'd end up on our hands and knees sopping up a long, meandering trail of pee. Sometimes he would realize he was peeing but not want to leave the dog dish, so he'd panic and run in circles - should I go to the dog door, but the dish might be ready to go off - leaving circles of pee scattered around the front room. I always think it sounds like we're awful people to say it, but Chester has been the most annoying dog ever, for the last eight years.

All the same, I guess he's our annoying dog. We've taken good care of him, and given him lots of love, and tried not to let him know how incredibly annoying he is. There are a lot of things we won't miss about him when he's gone, but we will miss him, because he is basically good hearted and you know he never did anything wrong on purpose. The past few months he's been as good or better than ever, playing with the puppy. He has really enjoyed having someone he can play with at his own level. It's a shame he's having such a great time just as his body is giving up and failing him. Still, you get the feeling he doesn't really worry about it, it's just the way it is now.

So this weekend we're on Chester-watch more than usual. Helping him go outside, picking him up when he can't get to his feet, picking up the poo he surprises us with in the house. It's obvious things are going downhill. He has always been 'Chester-under-foot', following us everywhere we go, but the last couple days he has not gotten off his dog bed much to follow us around. It's too hard to get up and down. But seeing him laying on his side wrestling with the puppy this afternoon - they do fine as long as Barclay doesn't make him stand up - it's hard to say it's time to pull the plug. Not yet, but I'm afraid it's soon.

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