Loving a dog isn’t always an easy business. Like people, dogs have needs, wants, good days, bad days. They get injuries and illnesses and we know that no matter how much we wish it weren’t true, the end of their little lives will come sooner that we could ever want.
Savannah has always been the easiest of my dogs. I informally adopted her in 2007 when her previous owner’s life went through major upheaval. Though she had some issues around food and the yappiest bark I have ever heard, she’s always been the most easy-going, easy to please dog I have ever known. As long as she has a lap to snuggle with, she is the happiest dog on Earth. She rolls with the punches like no other being I have ever met and likes everyone she meets, including, until recently, Hazel.
Savannah and Hazel have a bit of a checkered past, always over food. I’m talking a single piece of kibble hitting the floor setting off World War Three. I knew Savannah had the propensity to go off on a dog about food, but once the other backed down, the problem was always quickly diffused. Hazel was not backing down and it was scary. We did a lot of work, put some management in place and did just fine for about 3 years. The stress of a recent move, and changes in routine caused a fight in September, which with Savannah’s age and health issues, caused us to make the difficult decision to re-home her. With my brother. Do you know how lucky we are to have had that option? Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars that not only was my brother willing to take her in, but that I had 100% confidence she would be well-cared for and loved by someone she is very familiar with, as we shared a house for 3 years. Plus, we get to see her quite regularly and Paul provides walks and cheeseburgers whenever he is given the opportunity. We take her out for Sunday Funday and she loves the social atmosphere of the Triumph patio and seeks out scritches and love from anyone passing by. Every time we do this, it’s a reminder of how easy and wonderful she truly is.
Still, not having her here has been painful. Especially knowing that the end of her sweet little life is likely not too far off in the future. In 2014, Savannah was diagnosed with a tumor on her liver. Because of her age and where it is, we decided just to keep her comfortable, and were told she probably had about 6 months to live. In July of this year, she had a bout of vestibular disease, which was perhaps the most scary thing I have ever witnessed. I truly thought she was dying in front of me. But, all that remained after some rest and meds was a slight head tilt, which also eventually went away. She rallied again and amazed us all. Most days, the signs of her age (13-14 years) show themselves primarily in the grey on her face. She’s happy, bouncy and barky. She loves rides in the car and walks, even when Hazel would come along. Happy to be with her people, she let it slide that the annoying younger dog was there with us.
On Wednesday, my brother texted me while I was at work, saying that Savannah’s back legs had given out. Paul raced over and by the time he got there, she was fine. We thought another bullet had been dodged. Then yesterday afternoon, I got another text saying that she couldn’t walk. We raced over again, and saw back legs that were stiff and slightly askew and a hind end that looked slightly tucked under. Off to the emergency vet we went. She was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease, and in addition to the physical pain, it is causing some neurological symptoms, as well. For the second time in 6 months, she looked like she was dying. But, she’s home, with medication and more hopes of keeping her comfortable.
As has been the case with Savannah for about a year and a half, we aren’t sure how long “keeping her comfortable” will be. Most days, she is more than comfortable, she’s her usual happy-go-lucky self. Which makes times like these feel even more like the sharp dips of an insane roller coaster. And serves as a difficult reminder of how short their lives really are and of the wonders they bring for as long as they are with us.
Yesterday, while sitting in the waiting room at the e-vet, we saw a lot of people who were worried and sad about their animals. There was one woman, however, who was giving her dog such a hard time, it took everything in me not to scream. Her young GSD had a paw injury that she kept messing with and the woman was clearly annoyed with the dog. We happened to near at the front door at the same time and so I said “Oh are you leaving? Let me get the door.” (despite my rage at her very loud bouts of yelling at her dog, I decided to go with kindness.), to which she replied, “If I don’t kill her first.” The insensitivity of that sentence hit me hard. Here you are at the emergency vet, with your injured dog, in a room filled with people who are worried about their own animals and that’s what you say? I reminded myself that we all deal with stress differently and that we do the best we can with what we’ve got and re-focused myself on Savannah. But, it was hard, because in that waiting room, we were likely not the only ones worried about their dog’s future and if it would extend beyond the day.
Anyway, today is New Year’s Day and this is not the happiest post ever, to be sure. But, for me, Savannah’s age and health issues are a reminder that life is short and nothing is guaranteed. To cherish the moments we have and to see and appreciate all the joy our dogs bring to us.
And I hope that your dogs are Built Savannah Strong. May we all be so lucky to know the love of a bulletproof dog.