Thursday, December 4, 2014

Farewell, Sweet Friend

I have more to say about Dixon than I want to push into a single Facebook post. I don't intend for this to be sad; my face is fresh out of tears. I just feel like his life, as hellish and chaotic and (at the end) joyful as it was, deserves more than a "he's gone" with a cute photo.

We love Zoe (our anatolian shepherd/heeler mix), let me be clear. We've had him since he was a puppy, and he's 9.5. But as I told friends today, Zoe is more like a goat. He wants you to feed him, he'll chew whatever plastic is lying around (LEGOs, train tracks, etc.), he needs water, he needs let outside to do his business. Occasionally he sticks his wet nose on you so you can touch his head for a few minutes. He's great with the boys, but he basically wants you to co-exist with him. He's like a goat.

After nine years of living with an animal who tolerates you living in his house, we thought hey, let's add to the chaos, let's adopt a dog. But not any dog, let's find a big dog, we always liked giant breeds best. And let's find an old one (we'd potty trained two humans recently, we didn't need to do that with a puppy). Not any old dog, but one that loved kids, one that was sweet and wanted affection, one whose eyes spoke to me (Joey thought this was crazy). 

We had chosen to work with Big Dogs Huge Paws. They are a fantastic regional giant breed dog rescue. We scrolled through bios of dogs waiting for their forever home. We had our heart set on a different dog. It fell through, as it was supposed to do. We scanned bios again. We found this old, sweet dog whose foster family had dubbed Lumpy. 

I picked him because of those eyes. He couldn't talk, but he looked exhausted. Lazy, loving, sweet, but exhausted. Like he'd be waiting to come home forever.

His foster family was kind and sad to see Lumpy go. He was in Texas, and this rescue made it possible for him to get all the way to Nebraska on a ride transport. 

We learned about Lumpy's past. When he was rescued by Big Dogs Huge Paws, he looked like this: 

He had mange and heart worm. He weighed 96 pounds. His foster family called him Lumpy because he had so many swollen callouses on his skinny body that his lumps were quite evident. But those eyes were still the same. Exhausted. Later we'd learn that he'd been bit a zillion times, many of those black marks on his snout were scars. He'd been taken in off the streets of Fort Worth. Somewhere along the line, someone named him Dixon. It stuck for us. Dixon was given a fresh start with his foster family. When he got to us, he looked like this:

He was smiling, I think. We certainly were. 

He was the best animal I have ever been around. We were completely smitten with him. He loved each one of us. He was a giant lug of a dog when he arrived - 140 pounds. We determined (or chose to believe, take your pick) that he was a mastador - a mastiff/lab mix. He was so gentle with the boys, loved playing with Joey, loved laying his giant head on my lap on the couch. 


Our life in the past 7.5 months. He loved BIG, he slept A LOT, he gave us more than we could ever give him.

He probably had a horrible life before July 2013. We never even knew his birthday. Or how old he was. Or what random underlying medical condition may have possibly caused his unexpected death. We don't know, and the not knowing is hard, but ultimately it wouldn't matter. It was his day. He looked like he was sleeping when I found him at home after work, like he was chasing rabbits and chased one to heaven.

He had a pretty awesome life after July 2013 though. The recovery wasn't easy, but he was strong and resilient. We have peace and gratitude in knowing that we were matched with him to give him his final home.

When bad things happen, you find your tribe. People who appear at the right moment or say the right thing, or do the right thing. Whether it was our neighbor pulling into her driveway at the exact moment I walked outside, alone, panicked, knowing my kids were minutes from home - could she take them? (Of course she could.) Or the vet. The vet who we switched to just this summer and hadn't yet met Dixon. They took care of making arrangements for Dixon's body to be picked up. His soul was already terrorizing rabbits in heaven, I'm pretty sure. (The vet himself called me today to see how we were doing, and how the boys were doing (!), and gave me ideas on possible things that could have happened. He said please look at this as a blessing, he went at his time. It didn't cost you or him extra heartache watching him fade. Then he said they were planting a tree in his honor. For a dog they never even met.) Or Joey's parents who dropped everything and rushed across town to pick up my kids and take them to supper. Or my best friend who listened to me sob and talked me down from the ledge of crazy. Or our other neighbor who immediately brought over the best book in the history of books on dealing with the loss of a pet as a child. And every single one of you who hugged us, loved us, sent us love, sent us prayers, thought of the boys, and gave us cookies. 

We are ok today. We'll get another dog. We'll get another senior. We'll go through this again. And it will all be worth it.