Friday, December 28, 2012

The Value of a Dog

Angus, in his kennel with Rosheen, as seen from kennel middle hallway, in happier days.

    One of the most valuable and important gifts God has chosen to provide to me in this life have been my dogs.  I have had a dog of one kind or another since I was a small child, and the only genuine criticism I have for them is that their life spans here on Earth with us, simply aren't long enough.  When I was much younger than this, I recall praying to God asking why people, who are often hostile and self centered may live to a hundred, and many dogs are lucky if they live as long as fourteen.  It took years before I believe He answered me, and when He did in a dream, He related that human beings require many years to learn all that is needed about love and loyalty, and that dogs know all that is important relatively quickly.  I have taken that to be true, and not simply a creation of my own mind in sleep.
           Now that I am half way through a century myself, and we have raised our own large family and lived on two farms, I have had an awful lot of dogs over the years.  The farm needs a number of different types of dogs for many different purposes, and we have been fond of taking many of them, often purebred varieties, from pounds and rehabilitating them.  Of course, the pedigreed varieties often  lack the mongrel resilience of others, and I have often wound up with an animal with a significant medical problem which requires injections or anti-seizure medication a couple of times a day.  Still, I can convince a dog of my good intentions within an afternoon, and having been a foster mother, I can assure you that human beings take much longer to trust other human beings, if in fact, they ever do.
          This month has been particularly difficult on the farm.  Angus, was a small bi-color beagle who came to our original farm some years ago and would watch us.  It took a year before he allowed himself to be captured and served a meal, some water, and within a day or so, a rabies shot.  (Rabies is endemic here and we cannot have an animal in close proximity without proper protection.)  Even then, the vet indicated that Angus was very very old.  He was likely one of the hunting dogs which had found its way to our property and then was never picked up again.  He had no collar, and no microchip.   He adapted to our farm in 2000 and having spied on us for just over a year.  We know that he had been abused in a prior home, because he could cowar when we raised our hand to pet him, and then he would remember that we meant no harm and he would allow us to touch him.
          Rosheen  (Irish Gaelic spelling is actually Roisin) was a Jack Russell terrier mix who came to our farm in 1999. In 1999, after we moved out to the country to our first farm that we built, my daughter and I went out one day to the edge of one of the cities which is within a days commute. While we were there we stopped at a Dairy Queen which has long since closed and been replaced by something else.   My daughter and I each got a small cone, and the woman who has working the DQ that day asked us if we wanted a dog. We told her the truth which was that we already had several dogs on our farm and didn't really need any.  She proceeded to tell us that a female Jack Russell Terrier mix had been dropped off at her apartment complex, and that she didn't want to take her to the pound, but couldn't keep her.  She proceeded to take us to her car where the dog was "napping".  How bad could a napping dog who waits for you to finish working really be ?  When the woman got to the car, she found the interior of her (thankfully) older car, chewed to bits !  The woman was upset, and I had plenty of places we could station a small watchdog, and so we brought her home.  Our daughter named her Rosheen, (written for pronunciation) although the Irish Gaelic spelling is Roisin.  The dog has been a great joy to our daughter, to all of us, and also to our young son Daniel who passed suddenly at the beginning of the Christmas Season now four years ago.
         Although we had Angus neutered and Ro was spayed, they were like an old married couple.  They shared a kennel room in our kennel, and this year had been together for ten years. They fought over a milkbone from time to time, but their relationship was congenial and devoted.   We were aware that the vet believed that Angus was in excess of twenty years old.  We knew his passing was coming, especially since the vet warned us of it, each Winter.  We also inherently knew that Rosheen would not do well following Angus' passing.  We knew she was now fourteen, and we tried not to contemplate this much, and we hoped the other larger dogs would help her in that event that he passed before she did.
          On December 1st, Angus passed quickly of a stroke. We moved him to the finished warm barn. He was alive for a few hours and we had a chance to sit next to him as he slept and eventually died.    Ro, initially seemed alright, but one never knows how much they do, and do not grasp. A couple of weeks later, we could see that she too was depressed. She was showing clear signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or more commonly "Doggie Dementia". She initially drank well, but almost seemed to have forgotten how to eat, or that she needed to eat at all.  She enjoyed our interaction, but she was not the same dog. It was as if all of her energies were set on joining Angus in whatever Heaven our Lord sees fit to provide for his youngest children.

Rosheen, also in happier days.

           Tonight, at 5:15 pm on December 28, 2012, Rosheen drew her last breath.  This week has been spent tempting her with turkey, chicken broth, a couple of flavors of gatorade, all manner of food, specialized soft dog food in cans, and ultimately simple rehydration solution in plain water. My Christmas was spent walking her, playing the radio to her, and having each of the kids including my daughter, (who was really her owner), spend time with her. Today, I spent as much time with her as I could, and then returned about every forty minutes when her respirations grew shallow.  Ro waited until I was there and took one last breath.
             I have been so honored to have had all these dogs as my friends. Angus and Rosheen are just two in a long line of very special devoted friends who have shared important parts of our family life. I am going to miss them both so much, even with seven different breeds and types of dogs remaining.    Medical care, chux, special bedding, blankets, medication, food, feeding syringes, for Rosheen's last days were about three hundred dollars.  Dogs: Absolutely priceless.   Yes, our friends are priceless.



Matt said...

Bless you for the effort you put into all your special friends' well being.

You're my kind of people.

Gorges Smythe said...

Please accept my condolences on the loss of the best friend a person can have.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Gorges, They are indeed great friends and family members.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Matt, They are gifts from God and should be treated as such. I really do believe that we will see them again, and that my youngest son, has Angus and Ro with him right now.

Rose said...

Jane, I read this about Roisin ....I know the days following the loss of a friend always make you feel somewhat discombubulated, around feeding time, when you check to see that everyone is bedded down for the night, when you have to clean out the kennel and consider how next to use it or who to use if for, etc., but it is a comfort to know that this time of separation is only brief and that our souls will combine again in love in a much better place. Our thoughts are with you...two losses this month of spirits that brim unconditional love are two hard losses to deal with. Rose

fati said...

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.

JaneofVirginia said...

Dogs are indeed one of God's dearest blessings to us.