Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Old Man's Gambit

Gambit (Born ? - Died: 08/11/2014)
Monday was six days since Gambit had taken any food. He was wasting away fast and I couldn't let that continue. I called the vet and made an appointment for euthanization late in the afternoon. We only had Gambit for a couple of months so it's hard to write him a fitting tribute. Therefore, I'm going to venture into the realm of fiction for this one. The pictures are the real Gambit and the flowers are from my garden, but the story is mostly fiction. It's much longer than my usual blog posts, but you can just look at the pictures if you'd prefer. My apologies to you Gambit, you deserved better.

Old Man fell asleep with television on again that night, not that it mattered to me, sometimes the sounds and pictures were amusing but sometimes they kept me awake. I didn't sleep much that night anyway because his breathing was so irregular; when I thought he had gone too long without breathing, I'd lick his face and he'd start back up again, but it wasn't like it should be and tonight was the worst it had been. I laid by his side and kept him warm, thumping my tail to make sure he knew I was here, I brought my toy to bed and chewed on it, mostly to give me something to do as I kept watch, one ear listening for his breath while the other scanned for night noises, filtering out the white noise of the TV. Sometime during the night Old Man breathed his last and I knew he was gone; I licked his face and sent up a quiet howl to say goodbye. He had been good to me and we had some fun times together.

We grew old together and we gradually did less and less outdoors; he was using a walker towards the end, and a cane before that, but I only have about two and a half good legs out of four myself, so we made a pretty good pair. Games of fetch went from being played outside in the big yard to him tossing my toy from the sofa towards the kitchen, but that was ok, Old Man enjoyed it and if the truth be told, that was about all the running I cared for myself. He would smile so when I brought that toy and laid it in his lap or at his feet, or next to him so he could throw it again. But oh, when we were younger, I remember playing with the ball outdoors--he would throw it and I'd run like a fox to catch it and bring it back--even better was when he'd throw it high, giving me a chance to get under it and catch it before it even hit the ground, I'd leap so high (all four legs worked well then), it felt like I was snatching a bird in flight!, the old man cheered, laughed, and was so anxious to do it again, I didn't have the heart to tell him I was ready to rest. Old Man was easy to entertain.

I was tired; I laid my head on his now quiet chest and tried to sleep. Nice Neighbor Lady found us like that the next morning. If she didn't see me outside in the mornings before she left, she would come over to check on Old Man to make sure he was up and OK. I went outside while she made some phone calls and then she fed me. Some people came and took Old Man away but I don't know why; I had seen this coming for the past couple weeks and had already started digging a hole for him in the backyard, it was near the big tree where we used to sit and near where he had buried the old girl dog when she died a while back. He would have liked it there better than wherever they took him, I'm sure.

Over the next few days, Those Who Rarely Come started to come, but they didn't just come, they descended and devoured like a bunch of vultures feeding on roadkill; they started going through Old Man's stuff, taking what they wanted and throwing out the rest. Old Man didn't have a lot but it still took them quite a while because they would argue and fight. That's just what they did, it really didn't matter what they were fighting about. Most of them were drinking most of the time and someone was always passed out at night so there was someone here most of the time but rarely did they think to feed me. I scrounged leftovers when they were too drunk to care and would occasionally go next door to Nice Neighbor Lady's house and tell her I was hungry.

Old Man's litter, (Those Who Rarely Come) didn't amount to much, a couple of them were drunk most of the time and were periodically in and out of jail. I heard him refer to them more than once as "a passel of no-count, good-for-nothing bastards," and I think he was right. It's just as well that they didn't come very often; the only time they did come to visit was when they were wanting something, usually money for beer or bail. Supposedly there were five of them, but I detected none of Old Man's scent in two of them, so the term "bastard" is probably more accurate than any of them knew. Old Man owned the house and some of them wanted to sell it but a couple of them needed a place to live so they wanted to keep it. There was a lot of fighting going on so I stayed outside as much as possible. One time I walked inside to get a drink of water and one of them looked at me and said, "And what are we going to do about that?"

I can't say I was thrilled that this collection of low life was going to be discussing my future. The big fat one touched the gun he always carries and said that he'd take me out back and "take care" of me. The least objectionable one of the group suggested giving me away to the Nice Neighbor Lady, and that would have been fine, but I happen to know that Nice Neighbor Lady is preparing to move to Florida herself to be with one of her own kids. Someone suggested putting an ad on Craigslist, but the only thing this group agreed upon since Old Man died was that no one was going to want an old shepherd dog with bad legs and a messed up ear.

I'm just happy that none of them wanted to take me. The big fat one's suggestion was gaining acceptance, mostly because they just didn't care, but eventually the conversation, and argument, drifted back to what to do about the house. I went back outside, happy that they were focused on something else. After a while, the least objectionable one came outside. She didn't say anything, but she attached a leash to my collar and put me in her car and we headed up the road. She only went a couple of miles when she pulled over, pulled me out of the car, took off the leash, and then hopped back in the car and sped off.

Really?  Less than two miles and the stupid bitch thinks I couldn't find my way back home?  Those kids are as dumb as they are ugly. I thought about heading back, but there was nothing waiting for me there but a bullet. I wished I had my toy, I'm going to miss that thing, particularly since it's the last thing that Old Man gave me, but it was time to move on. I spent a few days wandering around, not very far or fast, checking out houses where people fed dogs or cats outside, or put their garbage out. I finally stumbled on a sweet spot, where someone was feeding a feral cat colony. Cat food is pretty tasty, especially when you've been living on your own for a few days. One day a truck drove up, spotted me as if they had been looking for me, and called me over. The guy seemed friendly so I went over to him, and went along with it when he picked me up and put me in a cage in the back of his truck.

The shelter wasn't bad, particularly after a few days on the road. It was noisy and the living space was small, but there was a nice bed and they took me outside a couple times a day, which is good because I do not poop or pee indoors. The people were nice, and best of all, the food came regularly and was pretty good. I heard them remark several times that they were surprised that no one came looking for me, but they didn't know that Old Man had died and that his kids were so many pieces of shit. I had been there nearly two weeks when one day they came to get me, put a bandanna around my neck and brought me to the front of the building. That's when I first met Not So Old guy. NSO guy was ok, I gave him a sniff and he was FULL of dog smells and covered with dog hair, so I gave him my best smile and said "Let's get out of here." He told the people there that he'd find me a home or I'd be staying with him until he did. Sounded good to me, not that I had many options at this point.

NSO guy smelled like a lot of dogs because he has a lot of dogs. I met most of them as soon as we arrived at his place. The dogs were pretty cool for the most part, I found toys laying around that no one else seemed to care about, there were plenty of beds, and everyone told me that NSO guy is ok, except he yells sometimes, but he feeds regularly. I made myself at home; life was good again. We saw a vet who said that my hips were bad and I had arthritis. Well, yeah. He started giving me some pills with my food and it did help with the aches and pains, but after a couple weeks I began to feel that something wasn't quite right.

NSO Guy stays at home most of the time like Old Man did, but he occasionally drives off in the green van with some dog or dogs. One day he loaded up three or four of us and I got to go along, I had been in the van before but it had always been alone and we just went to the vet, this time there was a group of us and everyone seemed to think we were in for some fun. It was a long trip but when we got there we were met by a group of people and other dogs. It was a nice shady spot on a sidewalk and someone had a couple of big soft beds set up for me and the other old dog that came along. A couple of nice ladies sat with me, talked to me, and best of all, they gave me a ball. When I popped the ball they went inside and came back out with some new toys, including a great squeaker. I worked on that for the rest of the day and never could make it stop squeaking. It was a fun day and we all slept all the way home.

The days and weeks kind of run together around here, it seems like I've been here for years but really it's just been a couple of months. I had a bath and showed NSO guy how to play with the water hose. After that I got a lot of brushing over the next few days. Everyone is good to me and there's just one dog I can't stand, but NSO guy isn't crazy about him either, so I figure I'm on solid ground. I've got the run of the house, including the bedroom, while the obnoxious barky dog is banished to the pasture so he doesn't get on our nerves. He still gets to come in at night, but I give him a dirty look when he does. There's a new girl pup that came in recently. I've taken on the job of babysitting her because she annoys the other dogs. I think she's funny.

We've been back to the vet because I'm having trouble. First it was a couple accidents in the house, NSO guy was cool about it, but we both know it's because something isn't right. It hurts to eat now so I don't, but I'm drinking lots of water to fill up my stomach. He's offering up some really good smelling food and I hate to turn it down, but I just can't do it. It's getting harder and harder to climb the stairs so I usually just do it at bedtime. NSO guy looks worried, more worried than I am. I saw Old Man go through this and I stayed with him to the end; I'm pretty sure NSO guy will do the same for me.

Gambit had lost 20 pounds or more since I got him in May. Xrays taken one day showed his stomach was displaced, probably due to cancer in the abdomen and that was probably why he didn't want to eat any more. He was getting weaker by the day but his attitude and temperament were great to the end. I made the decision to let him go and the vet made it so. I head his head and stroked him till he was gone and it was my privilege to do so. 

NSO Guy.


Anonymous said...

RIP, were as sweet as they come. <3


Britta said...

I am very sorry for the loss of Gambit. I had the privilege of holding him at the Gainsville adoption day about 6 weeks ago. He was very sweet and very strong.

Thanks for doing what you do and for your always great posts. The Gambit post was exceptional and he was in good hands with you.


Risa said...

RIP Gambit. Dog bless you and Clay for all you do for these sweet old dogs.

dlg said...

Thank you for being there for him. It's God's work you are doing. <3

Veronica said...

A very nice tribute for a very nice dog. Thank you for being there for him til the end.

Jen Gaines said...

Brent, You guys have had more than your share of loss, but by the sentiment in this post... it is obvious why. Not only do you make the most amazing transitions from less than adequate to amazing forever homes, but you are also one of the best to help transition with compassion and care for those at the end of life. Thank you for every life you have touched.

Anonymous said...

The knitters/GSD lovers are right. There is going to be a stampede when Brent and Clay arrive at the Rainbow Bridge.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brent,

Thanks so much for being with Gambit, and the rest of your canine friends.

Shadow is still with us, but not for many weeks longer. We love her so much, and want you to know that she has had no unhappy days with her human companions (at least not that we know about!). She has taught us so much about trust, loyalty and unconditional love.

All our best to you, Clay, and the others,


Anonymous said...

You owe no one an apology...this is a beautiful tribute. Gambit is fortunate to have found you to help him with his transition. I once helped an old GSD who kept ending up in the shelter. He was at the vet and wouldn't eat for anyone but me. One Saturday he let me know it was time and the vet let him go. I never named him b/c I know he was someone's beloved pet and he probably had a story like this.

Britta said...

Thanks for reposting! He was a gem. RIP Gambit.