Quinn was our golden retriever with attitude, Luke our miniature pinscher with spunk. Together they led us a merry chase and brought joy and not a small amount of frustration into our lives. In an earlier post I stated that having a dog guarantees heartbreak along with the joy. You know it’s coming, but you do your best to postpone it as long as possible. For both Quinn and Luke, the inevitable came too soon.
As Quinn got older, he became slightly less wild, but remained mischievous. Mostly, he was loving. If you were feeling down, Quinn appeared and rested his head on your lap, looking up at you with his beautiful brown eyes. I shed countless tears onto his golden coat, grieving over our son, who lives with the chaos created by borderline personality disorder (see posts for March 17 to March 23).
Luke was more catlike in his temperament. Coming to you had to be his idea. But if you sat down for more than a few minutes, he’d leap onto your lap and settle down for a snooze. He spent his nights curled under our covers, a living heating pad, offering comfort in his own small way.
Unlike Luke, Quinn had always been a healthy dog, necessitating few visits to the vet. But one day, when he was seven, he seemed weak and lacked energy. When he wasn’t back to normal the next day, I took him for a checkup. The vet could find nothing out of the ordinary and decided Quinn had pulled a muscle in a rear leg, logical considering the wild games of chase he and Luke enjoyed. The next day, however, when I returned from shopping, my son met me at the door, his face stricken. “Quinn’s dead!” he told me. “In your bedroom.” In shock, I raced to the bedroom. There Quinn lay beside the bed, as though he had decided to take a nap, then never awakened. Seven isn’t that old for a dog. Quinn should have had another five or more years.
We didn’t order an autopsy. Our other golden, Quinn’s brother Bailey, had died during surgery while still a puppy (see “The Goldens,” April 3), and the doctor had been certain he had had an undetected heart defect. He said Quinn’s heart likely had failed him, too. Perhaps both had had a genetic flaw. Perhaps Quinn had lived a longer life than he might have had he not had such good care and loving attention through the years. Perhaps because he loved so well, he had used his heart all up. Whatever the reason, a definitive answer wouldn’t bring him back. We had Quinn cremated and buried his ashes in our yard.
Luke carried on. Being left with Quinn that day, he had had plenty of opportunity to spend time with Quinn after he died, so by the time we discovered the body, Luke seemed to have accepted his status as only dog. He continued to require the services of the chiropractor, though less frequently than when he and Quinn used to tumble about. But he still kept me hopping. He never had learned to obey. Even though we had researched the min pin’s temperament before adopting Luke, only recently did I read that on a scale of one to seven, with seven being the most challenging, the min pin rated a seven with regard to ease of training. Luke definitely epitomized that statistic! He was lucky he was cute and we loved him.
Then, when Luke turned seven years old, heartbreak paid us another visit. One night Luke asked to go out. He always wore a bell on his collar so he would be easy to find and wouldn’t get stepped on. After he had been out for a while, I went into the yard to check on him. I called, but he didn’t come and I didn’t hear the bell. After a frantic search I found him lying on his side not far from the house. I assumed he was having one of his passing-out spells that necessitated a visit to the chiropractor, so didn’t panic. But this time I noticed a small tear on his side, and when I picked him up, he didn’t respond. He was breathing, but appeared glassy-eyed. Realizing this wasn’t his usual problem, we rushed him to the nearest emergency hospital. After a half hour we got the sad news. Luke had died. The cause of death—crushed ribs.
Crushed ribs? Crushed ribs!? Astounded, we tried to assimilate the information. The doctor studied us, no doubt wondering if we should be reported to animal control for abuse. Our dumbfounded reactions must have reassured him. We could not imagine what had happened. We knew no coyote could have gotten to Luke. If one had managed to come into the yard, Luke would have raised a ruckus, the way he did with his first coyote encounter (See “Little Luke”, April 15).Finally we recalled the tear in his side. After Quinn had died, a great horned owl had moved into the neighborhood, perching on rooftops and hooting softly during the nighttime hours. He was magnificent and a thrill to see, but I had worried about Luke’s safety, even though the dog was fast and fearless. But it was the only answer. The owl must have underestimated Luke’s weight and feistiness and tried to carry him away, crushing his ribs and tearing the skin in his attempt, and then dropping him. Poor little Luke. What a sad ending. Brokenhearted, we took him home and buried him next to his brother, Quinn.
No more dogs, I vowed, and my husband agreed. Our kids weren’t completely in favor, but they would be on their own in a few years and could get a pet when their lifestyles permitted. I gathered all the dog paraphernalia we had collected over the years and donated it to our local humane society. No more dogs! We’d be free to travel, free to stay away from the house as long as we chose to during the day, free of dog hair and poop scooping, vets, and extra expenses. Dog free!
But, as the James Bond title goes, “Never say never again.” It took about six years, but one day I found myself stopping by the humane society to see what was there. I was just getting my “fix,” I told myself, reminding myself that dogs smell, make messes, bark, and shed, reinforcing our “no dogs” decision. Two years later, I was still wandering the shelter and still telling myself that.
If we were going to get another dog (a big “if,” but getting smaller) I really did want a shelter dog, preferably a small, short-haired one that was trained and mature and calm, available through no fault of his own or because of his former owner’s irresponsibility. I also told myself that if God wanted us to have another dog, we didn’t have to go looking for one, because that dog would find and choose us. I constantly repeated one of my great-aunt’s favorite quotes: “What is mine will know my face.” Any dog meant to be ours would show up on our doorstep or come racing to the front of the kennel at the shelter, fix me with his eyes and haunt my sleep.
So how did we get a puppy who needs a retained baby tooth pulled, needs housetraining, obedience, grooming, neutering, and is intimidated by strangers and other dogs? That’s the topic of my next post.