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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The rainbow has a little more Red today

Red in the woodsWe sent our dear red Doberman, Red, off to the Rainbow Bridge this morning.

He was slowly wasting away from ... something, we're not sure what — mostly liver failure and diabetes, we're thinking. Whatever it was, it reduced our vibrant, robust 90-pound companion to a feeble shadow who weighed half of what he should have at the end. During the past few days, he quit eating except for an occasional morsel of bacon, and he was so weak he could barely stand.

Dr. Kohlmann came over at about 8 a.m., and Red stood up to greet him and wagged his tail while Dr. K scratched his ears. Then Red went right back to his bed, and relaxed while a small area on his back leg was shaved so that his vein was more visible. We both patted him and talked to him while the injection was given, and in a short time he peacefully slipped away, free at last from the health problems that had been plaguing him.

* * *

Our first meeting with Red was at the Indianapolis Humane Society. He really wasn't at all what we were looking for; Opie, the dog we had lost most recently, was a Border Collie - Golden Retriever mix (maybe) with one blue eye and one brown. Our other dog, Pantone, was a black Lab. We interviewed another Lab and looked at some other dogs, but this one big guy kept trying to get our attention whenever we walked by his pen, so we finally took him outside to interview him.

Red on the rugWhat a good show he put on! He knew sit, down and stay, and he was calm around other dogs. We didn't exactly connect, but he made a good impression and pleaded with us to get him out of there when we took him back to his pen.

He wasn't what either of us had imagined our next dog to be — short-haired, tall and lanky, with medium-sized ears that folded over and a long tail. He was nothing like Opie, and nothing like the big, beautiful black Lab who had collapsed in a heap of misery when I had taken him back to his pen after his interview. But we couldn't get him our of our minds, and when I woke up in the middle of the night and said "Let's go get that big red dog!" we agreed that's what we had to do.

And get him we did — lucky for him, since it was his third trip through the Humane Society, and dogs didn't usually get that many chances there. As it turned out, he was a Doberman, which is something we didn't realize since he was a chestnut-colored dog with long ears and tail, instead of the black, pointy-eared, short-tailed breed we thought we knew about.

All of our dogs teach us something, and Red taught us that Dobies don't have to be black, cropped or docked, and that they aren't fierce or mean by nature. They are intelligent, powerful, loyal and loving — and there's nothing wrong with that!

* * *

Red taught me something else, too. One evening we watched in horror, unable to help, as he went into violent convulsions in the middle of our living room. As it turned out, he had epilepsy — caused perhaps by having been hit by a car when young, but a life-changing affliction for all of us.

First MeetingWe tried to control Red's seizures with Phenobarbitol (and a few other things), which is one of the drugs that humans use for the same purpose. Phenobarbitol can cause liver damage in dogs, but we made the choice to use it because it meant losing him later rather than sooner. Later has finally come.

* * *

We have eight years of stories about Red, and it would take nearly that long to type them all out. I'm not even going to attempt that, but I must tell everyone who thinks Dobes are mean, fierce dogs that nothing could be further from the truth.

This isn't to say that they can't be intimidating, because they can. Once a construction crew that included a few rough-looking individuals came into our yard and Red appeared on the deck, ears up, tail high, looking each one straight in the eye. I was impressed by him, and very proud.

Eagle CreekI was even more proud the time I took him to the Zionsville Farmers Market and a little girl came up to pat him. She was probably about two years old, and not as tall as Red. She held a cookie in her left hand while she patted him with her right, her parents beaming. To my great relief, he endured her attention and ignored the cookie, which a lesser dog would have snatched away.

* * *

Red had seizures about monthly. He usually had one big one, with a few lesser episodes the same day or the day following. We made a lot of changes in his diet, took him off of most of his vaccines, and he eventually went for more than a year with no seizures at all (or none that we knew of, at least).

Then last summer he began to have other health problems. For a while he had trouble walking a straight line. Then he started licking and then chewing on his feet, and eventually chewed all his nails off until they bled. He developed skin problems, and his fur fell out in patches.

We were very distressed by all this, but Red took it in stride. Then his other symptoms subsided, but he began to lose weight rapidly, until his ribs, spine and hipbones were clearly discernable under his skin. Not surprisingly, he became weak and listless.

SleepLast week we made the call to Dr. Kohlmann to come put him down, but then he started eating again, his ears perked up, and we put it off for a bit. This week — today — it was time.

* * *

I feel as though this is a clumsy tribute. Eloquence doesn't always come easy, even when grief is dictating.

Farewell, my dear, sweet Reddy Boy. I fervently hope that there really is a Rainbow Bridge, and that you, I, and all our friends will one day rendezvous there, where the fields are green, the skies are blue, and the pain of separation is but a distant, faded memory.
Katzenfinch, 8:53 PM

4 Comments:

That was beautiful. Aw, I'm all teary eyed now. :(

Miss you, Red!
Blogger Jay, at 3:38 AM  
Thanks for sharing, Katz.
Kelly
Blogger indykjsharp, at 11:43 PM  
I lost my big red Bubba 4/3/07 and because of him every red boy has a special place in my heart. This is a lovely tribute to your Red and all the others that wait at the Bridge. I foster for rescue and Bub was the kindest and gentlest of teachers to many pups.
My sincere sympathy on your loss, Liz
Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:35 PM  
Though we only knew him a short time, Red was a sweetie. Our thoughts are with you both.
Anonymous Jim and Ralf, at 2:57 PM  

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