Saturday, August 1, 2009

Parks Rocks On

Another hot southern August is here and our shelty mutt Parks keeps on rocking. He was supposed to have died from terminal cancer by the end of March. But things didn't turn out that way.

Other than sleeping a lot more you'd be hard-pressed to find anything wrong with Parks. Most of the time he lays around, panting. Occasionally you'll catch him on extended walks or running but those instances are almost always connected with feeding time.

We try to always feed him around 5 to 5:30. He's well aware of this. Dogs are creatures of habit. I guess that's one reason I like them so much. Parks, however, must have been a political lobbyist in his previous incarnation because, without fail, about a hour before feeding time he perks up from his comatose state and begins to transform before your very eyes into a vociferous advocate, faining near starvation to hear him tell it, and demanding food with assorted whines and - closer to actual feeding time - persistent, emphatic barking.

His barks are a full body experience for the little guy. He will yelp at you after a short, sharp growl, heaving his chest into the utterance thereby raising his front paws slightly off the ground leaving on the tip of his nails to support him. At such times he often dances and jumps and twirls around your feet as if he believes the whole world is hard of hearing. Surely they can see me if they can't hear me, he thinks.

What don't you people understand? Food! Feed me you savages!

If he starts in too early I often talk back to him. "It's not time" (accentuating the word "time" in his temporarily perky ears.). Then I taunt him with body language and various vocal sounds back until I work him into a frenzy. Then I open the door as if to offer to feed him outside. He frequently rushes through the door, into our carport, and spins around barking as rapidly as his lungs will support him back into the house. I slam the door shut. The barking continues for a couple of minutes.

He'll ambush you when you finally open the door again. He's just that way.

It isn't all about brief explosions of energy followed food and prolonged sleep, however. He's mind is going. He is old after all and I guess he does have cancer lurking within him. Often Parks will wander through the house, going into rooms where he usually doesn't reside. He just stares for awhile. Why the hell did I come in here? He forgets things.

Forgetting can be a blessing in life but, in the case of Parks, it might also cause death. A few weeks ago, before we went on our beach trip, Parks wandered up the hill behind our house to rummage through a neighbor's garbage for something to tie him over until lobbying time arrived. Apparently, he lost his bearings. (The dog's half blind and three-quarters deaf.) Anyway, instead of returning the way he came he wandered down the opposite side of the hill, taking him further away from our land.

In disoriented fashion he apparently searched all night for our house. Jennifer and my daughter became mournful. They feared Parks had been hit by a car somewhere or had gone off to die. I spent about an hour looking for him that night to no avail. The next day Jennifer received a call for a nearby farmer. The farmer had found Parks stuck in the grimy edge of his stock pond about two miles away. He wasn't able to move the dog, however, as Parks would threaten to bite him with each attempt to pick him up.

Nevertheless, the farmer managed to secure his ID collar and called the number on the collar. Jennifer was elated. My daughter accompanied her to the rescue. Apparently, Parks had decided that the stock pond was a great place to get water. The only problem was that the further he marched into the pond the more mired up he became in the algae-ridden muck that surrounds many stock pounds. Parks' legs were completely stuck in the muck. The dog was struggling in his robust belly, almost completely covered in pond goo, attempting to get himself out of his fix. His snout and nostrils were on the ground. Any rise in the water level would have drown him.

We got a heavy downpour about and hour and a half after Jennifer rescued the dog.

It took Jennifer about an hour and two separate bathing sessions to clean up the poor guy. Later that day we had a heavy rain. So, Parks is living proof that it is better to be lucky than good. If the farmer hadn't noticed him when he did, he would most likely have found him later in the shallow waters of his rain-soaked pond.

But, he continues to give death the big finger. Or, I guess that should be paw.

Parks sleeps in our bedroom with us at night these days. This is for two reasons. One is that, being old, he wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to be let outside for relief. The other is that if he wakes up anywhere else in the house on his own he'll just piss on the most convenient place inside that he can find. He'll piss and shit anywhere except where he sleeps. That's why he sleeps in our bedroom.

I'm not sure if it is old age, illness, or just passive-aggressive behavior directed at Charlie, our still-growing puppy English setter mutt. Parks really hasn't forgiven us for bringing that fireball joy of all-out energy into his life. So, if you don't watch him fairly close, Parks will piss and shit on whatever he thinks will upset the stupid humans in his life the most.

Of course, Jennifer has picked this time in our lives to become obsessed with exquisite rugs for our house. She's getting a great deal on them, she says. They bring so much beauty into the rooms, she says. Well, she is rightly mostly on both accounts. The problem is Parks knows this. Parks seems to have few joys left in this life beyond food. But, pissing and shitting on groovy new stuff that has been so obviously oo'ed and ah'ed over by Jennifer is just a pleasure he just can't pass up. He peed on a carpet just the other day. Out the door he went.

And so it goes at my house.

Jennifer's mother thinks it is cruel for us to put the dog outside in the heat of the summer like we do. He's old and blind and deaf and fat. He's obviously become incontinent (or more likely passive-aggressive). He's obviously lost his mind by wandering off and almost subjecting himself to a horrible demise. The list goes on. It would be far more humane, so the reasoning goes, to put him to sleep and end his suffering and our slowly accumulating misery.

The argument is not without merit. In fact, Jennifer was so sad from the "Stock Pond Affair" and about his general deterioration that she had bought into the idea and thought of having him put under before we left for our beach vacation a couple of weeks ago. She asked for my input. Well, I don't like Parks' passive-aggressive defecation any more than the next guy. But, at the same time, he's not really suffering. He's not in pain. He is old and blind and deaf and probably confused a lot of the time. But, as long as he can bark and run and carry on such a fuss for us to feed him it doesn't seem like he's checking out anytime soon on his own. So, why kill him?

So we didn't. We boarded him while we were away instead. The vet that predicted his death over six months ago has taken a special liking to Parks and gave him the suite with the kitty cats so he would not be disturbed by all the other boarded dogs instead.

Parks didn't forget us while we were gone. When we got back from the beach he immediately saw this as a golden opportunity to change his feeding time and he succeeded in his little diatribe with some result, though certainly it was not up to expectations. It rarely is.

So, here we are in late summer and Parks keeps on rocking for what in human years would be about three years past his expiration date. He has survived two near-misses with euthanasia and almost drown in a stock pond. All things considered life has been quite an adventure for the little guy in 2009. And isn't that about all any of us can expect in our old age?

1 comment:

The girl with far away eyes said...

I love the fellow animal lover:) I know you're not a cat person but we have 3 that are just as much our babies and they kill me with all of their little idiosyncrasies! Our one cat Srappy is ridiculous when it comes to food and he is very demanding! They crack me up! We talk to ours too; to the point of downright strange probably to the onlooker! I like reading your stories.