Sunday, April 27, 2014

Roxy, 10/31/1999 - 12/20/2013

Obviously it's been some time since my dog, Roxy, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I just haven't gotten around the writing about her, and of course a lot has happened since then.

Roxy was a great dog. She wasn't a nice dog, but she was a good dog. I picked her up from the animal shelter in April of 2000. She was about 6 months old, and not entirely fully grown.

It quickly became clear she was going to need a crate. My children and I were living with my mother at the time, and Mom was very resistant to the idea of a crate. This lasted until Roxy chewed the corners of the coffee table and dug up the carpet inside the front door. Mom was truly converted when, after I had acquired a crate, Roxy very quickly started putting herself into it when she was about to be left home alone.

Roxy was always a bit touchy. She never liked being hugged or mugged. This was a trait my daughter, not quite 7 when we brought Roxy home, could not understand. My daughter insisted on sticking her face up to Roxy's muzzle, demanding kisses. Roxy would invariably warn her, and I would tell her she needed to stop. It took Roxy finally biting my daughter in the face for her to get the message.

Once I had Roxy reasonably well trained, I started taking her along with me on work days. The first time I took her with me was to a barn in Alpine, where my trainer worked, and I would be there all day. Roxy, of course, had a grand time and was absolutely exhausted by the time I put her back in the truck to go home. About three miles down the road, I noticed this rather rancid odor coming from the back seat. I glanced back and realized I had put the Swamp Thing in my truck. Turns out Roxy had found a wonderful old mud puddle to play in.

Roxy was an only dog until my marriage in 2001. At that time, we brought home a second dog, Mauser, who had belonged to a friend. My friend had found Mauser abandoned at the boarding facility she kept her horse at, and brought him home. He quickly proved to be a bit more than she and her husband could keep up with. She had been diagnosed with leukemia some time earlier, and Mauser just needed more exercise and attention than she had energy to provide. When he methodically removed the linoleum from the kitchen floor, that was the last straw; he had to go. And anyway, he had made it abundantly clear on visits that he wanted to be my daughter's dog.

Roxy and Mauser made quite the pair. I stopped taking Roxy with me on work days, as it became clear she'd rather stay with Mauser, and Mauser wasn't reliable for a "truck dog." So most days they stayed home together.

At 2 1/2, Roxy started having some difficulty with front end lameness. I took her to the vet, and she was diagnosed with early onset arthritis. I've heard all that stuff about "hybrid vigor" and how tough mixed breed animals are, but none of that applied to Roxy, at least not in the physical sense. Once she got accustomed to the pain associated with the arthritis, it was impossible to tell she really had any trouble with it.

Roxy and Mauser came with me on my conditioning rides with Phoenix and were a constant presence in my life. They would run along unflagging for upwards of 20 miles. They were wonderful companions and a great deal of fun to have along.

When she was about 4, Roxy was along for a trail ride and started seeming just not quite right. We got to the top of a hill and she paused, looked back toward the barn, and seemed to consider going home. I noticed she was coughing quite a bit.

Yet another visit to the vet revealed she had developed chronic bronchitis. This diagnosis slowed her down significantly. The length of our trail rides was necessarily shortened, although she never gave it up entirely.

Shortly before Thanksgiving 2006, I was exercising the dogs on my mountain bike. Phoenix was laid up for reasons I no longer remember, so exercise had to happen in another way. I did not notice when the coyotes snuck up behind me and cut Roxy off. Mauser did. His actions in rescuing her saved her life, but he lost his own in the process.

Roxy was an only dog again, and my daughter had lost her dog in a cruel and untimely fashion. By February it was time to get another. We searched online and found a cute little mixed breed dog by the name of Tanner. He came to us and found his forever home.

Roxy once again started going with me to work regularly, leaving Tanner home alone most days. He turned out to have a habit of jumping out of the truck if the windows were left open, so I couldn't really take him along.

Roxy was like my little farrier ambassador. She would greet people warmly and spend her days sunning herself and playing with people when the opportunity arose. One of my clients was a soccer player and had an old soccer ball in her shed. She quickly learned to go find the soccer ball and played vigorously with that client every time we saw her. At that same barn, many people kept dog treats in their sheds, and Roxy learned to greet those who did at their sheds to get a cookie. She did get to where she loved certain people so much she'd follow those individuals around their respective barns while I worked. Once, someone found her and was in the process of taking her to their car take her home, thinking she'd been lost. After that, I put a tag on her identifying her as "the farrier's dog."

After we had Tanner for a while, he developed seizures. As a result, he, too, started coming with me to work, so I could keep an eye on him during the day. His seizures have been well controlled with Phenobarbital, and he continues to do well on the meds.

The fire in 2007 was the impetus for getting Roxy to the vet when she was having bladder control issues. She'd always had a little "leakage", since she was young. During the fire, she was really having trouble when we were staying at a friend's house, evacuated from our home. I already had Tanner scheduled for something, so I took Roxy in as well, thinking I might as well have her checked out on the off chance something could be done for her bladder control issue. It turned out she had kidney failure, and she was very sick. She was hospitalized for three days. But she was always a tough dog and she pulled through. She had permanent kidney damage as a result.

We moved to Jamul in 2008, when Roxy was 9 years old. She was definitely showing her age by then. She was on a daily anti-inflammatory. One day, while she was sunning herself in the driveway of our new home, our young cat, Tiger, came running up the driveway, being chased by a coyote. Tiger was no dummy. Roxy did not like the cat (she didn't like any other animal, honestly). Tiger made a beeline for Roxy, jumped the dog lengthwise, and left the coyote face to face with a very annoyed dog. Roxy successfully chased the coyote off. She was quite proud of herself, but it was clear she needed young dogs as back up. She was lame on three legs.

We got two younger dogs, Mac and Ash, for Roxy to teach and to back her up. They picked up the notion of livestock guardian quickly, and readily looked to Roxy for guidance.

Over the next couple of years, Roxy gradually got more lame, and developed ulcers. Ultimately she blew the cruciate ligaments in both hind legs. Due to her age and other health issues, she was not a good candidate for surgery. She would soldier on with her hind legs wobbly and unstable.

It didn't take Roxy long to become accustomed to her new disability. She continued to come along on morning walks and trail rides. I had to start locking her in the house if I was doing a ride too long for her.

Roxy dressed as a "cow" for a costume contest
 Toward the end of her life, Roxy developed dementia. We were very lucky in that it was happy dementia. The dog who, her entire life, disliked the other pets so badly she had sent every one to the vet at one time (she flung my daughter's first cat through the air; when Tiger was little, Roxy bit her badly enough to lame her; she nailed both of the younger dogs in their faces; she picked Tanner up by the upper jaw and shook the hell out of him), changed her tune and was cheerfully playing with the other dogs. This made it possible to manage her for a much longer time than would otherwise have been feasible.

Roxy got more lame, and less able to keep up on morning walks. She would also forget what we were doing, and wander off on her own. As she got more debilitated, she became more apt to snap if she felt threatened. And it was difficult to know when she'd feel threatened.

I began to notice Roxy was getting thinner. She was eating well. I had put her on a particularly tasty dog food with very small nuggets and wet food, and she was eating two cups of food a day reliably. And yet, my always thin dog was getting thinner. Just a month after my hip replacement, it was clear. Roxy was nearing the end.

I knew Roxy was the sort of dog with an inherent dignity. Had I kept her going, her bladder control would only have gotten worse. She would have begun to forget where the door was, who her people were, what she was doing at any given moment. And it would have been horrifying for her.

I took her to the vet, knowing it was time. She walked quietly and easily into the exam room, and laid quietly in my arms as she passed. I knew I had done the right thing as I watched the pain drain from her body. She was ready to go, and she left this world with the quiet dignity she had lived.
Roxy on her 14th birthday

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