Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Running Again



She wanted to run again.  I know she did, I could see it in her eyes. The last couple of days she was trying to get up and go to walk, or run out in the field.  She was telling me she was ready and I knew what I had to do.  It was time.



My spouse got Jumper as a puppy when she lived with her mother in an apartment complex.  She was not supposed to have dogs there but she got her anyway.  Jumper was a chow mix and we later surmised she was mixed with Alaskan Eskimo Spitz, because she bore a close resemblance to that breed of dogs.  She was the most beautiful dog in the world and everywhere we went she got compliments and people would ask what kind of dog she was.

When she was a puppy, I played with her in the apartment but she was always known to be skittish.  She would come out and play with me then go back and hide under the bed.  She was friendly and very loving when you got to know her but she was very skeptical and quite shy, especially when she was young.  When she was older, she was the best guard dog anyone could ask for.  She would bark, growl and look mean when she sensed a threat was coming to the house, and she could back it up if necessary.

Because she couldn't stay at the apartment Jumper was shipped of to live with my spouse's niece, then her daughter and finally her sister.  One day, my girlfriend's mother's health became so bad it was decided that she needed to go to a nursing home.  My girlfriend had no where to live and she had never lived alone.  Our families would not be crazy about us living together so we decided to get married.  I had always wanted to marry a woman and have a normal happy life as a husband (and perhaps father) although this always felt totally wrong for me.  I guess it was expected of me.  So we got married, and because she did not want to live down near the coast where I was working, I quit my job and came home.

We lived in the garage apartment at my parent's home until I could find another job and we could get out own place.  Right before we got married, we went to visit Jumper at my spouse to be's sisters home.  She lived outside on a "runner" and I had not seen her since she was a puppy.  She was over a year old and had grown into gorgeous girl dog.  She was also mean as hell to anyone that was not close to her and she barked and growled at me.  I don't think she remembered me and I became a little worried about her becoming my dog, but I loved dogs and I was sure it would work out alright.

When we moved into the garage apartment, Jumper and I began to get along just fine but it became clear she was a one person dog, and that one person was my spouse.  Chows are known to be this way, but she warmed up to me quickly and we had fun playing with a tennis ball and growing to love each other.  She would not let me walk her alone, she wanted to stay at my spouse's side.  She was a good protector for her but I began to worry if she could ever really be "my dog" too.

Jumper at the beach.

Finally, she did let me walk her alone and I would get up before my spouse and walk her around the lake.  We were having fun together and even though she was primarily attached to my spouse, it was clear that she was "my dog" too, and a very good one.  The three of us had a lot of fun together.  We would never have kids, but Jumper was our "child" and one of the few things that we could really bond over.  She loved cold weather and loved the snow.  After 4 months I got a job in my field and it was located about 30 minutes from my parents home.  My first week of work we had a big snow, one foot at our home and 18" up where I worked.  I called the job and was told not to attempt coming in so we took the day and took Jumper around town to a couple of parks, having a great time.  I had not had a dog since I was a kid and I was loving time with this young dog, she was bringing out the kid in me again.

Snow dog Jumper.

Soon, I found an affordable place for us to live that was only 5 minutes from work.  It was a nice single wide trailer situated on acres of open grass ,and right out the back door was a beautiful pond.  We were really in the country here and the nearest neighbor was way down the road.  Usually we kept Jumper on a leash or a runner, but sometimes we would turn her out to run free.  She loved to run in the open fields and she also loved to swim in the pond.  We would canoe around the lake and Jumper would swim alongside us, then get on shore and just take off running.

 
One day she was in the field across the road and she was going wild barking at the ground and digging.  I went over to see what she was doing and she had chased a groundhog into a hole and was trying to dig it out.  I put her on the leash and walked her home but I will bet that groundhog was a little bit more wary after that.  We were at park once in the nearby small town and I let Jumper off the leash to run around.  She saw a deer at the edge of the woods and off she went.  I could not follow her into the dense brush but I could hear her barking, getting farther and farther away.  It was almost dark and we were worried, but finally she came jumping out of the woods looking worn out.  I am not sure where the deer went but it was obvious we had us a hunting dog as well as a guard dog.  Then there was the time Jumper went on a walk with me in the woods after a snow, and we got lost.  That story is related here in a previous post.


Buddy and Jumper in the pond.
My spouse called me at work one day and said that there was another dog hanging around and that he came up when she walking Jumper on the leash.  When I got home I found a playful, but extremely shy, boy dog hanging out under the front deck.  He let me pet him and was very friendly, but he was covered in ticks which were swelled up the size of grapes.  I pulled a couple of them off and then he ran under the deck to hide.  Over the next few days I kept pulling ticks off of him and arguing with my spouse over whether we could keep him or not.  I only got one response to my lost Dog ad in the local newspaper and it was a young girl who wanted this dog for her grandmother.  She wanted him to be an inside dog and to me he seemed like an outside dog.  The truth was I did not want to give him up and I cried and cried at the very idea.  So we ended up keeping the new dog, Buddy, and his name came to mean that he was Jumper's buddy.  I had wanted to get another dog for Jumper quite a while (she was about 5 years old at the time) but my spouse couldn't make up her mind on it.  Even though she put up quite a resistance, Buddy was allowed to stay and he became Jumper's dog (and mine) after that.








Jumper and Buddy had a blast out in the country.  Sometimes they would run free together and we would lose track of them.  Usually they would end up by the highway a couple of fields away but they often ran out into the woods too.  The looks of joy on their faces when they would come in from running is something I will always remember.  I used to sing them a song I made up that started off, "Two dogs, two dogs, one."  They were truly a team and when they would run it was if it was choreographed.  They were like one dog and loved their time together.

Synchronized chewing..Buddy and Jumper chewing their bones in the trailer.


About 5 years after buddy came to live with us another came to hang out on the back deck.  We had surrounded the front deck with a fence for Jumper and Buddy and after awhile this dog actually broke Into the fence, she wanted to live with us so badly.  My spouse fought me on this one again, but soon we had a third dog, Nightingale.  She kept breaking into and out of the front fence so I bought her a 10'x10' dog kennel and placed it out back.  She always lived sort of separate from the other 2 dogs but they got along well.  Right before we moved out of the trailer she had finally integrated in the main fence with Jumper and Buddy and we truly had a three dog family.  Then we moved into a house in town with a nice fenced in back yard and they all lived happily together, going on daily walks in the neighborhood and to the lake.


Nightingale and Jumper in the fenced in yard at the trailer.

At the house, my spouse often kept Jumper sort of separate from the other dogs.  She was getting older and did not quite have the energy she once had, or that the other tow had.  She slept inside, either with my spouse in her bedroom or on the back sun room.  "My two dogs" as my spouse referred to them, slept outside or in the little guest house out back.  Even though they were kept apart at night and some other times, the family of three dogs were happy together and we really were a family of 5.  We were a dysfunctional family and two of us were human (for the most part) but we were a family.  The dogs were about the only thing that my spouse and I bonded over anymore, with the exception of her loving to go to the beach, for rides and to go out to eat.  Over time she began to accept Nightingale as one of the family, but also over time, her views leaned more toward dogs not being a true part of the family.  Maybe it was just overwhelming for her.  She often told me that Jumper had "had enough" when I was rubbing her or giving her attention, so most of my focus was on the other two dogs, "my dogs".  After all, she didn't pay them much attention and usually kept Jumper close to her side.

The last couple of years here at the house, it became apparent that my spouse and I would separate at some point.  Jumper was getting older, 13 then 14 then 15.  Last November she celebrated her 16th birthday and I incorporated that into a celebration we had for Thanksgiving and my step daughter's birthday.  Jumper got a birthday card last year for the first time ever.

Jumper in the pond.

Whenever I envisioned my wife and I separating, I always imagined it would be after Jumper had passed away.  In fact, I felt we should stay together, keeping all of the dogs together, until it Jumper's time to go.  I knew that whenever my spouse left she would take her dog.  I am not kidding when I tell you that the fact that she left Jumper here and broke up the family was a part of my dismay at her leaving us when she did.  Jumper had fallen into poor health and, being very old, I new she didn't have much more time with us.  All of last year I tried to arrange a beach trip, partially because I knew it would be Jumper's last trip, but we had already drifted apart to the point my spouse didn't want to go anywhere with me. 


The three dogs, outside the fence behind the trailer.

So on December 16th, 2012, when I returned home and found my spouse had left, I was both saddened and relieved that she had left Jumper behind.  Jumper needed to be with her dogs, but I think she also needed my spouse here in her life.  We had a couple of visits a week but it was not the same.  I could tell that Jumper was heartbroken without her here and it really contributed to my misery over the whole situation.  Now that Jumper has passed on, I feel more closure over my marriage ending than I had been able to feel before.  I miss them both but I am moving on with my life, mentally, and finally ready to divorce and rebuild my own life.

I knew jumper had been in poor health for some time.  My spouse never wanted to take her to the vet for anything but her annual shots.  I don't know why she was resistant, but I had been on her for months to take her in about her weight problem and possible arthritis.  She could no longer climb steps good and had trouble getting in and out of the truck, even though we bought a ramp for her and Buddy with his little legs.  After Christmas, I took Jumper to my vet where I take Night and Buddy.  My souse had always used a different vet and I didn't think he was as good.  My vet discovered that she had a major fluid problem in her abdomen and she had become swollen around her face and jaw as well.  This situation got much worse in the weeks following my spouse leaving us, whether it was related to her loss or not I do not know.  We put Jumper on some diuretic medicine and she started getting a little better.

After my spouse left, I started staying on the futon out here in the little house.  The dogs could sleep right next to me and we stayed close together all of the time, no more separation and no more special treatment for Jumper or any of the dogs.  There are two steps leading into the house and Jumper could not walk up so I picked her up and carried her inside each time she went out.  She could not walk far and I either had to walk the other two separate, or take all three on a slow walk and then walk Night and Buddy on a longer walk later.  We all looked after Jumper and we tried to take her everywhere and make her life as full and fun as possible.


In the last couple of weeks, Jumper began to take a turn for the worse. About 2 weeks ago she stopped eating and I thought she was going to die right away.  She got a second cortisone shot from the vet's, right after he told me it was her time and I anticipated bringing her back on Monday to put her to sleep.  The next day she started devouring food again and had a rally.  My spouse came to see her again last Tuesday and she actually walked her a little ways in the park. Jumper was a little better, but she was still very week and the fluid was building up again.  Tuesday night she became very wobbly and then could not stay on her feet.  Thursday, my spouse came to visit for the final time, we knew it at the time, and I gave her some time alone to say goodbye.  Thursday night I took all the dogs to my parents house and cooked steaks for everyone.  I thought I fed Jumper her last meal but she ate the steak right up and was obviously having a good time, so I brought her back to my parents and cooked more steaks Friday night. 

All three dogs on their pads on Jumper's last full day at home.  She was swollen with fluid and tired.

The last couple of days Jumper was tyring to get up and walk.  I know she wanted to be able to walk again but something told me she wanted to run again.  I pictured her out in the fields in the country running as fast as she could and looking so free and happy.  She looked at me and I could see it in her eyes.  She wanted to run again and she wanted me to take her to the vet.  Saturday I woke up and loaded all the dogs in the car.  We drove to the lake and I left Night and Buddy in the van, carried Jumper down to the water's edge and sat with her.  She sat up and I held her.  She looked around the lake and seemed happy again, at peace.  I held her up on her 4 legs and she tried to move them, wanting to walk again.  She wanted to run again.

We sat down again and she looked around.  I held her and rubbed her while I cried.  A lady walked over and talked to me, she asked me if my dog was sick.  I told her what was going on and she knelt down, put her hand on my shoulder and said a prayer for us.  After she left I picked Jumper up and carried her out to the car.  We had an appointment at 11:30 and I rode around the country a bit, not wanting to get there early.  This song played on the radio and I held Jumper's paw in the back seat as we pulled into the vet's office.  The other dogs waited while I carried her inside.  The nurses sent me right to the back and I placed Jumper on the metal table table in the exam room.  They put a towel under her.  I couldn't see, I was crying so hard.  

I had never had to do this before.  I had three pets in my life before Jumper.  My first dog that I cherished as a child, Spark, had to be put to sleep while I was away at college.  Our first cat, Patty, died from exposure to the cold after going outside for just a little while in winter, she never liked to stay inside for long.  Our next cat and family jewel, Boots, died at home when I was living in the trailer.  I came home to bury her in my parent's backyard.



The vet came into the room and Jumper put her head on my hand.  She always liked to do that, especially when she was younger.  She would come up when I was in my chair and just press her chin down against my hand.  She liked to feel the pressure there, and we always felt so close when she did it.  On Saturday morning as she laid there, her chin was on my hand and I rubbed her head.  The vet placed the needle in her back leg and she went to sleep with me holding her.  I rubbed her a little more and kissed her head before walking out to the car.  While walking out to the car I looked up and I could see her out there in the field, running again.