Saturday, June 9, 2012

So long, old friend

You may remember Carter, Tinky-Winky's best friend. Carter was born 17 February 2003 and only ever had one human. In 2006, his human's then-boyfriend was working with my then-boyfriend, and sometimes the two of them would bring "their" respective dogs to work. That's how Tinky-Winky and Carter met. Back then, she was still psychotically aggressive, but she got used to Carter. I don't think they ever had a real fight, although Tinky-Winky snapped at him a fair number of times.

On the other hand, the guys didn't introduce myself and Carter's human. We only met years later, when we had each broken up with the then-boyfriend. And we recognised each other by our dogs. Then we became friends. Recently, Carter's human had to be out of town a lot, and one time she couldn't get her usual dog-sitter, so she asked me. So Tinky-Winky and I spent a couple of days at Carter's house. Then we ended up dog-sitting him every time his human was out of time, because we all got along so well.

Finally, after we had spent many days as a pack of three, something amazing happened: Tinky-Winky played with Carter. They were running loose in the off-leash area (we have official off-leash areas in town, though you can't really tell the difference with the rest of town), and Carter ran up to Tinky-Winky and balled her over. I thought she'd freak and try to rip his throat out, but she just rolled over, got back up and ran after him.


I never thought I'd see the day when my dog would let another dog approach her casually, let alone participate in any kind of playful behaviour. And after that, she'd actually let him sniff her butt and not snap at him. Another thing she absolutely doesn't allow. Her second-best friend, Otis, who is almost as big as Carter and fascinated by Tinky-Winky, loves to get her to snap at him so he can make a big show of leaping out of reach. Then he does it again. They both seem to find this game hilarious. But anyway, even Otis does not get to sniff Her Majesty's butt. He has to do a kind of drive-by sniffing and get out of reach before she can turn on him.

So, that was Carter.


Carter saw the vet for his annual check-up on Monday, June 4. They said he was well enough though obviously declining, which seemed normal for his age. Of late he had been unable to jump into the car, but what can you do. Dogs age. His labs were a little off, but nothing serious.

Tuesday, Carter was his usual self.

Wednesday morning, Carter couldn't get up. He had to be carried out to relieve himself, then helped back up the steps, and then he lay down and didn't move all day. His human called the vet, who by then had left town. (The vet lives three hours away and comes here a few days a month with his portable clinic.) The vet was alarmed. Plans began to be made to transport Carter to Edmonton the next day.

In the evening, Carter started shaking, and then he started to have seizures. I wasn't there, but I hear it was very traumatic. The decision was made to put him down. Unfortunately, when the vet isn't here, we have no mainstream way of euthanising dogs, so we have the choice of shooting them or trying to overdose them on whatever prescription drugs are at hand. Yes, yes, it's barbaric. What can you do. That's the price we pay for the freedom our dogs get. I've often said the best part of this town is the dog-walking. But anyway, the problem is, it's very difficult to obtain any prescription drug in a quantity that can kill a 100-lb dog. Most drugs aren't even strong enough to kill a rat. So Carter was given something, which didn't kill him, but mercifully stopped the seizures.

After a while, his human, who had been holding his hand the whole time, left the room for some reason. Immediately his breathing shallowed. The other people who were there called the human back, but before she could get back to him he was gone. I guess he was holding on to her all that time. It was Thursday morning, June 7. The vet thinks it may have been a toxin, or a tumour in the spine (boxers are prone to them), or perhaps one small thing that precipitated a cascade of failure due to his age and declining condition.

We buried Carter that evening in one of his favourite spots. He got a four-car motorcade and five pall bearers. There were eight people at his funeral, plus Tinky-Winky. At first Her Majesty wanted to participate in the grave-digging, but she got aggravated with the five-year-old girl who kept chasing her everywhere. As you know, little girls love Her Majesty, and the feeling is extremely not mutual. So after a while she absconded, then the kid lost interest, then Her Majesty came back and lay on the beach watching us work with her smug shiba grin. She was clearly having a grand old time. I wasn't watching her when we took Carter out of the car and put him in the grave, so I don't know if she ever clued in. Certainly she was completely indifferent to the fact that half the humans, myself included, were crying. She's never been the kind of dog that "knows exactly what you're feeling".

After the family had left and I had captured Her Majesty, I carried her to the grave to say goodbye. She still had no reaction. I still don't know if she's aware that her best friend for the least six years has died.

Carter leaves behind his very sad human, her two daughters, and her two step-daughters. And a hard-hearted little shiba. And me. He wasn't always what you'd call a "good dog." He was insanely strong in his prime and would take off after squirrels on a regular basis. He'd escape and roam the town all night. He ate the family garbage, and the baby-proofing locks that were installed to keep him out of the garbage. He also made an annual tradition of eating the littlest girl's gingerbread house. He got into an awful lot of dog fights. He was famous for his drooling. But he was extremely devoted to his family and a staunch protector, and a genuinely good person. He liked people and wanted to be liked. He was affectionate and funny and had infinite patience with the children. He was even good to cats. He wasn't even my dog and I miss him terribly.

Goodbye, old friend. You did good.

We want to play

Tinky-Winky brought me a rawhide.


Really. My dog brought me a rawhide.

Most dog's people wouldn't notice such a thing. Except Her Majesty does not fetch things, nor does she play. In recent months, we have developed this little game where she starts kicking a rawhide around the floor, then she does a playbow, and then I kick the rawhide around the floor for her and she chases after it. That lasts a few seconds, then she sits down and has a good chew.

This is important, because she's never played any other game. She doesn't fetch. She doesn't play with balls. She doesn't care for squeaky toys. She's never tried tug-of-war. She's the least playful dog I've ever met. Apparently, she wasn't even playful as a puppy. Weird little Asperger dog.

So, the fact that she does playbows and plays with rawhides, even if it's only for a few seconds, strikes me as a very important developmental achievement. So what if she's twelve years old? Old dogs, apparently, do learn new tricks.

Bringing me a rawhide, though, that's a whole 'nother achievement. Normally, if she wants something from me, she calls me over to where she is and points. Granted she can't very well drag the fridge over to the couch to signify she wants cheese, but still, it's always been how she works. She gives one bark, and I attend, and she points at what she wants and I do it. Bringing something to me is a whole new development. I don't know if it's a cognitive thing or an attachment thing or she's channelling Carter's spirit, but it's definitely a brand new thing.

I loves you, mutt-mutt.