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Cover Story March 23, 2006


 

  by lyle e davis

 

 

by lyle e davis

 

Dogs.

 

There’s a reason they’ve been called “man’s best friend.” 

 

You’d have to look long and hard to find any human being as loving and as loyal as a dog.  They are forgiving, no matter how inconsiderate we sometimes are about them . . . they recognize that we are only . . . well, human.

 

Here are a few stories that will amply demonstrate the love, the affection, the loyalty displayed by dogs.  Warning:  have a box of Kleenex handy.  Some of these stories are going to bring a tear or two to your eyes:

 

Beckett

 

I just got back from my Valkyrie act, taking all 5 dogs to the vet for heartworm checks by myself. Of course, I asked for the first appointment of the day, to avoid the craziness of Saturday appointments.

 

When I walked in with my five, I was surprised to see a knot of people in the back room. The door was open. The vet still had her coat on. And I could see they were performing CPR on a large Rottie. The tech came out and apologized for the fact that I'd have to wait. No problem. Do what you have to do, I said. I can wait all day. They left the door open. Beckett stood and watched it all intently, never taking his eyes off the back room.

 

Finally, a guy in sweats came out and told me what was going on. He'd been jogging through the parking lot when he heard a man he had just passed cry out, "Oh, no, Charlie." And then, "Help, I think he's dead."

 

This man had called in on his car phone to tell the clinic he was bringing in his 2 year old Rottie, Charlie.

 

Charlie had been vomiting last night, and this morning was unable to get up and appeared to be very sick. He loaded him in the car, calling the clinic on the way there. He got there as the tech was opening up, and left Charlie in the car until the vet arrived, since Charlie weighed 150 pounds, and he wanted a gurney to get him in. As the vet arrived, the guy went back out to the car to check on the dog, as the vet and the tech prepared to follow him out with the gurney. That's when he found Charlie apparently dead, and the jogger turned back to help them.

 

When they got Charlie inside, moments before I got there with my gang, they found a faint heart beat and attempted to revive him. The jogger came out to talk to me just as they were giving up, after about 20 minutes of CPR.

 

Meanwhile, Beckett never took his eyes off the goings-on in the back room. The rest of the gang were lying down or milling around, but Beckett was like a statue watching that back room. We had a clear view of everything, and he was watching it all. He watched as they rolled the gurney out to us, and out the door. He watched as they loaded Charlie's body back into the car. He watched as the group of people came back inside. The owner sat down in the chair next to me and put his head in his hands and sobbed.

 

Beckett watched. And watched. After about a minute, Beckett quietly moved around the rest of my gang, and walked over to the man, and very slowly slid his head under the man's hands and hid his face in the man's lap. And then just stood there. That's when the vet and the tech and I looked at each other and all lost it at the same moment.

 

Then the man lifted his head and looked down at Beckett, who still had his face hidden against the man's belly, and was still standing there as quiet as a statue. The man spread his hands and sat looking down at the back of Beckett's neck, somewhat bewildered, and then he looked up at us, with his hands still spread, as if to say, "What's this?" Then Beckett looked up at him, and kissed his face, and the man threw his arms around Beckett and hid his face against Beckett's neck and cried for about another minute.

 

Then he stood up, wiped his arm over his face, gave us a little sad, smile, and walked out. No one said anything. Beckett walked over to the door and watched him leave, then he turned back to me, licked my face once, and laid down on the floor next to my chair.

 

The vet, the tech and I just sort of looked at one another, and then began to weigh the dogs and get on with things. None of us mentioned what had just occurred until later, when the vet finished drawing Beckett's blood. She was kneeling next to him on the floor and when she finished, she put her arm around him, and looked up at me and said, "What a wonderful dog - he just took care of all of us, didn't he?"

 

"Yes," I said, "He's something special. I think I'll keep him."

 

And I think I will.

 

          Author:  Ginny Lunt

 

Senator Vest's

"Tribute to the Dog"

 

It is strange how tenaciously popular memory clings to the bits of eloquence men have uttered, long after their deeds and most of their recorded thoughts are forgotten, or but indifferently remembered. However, whenever and as long as the name of the late Senator George Graham Vest of Missouri is mentioned it will always be associated with his love for a dog.

 

Many years ago, in 1869, Senator Vest represented in a lawsuit, a plaintiff whose dog "Old Drum" had been willfully and wantonly shot by a neighbor. The defendant virtually admitted the shooting, but questioned to the jury the $150 value plaintiff attributed to this mere animal.

 

To give his closing argument, George Vest rose from his chair, scowling, mute, his eyes burning from under the slash of brow tangled as a grape vine. Then he stepped sideways, hooked his thumbs in his vest pockets, his gold watch fob hanging motionless, it was that heavy. He looked, someone remembered afterwards, taller than his actual 5 feet 6 inches, and began in a quiet voice to deliver an extemporaneous oration. It was quite brief, less than 400 words:

 

"Gentlemen of the jury: the best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his worst enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.

 

The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous... is his dog.

 

Gentlemen of the Jury: a man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death."

 

The jury deliberated less than two minutes then erupted in joint pathos and triumph. The record becomes quite sketchy here, but some in attendance say the plaintiff who had been asking $150, was awarded $500 by the jury. Little does that matter. The case was eventually appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, which refused to hear it.

 

A statue of "Old Drum" was erected on the Johnson County Courthouse Square in Warrensbug, Missouri, where the trial occurred. The statue still stands there today.

 

The Gift of Courage 

 

Mark was about eleven years old, skinny and slouching, when he and his mom first brought Mojo into the clinic where I worked. Baggy clothes dwarfed the boy's small frame, and under a battered baseball hat, challenging blue eyes glared at the world. Clearly we had to earn Mark's trust before we could do anything with his dog. Mojo was around nine then, old for a black Labrador retriever, but not too old to still have fun. Though recently it seemed that Mojo had lost all his spunk.   Mark listened intently as the doctor examined his dog, answered questions and asked more, while nervously brushing back wisps of blond hair that escaped the hat onto his furrowed brow. "Mojo's going to be okay isn't he?" he blurted as the doctor turned to leave. There were no guarantees, and when the blood work came back, the doctor's suspicions were confirmed. Mojo had liver and kidney disease, progressive and ultimately fatal. With care he could live comfortably awhile, but he'd need special food, regular checkups and medications. The doctor and I knew finances were a struggle, but the moment euthanasia was suggested, Mark's mom broke in. "We're not putting Mojo to sleep." Quickly and quietly they paid their bill and gently led their old dog out to the car without a backward glance.

 

We didn't hear from them for a few weeks, but then one day, there they were. Mojo had lost weight. He'd been sick they said, and he seemed listless. As I led Mojo back to the treatment room for some IV fluid therapy, Mark's little body blocked the way.

 

"I have to go with him—-he needs me," the boy said firmly.

 

I wasn't sure how Mark would handle the sight of needles and blood, but there didn't seem any point in arguing. And indeed, Mark handled it all as if he'd seen it a million times before.

 

"Oh, you're such a brave old guy, Mojo," Mark murmured as the catheter slipped into Mojo's vein. We seldom had a more cooperative patient. Mojo only moved his head slightly during uncomfortable procedures, as if to remind us that he was still there. He seemed to take strength from the small, white hand that continually moved in reassurance over his grizzled throat.   This became the pattern. We'd get Mojo stabilized somewhat, send him home, he'd get sick again, and they'd be back. Always, Mark was there, throwing out questions and reminders to be careful, but mostly encouraging and comforting his old pal.

 

I worried that Mark found it too difficult, watching, but any hint that maybe he'd rather wait outside was flatly rejected. Mojo needed him.

 

I approached Mark's mom one day, while Mark and Mojo were in the other room, "You know Mojo's condition is getting worse. Have you thought any more about how far you want to go with treatment? It looks like Mark is really having a hard time with all this."

 

Mark's mom hesitated a moment before leaning and speaking in a low, intense voice, "We've had Mojo since Mark was a baby. They've grown up together, and Mark loves him beyond all reason. But that's not all."

 

She took a deep breath and looked away momentarily, "Two years ago Mark was diagnosed with leukemia. He's been fighting it, and they say he has a good chance of recovering completely. But he never talks about it. He goes for tests and treatments as if it's happening to someone else, as if it's not real. But about Mojo, he can ask questions. It's important to Mark, so as long as he wants to, we'll keep on fighting for Mojo."

 

The next few weeks we saw a lot of our little trio. Mark's abrupt questions and observations, once slightly annoying, now had a new poignancy, and we explained at length every procedure as it was happening. We wondered how long Mojo could carry on. A more stoic and good-natured patient was seldom seen, but the Labrador was so terribly thin and weak now. All of us as the clinic really worried about how Mark would handle the inevitable.

 

Finally the day came when Mojo collapsed before his scheduled appointment. It was a Saturday when they rushed him in, and the waiting room was packed. We carried Mojo into the back room and settled him on some thick blankets, with Mark at his side as usual. I left to get some supplies, and when I reentered the room a few moments later I was shocked to see Mark standing at the window, fists jammed into his armpits, tears streaming down his face. I backed out of the room noiselessly, not wanting to disturb him. He'd been so brave up until now. Later when we returned, he was kneeling, dry-eyed once more, at Mojo's side. His mom sat down beside him and squeezed his shoulders. "How are you guys doing?" She asked softly.

 

"Mom," he said, ignoring her question, "Mojo's dying, isn’t he?"

 

"Oh, honey…" her voice broke, and Mark continued as if she hadn't spoken.

 

"I mean, the fluids and the pills, they're just not going to help anymore, are they?" He looked to us for confirmation. "Then I think," he swallowed hard, "I think we should put him to sleep."

 

True to form, Mark stayed with Mojo until the end. He asked questions to satisfy himself that it truly was best for Mojo, and that there would be no pain or fear for his old friend. Over and over again he smoothed the glossy head, until it faded onto his knee for the last time. As Mark felt the last breath leave Mojo's thin ribs and watched the light dim in the kind brown eyes, he seemed to forget about the rest of us there. Crying openly, he bent himself over Mojo's still form and slowly removed his cap. With a jolt I recognized the effects of the chemotherapy, so harsh against such a young face. We left him to his grief.

 

Mark never told us anything about his own illness, or his own feelings throughout Mojo's ordeal, but when his mom called months later to ask some questions about a puppy she was considering buying, I asked her how he was doing.

 

"You know," she said, "it was a terrible time for him, but since Mojo's death, Mark has begun talking about his own condition, asking questions and trying to learn more about it. I think that dealing with Mojo when the dog was so sick gave Mark strength to fight for himself and courage to face his own pain."

 

I always thought Mark was being brave for Mojo, but when I remember those calm eyes and gently wagging tail that never failed no matter how bad he felt, I think maybe Mojo was being brave for Mark.

 

Author: Roxanne Willems Snopek

 

Of Dogs and Angels

 

During my years in animal welfare work--I served as the president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals--I have heard wonderful stories about the power of the human-animal bond. One of my favorites is about a girl and her very special dog. When the girl was born, her parents were stationed with the U.S. Army overseas. The tiny baby spiked a fever of 106 degrees and when they couldn't help her at the military base, the baby and her family were flown home to the United States where she could receive the proper medical care.

 

The alarming fever kept recurring, but the baby survived. When the episode was over, the child was left with thirteen different seizure causes, including epilepsy. She had what was called multiple seizure syndrome and had several seizures every day. Sometimes she stopped breathing.

 

As a result, the little girl could never be left alone. She grew to be a teenager and if her mother had to go out, her father or brothers had to accompany her everywhere, including to the bathroom, which was awkward for everyone involved. But the risk of leaving her alone was too great and so, for lack of a better solution, things went on in this way for years.

 

The girl and her family lived near a town where there was a penitentiary for women. One of the programs there was a dog-training program. The inmates were taught how to train dogs to foster a sense of competence, as well as to develop a job skill for the time when they left the prison. Although most of the women had serious criminal backgrounds, many made excellent dog trainers and often trained service dogs for the handicapped while serving their time.

 

The girl's mother read about this program and contacted the penitentiary to see if there was anything they could do for her daughter. They had no idea how to train a dog to help a person in the girl's condition, but her family decided that a companion animal would be good for the girl, as she had limited social opportunities and they felt she would enjoy a dog's company. The girl chose a random-bred dog named Queenie and together with the women at the prison, trained her to be an obedient pet.

 

But Queenie had other plans. She became a "seizure-alert" dog, letting the girl know when a seizure was coming on, so that the girl could be ready for it.

 

I heard about Queenie's amazing abilities and went to visit the girl's family and meet Queenie. At one point during my visit, Queenie became agitated and took the girl's wrist in her mouth and started pulling her towards the living room couch. Her mother said, "Go on now. Listen to what Queenie's telling you."

 

The girl went to the couch, curled up in a fetal position, facing the back of the couch and within moments started to seize. The dog jumped on the couch and wedged herself between the back of the couch and the front of the girl's body, placing her ear in front of the girl's mouth. Her family was used to this performance, but I watched in open-mouthed astonishment as the girl finished seizing and Queenie relaxed with her on the couch, wagging her tail and looking for all the world like an ordinary dog, playing with her mistress.

 

Then the girl and her dog went to the girl's bedroom as her parents and I went to the kitchen for coffee. A little while later, Queenie came barreling down the hallway, barking. She did a U-turn in the kitchen and then went racing back to the girl's room.

 

"She's having a seizure," the mother told me. The girl's father got up, in what seemed to me a casual manner for someone whose daughter often stopped breathing, and walked back to the bedroom after Queenie.

 

My concern must have been evident on my face because the girl's mother smiled and said, "I know what you're thinking, but you see, that's not the bark Queenie uses when my daughter stops breathing."

 

I shook my head in amazement. Queenie, the self-taught angel, proved to me once again how utterly foolish it is to suppose that animals don't think or can't communicate.

 

•••••

 

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."

 

-- Unknown

 

Those of us who have had dogs in our families (for they do become members of the family) know all too well that the time comes when the dog must be relieved of its suffering and be put down.  It’s not an easy decision . . . but I’ve done it several times . . . and shed many a tear afterwards.  But I know it was the right thing to do.  I loved my pets too much to see them suffer.  For those of you facing this dilemma, the following may give you some comfort . . . the thoughts that your pet might say to you if they could only talk, other than with their eyes:

 

If it should be that I grow frail and weak

And pain should keep me from my sleep,

Then will you do what must be done,

For this--the last battle--can't be won.

 

You will be sad I understand,

But don't let grief then stay your hand,

For on this day, more than the rest,

Your love and friendship must stand the test.

 

We have had so many happy years,

You wouldn't want me to suffer so.

When the time comes, please, let me go.

 

Take me to where my needs they'll tend,

Only, stay with me till the end

And hold me firm and speak to me

Until my eyes no longer see.

 

I know in time you will agree

It is a kindness you do to me.

Although my tail its last has waved,

From pain and suffering I have been saved.

 

Don't grieve that it must be you

Who has to decide this thing to do;

We've been so close--we two--these years,

Don't let your heart hold any tears.

 

Injured Dog Takes Self To Vet

 

A clever canine in Corbin, Kentucky, sought out his own medical care by limping to a local veterinarian's office after getting hit by a car.

 

The 6-year-old dog, Scooby, ran away from his owners when his collar ring snapped during a recent thunderstorm. As he was running across a road a vehicle hit him, injuring his leg and tail.

 

Scooby then somehow walked miles to a local animal clinic and was waiting on the doorstep when employees arrived for work.

 

"He obviously knew this was the place to get help," Scooby's owner Shirley Farris said. "There are subdivisions with hundreds and hundreds of houses between me and the vet’s office, there are three lanes and there is a mini mall. How he knew to take himself to the vet, I don't know."

 

Workers said Scooby followed them inside and walked straight into the operating room.

 

His owner called the vet to tell him she'd lost her dog and was amazed to learn he had taken himself to the right place.

 

Everyone involved is amazed at Scooby's ability not only to find his way through yards and across roads, but with an injury.

 

"Scientists will like to say it was the barking and the smell," Corbin Animal Clinic Dr. Gerald Majors said. "But we'd like to think he was smart enough to be here. He's been here a few times, he is smart, he knew us."

 

Scooby is expected to recover from his injuries.

 

Scooby

 

Greyfriar’s Bobby

 

One John Gray (also known as "Jock") was an Edinburgh policeman during the 1850s. His companion and police watch-dog was a Skye Terrier named Bobby. The relationship between man and dog, however, was short-lived when Gray died of tuberculosis in 1858 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirk graveyard.

 

Bobby followed the funeral procession, but was taken home afterward. However, the little dog soon escaped and took up residence on his master's grave. Various people took pity on the forlorn little fellow.

 

James Brown, the church gardener, provided Bobby with food and water, even though his duties included keeping dogs and children out of the graveyard.

 

James Anderson, who lived nearby, would try to coax Bobby into his house during inclement weather, but the dog would howl so pitifully to be let out that eventually, a shelter was built for him near the grave.

 

Bobby's expression of devotion quickly made the small dog a local celebrity in Edinburgh. It is possible that some decided to make money from Bobby's loyalty. John Traills, the owner of Traills Coffee House located near the graveyard, would tell of how Bobby and Gray had been regular lunchtime visitors to his establishment. Traills also maintained that he was the first to notice Bobby's obsession with lying on his master's grave, stating that the dog arrived one lunchtime shortly after Gray's death, demanded his meal and then took off purposefully. According to Traills, his curiousity led him to follow Bobby and, to his amazement, he found the dog by the grave in the kirkyard. It is not known how this story might have affected the patronage of Traills' establishment, although one can assume it was not adverse.

 

The little Skye Terrier remained at Gray's grave for the rest of his life . . . a total of 14 years. However, because Bobby was a stray, there was some question as to whether he should be allowed to wander the streets of Edinburgh without a license. If nobody had been willing to pay, then the penalty for Bobby would have been death. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers, came to the rescue. He was so impressed by Bobby's devotion that he agreed to purchase the license . . . and did so for every year thereafter.

 

 

Upon Bobby's death on January 14, 1872, the people of Edinburgh determined that the small dog should be interred in the kirkyard by his master. It was an unparalleled decision. A year later, a bronze statue was erected to Bobby at the crest of Candlemakers Row, just outside the entrance to the graveyard and opposite the Traills Coffee House (which is now a public house renamed "Greyfriar's Bobby Inn"). The memorial was commissioned by the famous philanthropist, Baroness Burdett Coutts, who was intrigued and touched by Bobby's fidelity. The monument was unveiled on November 15, 1873 without ceremony. Bobby's statue is the most photographed in Scotland and tourists can invariably be seen having their pictures taken next to it at all hours of the day.

 

Bobby's acclaim is such that his collar, inscribed with the words: "Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost, 1867, licensed," and dinner bowl are on display in the Huntly House Museum on the Royal Mile. Today Bobby's grave always displays fresh flowers . . . a mark of the high esteem in which this little dog is still held and a tribute to the very human values which he embodied.

 

•••••

 

I could never understand how someone could abandon their dog, whether a puppy or full grown.  These animals become attached to their human, no matter how good or bad that human might have been.  A lady by name of Kathy Flood put it down about right, I think:

 

A dog sits waiting in the cold autumn sun.

Too faithful to leave, too frightened to run.

 

He's been here for days now with nothing to do

But sit by the road, waiting for you.

 

He can't understand why you left him that day.

He thought you and he were stopping to play.

 

He's sure you'll come back, and that's why he stays.

How long will he suffer? How many more days?

 

His legs have grown weak, his throat's parched and dry.

He's sick now from hunger and falls, with a sigh.

 

He lays down his head and closes his eyes,

I wish you could see how a waiting dogs dies.

 

 

 

 

 

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