Dinah Dog had a "doggy emergency" this week, the kind where if what the vet is trying doesn't work out, the next thing to do is "make the decision" and I began to reflect back on our time together. This is her story.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
My traveling companion these days is my dog. She's a 16-year-old mostly-Golden Retriever who came into my life about 14 years ago as a “rescue.” Her name is Dinah and guess what, she even picked out her own name.
Back in the BD days (Before Dinah), sharing my life was a Golden Retriever ex-Guide Dog for the Blind named Auburn, a Welsh Pembroke Corgi named Pancho, and a cat who thought he was a dog named Max. (After a few months of “blind school,” Auburn had decided she really just wanted to be a regular dog, so she flunked out of class and came back to live with me and Pancho and the cats.)
When Auburn was 8 years old, she developed kidney disease, and after a year of treatment and medication, she departed for the Rainbow Bridge. Pancho and I mourned her departure deeply, moping about as sad-sack twins, missing that big, hairy, golden dog's goofy presence and her over-the-top party-coordinator personality. The hole she left in our lives felt huge. Pancho was such a basket case that I finally took him to the vet to figure out if there was something we could do to help him break his funk – he wasn't eating; he laid around all day; he had none of that silly Corgi-spark left. The vet (the same amazing vet that had given Auburn another year of life after her kidney-failure diagnosis) suggested that I had two options: put him on some puppy-uppers (doggy anti-depressants – yes, they really have those!) or find her another friend. I didn’t think I was ready to get another dog after the impact of Auburn’s death so I took Pancho home, and with a sad face and heavy heart, went to get some more dog food for him at the pet store.
Enter the Southwest Washington Humane Society display at PetSmart in Vancouver, WA.
Right inside the front door of the PetSmart store were a bunch of wire crates with cats in them… and over in a far corner, one lone big crate with a big dog in it who was sitting upright, looking like she was patiently waiting for someone. One brilliantly golden dog, with an expectant look on her face, sitting quietly, knowing that her person was on her way.
And so I was!
I adopted her on sight, but since she wasn’t spayed, the Humane Society had to send her out to the vet to be fixed before I could take her home. I patted her sweet face and told her I’d come get her as soon as I could…. which I did as soon as she was all spayed up. Her hair had been super-matted and the vet’s office had shaved it all off from the bottom half of her body; the hair that was left was pretty stinky and filthy. Her pads were thick and rough as if she’d spent her life up to that point on asphalt or concrete. She didn’t know how to walk on carpet or linoleum and even had some difficulty walking through the front door of the house, as if she’d been trained to never come inside the house.
She didn’t have a name yet – since she was a stray, she had been called something that had been picked out for her by the Humane Society (I don’t remember what it was) and I spent the next two weeks just saying words to her that might sound like a name she’d like to be called. I went through the names of food items like candy bars, pasta shapes, and fruits and vegetables, then people’s names and names of games like Uno and Monopoly. She hadn't picked anything yet, so I was into saying and singing song titles when she perked up her head, trotted on over, and sat down in front of me when she heard me say (I probably was singing it, I don’t remember), “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah. Someone’s in the kitchen I knoooowwww. Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strummin’ on the ol’ banjo….. I’m-a singin’…..” Little did I know that day that she would turn out to be a huge lover of food and a total chow-hound and she probably was asking for the name “Kitchen”! Haha!
She was a fast student, quickly learning to use the dog door, coming in and out whenever she wanted, and jumping up on the bed to sleep with me at night. Once her stitches were removed, I was able to give her a bath and under the dirt, she was so beautifully shiny, she fairly glowed. Pancho was in heaven with his new friend and the two of them immediately became inseparable best buddies. No more doggy-depression for him!
Dinah’s been with me ever since. She’s made it through the deaths of Pancho and Max and the kitties, Thelma and Louise, who came to live with us about ten years ago. She even learned to tolerate Ben the Parrot when he lived with us. Oh, and she absolutely adores the beach! She celebrated with me as I learned to skydive and blow glass, played with the house-sitter while I traveled to some cool places like Italy and the Czech Republic, and has kept me company this past five years as I’ve traveled the West Coast, pulling our home behind my car. She’s stayed with me through a divorce, foreclosure, bankruptcy, income-loss, health issues, and a whole crap-load of other things, too numerous to mention and that don’t really matter anyway in the big picture.
Dinah has been deaf for the past couple of years and we practice DSL – Doggy Sign Language. I wave my arms to get her attention and then motion with my hands what I want her to do – come here, sit down, here’s your food, go over there. She’s never off-leash outside anymore unless we’re some place she knows really well and even then, I keep her in my sight because she can’t hear me if I need to call her back. Her back legs are weak from doggy-Parkinson’s and she’s not as active as she once was. She's been on doggy thyroid medication for years. She can no longer jump up on the bed or into the car and she takes long naps every day. She’s now more than 16 years old and by my calculation, that makes her 112 in people years. I should be in such good shape at her age!
This tale of one really cool dog is just to say that Dinah’s and my journey together has been varied and exciting, joyful and different, never boring. It’s been a long, crazy adventure on this life-road together and my wish is for some more days/weeks/months/years in our future. However, if it should end today, I will always cherish our 14+ years together, and Dinah, I could not have asked for a better traveling companion… your brilliant golden spirit travels with me today, always and forever.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Update on Dinah's vet visit this week: she appears to have pulled out of the medical issue she was having and is back on the road to recovery. We're taking it one day at a time…