I recently realized that we’ve had some changes in our pack dynamics since the last time I wrote about our dogs. While I frequently include them in my posts, I haven’t talked about their backgrounds in a long time. It’s time to meet the pack.
I thought that for this first post, I’d feature our older dogs, who also happen to be our bigger dogs. We have three dogs who are 10 years or older.
At 13, Sydney is the grand old man of our pack. He joined our family as a scared little pup, adopted from a bad situation in Valley Center. We had been searching for a cattle dog, and when we found him we fell in love immediately, but the condition of the place from which we adopted him was dirty, even dangerous, with trash piled around the large yard. When we had him checked out by our vet, we found that he had worms that were so bad they probably would have killed him if we hadn’t intervened!
Naming him was easy. We were adopting an Australian Cattle Dog in the fall of 2000, right after the Sydney Olympics. We decided to name him Sydney during the ride home.
As a herding dog, Sydney is very smart and was very active when he was younger. He loved to run with us (of course!). His bad genes started to show when he was about five years old. His eye started swelling and seemed to hurt. We were told that he had a luxated lens, which meant that the lens in his right eye was pressing forward against his pupil, causing the swelling and could potentially cause glaucoma and blindness. We took him to an ophthalmologist who removed the lenses in both eyes (there is almost a 100% chance that it will happen to both eyes eventually). While he could still see, his close-up vision was bad, so sadly this dog who loved to catch tennis balls could no longer see them as they approached his face. As time went on, we noticed that he seemed to be bumping into things more frequently, and we learned that in spite of the surgery, he had completely lost his eyesight.
Don’t feel sorry for Sydney though. If you were a visitor to our house, you might not even guess that he was blind. He knows the way around the house so well that he can navigate without problems, find the food and water, go through the doggy door, do his business and find his way back in.
Now, at 13, he is amazingly healthy. Yes, he has slowed down and no longer runs with us, has a little arthritis, and can be a grumpy old man when one of the other dogs startles him. But, between a vegetarian diet and the recent addition of glucosamine and chondroitin, his coat is sleek, he moves without pain, and happily takes moderate walks with us, secure in his faith in us that we will lead him safely.
Ah, Penny, my 12 year old running partner. You see many pictures of her because, well, she is my running partner. She still can run up to about five miles once or twice a week, plus a couple of shorter runs. She loves it so much, and even though she has slowed down dramatically, I still love running with her.
I can still remember the day that we first saw Penny. We were at an Animal Samaritan’s 5k race (it’s been too long, I can’t remember the name). The proceeds benefited Animal Samaritans, and there were about 10 volunteers there with dogs wearing vests that said “adopt me.” Alan and I certainly weren’t looking for another dog. We had two, Sydney, and our bloodhound Morena, and we thought that was enough. It had only been two months since we’d had to put down our Dalmatian Dixie because of her brain cancer. We really didn’t want another dog. Really.
And then we saw, among the volunteers with dogs, a skinny, untrained, Dalmatian puppy. She was about nine months old, and when the volunteers walked her through the 5k, basically walked on her hind legs as she pulled them along. Alan and I looked at each other and it was done. We knew that we would adopt her. And we did.
Penny became our Alpha. She feels it is her duty to take care of the pack, supervise everything that they do, intervene in fights. and generally rule over everyone. We call her the queen, and she pretty much lives up to that nickname. At 12, she still loves to run, and follows me through the house when I’m dressed in my running clothes. I couldn’t leave her behind even if I wanted to, so as time goes on we will still head out for our runs, even when they become short walks. She is my running partner.
You see, I always tell people that Goldie is handicapped. She has a compressed disk, and at one point we were told that she would never walk again. The thing is, I caused it to happen. I hurt Goldie.
We found Goldie wandering the streets. We were actually out walking our own dogs, and she started following us. You know us, we took her home.
The problem was our other dog Sassy. She was very jealous, and she would growl or posture. Goldie, who was a street dog, wouldn’t put up with any guff and they would end up fighting. Not wanting to give up, we kept them separate, while we decided what our long term solution would be.
It was Thanksgiving morning. Of course, that is the day of the Turkey Trot, so Alan was up extra early to set up the course, while I would feed the dogs, pack up my car with registration and volunteer supplies and head over later.
Sassy was in our bedroom with the door closed, while I let Goldie out to pee and eat. Instead of heading toward the doggy door, though, Goldie charged to the bedroom door, hit it full force, and it opened! She went after Sassy and they started fighting viciously. I (stupidly) tried to intervene by diving on top of them. I hit my head so hard on the bedside table that I gouged it open. I grabbed Goldie, pulled her off Sassy, carried her to the door and tossed her outside. All the while blood was pouring down my face and I was shaking like a leaf.
After cleaning up and settling Sassy down, I went to feed and check on Goldie. She was lying in the back yard, pretty much where I’d left her. She couldn’t move. She didn’t seem to be in pain, but she couldn’t move her back legs.
Thank goodness my sister was staying with us. She ended up taking Goldie to the vet, while I went to help Alan with the Turkey Trot. I dreaded telling him because I knew that he would be devastated. He was. We somehow struggled through the race, then Alan went to pick up Goldie from the vet to take her to the specialty vet in Rancho Santa Fe.
As it turned out, Goldie had a compressed disk, which probably happened when I dived on the dogs to separate them. They said that she’d probably never walk again, but suggested a $6,000 surgery, that even they admitted would probably not help. They told Alan that he should put her down. He said no way.
He brought her home and started his version of physical therapy. Several times a day he would move her legs through their full range of motion. He took her for multiple walks a day, using a strap under her belly to support her hind end.
I will never forget the day we knew she would recover. Alan and I were standing together, looking at Goldie, when suddenly she wagged her tail! From that day forward, she just did better and better. She can walk, run, and jump, though her back end tends to swing wildly. As she ages, she has been getting weaker, though the same regimen of glucosamine and chondroitin that Sydney takes has helped. I worry though.
Logically, I know that I did what I had to do to stop the dogs from fighting. Maybe it was stupid to dive in, but I didn’t do it to hurt, I did it to help. Yet I still feel pangs of guilt. Could I have handled it differently? I don’t know.
I don’t want to end this on a sad note. Goldie is a happy, healthy dog. She is loving, sweet, and an important part of our pack. Aside from a little arthritis, she doesn’t seem to suffer any pain. If her condition deteriorates, well, we’ve already looked into those little carts so that she can still get around.
So you have met the big dogs. If you want to meet the little ones, (in order of adoption) Olivia, Lily, Buddy, and Coco, click here.
Tell me about your “pack.” Dogs? Cats? Kids?