Paris: In Memoriam

I’ve written often about Butterscotch and aging. We really thought she would be the first to go of our two dogs. But Paris beat her to the punch line today. He always was a little competitive with her.

At 6:30 this morning (yesterday by the time you read this) he was his usual self. Barking for breakfast. Eating well. Out to pee and poop. By 8:00, when Marley went to take him for a morning walk, Paris couldn’t get up. Call to the vet’s office, and they took us within 45 minutes.

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By that time his gums were very pale, and he was completely lethargic. We could hardly get him in the door at the vet’s office, and he lay down just inside the door. We let him be. The vet had a very worried look on her face. Paris has never been, as she phrased it, a model patient at the vet’s office, but today he really didn’t care who did what. They loaded him on a gurney and went to take pictures. Long story short, his spleen had burst and his abdomen was full of blood.

When this happens it is usually the result of a cancerous tumor in the spleen, and when it bursts it spreads cancer throughout the body. Surgery might buy him a month or two, but he’s 14 years old, with a long list of medical problems. One of the thickest folders at the vet practice. We were not going to put him through all of that, and the gentle hands of the vet and the vet tech released him to run free in whatever the next life is.

It was a sad decision but not a hard one. As pet sitters, we have seen too many animals kept around long past the point where any quality of life exists. Paris had a great walk yesterday in lovely weather, and good meals last night and this morning. These are some of his favorite things, so he had a good last day.

We’ve been sharing our memories of him today, and went out to dinner tonight to console ourselves and share some more stories. One of Paris’s most annoying habits was that he licked himself, the couch, the floor and whatever else was handy, endlessly. The sound drives me bonkers, and truthfully, I won’t miss it. I was always asking him to stop, to the point where Marley thought Paris thought his name was Paris Stop.

He came to us almost 11 years ago from the Humane Society, thirty pounds underweight, and so closed down. But they had faith in this dog, and ultimately they were right. He was a sweet boy, and very loving. He spent his first three days with us flopped on the floor, staring into space, and then he realized he’d gotten a new and better deal, and he started to come alive.

Paris at door

At 3-4 years old he had had at least 2-3 seconds of training, so that was one of our first jobs. But Paris was smart, and he caught on quickly enough. One of the great joys of his life was his daily walk with Marley. In  his younger years they would walk for an hour easily, and even in recent days, half hour walks weren’t unusual. Paris was a daddy’s dog, and where Marley went, Paris followed without hesitation.

He was never the healthiest of dogs, and we never could get to the bottom of all his issues, despite spending a small fortune. He either had no response or terrible side effects to any medication that helped with his issues, but somehow we managed and so did he.

Paris was a lab mix who hated water, which was always a hoot. He would stand on the porch when it was raining and cross his legs until he was bursting at the seams and couldn’t hold it a moment longer. He never walked through puddles – always around instead. We won’t even talk about giving him a bath after being sprayed by a skunk. We were always amused at a lab who hates water, but Paris was always his own dog.

We tried one other dog in the house with him before Butterscotch, and it was an unqualified disaster. We had to return the poor new dog. So we were really worried when my dad went to assisted living and we brought Butterscotch home with us. But they took to each other easily. Paris liked to assert his “first dog” status sometimes, and he would stand over Butterscotch, who had chosen a dog bed to sleep on, and he would stare at her until she moved, or at least moved over and gave him space. She always relented eventually, though she regularly made him wait for it.

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Paris loved sleeping on the bed with us, especially with Marley, though he usually got kicked off at some point since he takes up soooo much space. But it was a treat for him to be on the bed, especially if Butterscotch wasn’t allowed at that moment and he had Marley or both of us to himself.

There are many more things we remember about Paris. He hated car rides. Though underground fences were made to be ignored. If you run fast enough the shock was barely felt. I wasn’t willing to turn the shock up, and I actually came to despise electric fences. Paris was right that a good walk was better. Occasionally Marley took him to the fields a couple blocks from our house and let him run, which he adored.

Paris

Paris was a great dog, and we were lucky to have him live with us for all those years. He will be greatly missed, by us and by Butterscotch too. I don’t think she’s quite figured out that he isn’t coming home, but she may come to understand that better tonight when we go up to bed and Paris doesn’t join us. Routines will need to be adjusted. I got all confused feeding the animals this evening…the sequence didn’t work without Paris’s dish and presence. Something I’ve done without thinking for years required thought tonight.

Life will go on, but it won’t be the same. Tears will probably flow for some days to come. But we have lots of memories to hold dear, and fortunately, lots of photos too.

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Paris

 

Marley and the dogs

Paris

 

The Old Lady

I’ve written about our old lady dog, Butterscotch, many times. Aging, when we’re fortunate, is a lengthy process. Butterscotch started down the getting-old path a couple years ago. Winter of 2014-15 we didn’t think she’d see the next one, but she did, and she’s still here, but she’s much further down the path these days. She does okay many days, and then there are others, like today, when you can see the body giving up and she seems to be looking into another world.

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Her hearing, vision, and comprehension are all a fraction of what they were when she came to live with us 6 years ago, already a senior dog then. She hears high-pitched loud sounds only, but she can’t usually tell where the sound comes from, even if you’re just a couple feet from her. Call to her, and inevitably, she looks in a wrong direction for the source of the noise. It doesn’t help that her eyes are getting more cloudy. She can see in well-lit spaces and on her daytime walks, but dim or dark rooms and spaces challenge her. She does manage to do her business outside in the dark before bed, and I’m not sure how. Maybe she finds her way mostly by smell.

Comprehension fails her sometimes too. Today, on our walk (more a meander) a sweet and boisterous young dog greeted her and then walked on with her guardian. Butterscotch stood rooted to her spot, looking at where the dog had been, as if the dog had donned an invisibility cloak and simply disappeared.

These things don’t seem to bother her however. I am pretty sure that if I get to “old” I will be cranky, but Butterscotch is as sweet as she has ever been. If a dog disappears, she does the equivalent of shrugging her shoulders and moves on.

Butterscotch sleeps…a lot. And deeply. Even touching her doesn’t always get a response right away. But show her the leash and her eyes light up, even if her legs don’t work right away. With a little help, she’s up and ready to go. Walks around a block take about 25 minutes, but she loves them. I count them as meditation time for me.

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When she’s not sleeping she is often barking. At nothing. If she isn’t in the room with you, she wants to be, which is hard if you’re not sitting and doing one thing in one place. And it’s not a nice little bark. She has a loud, demanding bark, and she doesn’t mind keeping it up for 15 or 20 minutes when need be. Sometimes she does this even when you’re in the room with her, feet away. Like I said, comprehension slips sometimes for our sweet old lady.

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The legs are the hardest part for her. She did well all day today, and then at dinnertime all of her legs gave out on her. It took about 15 or 20 minutes before she was able to stand again. She’s been seeing a doggy chiropractor and that helped enormously for many months, but I’m realistic about the limits of the body to keep going when you’re a dog approaching 16 years old.

Butterscotch clearly has one foot in another world, and seems to be looking that way sometimes.

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Her overall health is good, especially for an elderly dog with Cushings. It is the legs and the muscles that betray her now, and perhaps some of that brain power as well. Still, she loves her walks, and mealtimes are probably the highlight of her day, the time of day when she looks and acts young again, if just for a minute. She’s doing okay for the time being, but I won’t be surprised when she turns the corner. I just wish the corner was a lot further away than it looks to be these days.