We had been keeping the last of our horses that we had on our five acres, an old Arabian, at a local horse farm but I decided to move him to the backyard where he spent the next ten years. Zippo was his name and he eventually had to be put to sleep at the grand old age of thirty six. I was left with the four cockers and Manfried and a Pit Bull puppy that had been found close to my office at work and I said that I would take care of. The Pit Bull I named Molly and our little family of six lived happily together for a while. I would occasionally run into my ex-wife at the soccer fields and she would usually have Bianca with her so I was able to keep in touch with that dog. As it turned out, Bianca passed away sitting next to her on her couch several years later. Nice way for her to go.
Molly being a puppy and also very insecure, had the constant desire to chew on things. No amount of chewable toys and treats seemed to be enough as I came home one day and my Sit Up Bench was in tatters where she had done a number on it along with the cane woven bottom on another chair. Then, on another day, I took her and Manfried for a ride in the car and stopped at the grocery store. When I came out, Molly had literally chewed the steering wheel to where the airbag had almost deployed. I had to buy a new steering wheel which cost me $500 and at that point, decided that Molly had to go. I called my ex-wife who had a place in the country and she very graciously elected to take Molly.
Time moved on and I had my routines worked out. I would go into the large run that the Cockers had, every morning to check on them and then feed them and give then dog biscuits as a treat. One morning, I went in as usual and made a fuss of them and I noticed that Whiskey had a large lump under her chin. I called in to work and then took Whiskey to the vets where they operated and removed the growth. The prognosis was good so I was hopeful that she would be OK. Six weeks or so later, following my usual routine, I gave them cookies before I left. Whiskey was laying spread eagled with her back legs in a frog like position which was one of her comfort postures. She nudged the cookie that I placed in front of her and wagged her tail when I made a fuss of her. That was the last that I saw her alive as she was in exactly the same position with the cookie in front of her when I came home except this time, she was dead.
Two weeks later, I came home to find that Ennery had also died. As far as I could tell, there was nothing wrong with her and I believe that she died of a broken heart after losing her friend and buddy, Whiskey. The two of them had for their whole lives, been at each other trying to work out the pecking order. The way it was set up was that Samantha as Mom was the definite boss, next to her was Fats who was a very large Cocker, then came Whiskey followed by Ennery who was a very small dog and the runt of the litter. This didn’t stop her and for sixteen years, the two of them had fought one long running battle. When Whiskey died, Ennery, having just lost her lifelong friend, just gave up living.
That left Samantha and Whiskey and of course, Manfried. Both Cockers had lost their eyesight but it didn’t stop them from roaming around the yard and negotiating steps to the deck. I came home one day and couldn’t find Samantha anywhere. I eventually located her under the shed and I had to literally dig a tunnel to get her out as that was the only way I could get to her and she wouldn’t come when I called. A couple of months later, I came home one day and Sam had died in the yard. She was eighteen years old. That left Fats who was fading fast and I had to take her to the vets and have her put to sleep. The three offspring lived to be sixteen. All of my pets with the exception of Zippo are buried in the backyard.
Now I was at just the one Maltese, Manfried. That was until another vet called me to see if I would be interested in taking a Maltese named Dusty. Naturally, I jumped at the chance and quickly rushed over to pick him up. Maltese are a bit of a pain to take care of as they need a lot of grooming and trips to the hairdressers but Dusty had the straightest and easiest hair to care for. One day, I noticed that Manfried was constantly trying to urinate but seemed to be having trouble. I thought it funny at first and then realized it was serious. So, back to the vets where they diagnosed that he had gall stones in his urinary tract and would need surgery to get rid of them. He died overnight of complications and now I was left with just one dog, Dusty.
I had a party for my Women’s soccer team on one Saturday evening and Dusty was the life and soul of the party. He got more hugs and loving that night to last a lifetime and as it turned out, that is what happened. Following the usual habit we had gotten into, I came home on the Monday and Dusty and I went to collect the mail. As we had done many times before, I went in with the mail and Dusty stayed outside util it occurred to me that it was very quiet and where was my dog. I went back out to the front of the house and discovered Dusty laying dead in the middle of the street. The Volunteer Fire Department located across the street had been holding a meeting and the inquisitive dog had started to cross the road and was hit a glancing blow by a truck. I was totally heartbroken at losing yet another friend and buddy and was inconsolable. The next day, I immediately searched the advertisements in the local paper and found one saying they had a Maltese Puppy and made arrangements to go visit knowing full well that unless the dog rejected me, I was going to bring him home.
So, now I had Manley, a six month old male Maltese who, as it turns out, was the last of the Maltese. Up to now, I have had four Maltese and four Cockers but now I was at one dog and a couple of cats and thought that I would stay at that number. That was until I was driving into work one day and taking the back roads as was my habit, I noticed this big brown dog on the side of the road. I pulled over to see if she was friendly, which she was and gave her my lunch as she was obviously hungry. I went to work and she was still there when I cam home so I went home for more food and then came back to feed her. This went on for several days until one morning, I noticed her under a small bush with several puppies. She would not let me near her so I left the food and then continued on to work. That evening, she had moved the puppies and I discovered them in an old drain not very far away. She would still not let me near but I kept feeding her in the hope of gaining her trust. Then it happened. One morning we followed the usual routine of me stopping and leaving her food but this time, she was much friendlier. So, I took a chance and called her to get in the van which to my surprise, she did. I then found and collected all four of the puppies and put them in the van and we drove back home.
Over time, I managed to find homes for two of the little guys but ended up with the mother and the other two puppies, one male and one female. By now, Zippo the horse had been put to sleep so I moved the big dog and her puppies into the very large shed that used to be Zippo’s home. It had a large run where they could exercise. The mother was named Big Girl and the puppies Boy and Danielle.
Time passed and I had a travelling vet stop by to take a look at them and give them their shots as they were now getting on to be over a year old. For some reason, the male puppy, Boy went into shock in the Vet’s van and died which left us at Danielle, and her mother Big Girl along with Manley who lived inside with me.
Then another friend called to see if I would be interested in taking a Scottie named Minnie. What the hell, what is one more dog, I thought and added Minnie to our menagerie. Then yet another friend called, whose marriage was on the rocks, and offered me two Dachshunds both female. I took them both but as it turned out, my friends ex mother in law was interested in the full sized female which I turned over to her leaving me with the mid sized little girl named Beatrice which quickly was turned to Be-Be. At this point, I resolved not to have any more friends as obviously, the word was out.
Now all of a sudden, I was at six dogs all of which lived inside with me, as Big Girl and her daughter Danny were now indoor dogs along with Be-Be and Abigail, Mini and Manley. Things stayed like this for a while until my ex wife called wanting to know if I wanted another Dachshund as she had a workmate looking to find one a home. Of course I said yes and so we added Richie, a rambunctious medium sized Dachshund who quickly established himself as the leader of the pack. As time went by, Big Girl got old and I had to have her put to sleep.
Mini was the next to go as she had developed an open cancerous wound in her side. Before I took her to the Vets one last time, I watched Minnie walk around the garden taking a last tour, stopping and smelling things. Whether she knew her time was limited, I will never know. I cried like a baby when I took Minnie to the Vets for the last time and had to make a phone call for one of the Technicians to come out and take her in to do the deed. It must have appeared very odd to see this twenty something young lady consoling this seventy something old man.
Another Dachshund joined the group, a gift from yet another vet who was only too glad to find her a home. Her name is Ginny and she is a miniature Dachshund. As though in exchange a couple of months later, Manley died in my arms following a massive heart attack. He had a long life living to be fourteen years old. Manley was special as he filled the void left by losing Dusty.
Dannielle stopped eating and try as could, she wouldn’t respond. I had already taken Abigail in to have surgery as she had managed to rupture a disk, a common and very expensive complaint on full sized Dachshunds, so Danny joined her. The Vet kept her for a few days and had her on fluids and finally told me that I needed to let her go. He put her to sleep and I brought her home in a box and buried her along with all of the other dogs, She was the very last of the big dogs whose lives I have shared. There have only been four of them. The rest have all been small dogs.
All of the dogs with the exception of Danny, sometimes slept on the King Sized bed along with me. That included Be-Be up until she started having bladder problems when she voluntarily stayed off the bed. This was a part of her general health decline as she was also beginning to act old and I knew it would only be a matter of time before I had to let her go. We were on a routine trip to the vets for a check up and as I sat waiting for our turn with Be-Be in my arms, she gave a long sigh and died. She had been with me eighteen years and I could not have asked for a more loving companion than her. Her final present to me was to literally die in my arms. For that, I am eternally grateful.
With our numbers dwindling, I saw a blurb on our local neighbourhood watch site of a Chihuahua in need of a new home which I was very glad to offer. We now have this fat little overweight male dog joining the ranks in Dachshund territory but he turned out to more than able to hold his own. Not only that, he and Richie soon became real buddies as they would play wrestle together.
Then disaster struck. I was working on the septic systems and turned my back for just a second and Abigail fell into the tank and drowned. She had broken her neck in the fall so technically that is what probably killed her. What a terrible way for her to die. She had been the least pretentious of all of the dogs preferring to spend her days on her back sleeping on the couch.
With three dogs left over what has been a lifetime of sharing dogs in my life and when I thought that nothing else could go wrong, fate once more turned nasty and struck us a real hammer blow. Richie, definitely the most favorite of all of the dogs I have ever had, was struck by a rattlesnake in the neck and died the next day. Him, I miss the most and his memories will always be with me. I had just visited him the following day and had spent time with him when my Vet called me to say he had passed. I am not sure that Richie even knew I was there as he was really out of it. I was driving at the time and had to pull over as I was crying so hard. Losing him has hurt the most and I am still not really over it. In the 34 years of living in this house, I have never seen a Rattlesnake in my yard or on any of the many hikes that I go on and I didn’t even see the one that killed him as I was in too big a hurry to get Richie to the vets. As usual, life goes on even with a heavy heart.
Now, we are at two, Ginny a very sweet and small Dachshund and Pete, an overweight Chihuahua with Pete the youngest of the group at around eighteen months. Ginny is about four years old. Both of these two spend most of the day asleep and are not the most energetic of animals. Neither do they like each other very much as they sometimes squabble if one gets in the others space. Will I get anymore dogs? Who knows as it becomes a toss up of who goes first, me or them.
For me, as you can tell by this narrative, dogs have been a very important part of my life and as long as it is possible and I am capable of looking after them, will continue to be so. Over the past fifty two years, I have had the privilege of sharing my life with twenty one wonderful dogs. They have each had something different to offer but the most abiding thing of all is the love and trust that they put in me, each and every one of them. I loved them all to the point of complete abandonment especially in my latter years as an older single man living by myself. I was not ever alone as I always had my dogs to keep me company and still do. I have spent quite literally thousands of dollars on their health and upkeep and would gladly do it all over again. The hardest part of taking any animal to the vets for anything other than checkups and shots is the uncertainty that you will ever see them again. The worst time is waiting for that dreaded call from your Vet when he calls to tell you the news of the overnight stay and whether the dog made it. I have had way too many of those calls and never want to receive another one.
Will I ever get any more dogs? It all depends on who has a dog that needs a home and that will get along with Pete and Ginny. Notice that I have barely mentioned the cats that have also been a part of my life. That is for the next blog, sometime in the future.
I do not have pictures of all of the dogs. I wish I did but I can remember every one of them in my mind. Now I feel depressed after writing this. All of those wonderful dogs with their independent spirits and personalities. I miss them all.
The three wives, not so much…
Postscript. February 5, 2018
Since writing this blog, Pete, the fat little Chihuahua has succumbed to the heartworm that he had before I got him and even after countless treatments, his lungs and heart finally gave out. You can read a poem to Pete at this link. He and Richey have crossed that Rainbow Bridge together and are now in Doggie Heaven and are living amongst the stars. RIP Pete.