There was a time when I used to do "How is Rufus B Thumper?" updates at the end of every post. I stopped when his condition stabilised. But perhaps, it's time for another one now. I'll give you the same warning that preceded my old updates. If you're not here to read sad yucky things about sickly old dogs or my nasty conflicted issues, please stop reading now.
Some days, Rufus wants to chase cats. On other days, he won't walk, not even with The Other Half. Some days, he pushes Georgia aside to get to his pap. On other days, he has to be cajoled, tablespoonful by tablespoonful, to eat. Lately, his stomach has gone Very Bad again. He's been on meds, on and off for the last couple of months. 2 nights ago, he had 4 bad bouts of diarrhea that went from sludge to blood. As of yesterday, he's on another round of antibiotics, a gut protectant and an anti-inflammatory.
So this is Rufus B Thumper's life now.
He can only eat pap, which he tolerates in small quantities. Someone has to be home to feed him at least 3 times a day. If he eats anything else, or bigger meals, he gets sick. We'd love to take him and Georgia on a holiday, but we don't dare to be too far away from his vet. Things can go bad very quickly with him. No more big weekend excursions either. Mostly, he now goes no further than one big block around the house, because he sometimes collapses, and it would be impossible to get him home if he was too far away. His pancreatitis and other gut problems, arthritis and cauda equina syndrome, skin allergies and eye infections, bowel and bladder incontinence and dementia are all colliding in one big mess. The only thing we fully have under control is his hypothyrodism.
There's a woman in the neighbourhood who pushes her dog to the park in a stroller. I was there one day when I heard a man behind me say, "Some people just don't know when to let go." I've often thought about what that man said. Was he being careless and insensitive? Without a doubt. Was he wrong to think it? I don't know.
Some years back, on holiday in Byron Bay with Jordan and Rufus, we were on the beach when a group of people arrived. One of the men was carrying a frail-looking old German Shepherd in his arms. He put the dog on the sand, it had a wobbly sniff, then lay down. They stayed a while, watched the sun set. Then, the man picked up his dog and they left. I was sad for the man who so loved his dog. And I was sad for the dog who had to live like that.
There won't be any stroller for Rufus. We won't be carrying him on walks. Even if we wanted to, it wouldn't be physically possible. At his now reduced weight of 53kg, the last time he collapsed, it still took 3 people and a big blanket to lift and haul his deadweight from the car to the house after a trip to the vet. These are the things you don't think about when you want to get a bigdog.
In my year of writing a dogblog, I've been lucky to "meet" vets and foster carers, dog experts and people struggling to be good dogowners. Ms C has a blog that gives good advice for people with senior dogs. Ms J has a blog that keeps me informed about the many medical conditions that can afflict a dog. I learn from all of them. But I still can't find the answer to my most pressing question.
How do we know when a dog is ready for his final walk? Why do so many people say, "You will know." HOW will we know? Do we wait until the dog collapses and shows signs of pain? Or do we give it a big juicy bone and let it go on a good and happy day? I've heard doglovers on both sides of the argument.
Is there even one right answer?
If you've stayed with me this far, I have another Mr Thumper story for you. It doesn't have any pictures because I was too flustered to take any. It happened just yesterday, on our evening amble.
Despite having not eaten for almost 2 days, Rufus was in a mood to walk. After about 20 slow minutes, we got to the park for old, fragile and teacup dogs. Maybe because the sun was finally out after days of grey skies and rain, there were many people there. There were mums and dads, barefeet children, babies in strollers, 1 baby in a papoose. There were also lots of dogs running around, maybe about 10. All of them were little, so I thought, let's walk around the park and avoid the crowd.
One of the littledogs noticed Rufus. It started to bark at him. It wouldn't stop. No one tried to stop him. Like a magnet, Rufus was drawn to his no doubt dulcet yaps, and started walking towards the group of people. He stopped when he got in front of them. And even from where I was standing, some metres away, I could see trouble coming.
Rufus started flicking his tail. I knew what that meant! I started yelling, "NO, Rufus! NO!" I ran as quickly as I could to get to him. Like a flock of sunblinded gulls and for reasons best known to themselves, none of the people moved, even when I shouted to them, "He's going to poop!"
And that he did, as only a dog with colitis can. He strained and pooped, walked a few steps, strained and pooped again, walked another few steps, repeat as before.
Unfortunately for everyone there, Rufus still had the runs. Pretty funky ones too. I pulled out a poop bag and started to wipe up the goo, as best as I could from the previously pristine, freshly rainwashed grass. It was impossible.
Finally, people started to shift, eye me and my dog with
I was already freaked out. Because meantime, 3 littledogs had come running up to Rufus to see what the fuss was about. They sniffed his bum, they stuck their heads under his tail, what were they thinking? And where were their owners? Was I the only one concerned that these dogs were about to get a nice splash of diarrhea on their heads? "Go away littledogs!" I said, as pleasantly as I could while secretly wanting to kick them away [strictly for their own good, of course]. One of the littledogs was even braver. It stuck its nose up where-the-sun-don't-shine AS RUFUS WAS STRAINING AWAY.
I screamed again. How could I not? I so hope no innocent child kissed her sweet doggie goodnight.
Rufus, bless his heart, kept on moving and pooping, oblivious to the gallery of 2- and 4-legged spectators. I followed behind, miserably, loudly apologizing to all and sundry for my dog's bad manners. For his funky poo. For his lack of hygiene. For my inability to clean up properly.
But Rufus wasn't done with me yet.
One of our neighbors is away for the week and I've been collecting their mail for them. I thought I'd stop by on the way home and check if there was more. I opened the gate and let Rufus into the yard. I collected the mail and went up to the porch to put them by the front door. I didn't realise that, somehow, my old and lame dog had snuck up the stairs behind me. He was only on the second step so I yelled at him to stop, which he did. I tried to get him to turn around, but he was too big to maneuvre the delicate 3-point turn. So I thought - the only way out would be to let him climb all the way to the top, then turn him round and bring him back down again. It seemed like a good plan.
Except that Rufus didn't like it.
He climbed to the top. But despite me immediately turning him round, he plonked his butt down and refused to budge. I screamed yet again because he only narrowly missed sitting on the pile of mail by the door. Did I mention that his butt, tail and legs were a bit gummy from his exertions at the park? No?
I spent the next few minutes trying to get him to come back down the stairs. But Mr Thumper had decided that he liked the neighbor's front porch and wasn't going anywhere. So he lay down instead and ignored me. I had no choice but to go get The Other Half. If Rufus will move for anyone, it's him. But no, not today. At that point, I shook my head, washed my hands of the whole situation, left the premises and went home to wash my hands in fact.
The Other Half and Rufus came back about 10 minutes later. He immediately had another butt wash [the dog, not the man], his 4th in as many days.
There's Mr Thumper for you. He may not have decided when he's going yet, but he's intent on leaving us a few good stories.