Tuesday, June 2, 2015

This week: Saying good bye to Larry

Good Boy

In May we said goodbye to our dog Larry. Larry was a black/white brindle Cattledog/Border Collie mix. He had a black nose with large black spots on his back and his black tail had a cute patch of white on the end. The black of his tail covered his rear making it look like he had a pin-the-tail-on-the-dog tail. His eyes were a chocolate brown and his ears were slightly floppy, conveying various other breeds of canine hiding in there too.

We met Larry at a BBQ at a friend’s house. The friend was our new insurance agent and he and his wife shared our love of college football, hiking and dogs. Our friend and his wife had an elderly German Shepard and they also had Larry. They had adopted him from an animal shelter in Breckenridge, where they owned a condo. He was so cute and friendly it was easy to see why they picked him. During the BBQ Larry made it a point to check out everyone, especially the kids, and he would stop by me in my lawn chair every few minutes. I thought he was adorable.

A few months later, after learning that our new friends were pregnant with their first child, they invited us to a college bowl game watch party featuring their beloved college team. Since it was January, this party was indoors, with a lot of people in a small livingroom. Larry kept getting under everyone’s feet and our friend scolded him a few times. Every few minutes or so he would make his way to me and I would pet him and tell him how cute he was and he sit with me for a few minutes, but then someone would shout at the TV and Larry would leave to go investigate the noise. I thought he was adorable.

Toward the end of the game, the football team ran a play with a receiver heading for the endzone. The touchdown would be a game winner if he made it. Our friend jumped up in excitement and shouted at the football player on the TV. Larry began barking too and right when the player scored, Larry bit our friend in the back of the calf. Our friend was wearing jeans so Larry didn’t catch any skin. Our friend was in shock. Larry had never done that before. Larry was scolded and he made his way to me to sit in silence for a minute. I petted him and rubbed his ears. He was a cattledog and biting the ankles of sheep is what they do when they round up herds so I wasn’t really surprised at his behavior. I have to admit, I thought it was kinda funny.

After the game was over and some of the guests left the party, we chatted with our friends and they told us they were worried about Larry. He had a habit of getting underfoot and with a baby on the way they worried he would get underfoot while they carried their new baby up and down stairs. Without missing a beat, both Christian and I said, “We’ll take him!” The four of us laughed about it and then we went home. Without Larry.

About a week later, Christian got a phone call. It was our friend asking if we were serious about Larry. He said of course. The two of them were headed to their mountain condo for one last couple weekend before the baby arrived and they suggested dropping off Larry for the weekend for a test run. That was four years ago.

No matter his breed, Larry was all herding dog. Every action he had and every behavior he showed went back to those herding instincts. He followed our cat Morgan around the house; he followed me around the house. He barked at doorbells, even the ones on TV. We also discovered he was deathly afraid of thunder. When spring thunder storms came around, he would shake and whimper and when the storm was really bad, he would even drool. That first spring whenever a storm happened I would wrap my arms and legs around him in a bear hug to get him to calm down. We eventually bought him one of those Thunderjackets, a piece of fleece with Velco that you wrap around dogs who are scared of storms. He was still nervous, but at least it stopped the drooling.

We asked our friend if he knew Larry’s history. He knew some.  Larry was found as a stray puppy in Yampa County (Steamboat Springs). Because he was a cattledog mix, he assumed he came from one of the many ranches in the valley. From a Yampa shelter he was transferred to the animal shelter in Breckenridge (Summit County) where he was adopted…and then quickly returned by that same person. Shortly after that our friends were at their Breckenridge condo and made a visit to the shelter and brought Larry to Denver. That made us his third official family. His original name at the shelter was Beasley, but at some point it got changed to Larry. We figured he was confused enough about where he was so we decided to keep the name Larry when when he came to us. Our friend told us that Larry was not full grown when he adopted him so he guessed he was about 4 years old when we took him. However, he could have been older, or younger. We’ll never know.

Larry wasn’t all that interested in other dogs. When we took him to the dog park, Christian used to joke that he was the Hall Monitor. If any dog starting running around the park, which is pretty much every dog, Larry would bark at them to make them stop. He also had a “radius” around us when he was off leash. That radius was about 25 feet. There was one time we took him on a walk around our open space and we stopped to talk to some neighbors when Christian asked, Where’s Larry? We scanned the horizon and didn’t see him. Then we looked down. Larry was sitting at Christian’s side.
When I worked from home, he would spend his day lying in a dog bed under my desk. He was a joy to walk, perfect on a leash. Last summer Christian took Larry on a camping trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota with his brother and nephew and some other people.  Larry got to ride in a canoe, an amazing feat for a dog who didn’t like water. He also slept with Christian in a hammock and the kids on the trip adored him.

For the last two summers we have taken camping trips to Steamboat Springs and we always wondered if Larry felt like he was in familiar territory. Larry was the best camping dog because he always stayed close to us. Larry was also a great nap dog. He was always ready to snuggle up on the couch or jump up on the bed. This is what I will miss most about him. When my husband was out of town, I had Larry to keep me company. He also had to mark everything he came across. He once peed on a woman’s leg at an outdoor party because she stood so still Larry thought she was a tree.

Back in March Larry had a urinary tract infection. The vet prescribed antibiotics and it went away, but two weeks later the infection returned, only it was twice as bad so he had to go on even stronger antibiotics for an even longer time. After being on the antibiotics for almost two weeks, he stopped eating his regular dog kibble. We started feeding him deli meat and cheese, but after a few days he wouldn’t eat those. We tried peanut butter, which was a total disaster. He ate melon and shredded chicken for a while. I gave him canned food. He ate that for two days and then stopped. His weight quickly dropped from 45 pounds to 38. The vet took him off the antibiotics and said to try and get his weight back up. We began feeding him anything we could, but he would only try new foods for a day or two and then stop. I fried up some ground beef and he ate two bites and walked away. At one point he ate nothing but carrots for three straight days. A friend suggested baby food. At first he licked a Gerber container of turkey and rice clean only to turn his nose away the next day. Another friend of ours gave us some organic ham and turkey jerky for dogs. Larry took it in his mouth, chewed it a couple times and spit it out.

At the end of our rope I took him back to the vet where they did a second blood test. He’d had one back when the infection started and it came out fine. The second one a month later told the vet that Larry’s kidneys were failing. In five weeks he went from healthy happy dog to fatal illness. In a last ditch effort to save him the vet had us give him subcutaneous saline infusions every other day in order to flush his kidneys in the hopes that would kick start them into working again. We also began feeding Larry special soft kidney food, which was low in phosphorous, mixed with water into a soup and used a turkey baster to get it down his throat. We did that for two weeks. Then came the morning he immediately threw up the food I had just put into his stomach. I knew that was bad and took him straight to the vet. The vet told me it was time.

Larry was a happy, goofy, silly, slightly crazy bundle of joy and our part of the world won’t be the same without him.

Looking for a new four-legged friend?  Visit Foothills Animal Shelter