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Friday, October 29, 2010

Pirate Dog

This is my sweet Pirate Dog.

He left this life on Wednesday.

The best way to tribute my sweet dog is to tell his story.

The story actually starts with a different dog. When the ex and I were married, we had a German Shepherd. He was a wonderful dog, and by the time we split up, he was old and sick. He always insisted on sleeping next to my bed, between the bedroom door and me - as my protector. When he died, I really missed feeling the safety of a big dog in the house.

But I also had 4 cats at the time. That's a lot to deal with when you're a single mom.

Along came Surfer Pirate.

He's a big animal lover - doesn't matter what kind of animal. He loved my cats, but deep down, he's really a dog person. Since he knew right from the start that we were going to be together forever, and I had my own home with a big yard, he wanted to get a dog. I still figured at that point that our relationship was temporary, and did I really want to get another dog to add to my already fur-filled house? But I did always feel safer with that big guard dog in my house, so I let Surfer Pirate talk me into a dog.

I went to the pound to see what dogs they had there. There were a couple of neat dogs, but I fell hard for a tiny German Shepherd puppy. She was so sweet and helpless. She was being treated for mange, so I wouldn't be able to take her home that day. I went home to wait it out.

I told Surfer Pirate about the puppy, and he had the sense to talk me out of getting her. With me working full-time, it was not a good idea to try to train a new puppy - especially one that already had health problems. We decided to go together - Surfer Pirate, Pirate Munchkin and me - to look for a dog.

As much as it killed me to do it, I passed by the little shepherd puppy and led the way to the other kennels where the two other dogs I had liked were. The one was a nice dog, but Surfer Pirate didn't seem too interested. Then, we went to the kennel where I had seen the adult yellow lab. Surfer Pirate looked at the dog, seemed to like him, then pointed at him and said "Sit." The dog sat. He turned to me, grinned and said "That's the one!"

So, we took him home.

He was a really fun dog, right from the start. He loved hugs! I had always wanted to have a big dog that liked hugs! (My other dog was a little skittish about hugging.) He had boundless energy, loved to play fetch, was loyal and loving, and was very gentle with my daughter.

He also was an escape artist.

We'd only had him a couple of weeks when he dug under the fence and went for a run. I was at work when I got the phone call from the animal shelter. Animal Control had picked up my dog and I needed to come get him. So, after work, I went down to the pound to bail him out of jail. They sent me back to the kennels (same kennels where I first saw him) to make sure he was back there. I had been instructed to find him, get the clipboard off his kennel and bring it back to the front office. I would pay his fine and then they would bring him up to me. When I got back to the kennels, I saw him before he saw me. He looked so sad and downtrodden! Poor guy. When he saw me, he got so excited that he started bounding around the kennel and barking! "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom's here to get me! Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!" I talked to him, grabbed the clipboard and went back up front. He couldn't figure out why I was leaving him, and he started to cry and whine and carry on. I felt so bad, but at the same time, it was pretty funny. I paid his $35 bail and they brought him out to me. He practically pulled over the girl in his excitement to get to me! "I'm free! I'm free! I'm free!"

He dug his way out a few more times, but thankfully, he was always found by one neighbor or another who would call me so I could come get him. We found out about a year and a half later that there was a woman down the street who had 2 female labs. He kept going to visit her dogs.

The pound had estimated his age to between 4-6 years old. The vet thought it was more like 6-7 years. Based on the last year of his life and how fast he wore down, we think he was actually closer to 8 when we got him.

The pound also didn't know much about his background. They told us he was left with them because the owner was moving and couldn't take him. Based on how he reacted to me the first few months, I suspected his previous owner had been a woman - I was the one he listened to the most. (Although when Surfer Pirate broke his back and was home for 2 months, they really bonded in that time. I never had the full command after that.) It was obvious that he'd always been allowed to ride in the bed of a pickup because any time we would ask him if he wanted to go for a ride, he would go straight for the tailgate. (I didn't allow that in our city in Montana - too much traffic and crazy drivers. Since we've been in North Dakota, I have no problem with the dogs riding in the back around here. The pace is so much slower that it's much safer. I'm sure he enjoyed getting his pickup bed back for the last few months of his life!) One day, Surfer Pirate took him outside and there were ducks flying overhead. He told Pirate Dog "get the ducks!" That dog took off across the lawn chasing those ducks! We were quite surprised to discover that he must have been a duck hunting dog with his previous owner!

The poor guy was lonely when everyone was gone during the day. Knowing he was an older dog and one day we would be losing him, we didn't want to just have an empty home. The decision was made to get a puppy to be a companion for him as well as a comfort for us for one day when Pirate Dog would be gone. That's when we got Pirate Puppy. He really enjoyed having a new little buddy to play with, and that slowed down his escape attempts a little. A few months later, we ended up with Pirate Wench Puppy as well. Pirate Dog couldn't quite keep up with these two crazy young pups, so he settled into his roll as a father figure to them. He would play with them at times, other times, he would lay quietly and watch them. But he was always quick to bark at them if they got out of hand.

His barking was actually a nice feature about him. I was never a fan of dogs barking in the house, but his barks served a great purpose. He would bark when he wanted to go outside, and he would bark when he was ready to eat. He was also quite prone to "talking" for other various reasons. It was always fun to communicate back and forth with him with his barks and other interesting grumbles and growls.

He was a good guard dog. He watched out for danger, and I had no doubt that if he ever had to protect us, he would do it fearlessly. But much like Marley from the Marley & Me book, Pirate Dog was TERRIFIED of thunderstorms! (Thankfully, that's pretty much the only way he and Marley compared - aside from their breed.) Thunderstorms would start an interesting routine of quivering, whining and the previously mentioned talking. If we were home, he would usually insist on being held. The dog who rarely ever got on the furniture would come diving into any lap he could find! The main trouble was when we weren't home during a thunderstorm. He would lose control of himself and have accidents in the house. The week we were in North Dakota getting Surfer Pirate settled in to his new job here, there was a tornado in our town in Montana. I came home to a DISASTER in the house!

He's been pretty clingy in the last few weeks - always having to be right next to someone. More than once, he's been squished by the recliner or stepped on because he got too close. I've suspected for a while that he wouldn't be with us much longer. But he started having trouble controlling his bodily functions inside the house. We would take him outside and he would just wander around the yard. Then he would come inside and relieve himself. He just wasn't feeling like himself anymore. His eyesight was going, and he seemed confused most of the time. Tuesday was an especially bad day, and the decision was made that it was time to let him go. He'd been spoiled and loved, got to feel the wind in his face driving down the road, and was pretty much the king of the universe in our home. He'd had a good life. So, Wednesday, Surfer Pirate took the day off work and we drove to the vet an hour away (no vet in our little town). Saying goodbye was especially hard on my loving husband. He adored that dog. We gave him our love and let him go. The vet office was nice enough to let us take a box of tissue with us - which we used as we cried together in the truck.

We had thought long and hard how to break the news to Pirate Munchkin. When she got home from school that day, I sat her down on my lap and told her that because Pirate Dog was old and sick and wasn't feeling like himself, he wasn't happy. So, we took him to the vet where they gave him a little shot that would make him go to sleep. When he woke up, he would be in heaven and would be able to play with our old German Shepherd and our cat who we'd also had to put to sleep a couple years ago. She was happy to hear that part and took the news very well - not a single tear shed.

We got less than 3 years with our wonderful Pirate Dog, but he will always be remembered. I couldn't have asked for a better dog.


Jill said...

Anne Marie, that is such a sweet story! It makes me want to cry (OK, it's probably the hormones). He sounds like he was a great dog and you gave him a great life! (((HUGS))).

Kate said...

What a sweet sweet post. I'm so sorry about your dog. He was beautiful. :)