Saturday, February 2, 2013

The End of a Dream Realized, or Farewell to My Loyal Dog

My Canine Love Story

I should start at the beginning.  I got Chopper in 2002 when he was one year old.  I was living in a little studio apartment, and now that I had my own place I was determined to get a dog.  Ever since I was a young girl I have dreamed of owning a dog.  I spent hours daydreaming about how my dog would follow me anywhere without a leash and do tricks and obey me without falter.  I just KNEW that some day I WOULD have a dog who WOULD be my best friend in the entire world.  When playing house with other children I remember I always wanted to be the dog-not the mom or sister etc.  I always felt that I had a strong understanding of canines and voraciously read any book the library had that involved a dog as a character.  When I got him it only took a day for him to learn that I was his person and he was my dog.  Chopper has always been the sweetest thing in the world, and we formed an amazing bond right away.

My dog was all I had ever imagined and then so much more.  He was my loyal companion and went everywhere with me.  I had some very tolerable friends as they always knew that by inviting me over they also were inviting Chopper.  His impeccable manners made it easier to bring him along wherever I went.  He never had an accident in the house.  In fact, he has been my dog for over ten years now and has never soiled our home-not even once!  Chopper learned basic commands from his first owner, and was also potty trained, so it was easy for me to take it to the next level.  He picked up the new tricks quickly.  His commands expanded from basic sitting and staying to include shaking hands, speaking and growling on command, rolling over, doing spins, dancing and much more.  I delighted in teaching him and showing off his skills to anyone willing to watch us.  He had perfect manners as I mentioned, and never bothered people too much.  After an appropriate greeting of a new person he would not jump or lick or bother them unless they wanted him to.

Chopper was beautiful as a young dog.  I kept his hair longer and he had a topknot that made him look like a perky cheerleader.  He had the best disposition and loved all people and other animals.  I learned about a local non-profit group called Pets for Life that offered Therapy Dog certification classes as well as arranging for the therapy dogs and owners to visit nursing home residents, hospital patients, and even students at school.  I loved this idea and Chopper passed his test the first time we took it, with no prep at all.  He had the perfect calm manner and being a lapdog also helped.  I loved taking him to nursing homes and letting the residents hold him, and hug and pet him.  The residents would open up and talk about their childhood pets  and it was always a very special activity for Chopper and me.  He was a pro and adored all the love and attention, but he never allowed me out of his sight.  If I went to the bathroom he had to come too, or he would whine and pace while waiting for me.

Chopper was my constant companion and he always rode shotgun.  He loved to ride and would stand on my lap so he could reach the window better.  At the gas station his favorite perch was on top of my little Hyundai, surveying the world like the king he was.  We had many years like this together, sharing every adventure.  Chopper always slept at the foot of my bed; he was the best foot-warmer I ever had-until the last 3 years or so.  Poor old guy stopped being able to jump up onto the bed.  I would lift him up and he would stay awhile, but would have to patrol the house every so often-which meant he lost his spot in bed.

Sadly,Chopper began to suffer from some skin allergy problems for about 4 years now. The problems began when we moved to Liberty. A vet was no help, as they wanted me to pay for lab work and skin scrapings and a whole bunch of other tests.  If money was no problem I would have done it all in a heartbeat. However, when your children do not even have health insurance it is hard to rationalize hundreds of dollars of testing on a dog.

So we gave him rotating rounds of benadryl and prednizone. This, along with weekly baths in a antibiotic and anti-fungal shampoo (also costly!) seemed to keep him in decent shape.  He still enjoyed his life, and never failed to be there for EVERY scrap of food that fell on the floor.  He always loved to sit under the baby's high-chair and he also really enjoyed walking Jackson to and from kindergarten twice a day.  As a former therapy dog he must have thought it was his job to greet each person he encountered and the kids loved him to pieces.

He passed away right after Christmas on 12-28-2012.  Taking him to be put down was the HARDEST thing I have done in all 30 years of my life but I knew he had reached the point where his life no longer was enjoyable and pain-free.  As a loving, responsible dog owner I felt it was my duty to ensure he did not suffer in the end.

I want another dog enormously!!! With the 3 little boys however it sadly is going to be put on hold for now...until then I feel that part of my life is incomplete-I really need the comfort and reassurance that only a loyal dog can provide.
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