Jennifer had had enough. Parks had been sick lately. He was throwing-up and defecating everywhere. Even leaving him outside more was little reprise. He threw-up on his bed outside. It had to be cleaned. The dog wasn’t really suffering much, but Jennifer was suffering beyond compassion.
I always have been a champion to let Parks live. He is fortunately unaware of the numerous near-death conversations we have had about him. But, each time the bottom line was that he was not suffering, had some measure of contentment in his doggie life, and my wife would feel guilty if we put him down.
But this time it was different. I could see my wife’s sad suffering and smoldering anger at the dog. It was time to finally put him down.
Only that didn’t happen. We got up the next morning and the vet was sick with a cold. The vet was going to close the clinic early. Parks was wagging his tail that morning. It felt good to rub his soft hair. He liked the attention, looking at us through cloudy eyes that could barely see. He wasn’t throwing up on anything.
So, despite all this, he lives. Banished outdoors except at night, but alive and as demanding and animated as ever a couple of hours before meal time. He works on you in high spirits to be fed. He’ll even gallop toward you. I figure as long as he keeps that up, he’ll live.
Long-time readers will recall that Parks is our sheltie-mixed mutt. He has terminal cancer. It was diagnosed late in 2008. He was only given a few months to live. His lymph glands are the size of ping pong balls. But he shows few outward signs of dying.
I thought Parks had died back in September when I pulled into our home after work one afternoon to find him in the middle of our yard, front paws awkwardly sprayed from his sides, his nose buried heavily in the grass, apparently motionless. He was completely unresponsive, as if he had fallen out of the sky.
That was because he had been suffering from acute pain in his shoulder. He couldn’t make it up and down the steps outside anymore. So, the vet gave him some pain killer meds. She told us to give him up to a half pill twice a day to keep the pain away. We did as instructed. Knocked his ass flat out.
Jennifer wanted to take him off the medication entirely. After all, what good is a comatose dog? He was sleeping a lot already. He’s old. I figured he simply had to “adjust” to the medication. But, this was beyond mere adjustment on his part. He had the awareness of a foot rest, always totally crashed somewhere in our yard.
So, we took him down to just half a pill once a day. Still, too much. He was staggering around, barely eating. Maybe this was the end. Then down to a quarter of a pill. That was the ticket. He became his old (old) self again. No more splats in the yard. Barking. Moving. Consciousness again. Basically, we were giving him about 8 times the medication he needed. Poor guy.
As has been the case over the last year, Parks lived. Feeling better, he began to roam over to the neighbor’s house again. Looking for tasty scraps to scavenge again. Only he got stuck in the rather deep ravine between our house and theirs. I was at work at the time, Jennifer couldn’t find him but heard him barking out an SOS. Our English setter mutt Charlie found him and Jennifer, who has back issues of her own and can’t really pick up the overweight football of a dog, had to push his fat butt up the side of the ditch, plowing through plentiful falling leaves. He lived.
Still, about a week after that we dug a grave for him in our modest pet cemetery. Always be prepared.
Nala, our border collie mutt, has an abnormally large pelvis. For that reason I give her pain medication in the winter (straight glucosamine works fine the rest of the year). I place the medication in a hot dog which she eagerly scarfs down in as a treat.
On day Parks, anxious as ever at the site of food, was prancing and twirling around with the spirit of a puppy when I went out on our front porch to feed Nala. Parks had already eaten, but does that have to do with anything? He was looking straight up. Not at me but at the hot dog in my hand. Nothing in the universe existed but that hot dog.
I leaned over the front of the porch just a bit to call to Nala (whose hay bed is tucked under our porch out of the reach of wind and rain) when Parks raced forward, eyes locked above, and tumbled off the porch into the top of a shrub bush. His hind legs flew around and landed pointing away from the porch while his head swung beneath his plump body and ended up toward the porch. There he was below my feet in the middle of that shrub, lying on his back – the result of a single, perfect, half-flip he did inadvertently somersaulting off the porch – his robust, packed white belly staring back at me with his paws flailing in all directions. Before I could assist he rather spryly flipped himself upright, wading slowly out of the low-growth shrub, leaving the damage from his fall as if a boulder had landed in the top of the shrub. Several stems were broken and there was an indentation.
But, Parks lived. The prospect of the hot dog still fresh in his mind, he now properly pain medicated body leaped back up the porch steps and started barking at me. But, by now Nala had arrived and gobbled up the hot dog before Parks’ disbelieving eyes.
A few weeks later, Parks had what we call in the south an “attack.” He wasn’t eating. He started breathing heavily. I picked him and placed him on some sheets on our sofa. Suddenly, a small splattering of blood came out his right nostril. I thought this might be the end. His body stiffened for extended periods. Then relaxed. Then stiffened again. I put him in our laundry room where he now sleeps at night. He lay there a long time. Breathing sporadically. We left him overnight. But, the next day he was fine. Well, fine for him. No pain, mobile, barking, wagging his tale nearer to mealtime. The old Parks. I don't know what all that was about.
Parks doesn’t move as fast now. He moves even slow by his own standards. Five steps and stop. Stare. Five steps and stop. Stare. Repeat ad nauseum. He can’t stay inside immediately after eating or in the mornings and afternoons because he will simply relieve himself anywhere in the house without notice. And waiting for him to get to the front door to go outside takes seemingly forever. So now, if we want him out, or on the sofa, or in the laundry room, I will pick him up and carry him. After that he’s on his own.
At first, Parks didn’t like me picking him up. He and I have never had the special bond that he enjoys with Jennifer and my daughter. But, now he likes it. First of all, he knows I’m not going to hurt him. Secondly, he knows by allowing me to pick him up he is teleported to wherever he needs to go. Effortlessly. So, he’s part bird now. He can fly. And he really likes it. He might even be walking 3 or 4 steps instead of his usual 5 in expectation of taking flight.
So, Parks lives, still. Parks the Perpetual. But, he still occasionally forgets where he lives. Every few months, apparently from a form of doggie dementia, he simply wanders off from the house. Recently, our neighbor found him in the corner of their pasture over a half mile from our house. He never goes down there. I figure he just got pointed the wrong way, repeated his series of taking five steps and stopping to stare about a thousand times, and ended up lost again.
But, that is a rare event, so far. He still can twirl around youthfully when you wave his food above him. He’s half-blind, almost totally deaf, and picky about taking his medication. Most of the time we have to disguise it more cleverly than simply putting in a hot dog. Otherwise, he’ll eat around the pill, swallow the treat and spit the medicine right back out. It is frustrating.
Otherwise, however, he is more the Parks we know than this horrible aberration of death and suffering that he sometimes transforms in to. He will take walks in the woods with me. Though his slower pace means he only makes it about halfway until I meet him coming back toward the house with a running Charlie and an ambling Nala.
He loves to eat, of course. He often takes about five minutes to finish drinking water. He still looks up at you with his dark, cloudy eyes sort of like a baby seal. His look is full of life, however. Hoping for something more to eat. Hoping you will pet him. Wagging his tail ready to fly.