For the Love of Dog

Yesterday I took Sadie to the vet. She’s been limping since late Spring. I reduced her to leash walks only, tried to control her excitement when a squirrel would appear in the back yard, and cancelled all of her doggie play dates. It wasn’t helping. I was pretty sure I knew what was going on. I took her to the vet for x-rays to confirm what I already knew. I got a phone call at work. I was informed by the vet that “Sadie is an orthopedic quandary.” I already knew that…and had a lot of time to think about it during the afternoon while I washed windows and awaited my 4:30 pm consultation with the vet.

Sadie was a rescue dog. Our border collie, Bones, died the summer before we got her. There was a long list of cons regarding getting another. We are river people. Snakes, poison ivy, and dogs don’t mix well. Any dog we got would outlive our kid’s time remaining at home. There is dog poop to clean up, and dog hair to deal with. Dogs have bad breath, they wake you up by barking in the middle of the night. Food and immunizations cost money. And they die too soon, and when they do it hurts like hell. But…the one pro was that we wanted one…well, all of us but Jasper. So…I coyly waited until Emerald was out of town before choosing a dog and going out to pick her up. Jasper and Sadie soon became fast friends, though he never relished picking up her poop.

I swore I would never get another border collie….they are very intense dogs. I wanted one with short hair, and one Bones’ size (35#) or smaller. Sadie is a 60# border collie mix with long black hair. I fell in love with her face, and once you’ve had a border collie, it is hard to settle on a more stupid breed. She was immediately street smart, came to heel if there was traffic, and learned mountain biking commands on the first ride. She thought sheep and other ungulates all appropriate to herd. Horses and moose she treated with respect…and llamas confused the heck out of her. She ran with pure abandon, and could not figure out why any dog would ever swim. A bit of a klutz, she slashed her hind legs on grills, barbed wire, and ski edges. This was so regular we never had to pay for extra anesthesia to get her teeth cleaned. Just had ’em cleaned while they had her under to stitch her up.

Then, at age 4, she blew her right knee out. Emerald was dating a pre-vet student at the time who was working at his uncle’s vet clinic in Spokane. Taking advantage of the friends and family discount, we had her knee repaired. It failed, so we had it redone. The boyfriend assisted in both surgeries. I found it ironic that Sadie’s fate, if we had not rescued her, would have been a “surgery” dog at the local vet school. They would have used her to train vet students. That boyfriend is now a vet….and Sadie was part of his training. We were also told that she had hip dysplasia, and that the likelihood of her blowing her other knee was high. She had a good solid 4 years of running on the mountain, skiing at the Palouse Divide, and chasing deer through the wheat fields before the other knee blew.

Sadie is family. When Emerald would return from MT, she was glad to see her parents and brother, but the most snuggle time was spent with the dog. Jasper, in his teenage angst, would take her for long walks at night…a behavior that I recognized as my way of dealing with those same feelings way back when. Sadie accompanied Jim on every one of his post diagnosis hikes. From the first, less than a week after surgery, to the last 2 city block excursions. She often sat next to him on the couch as he watched movies to deal with the head and gut slam of chemo. She laid at our feet the night Jim died, and kept finding socks of his for weeks after his body had been taken away. Feeding Sadie got me up in the morning when it was hard. She got me out the door to run even if my running partners cancelled. She accompanied me on late evening walks when I would head down to the nature preserve and scream at the universe. Sadie made me laugh, when all I wanted to do was cry.

At age 8, with an already compromised knee and hip dysplasia, I knew that Sadie was an orthopedic quandary. I knew what the basic options were going to be. I knew that knee repair would be one of the options, with no real guarantees. Her hips might be bad enough that even with a solid knee, it would still be too painful to run. Dogs don’t live that long, there is no guarantee that cancer or some other malady would take her in the next few years. I knew that doing nothing was also an option. She has adjusted to leash walks only…sort of.

When Jim decided to stop all treatment after the 2nd bout of chemo failed, he just asked one thing of me. At some level, he must have known the tumor was going to kill him. He held my hands in that examining room at UCSF, and said, “I know we’re not going to do any more drugs, no more surgery….but please, please, please…don’t give up on me and my own ability to fight.” Sadie can’t talk…but I fell in love with her face. The look she gives me as I put on my running shoes in the morning, telling her I will return later for her walk, says, “please, please, please…don’t give up on me.” I’m having Sadie’s knee repaired.  It is scheduled for September 17th. She could be rehabilitated in time for the snow to fly. I know there are no guarantees. I won’t give up on her. I owe her that chance.

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4 Responses to For the Love of Dog

  1. michaellaf says:

    Beautifully written Kathie.

  2. writerdebh@yahoo.com says:

    This really touched my heart as we our dog, Bear, passed away Saturday. He was 15 and a great love of our lives. He was a great traveler–we moved to Florida and he loved it there. We moved back to Idaho and he loved it here. We moved to Tuscon and, well, he didn’t live it as much (cacti quill and a dog that loves to run don’t mix). We moved back to Idaho and stayed. He died peacefully. We were so blessed to have him in our lives. Good luck to Sadie…

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Martin Trail says:

    Kathie, I hope Sadie recovers quickly! I don’t know if I ever told you that we have a 3/4 border collie, Tux. Your phrase “they are very intense dogs” hits it right on the nose! Tux got lost tonight, but showed up at a friends house after 30 minutes —last time she showed up at the Co-Op. Take Care, Martin

  4. mary heller says:

    Hey girl, our dog died 7 months after Rick did…very similar experience I had you are having. Always told her, Cinnabon, I would be back after the run she used to go with me on to just walk her after that until July 1st 2010 she just walked a bit and then wanted to go home. I knew she was probably going to die when I was away that summer leaving Brit to put her down. I told Brit I would fly back, she said “mom, she is just a dog”, but I knew better. I knew she it was her way of dealing with a dog she loved so very much, soon after her dad died. Brit did put her down with the help of a dear vet friend and her daughter….thank goodness for amazing friends! I found out in a text….shocked, but Brit had to act fast and couldn’t tell me sooner. I was proud of her and yet felt so bad she had to make that decision. Girl, I read every post you write. A few brings tears as I see how I have gone through almost parrelel experiences and feelings a few months ahead of you since Rick died Jan. 15, 2010….thank you for reminding me I am not alone in this process of learning to manage 7 losses in 2 years after 6 years and 7 months of fighting cancer.

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