Our first family dog, the big beast, Indy, made his way to the Rainbow Bridge last Wednesday, June 24. We don't know how old he was, but I am certain he lived an excellent life with us.
When Jon and I moved to Berne, we started watching The Dog Whisperer on Saturday mornings (ah, the days, when we could lay around and watch TV all day . . . . ). A decade before, when Jon and I were hanging out in San Francisco, I had remarked that he was a dog person, and I was a cat person. We had cats our entire relationship, but we'd not had a dog. Moving to the country, as we had when we bought our house with its 27 acres, it seemed natural to consider getting a dog. Both of us like big dogs, and after watching Cesar Milan, we decided we wanted to rescue a dog. Jon began scanning the various rescue organization websites. We especially monitored a site called Peppertree, which was a rescue dedicated to Golden Retrievers and dogs with Golden personalities. Indy was one of the dogs we began to watch.
Jon really wanted a German Shepherd, but the one he really had his eye on got adopted. And then another. And then another. But, Indy, some sort of yellow lab/hound mix, remained on the adoptee list. A few days before I was to travel to Dresden, Germany, we agreed that Jon would go to an adoption day and see Indy. The day I left for Dresden, I told Jon to adopt him (I don't remember this, but Jon is certain that's how this went down).
So, on adoption day, Jon went to the adoption day, and according to him, spent most of his time with other dogs, and as they were beginning to pack up, told the gals there that he'd been sent to adopt Indy.
But, you have to understand that Indy was not the gorgeous beast he was with us. When Jon brought him home, he was about 20 pounds underweight, his hair was falling out in patches and what remained was bristly, and he was aloof and anxious--not the sort of dog that said "love me".
Jon kept Indy on a leash the first few days. We weren't sure how he would be around the cats, and we'd agreed that we wouldn't adopt a dog that jeopardized the sanctity that our cats had come to enjoy. But, other than giving them a sniff, everyone was mutually uninterested. Indeed, on the whole, he was a great dog: he was housebroken, knew his name and usually came when he was called, and was great to walk on leash.
When I got home, about a week after Jon brought him home, I found him to be gentle and attentive when he wanted to be. And anxious. He wanted to be wherever we were. He didn't make a sound. All his hair was falling out, but the new hair coming in was soft and healthy.
The weekend after I got back, I put my running shoes on to go for a run. I thought I'd take him with and see how he would be. Cesar Milan was a big fan of exercising dogs to help them calm down, and I thought a run would help Indy's anxiety. As I was lacing up a shoe, I suddenly heard this baritone bark. I looked up, and Indy was standing about 10 feet from me, looking eagerly at me, and yelling his enthusiasm. Jon, who was upstairs at the time, peaked down the stairway and said "was that Indy?" After that, we ran faithfully, and he barked faithfully whenever something required him to yell, especially at housesitters around 6 am.
He was a great dog to run with. He always stayed next to me or slightly behind me, and he rarely pulled. He had a gorgeous, steady gate that was easy to keep pace with, and he truly loved being out by my side.
As sweet as he was as a runner, he was a royal pain with any food left out in his reach. Maybe a week or so into his life with us, Jon and I were enjoying cheese and crackers in front of the TV watching Adult Swim (another ritual that fell away with children . . . . but it was better for both our waste lines that we got out of that habit). Indy was nosing around the coffee table, and before I realized what he was doing, he had tilted his head and took the entire block of cheese in his mouth! Now, this is the dog who had to be given permission to eat his dog food, but he had no qualms about stealing food off the coffee table. Or the dining room table. After the twins were born, we had finished up dinner in the dining room and had left plates on the table while Jon and I were changing the girls. When I came back down, Indy was *standing* on the dining room table. It's quite a site to see an 80 pound dog standing on a table. And, of course, when I yelled at him, he jumped off and scratched my beautiful table. Beast!
When the girls were born, he was so gentle with them. He took anything they dished at him, including riding him, grabbing his tale, and playing in his dog dish.
But, what he couldn't take was being left alone, thunder, and fireworks.
Part of the reason I wanted to adopt him, and I convinced Jon to go along with me (or so the story goes), was that Indy had separation anxiety. He needed someone around with him all the time, and since Jon and I typically work from home a fair amount, I figured that we'd be good candidates for adoption. But, everyone needs to leave on occasion without the dog, especially in summer when it's too hot to leave dogs in cars. We adopted Indy at the end of May or beginning of June. A few weeks after we had Indy, we left him behind uncrated. When we got home from our outing, we found the screen door of a window popped out (the window's bottom frame was 5' above the floor), and Indy nowhere to be seen. We began to comb the neighborhood at the same time as our neighbor, Peggy, was bringing him back to us. He'd jumped through the open window, popped the screen, and ran to Peggy's house. Peggy described him as being so sorry and at the same time so happy to find a human. We got a second dog to help him with his anxiety (Bella), and it worked for him, but not for her . . . .
But, anyway, I dreaded thunderstorms through the summer months because Indy was such a mess when the loud booms began. He would start by shaking violently, then pant and drool uncontrollably. He was impossible to get settled down when he got like that. If the storms were when we were up and about, I would start doing chores, especailly in the kitchen, and he would follow me around. I would pin him between my legs and the cabinets and squeeze him there. At night, if we were in bed, we'd coax him up onto the bed, and I would put a towel under him (he drooled SO much), and put my legs over him to squeeze him. Sometimes it would calm him enough to stop panting aggressively. Sometimes. Jon has missed every 4th of July outing with the girls and me, as he stayed home to keep Indy from destroying the house in his anxiety. If we weren't home when the booms began (thunder or fireworks), he could do serious damage. He tore doors off hinges, chewed door frames, doorknobs, and once tried to chew his way through the cat door to get to the basement. His chewing was an effort to get to the other side, where he thought he might find refuge or maybe us.
He developed an auto-immune disorder that was undiagnosed until we moved
to Cazenovia. His tail and nose would bleed for no reason. We thought
the tail blood was because he would wag so hard when he was excited that
we thought he was breaking the skin against the corners of walls or
furniture. After we brought Isabel and then the twins home from the
hospital and in the intense weeks that followed, my walls looked like a
lawn gnome with an axe had come through and had gone on a knee-slashing
spree--for all of the blood that was flung against the walls in our
living room. The diagnosis and the drugs that we gave him absolutely
prolonged his life and gave him renewed health and vitality.
We learned a little about his back story from the workers at Peppertree when we attended an event for dogs and their adopted families the first year we had him. He had been picked up by animal control twice. The first time, his owners had been found and he'd been returned. The second time, he had had a run-in with a porcupine, and the owners told the Humane Society that they didn't want him back. "We are so done with that dog" was the quote we got from a volunteer. He was cared for by the Humane Society for about six months, but no one showed any interest in adopting him. He was taciturn and scruffy looking. He was slated to be euthanized, but the volunteers at Peppertree who worked with the Humane Society to identify dogs that might still get a chance to be adopted out, took him in and fostered him out to volunteers who found him gentle and deserving of another chance.
My only regret is that we weren't with him when he died. We went on vacation last week, and for only one of the two times in his life with us, we boarded him and Bella (her story waits for another day). There is a unique business that boards dogs in our village. Camile is a former vet tech who cares for animals who have medical and anxiety issues. She has a beautiful yard and even plays classical music outside for the dogs. After we arrived in California for vacation, Camile called to say that Indy was having a hard time keeping down water. She'd called our vet, who had advised monitoring him. The next day, before Camile could get him to the vet, he passed on her porch, laying in the sunshine. Camile called while were were at Six Flags for our first amusement park adventure with the girls to share with us this sad news. It was surreal feeling heartbroken while surrounded by
music, crowds, ice cream, and rides. But, I think it was a bit easier on the girls. They were all quite sad, and Audrey was especially vocal about her sadness while Bridget didn't cry but told me later in the day how very sad she was, and I believe her. Indeed, seeing how each girl handled Indy's death in her own way, it reminds me that there is no single way to grieve, and that sometimes the melodramatic sorts (Audrey) are not any more sad than the quiet contemplative sorts (Bridget).
So, Indy, our first dog, the first animal the girls grew attached to and whose death they are likely to remember always, my first dog as an adult that I sincerely enjoyed (most of the time), he was worth the second chance and more.