Sunday, July 4, 2010

How is Rufus B Thumper?

There are some things you can't blog as a dog. And this is one of them.

It's an angry post because I'm feeling that way.

I had a conversation with the vet today. And the prognosis for Rufus is not good.

He's been more feisty the last 2 days, gobbles all his food down and wants to walk, but he's not really going to get better from here.

The vet thinks he will likely take a turn for the worse and be gone by the end of the year. 6 months is what we're looking at.

Rufus has never really been my dog. He's always been aloof and stubborn with me, and often moved away if I tried to hug him, so eventually, I stopped trying.

It was CK who saw him at the pound and who wanted him.

Who patiently guided him past his "can't get along with other dogs" phase.

Who insisted on the operation on his leg after 3 months of conservative treatment failed.

Who walked him for years with his right paw in a yellow bootie because he couldn't lift it off the ground properly, and it would grind his toenails down till they bled.

I met a woman a few days ago who recognised him as the dog with the bootie. She thought he was looking well. But it was past 6pm and already dark, so she probably didn't really get a good look.

I found Rufus a challenge in many menial ways. It would take half a day to bathe and dry him. That was CK's job. He was so large and hairy, we couldn't even find a dogwash willing to bathe and groom him.

He had to be brushed at least twice a week, and the house vacuumed and mopped twice a week, or we would have been standing in dog fur and drool. That was my job.

Rufus always attracted attention. He was just too big to be missed.

It was initially thrilling and then, just annoying. CK never had a problem with it. Maybe he even enjoyed it.

It was just me.

I stopped going out to meals with him because it was impossible to get through it without people stopping to ask about him, to pat him, and to take pictures of him while our meal went cold.

Once, an entire busload of tourists lined up to take pictures with him, one by one, until Rufus became quite grumpy. How stupid were we, to let them do it? But they were so thrilled by him, and it was all still new to us.

As the years went by, if I was walking him, I learnt to look to the distance and over the heads of passersby who wanted to tell me that I had a pony or a bear with a very long tongue and massive paws and how much must he eat? After listening to the same questions and comments for 10 years, I really didn't want to anymore.

Because he looked so huggable, toddlers, whose heads could have fit into his mouth, would run up to him from any direction for a pat and a tug at his fur. For reasons best known to themselves, parents would rarely intervene, so I would have to.

Am I the only person here who believes that ANY contact between a pint-sized human and a dog of any size should be made with caution, respect and common-sense?

Rufus could always put a smile on peoples' faces, and that was a lovely and fine thing. But sometimes, it seemed everyone had an opinion to offer about his wellbeing.

There were people who, over the years... 

...ticked us off for not clipping him in summer [though the vet where we adopted him and the malamute rescue had said not to].

...rebuked us for not giving him water [he had an extraordinarily long tongue that would hang out 10 minutes into a walk and even immediately after drinking].

...tut-tutted and shook their heads at us for taking him on walks when he so obviously had bad legs.

I can't count the number of times we got told, TOLD, not asked, about his bad legs. It was as if, in some miraculous way, we had been struck blind and had failed to notice that our dog was limping.

I still remember with some anger how a man who shared our table at Kasbah over a weekend brunch asked if we knew Rufus had a limp. In exactly those words, "Do you know your dog is limping?"

If he had noticed the limp in 5 minutes, why did he think we hadn't?

I began to recognise nuances in the way people asked about Rufus.

There were many, many wonderful people whom we met over the years who were genuinely concerned. I will always be grateful to them for their kindness, advice and conversation.

There were others who were really just pointing fingers as they passed by. 

These days, I walk Rufus in the dark because it's winter and the days are short and I'm really grateful for that, because I can't imagine how many questions I might get asked about taking a dog that stumbles, on a walk.

I've had dogs all my life. Rufus is my 9th. Yet, I haven't got an awful lot of experience with very old dogs.

Rufus turned 10 in May. According to the vet, it's ancient for the giant that he is.

I only just noticed a few days ago that his whiskers have turned completely white. His eyes that were once a wicked hazel have gone dark and are always gummy. I can't get his fur to look good anymore however much I brush. It has that old dog look - a little tatty and lumpy on a body that's become somewhat misshapen. There are areas where the fur has become so sparse, you can see the skin through it. His tail that used to be a brush is now little more than a wisp. His back legs have almost completely wasted away. If you stroked him, you would feel his spine and pelvic bones and think that we were starving him. [And yes, we've been asked why our dog is so thin as well.]

I notice all the old dogs these days, like I never used to. Shuffling along, stopping to hear and look at nothing. Taking 30 minutes to go round a block that once would have taken them 10.

The Diggers, Harrys and Rufuses in our little corner of the world.

I can't sleep tonight. I can hear Rufus lapping up his water, over and over. I've been listening to it for the last 3 hours. I know that by the morning, the bowl will be empty. The vet can't understand why he's drinking so much. Tests have shown up nothing. I can't fill the bowl up because he's not supposed to drink more than 5 litres a day.

Rufus may not have liked me very much, but he always used to sit with me in the study, right next to my chair so I would trip over him when I got up.

He's not here tonight because he's so incontinent, I can't let him into the house anymore.

I miss him already.

Sometime in the next 6 months, the gate will open, Rufus will stumble out and he won't be coming back home.

And then, like it or not, ready or not, we will finally be able to go back to our lives of anonymity.


Chapeuzinho said...

You are very good at writing things about your dogs which make me very sad.

oh Rufus. Difficult, that's what you are. It's true, I'm never quite sure how to be around him. He doesn't exude friendliness but you want so much to like him. Poor lamb.


georgia little pea said...

We don't mean to make you sad. Sometimes my stay-at-home human just gets all cancerian.

We'll make you smile again soon, miss red riding hood, just wait and see : ) xox

allegra said...

via email -

So sorry to hear this sad news.

My heart goes out to you.

Just enjoy him until the very last minute.

Lots of love and hugs, xxxx

steve said...

via email - edited from a very long letter...

I was sad to read your blog, not just for Rufus, but for you too.

If Rufus has 6 more months of even half reasonable days left, take that as a blessing. he's lived a very long and happy life.

What will be, will be be, none of us know when our own last 6 months will start.

Rufus will know that you've both given him all the care and love that he could ever need. Instead of being engulfed by this grief & anger, be thankful with the years you've had and make the most of the time left to love Rufus.

Big hugs.

Anonymous said...

At last! A blog from the human owner as to how SHE feels. You're an evocative writer either way. AiMee

georgia little pea said...

a message from my multiple-personality stay-at-home human:

"thank you : ) xox"