Today we have a guest post from my nephew Richard in California. For all you dog lovers, prepare to shed a tear or two…
Dear Family and Friends,
This is not really an elegy in the classic sense (“The elements of a traditional elegy mirror three stages of loss. First, there is a lament, where the speaker expresses grief and sorrow, then praise and admiration of the idealized dead, and finally consolation and solace”), but a real-time reflection on the planned and peaceful passing of our beloved boy dog, Reginald Christoph von Dachshundhausen yesterday at High Noon.
I concede that I never truly understood the Biblical parable of the “Prodigal Son,” (Luke 15:11–32) until now. But as I alternate between the surprising and intense paroxysms of tearful grief and moments of laughter while reflecting on the various adventures, antics, misdeeds, near disasters, and Bad Boy creativity of Reggie, aka “The Redge,” aka “The Prince of Barkness,” aka “Braveheart,” the premise of the parable has come into sharp focus.
Sister Emily was our perfect dog— sweet, stable, well-behaved, she stayed close by off-leash when we took her hiking and backpacking with us, and she traveled happily over thousands of miles without incident. When two years after acquiring our “only child,” we were asked to consider adopting her litter-mate “Shadow,” from the breeder from whom we had gotten Princess Emily, we were ambivalent. He was scrawny, described as a “picky eater,” and very shy and timid. But knowing that a companion and playmate for his sister might be a good thing, we decided to do a trial weekend with him. He never left.
He quickly blossomed into a voracious eater (Eukanuba Dachshund kibble, meat, eggs, cheese, chicken, oatmeal, peanut butter, fish, shrimp, quinoa, my homemade bread, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garnet yams, apples, oranges, and especially avocado—there seemed to be nothing that this “picky eater” did not like), an outgoing and exceptionally affectionate guy, and a fearless defender of his home turf, which was wherever he happened to be at any given time.
He would have gladly taken on any Pit Bull or Boxer had we let him, and indeed once did so when an off-leash Boxer attacked sister Emily. The shy, timid, and painfully thin Shadow soon morphed into the proud, confident, muscular, always fully engaged, and often obnoxiously vocal—-
When he, like many dachshunds bred for badger hunting with long backs and short legs, developed intermittent spinal problems, he recovered quickly with cage rest and anti-inflammatory meds. But a little more than three years ago, his repeated exhibitions of remarkable physical feats of ingenious creativity finally caught up with him and his rear legs became completely non-functional due to paralysis.
Yet even that did not stop him as his strong front legs took him wherever he needed to go throughout the house and became even stronger with practice. We gladly carried our boy up and down stairs and outdoors to poop and pee, and wherever else he needed to go, and willingly got up with him between 0300 & 0500 each morning when he awoke and signaled us to carry him outdoors.
In early March of last year, I noticed a marked swelling on Reggie’s snout that had developed in less than the three hours I’d been away. We took him to the vet and after surgery and a biopsy revealed that he had “canine oral malignant melanoma.” With his projected life expectancy of six months, we tried to be stoic, embraced reasonable expectations, and began taking The Redge on a series of Farewell Tours.
And yet month after month his behavior was unchanged, he was a happy boy who enjoyed his life, and no additional symptoms were evident until about two months ago when a small tumor emerged on his left jaw. First the size of an almond, then walnut, then lemon. Four weeks ago we took him back to Dr. Cline for an exam, and appreciated that he was candid regarding Reggie’s poor prognosis.
We observed Reggie carefully, gave him lots of love, and watched as his tumor reached the size of a tennis ball, and finally that of a baseball. Still, Reggie showed no distress, pain, or discomfort—until last week when his appetite decreased, breathing was sometimes labored, bowel and bladder function diminished, swallowing was difficult, his strength declined, and time spent sleeping during the day markedly increased.
We had originally planned to kennel both Emily and Redge during our upcoming 30 day excursion out of town, and knew that they would receive the consistent loving care and attention from the Anderson Veterinary staff. But faced now with Reggie’s rapid physical deterioration, we simply could not abide the thought of our precious little guy passing away at night, away from home and in a cage, without his loving “pack” beside him to ease his transition.
Terri and I have been recounting our 16+ years with Em and 14+ with The Redge as we gratefully acknowledge their positive impact on our lives and on our values, and how they have guided us into being more thoughtful and caring about the natural world, and more empathetic with those who have lost the canine, feline, and equine members of their family. Now we get it…
Yes, Reggie was our Prodigal Pup. Often in trouble, obsessed with food, deviously goal-oriented, fiercely independent; yet intensely loyal, affectionate, clever, ingenious, and the most loving dog one could imagine. And even when at the age of 13 his paralysis limited the mischief he could make, the increased care he required during his final 3+ years somehow endeared him to us even more.
So R.I.P., Reggie. Dr. Cline tells us that you were 108, had a great life, and are now chasing squirrels. Mom, Em, and Dad miss you terribly but treasure our multitude of memories together and know that you are now safe, happy, off-leash, and eating as much as you want.
Farewell, Sweet Boy