Friday, April 6, 2012

Pets Are Family, Too

In 2008, when the financial crash dealt a heavy blow to so many Americans, my friend Dan was no exception. He had bought a house down the street from me just a couple years before but after being laid off from work had to let the bank foreclose and he moved to the next street, into a trailer on a piece of property owned by a guy that had multiple rentals and a large, steel building on his 2 1/2 acres. When his wife was also laid off work his situation clearly became more strained and he moved once again into a small house next door to mine. He had an arrangement with that owner to "fix up" the property in exchange for his rent, while searching for work. Within about six months he and his wife both found good, steady jobs and had to move across town into a small apartment, where they couldn't bring their 10-year old Boxer, Chance, since pets were not allowed there.


Dan asked me if I would adopt Chance since I also have a large piece of property for him to run. At the time my Beagle, Scooter, was only about year old and loved that he had another dog to play with, even if he was a senior. Shortly thereafter, I also adopted a small Terrier puppy and other dogs over the past couple years... but this story is about Chance.

Even at his age Chance loved to run and jump a lot. He actually thought he was still a puppy. It was funny watching him try to curl up in Scooter's puppy bed, which was barely big enough for Scooter anymore. Chance would curl his big butt onto the puppy bed and the rest of him wasn't even close but he thought he fit snugly.

Chance was the most well-behaved dog I've ever had. He'd obviously been trained well and by a professional. He would come when called, sit when told and do everything else you would expect on command.

Scooter, still a puppy and not neutered at the time, would dig his way under the fence and wander the next street over and Chance was a follower. Scooter never went far and always came back soon. Chance, however, would find his way back to that property with the steel building to lay on the cool concrete floor in the shade. I had to go pick him up a few times before I finally secured the fencing and decided that Scooter couldn't be left unchained in the yard when I was gone. Chance liked to hang out with Scooter so if Scooter was chained then Chance wouldn't take off.

Scooter when he was about a year old

At first, Dan came by a few times to see Chance and that always made Chance really happy. He'd get excited and jump around. Eventually, Dan said it was too hard for him emotionally to visit because he missed his dog so much.

It didn't take very long for Chance to make himself part of the family here. I've recently joked about how I've got a dog in every size category: my rescued long-haired Chihuahua Dolce fits the "toy" category, Sweetie is a rescued Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix that fits the "small" category, Jojo is my medium-sized "Terrier-mixed-with-something" (too timid to let me take his picture with the other dogs), Scooter is a Beagle fitting the "big" category and Chance, a Boxer, the "large" category. It was ruff, er, rough taking care of 5 dogs, along with my 3 cats (2 rescues), my rabbits (once 4 but now only 2) and a pen full of chickens out back.

Scooter, Sweetie and Dolce

Chance did have a jealousy at times. Whenever any of the other dogs got "loving attention" he would moan and grump, "what about me?" while wagging his stumpy tail. He was very tolerant of the other dogs, too. He never showed any kind of anger and he never snapped or barked at them. Scooter and Peanut (rip) would play and jump using Chance as an obstacle and Chance would just lay there like nothing was going on. Now it's Scooter and Dolce using Chance as a barrier for play. If one of the dogs nosed his/her way into the bowl Chance was eating from, no problem, he would just move to a different dish and continue eating.

Chance had a bit of an arthritic condition with his hind-legs and an inexpensive, over-the-counter supplement helped greatly and you'd hardly noticed he had any problems at all. Chance has been here nearly 3 years and has been doing very well until just recently. A few months ago he started losing weight and quit running and jumping. He showed difficulties walking and over the past few weeks displayed symptoms of dementia. He would turn circles in the living room like he was getting ready to lay down but then would end up staring into the wall or the side of the entertainment center. He often wavered about, confused about where he was or what he wanted to do. He'd go to the front door and ring the bell hanging from the handle (the bigger dogs use it to signal when they need to "go") and we'd let him out but then he'd stand on the front porch for a minute or two and scratch at the door to come back in (apparently he forgot why he went out). Then, a few minutes later he would do it all again. He's recently had some difficult nights, wandering around the house crying as if in some pain.

I've kept Dan up-to-date on Chance's condition but this past week he decided that perhaps it was time to do something for him. When he came by today with his wife, Chance was ecstatic. He walked over to them and was shaking all over, happy-crying to see them, making that "give me attention" moan. I kept his harness and gave him a big hug before Dan lifted him into his truck. He's taking him to get "checked out" and possibly put-down, depending on the outlook of his condition but it's a high probability that Chance won't be back. Interesting considering his name. He still thinks he's a puppy, too.

I am going to miss him. A lot. He was part of this family. I loved him. =:^(