Sunday, January 6, 2008

Doodlebug, a Tribute

This is going to be long, but I just have to write a little more about him, and then I think I can move on. I just came back from the pet store, and while I'd never buy a puppy from there, I did find myself thinking about what having one of them would be like, and how it would up-end my life and Chelsea's. And then I got really sad, bought what I needed for the fish, also bought a little clip-on bejeweled bone for Chelsea's skull collar and left.

Doodlebug came into my life about 12 years ago. I was working at a vet's office at the time, and a woman brought him in with a cocker spaniel she found in the woods. They were traveling together, and they were extremely shy and hesitant to come near her. She said it took about two weeks to gain their confidence. All of us at the vet's office seemed to remember an ad in the paper seeking two dogs that had run off, but none of us could find it when we looked; even the paper couldn't find it when we called them. Hard to believe we all dreamed up the same ad ...

Anyway, I took it all as a sign that he was supposed to come live with us. One of the vets in the office neutered him, clipped off his dew claws, and he came home to live with us (us being my ex-husband, Chelsea, our big dog Deogee, the bird, and various guinea pigs). He was supposed to be my ex's dog, but he took to me and remained my dog to the end. The vet thought he was about 5 years old, but admitted it's hard to tell with an adult dog -- he could have been a year or two younger or older. We didn't have to go through teething and chewing, and he was pretty much housetrained. He was very protective of me (the Chihuahua in him) and frequently growled at my ex when he tried to come to bed at night. He sure knew better than me in that regard ...

Doodlebug traveled with Chelsea and me on our adventure moving to Indiana (the first time I've ever lived alone), and then moving to NC to take this job two years ago. As long as he could see me, he didn't care much where we lived. His second great love was Chelsea, but she never seemed to care for him at all. She never was much for other dogs -- I think she thinks she's a short person in a fur coat. Doodlebug was content to be the Omega dog in our little pack, and it greatly upset him if I slipped up and put his collar on first, or gave him a treat before Chelsea had one or fed him first. He was happiest going last in everything. Dogs are cool that way.

While Chelsea has suffered all her life with various skin allergies and ear infections, Doodlebug was hardly ever sick. He had cortisone shots once when all three dogs were stung several times by ground hornets. He'd get the occasional case of diarrhea when he ate too many dried worms off the sidewalk. I think he had a sore throat once -- he seemed to have difficulty swallowing for a few days, but it went away with no medication. And the first time he received a bordatella vaccination, he coughed for a week. Other than that, he had no problems until this past January.

A routine geriatric blood panel revealed Doodlebug had elevated liver enzymes. The vet watched him carefully and tested his blood on a regular basis. At one point he suggested a sonogram to see if he had a tumor on his adrenal glands. He did not. The vet suspected Cushings disease, and Doodlebug's later symptoms confirmed that diagnosis. Because of his age (close to 17 years old), we opted not to treat the Cushings. The cure would have been worse than the disease. This is a disease that many old dogs get, and the medication is a chemotherapy drug that shrinks the tumor that causes the disease. We opted to let Doodlebug live as long as he was happy and pain-free. He was all of that until the day he died. The Cushings symptoms included excessive drinking and the resultant excessive pottying, but potty pads and confining him during the day took care of that. And the occasional accident in the living room was taken care of by regular carpet cleanings. I could never have put him to sleep because he pottied in the house.

Doodlebug was a typical boy. He loved playing in puddles and getting dirty. He loved sniffing bugs. When we were in the car and a truck drove by, he'd put his paws up in the window to watch it go past. He taught my big dog to howl, and although they had a great time howling when they were together, when Deogee went to live with my stepson, Doodlebug never howled again. When he barked, it sounded like he was saying "out, out!" He loved getting baths, although he did not like getting his fur trimmed -- scissors scared him and I always had to figure out ways to distract him when I wanted to trim the fur on his face. He was a favorite at the kennel here; I boarded him and Chelsea about 8 times a year. The only time he ever boarded alone was when Chelsea had ear surgery. I scheduled it to coincide with a business trip and she was at one vet's office recuperating while he boarded at his regular kennel. I don't know if he was happier to see me or her, but the day they both came home was a day of great joy for all three of us.

To sum it all up, joy is what Doodlebug brought me on a daily basis. His little eyes would light up whenever I came home, and even thought he couldn't hear what I was saying at the end, he'd still look at me as if I was making grand pronouncements that would end world hunger or save all the children. He loved me like no one else ever has, except Chelsea. He's the one who'd kiss away my tears when I cried, or laugh along with me. He was fearless -- attacking big dogs who could easily tear him apart when he thought Chelsea or I was in danger. He wasn't afraid of thunder or fireworks, and he'd sit with me on the glider to watch it storm while Chelsea cowered under the bed. He missed me like nothing else -- whether I was gone 5 days or 5 minutes, and he wasn't ashamed or embarassed to let me know how glad he was to see me again. He was worth every minute of work that having an extra dog caused, and if I had to do it all over, I'd go through it all again, including the pain of losing him at the end -- he was worth every nanosecond of it.


Margot Potter said...

What a beautiful tribute to a true, blue friend. He sounds like an amazing dog. I am sending good thoughts.


Robin Beam said...

SO sorry to hear about your puppy uppers. He's with you, though, like my purry one, Pearl.

Furry Hugs, Robin

Labyrinth Gal said...

Margot said to stop by. So sorry to read about your loss. Dogs are so special--they have that unconditional love that you wrote about, and a wisdom as well. May your memories bring you comfort in this time of grieving. Sending warm fuzzies your way, :-) Hali

Carter said...

Hi Vicki-
I'm a stranger, but another dog lover. I read on Margot Potter's blog that you lost a dear furry one and my heart sank. So of course I had to come by and send some warm furry thoughts your way. May you find peace in your pleasant memories of such a dear furry friend.

JafaBrit's Art said...

I just had to drop in because Margot told us you lost your very special friend and I wanted to say I am sorry and hope you are comforted by lovely memories. Boy, he looked just adorable.

Lynda said...

Hi Vicki:

I'm so very sorry for your loss. What a sweet, sweet face. (I'm such a big dork this made me cry)