Face of hope

Face of hope
Courtesy: TIffany Kay Photography

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Silent Guardian

There is just something about pets, if you are a pet owner, that is special. Moreso, there is something extra special about dogs.  I'm a "dog person"....always have been.  I was raised around dogs and continued that tradition with our dog when Brian and I got married. Our dog has been a huge part of our family and still continues to be - and I thought it was about time to tell his story.

I will never forget the day we went to pick out Dudley.  We had been married about 7 months and I was almost 6 months pregnant with Reilly.  Things had been great but I really missed having that furry friend around.  I was so used to having a dog in the home and I had talked to Brian about getting one.  I was waffling back and forth between what type of breed - I had grown up with Schnauzers, but was also open to a much larger dog.  We waffled back and forth through the summer and into the Fall.  One day, as I realized Reilly would soon be arriving in a little over 3 months, I decided we needed a dog. Right then. No exceptions.

Those who know me wouldn't be surprised.  I tend to do a lot... all at the same time.  It seems crazy on the outside, but, it's just how I'm wired.  So one day after mulling over "should we or shouldn't we" I decided to just do it.  I got out the paper and looked in the ads at pets for sale.  I decided I would choose a few breeders and Brian could pick which he wanted to go check out.  I circled a Labrador breeder for the large breed (for obvious family reasons), and also circled a Shih Tzu breeder for the small dog.  I decided on the Shih Tzu for the small breed option because they were non shedding and one of the only small breeds known to be good with children inately.  Our Schnauzers had been great, but, my mom had worked with them a LOT to make them the great family dogs they were.  With a new baby on the way, I wanted a breed that *mostly* already had that bred in their nature.  I brought the paper to Brian one day when he was getting some work done at home (he was extremely busy at the time - working a straight 65 days literally up until Reilly was born - like coming home at 3am, showering, and going back to work straight days) .... and asked him to pick - we were getting a dog.

It may not have been his choice to get a dog at that moment, but, being the loving husband he is, he looked at me, and probably knew there was no choice.  He looked over both ads and said "Well, if I'm going to get a dog, I want to get a 'man dog' so we are going to the Lab breeder."  I was fine with that - deep down although I loved growing up with a small breed and may want one again eventually I really wanted to try out a large breed.  I said "ok" and we were off that weekend to the breeder.

We drove out into the farm country of Virginia (which is incredibly beautiful) and eventually pulled down a one lane gravel road.  We found the small white farm house tucked up on the left hill from the road and drove into the driveway.  When we parked, the owner came to meet us - she was extremely nice and friendly and offered to show us the puppies.  She explained a little of what they did with breeding.  It wasn't their sole business but also they had done it enough to do it well and make sure all their dogs were certified and checked for health and family lines.  She introduced us to the two females they had on the property - the grandmother (who was retired and just lived as the family pet at that time), and the mother of the litter, who had only had 2 previous litters and this would be her last.  The owner explained they were partnered with a local high quality hunting lab breeder who studded out a few of his males to breeders like she and her husband who only did a few litters per dog over the years.  She said this ensures good dogs with good family lines, but also offers more affordable family pets since they aren't bred from both certified hunting dogs at the expensive breeder.  The owner then walked us in to the house and showed us the litter.  They were incredibly cute.  I was immediately sold on getting a lab - now which one would be the next decision.

As we watched the little balls of yellow fur and skin rolls hobble around the kitchen and play with each other, the owner pulled out all the parents and grandparents AKC papers and let us have copies.  They said if we wanted to play with the puppies a bit we could and if we found one we liked, they would mark it for us.  Once the puppy received its final vet check in a few weeks, we would be welcome to come back, pay the rest of the fee and take the puppy home.  Brian and I watched the puppies for a while - we saw the crazy hyper ones... we saw the ones hiding from us by the cabinets.  We agreed to each pick one - I would pick a girl and he would pick a boy - and then when we came back we would decide which we would take home.  I picked a little girl who seemed sweet - just playful enough but also subdued enough to just love a cuddle or a scratch on the back.  As I continued to watch the litter as they were let outside to play, one little puppy caught my attention.  He was a boy - and he was constantly getting picked on.  The other puppies would chase him, or jump on his back and nip at him playfully... but instead of playing back, this little pup would just run over to Brian and go to his lap as if he were saying "help!"  It was the cutest thing but also I felt bad for the little bullied pup! And of course - after observing for a while, you can take a guess which one Brian chose to mark.  Yep - the little picked on puppy.  We left happy with our choices and made plans to return in a few weeks.

The few weeks went by fairly quickly.  In that time, I felt like my own belly had expanded quite a bit.  I had carried Reilly quite small for a while but suddenly my belly seemed to "pop."  I was concerned when we went back that they would not sell us a puppy for fear once the baby came, we may give the puppy away.  I can completely understand that - as many people once kids come along suddenly "forget" how it is to care for their beloved dogs and unfortunately give them away - and I didn't want the owners to be nervous about selling a pup to us.  So the day we went back to the farm, it was cold - thankfully.  I put on some fitted jeans leaving the top open, and made sure to wear layers - on the very top sporting a big sweatshirt that sagged on me.  Really, at a glance, you wouldn't even know I was pregnant - let alone past the 6 month mark. "Perfect!" I thought.. and off we went.

When we arrived back at the farm, I knew in my heart which puppy we were going to take home.  I had made and continued to make most of the household decisions - as a lot of wives do - and with no insult to Brian - it was just how we functioned as a couple.  Being that I knew I would be ok with any dog, I decided to let Brian decide on his own which puppy he wanted - since I was the "dog person" it was important to me he chose so he would have the one he wanted to encourage him to bond with it more.  Of course, he chose the little male picked on puppy we had marked a few weeks before.  I was fine with that - we gave the couple the second half of the payment - got his AKC papers, and off we went with our new family addition!

I remember the whole way home the poor pup cried. And whined. And was so sad and pathetic!  Knowing we were getting a big dog, Brian and I had decided on several "big dog" names.... but on that ride home, it was apparent that none of the names we had chosen would fit this little guy.  It just wasn't his personality.  So when we got home, we mulled over several other boy dog names... and finally one stuck out to us that just seemed "right" ..... Dudley it was.

Dudley the week we brought him home

Over the years, Dudley has been an amazing dog.  He has been loyal, sweet, loving, and everything you ever imagine in that "TV Lab" for your own lab to be.  He has also been protective when need be, though - when strangers come to the door or something "isn't right" he knows it and bears those teeth and protects us.  I have no doubt he would absolutely act on that protection if need be - which is a great balance to have in a family pet.  As time has gone on and we have added 1, 2, 3, 4 and now 5 children, Dudley has been a trooper through it all.  Silently laying on his own when we have been incredibly busy with new babies - and gently nudging us when he needs that extra pet or love saying "hey, I'm still here."  He is wonderful with the girls - they play vet with the poor guy all the time - and he just lays there and takes it.

Dudley and Reilly. They have grown up together.

In the last few years, we have had a few health scares with Dudley.  First was a snake bite a few years back - we were playing fetch with him and as he was going for a ball deep in the vines up in the back of our yard, a Copperhead snake whisked out and bit him right inside his lip.  Luckily we were home at the time and due to his excellent vet and prompt medical care and anti-venom, he came out ok with only a little droop left at the site of the bite.  More recently, we saw Dudley start to lose weight.  It was odd because as anyone can tell you with a Lab - if you leave food out, they will eat it. Immediately.  And will do so constantly if you so allow.  Meaning, if we let him, Dudley would just eat constantly. We could tell right away if he was getting slightly overfed - you would see his nice waistline start to disappear and he would start looking overweight.  But this time, he wasn't looking that way.  No matter how much he ate, or what treats he had, he still looked skinny - and was even losing weight.  I knew something wasn't right so I took him in.  Long story short, after an x-ray and some blood work, the vet was very concerned he was losing his liver and its function - the x-ray showed the usable liver tissue was starting to be much less than normal and she was concerned this would continue.  The good news was she felt like we had recognized the problem early - so with some medicine, blood checks ever 6 months, and a lot of prayers, she hoped we could prolong the process, buying us a lot more 'usable' years with our buddy.

I'm happy to say that, so far, the vet's plan has worked.  The change in Dudley is amazing since he has started his supplements, medication, and basically us allowing him to eat whenever he wants.  He is maintaining his weight and his energy is up.  Although his face is getting whiter by the day, he seems to be in good health and his liver is holding steady as of right now. Thank God.

With good ol' Dudley approaching his 9th birthday, I do see his signs of aging increasing. He takes a lot longer to get up now.  When I come downstairs in the mornings, he doesn't jump up immediately at the sight of me, but rather looks at me waiting to see if I will come to him to give him a little morning pet.  When he does get up he creaks and groans and he takes a few minutes to actually straighten his legs.  Once he is up, though, he is still loving to grab his bone and go chase it in the yard.. just for not as long as he used to :)

One thing that has been different is Meagan's interaction with her dog.  As visual and communicative as Meagan is, and as interested in things as she is, she has never quite "noticed" Dudley. He, however has always been interested in her.  He could be right next to her and she would basically ignore him.  Even the nights he would hover over her in her seat when a seizure came on, or the days he would lay next to her on her play blanket, she didn't bat an eyelash in his direction. Dudley would persist though - nosing her when she would lay blankly in her bouncy seat as a tiny newborn....laying silently in her presence just after a hospital stay or surgery.  Matter of fact, there have been times Dudley would just suddenly get up and go stand in front of Meagan with his tail straight and his head down - almost like he was watching - and sure enough not a few minutes later, Meagan would have a seizure. He is by no means a "seizure dog" but it seems he just "knew."

 Suddenly, in the last week, Meagan seems to notice Dudley.  This has quite literally happened out of nowhere and it seems now she can't get enough of him.  She watches him walk around - she notices when he lays next to her - and she is even starting to say "D! D!" as he walks by... it's hilarious to see her so interested in him now when for almost 2 years she could have cared less.

Meagan clapping for Dudley. Why, I'm not sure. LOL

Just the other night Brian and I were relaxing with some junk TV on before we went up to bed.  Dudley was laying on the floor and Meagan next to him - for the first time ever I noticed her inch towards him.  She was patting him with her hands.. and then pulling back.. at the touch of that straight fur.  She would roll near him and hug him.. then roll away.  She would try to make the "d" sound again and then pat his back again.  I had to stop rolling the camera once she found his tail because if she grabbed it I was worried he would be surprised and turn around too quickly - but for those few minutes I caught her on camera, it was such a sweet sight.  I think Dudley must understand her so much more than even some of us do.  There is just 'something' about a kid and her dog - something unspoken yet something all of us can feel as tangible emotion.  I hope Dudley sticks around a while - I think Meagan would really like that. And I know as long as he's around, Dudley will continue to be a friend to her - watching out for her and giving her love.  That pathetic little picked on puppy turned out to be the perfect first member of our family - the perfect silent guardian that God knew Meagan would need.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this :) And I remember when you brought Dudley home! very sweet :) xo