Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ode to the Still Living Fonzy

Warning: Read with a kleenex handy. (Remember. I warned you.)

Patience is required when caring for the elderly. Every task you give them takes a bit longer to perform.

For example, our morning walks. When my old guy finds an interesting smell that he wants to leave note on, he sets himself up, making sure he gets just the right angle. He settles along side this odor, backing up a few steps, then realizes he's in the wrong angle and sets about to realign his body to the previous dog’s note. He sniffs again, making sure he's on target, and them releases the smallest bit of urine, reserving some for the next note as we continue on our way.

As soon as he completes his task, the younger Roxy comes in and quickly aims her urine right over the top of Fonzy’s carefully laid liquid.

Then, Fonzy will stop, come back to where Roxy left her note, line his long body up for the squirt, making sure he’s at least near the target, repeat. Come on already!!!

Fonzy is a little wire-haired mini-dachshund that came to our home back in 1999. Wire-haired dachshunds have just the right amount of terrier in them to make them, well, terrier-like. Kalie saved her hard earned money to make this purchase. He was adorable. We all fell head over heels in love with him. All except for Tasha.

“It's hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor.”
― Kate DiCamillo,

He weighed almost 2 lbs. when we drove him home from southern Oregon that summer. Tasha, our sweet older, middle aged, yellow Lab, was annoyed with Fonzy’s cleaver little antics. His adorableness was completely lost to her.

Hoping he would disappear, she ignored him. He’d grab her tail. Pull her ears. Run up to her sleeping body and bark. She was really good at turning a blind eye, deaf ear, the cold-shoulder and paying no attention whatsoever to this little punchinello.

The rest of the family just loved watching Fonzy. He was and still is such a clown. Then one night, about three weeks after we brought him home, Tasha couldn’t resist him any longer. The kids and I watched in amazement as Fonzy ran around the sleeping Tasha. I am sure he was expecting her usual brush off. Suddenly Tasha reached out with her paw and gently laid it on top of Fonzy, stopping him in his tracks. She made a deep, gentle, growl as she kept her paw atop of Fonzy. After a few minutes, she released her hold on him. Fonzy immediately began jumping and barking around Tasha. She repeated the hold and growl. The next time she lifted her paw, Fonzy just lay there. Then Tasha nudged him in a playful way, the stalemate was over. Tasha and Fonzy became the best of friends.

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.”
― John Grogan

When Tasha was 14 years old she developed something that certainly was going to be the end of her. She vomited when she ate and was lethargic. After we had her euthanized, Fonzy lost his zest. While he still charmed us on a daily basis, he was obviously depressed.

Pet-Finder became our family’s evening past time. We wanted to find the right companion for Fonzy. Our family knows dog breeds. We wanted a Border Terrier in the worst way. Alas, they are expensive and hard to come by. Our search on Pet Finder led us to a Border Terrier “Mix” located in southern California.

Pictures and conversations with the woman fostering this little dog led us to believe “Murphy” would be a good fit. He was flown from California to PDX one afternoon. Wade, Fonzy and I picked up the new member to our family.

One look into the kennel revealed to me that he was more Chihuahua than Border Terrier. When my sister met him for the first time she confirmed this fact.

A quick introduction at the airport and then back into the kennel as Fonzy and I sat in the back getting to know this funny little dog who now was part of our family. Once we reached home we let the two smell and touch before letting them into the house. They were fast friends.

Over the years Murphy developed diminished eye-sight, we added another dog and Fonzy just kept on going.

He’s got horrible teeth. One vet called them “Cat teeth” which means they decay at the root. No amount of brushing will help. Good thing too because he HATES preventative dental care!

Last year Fonzy was diagnosed with an ‘innocent’ heart murmur. No symptoms were present so we are just watching it.

Another noticeable change over the last year has been Fonzy’s sleeping. He has scared the earth out from under me more than once in the last several months. Basically I’ll find him in either our bedroom or Wade’s office. He’s laying flat out on the floor. Sleeping. Looking dead. The only way to wake him up is to shake him. Or stomp the floor. Upon doing so he looks at me with this “What do you want?” look.

He still loves his morning walks with Roxy. I’m a good dog owner who understands how important smelling things are to dogs. We stop a lot to sniff and pee.

On June 26 Fonzy turns 15 years old. I know our time with him is short. He’s seen the better part of my children’s lives. He’s met, licked and cuddled with Cyrus.

Composing this written memory often brings me to tears. I’m really gona miss him when he draws his final breathe. Part of me hopes that I really do come home and find him laying on the floor. REALLY asleep. It’s hard for me to think about making that decision to euthanize him.

There are so many things about this old man that infuriates me. I am, have been the main caretaker of our pets. And yet, Fonzy adores Wade. (All the dogs do for that matter.)

More times than I can count he has come to our bedroom, barked and then ran back down the hall. Yes. He’s like Lassie. He communicates. Of course I would follow him to the front of the house where he would be standing at the sliding glass door wanting to go into the back yard.

“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.”
― Orhan Pamuk

During Fonzy’s young years I spent countless hours trying to get him out of the creek in our back yard. He’d escape through our mini-fence, amble into the creek and bark at the neighbors. He was a sneak, an escape artist and down right smart about the whole thing.

He digs too. Or, at least he did when he was younger.

He has NO pain tolerance. When he was just a few months old he had an episode with pain that panicked the whole family. Early in the evening I was out of the house at my book club. I received a phone call (pre-cellphone days) at the coffee shop. Wade was on the line. Frantic. I could hear the wailing of a puppy. I was told to come home because something was very wrong with Fonzy. The details of the problem were sketchy. Over the phone I was told that Fonzy was screaming and then would pass out. This happened a few times before the family decided to call me.

I hurried home and surely did witness this disturbing event with my own eyes. I called the emergency vet and Wade and I drove to Tualatin.

Along the way it was evident that Fonzy was feeling better. Upon arriving at the vet clinic, Wade gave the receptionist the story. “He was chewing on a section of a horse hoof and all of a sudden started screaming and passing out.” Ah. I knew those horse hooves. They had been given to us by a neighbor. They had little spikes from the cutting of the hoof. Now I understood what happened. The considerate receptionist suggested we get him something to eat, suggesting that her surely wouldn’t eat if the pain overtook his desire for food. He wolfed down the cheese we offered him and wanted more. The crisis was over. Emergency vet bill averted.

After that we adopted a ‘three day waiting period’ for all of Fonzy’s injuries.

Until I purchased a dremel for grinding dog nails, our bi-monthly nail trims were, well, there is only one word for it: violent.

He’s got O. C. L. D. (Obsessive Compulsive Licking Disorder). But only for Wade, Brenna and Jesse.

In the last few years he’s developed a horrible gas problem. Room clearing kind of problem. I mean you really cannot breathe. Your eyes start watering and you are gasping for breath.

And yet, our lives without him will be horribly empty.

“After years of having a dog, you know him. You know the meaning of his snuffs and grunts and barks. Every twitch of the ears is a question or statement, every wag of the tail is an exclamation.”
― Robert McCammon

"It’s not always that one has the blessing of having more than one exceptional dog to share life’s journey with. My quiver has been full."
― Jere Witherspoon

Thankfully, Roxy entered my life about 5 years ago. She’s a youthful nine years old at this writing. I know that she will be a comfort when Fonzy leaves us. It won’t be the same, though. She’s a Jack Russell Terrier and there is nothing funny about her. Except that she adores me.

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
― Roger A. Caras

Fonzy. You are one of a kind. Smart. Eager. Sprightly. Capricious. Waggish.

I’ll never forget you. Oh, and by the way. I fully expect to see you in heaven because you really are a very good dog.

No comments: