A year ago today I crawled under the coffee table and took this photo of my old man sleeping peacefully, tongue out and dried like smoked salmon. I had no idea when I was taking this that three hours later we would be coming back home, bewildered and shocked and heartbroken, without him. I only had him 3 years but I fell hard for him.
I do realize that I’m a 36-year-old woman getting weepy about “just” a dog when there are far larger issues plaguing the royal “us,” but I think most of you would agree that no pet is “just” anything. And if any of you have any barrel- or deep-chested dogs, I recommend you educate yourselves on bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus/GDV). I didn’t know what it was when it happened to us, and in hindsight I couldn’t have prevented it, but it can’t hurt to know not to get them riled up after eating, not to feed them too much in one meal.
I miss him. In his place, but not replacing him, is this insane Frenchie who entertains the hell out of us. But I’m remembering Arthur today.
March 30, 2013 was an exciting day that brought me unexpected surprises, laughter, tears, frustration, joy. I adopted Arthur (formerly Cheech), who was 11 at the time. His family had to surrender him and I had decided I was prepared to bring a senior dog home. I trekked to Staten Island with my ex boyfriend, who was part of the whole adoption process, and brought home my 70-lb bundle.
This dog. He was hilarious and ridiculous. In the beginning, from trying to eat his harness when I came toward him with it to doing unmentionable things to his dog beds (I blame it on the steroids), there was no end to the excitement. He became attached to me and got VERY agitated and would throw himself against the door whenever I would load things into the car. And there was a LOT of loading things into cars, considering I moved twice in the 2 years I had with him. OH yeah, and the pooping in the car thing.
How about the time I tried to pin down his beds under the feet of the couches so he wouldn’t hump them and he just yanked them all around the living room, along with the couches, and then tore the bed up and spread the stuffing everywhere? Oh, and this was while I was away and my friend was dog sitting.
But then there was his hop dance.
I learned a lot about bulldogs and their health conditions, and dog health in general. Yeasty skin? Check. Abscessed teeth? Check. Dry eye? Check. Deafness? Check. Aural hematoma? Check. Skin allergies? Check. Staph infection? Check. Canine MRSA? Check. Infected anal gland requiring hospitalization? Check. Enlarged heart? Check. Suffocating gas? Check. Incontinence? CHECK. The list never seemed to end. Maybe my vet was right when he told me he thought only veterinarians should own English bulldogs.
But Arthur was such an irresistibly grouchy, stubborn old man. I fell for him. I loved him and his squishy face and I loved giving him bulldog hugs and loved getting his shy, tiny kisses. Last October he and I moved into Craig’s place and Arthur weaved his way into Craig’s heart and into McKinley the bulldog’s heart, too. He was well loved by everyone he met. When we were walking, people would actually pull their cars over to look at him and tell me they thought he was great.
About 2 weeks ago, our old Bubba developed bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus) suddenly and an hour after we noticed something was wrong we had to make that incredibly sad decision to say goodbye to him instead of putting him through a major surgery at almost 14 years old with heart disease.
At the risk of sounding dramatic, it was all worth it. I’m so glad I got to spend these couple of years taking care of this boy, really keeping him comfortable. Every hour of sleep lost running downstairs at the sound of his toenails clicking, every twisted back muscle from carrying him up and down stairs for never-ending bath routine, every penny I spent, worth it. My good boy was a good boy and he deserved it all.
Since my last post to The Satisfied Mind, I moved – again. I counted up the moves, big and small, that I’ve made since graduating college in 2002, and the final count is 11. I have moved ELEVEN times in 14 years.
This move, fortunately, was a very happy one – lucky eleven? – and it also produced what we can call a blended bulldog family. Craig and I both brought an English bulldog into this partnership, and they have now lived together a full month already. McKinley is Craig’s dog, and Arthur is mine. I find it funny that we both unintentionally used U.S. Presidents’ names for our dogs.
They spent time together before and got along fine at my or his house when one or the other of us was away, and they survived the road trip and vacation to Michigan, but now that they have lived together a while, McKinley has gotten really attached to Arthur:
Arthur turned 13 last week, which is pretty impressive for a bulldog, but he’s showing his age. He’s having trouble standing and walking, and McKinley follows him around, sits on or next to him and guards him, rests her head on him, or grooms him while he sleeps. A couple of times soon after I moved in I took him for a walk out in front and didn’t bring her along, then left for work and she expressed her disapproval of that by eating my (ONLY my) stuff – records, my choir folder, the kitchen table. I’ve learned. Really the best times are when she backs up toward him and balances her back end on him while he’s on his bed. He is never fazed by any of this. I’ve never had dogs that enjoyed this kind of togetherness – it’s really adorable.
Now that my guy is so wobbly I’ve been afraid he’d fall and be stuck on the floor, so we’ve started making modifications to the house. We moved the area rugs around so he has better traction, and Craig and his dad built us a ramp for the step out to the back yard. And the crowning jewel? Craig installed a Dropcam.
Yes, we now have a doggie cam. I do not know when or if the novelty will wear off. I can log in at any time to see how and what they’re doing (so far, it’s been sleeping) and make sure Arthur hasn’t fallen and can’t get up. It’s even got night vision so I can watch them sleep any time of night or day. I feel like we might be turning into caricatures straight out of Best in Show.
I recently read a blog post shared by a friend that was written by a veterinarian about what it’s like to be a vet. It really moved me to read her perspective and reminded me of my experience with my vets and Sugar, so I wanted to share a little tribute to the vets at the practice where I have had Sugar (and Arthur) for the last few years.
I’m not sure if they would be comfortable with my naming them, so I’ll call them Dr. A and Dr. B: Dr. A being the owner of the practice and Dr. B being the vet who joined the practice maybe 2 years ago as a new veterinarian. It has turned out that the dogs and I hit it off with Dr. B and started seeing only her when possible. She always fawned over my Sugar, which of course makes any dog owner feel great, but Sugar was never overtly friendly – very loving, yes, but quiet and not one to come running to you, so having Dr. B love on my dog was special. And then when we got Arthur, OH BOY, she totally fell for him. I brought him in for the first time and she literally gave me a round of applause for adopting a senior English bulldog.
So anyway, I saw Dr. A when Sugar started really going downhill and it was starting to occur to me that the end of her life was approaching. I was going through quite a lot of stress in September and this was a particularly horrific weekend. I cried the entire time Sugar and I were at the vet. The tech came in for intake information, and I had to begin with, “Sorry, I’m going to have to cry through this whole conversation.” Dr. A came in – with a shadowing student, of course… poor dude – and I cried and cried, and he said, we’ll take care of her! And you! It’ll all be OK.
So when the final day came for Sugar, we had the appointment with Dr. B. She came in and was clearly so sad for us. I could see she was taking deep breaths and trying not to fall apart, and she did an amazing job of being respectful and caring for us. I couldn’t have done it nearly so well. And I just had to hug her when it was over. When I brought Arthur in for something else soon after, she was sitting on the floor with him and said she was sorry about Sugar again, and that she’d gone home and cried and drank that night.
Dr. A even found me on LinkedIn after the day with Sugar to see how I was doing. These vets are one of the reasons I decided to stay in this town even before Sugar died, and now I’m even more glad I did.
It’s been a tumultuous six weeks. Suffice it to say that I upended my life and within the space of one month I searched for and found a home to rent that met my long list of requirements (same town, allows two dogs, no steps from front or back door, fenced yard, enough space for all of my junk), packed everything I own, emptied 1.5 storage spaces and moved furniture from two homes along with myself and the dogs into the new place. Oh, and let’s not forget that during that time I launched a project at work that I’d been working on for six months and that all of my superiors were anxiously awaiting.
I give you this brief window into what’s been going on because I wanted you to have some background on the following story. I’ve been stressed. I don’t really want to get into the specifics of what led to the move – most of you reading this know at least the basics anyway. I wanted to tell a story about moving day. You might want to think twice about reading more if poop grosses you out.
On moving day I had a long list of things to do and I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. The plans included emptying a storage unit, shuffling my furniture from the back of a second storage unit shared with my parents, stopping at my old place and getting my furniture from there, stopping at my friend’s place for a mattress and boxspring, moving everything into the new house, and then going to get the dogs and bring them home. I’ll give a shout out to Two Men and a Truck because they were great. And they actually sent three men. They made quick work of everything and we even had some fun. One of them told me, “You need some more clothes and shoes.” They helped me saw the boxspring in half and helped set things up.
After a long day of moving I settled up with the movers and ran straight back to pick up the dogs. I was so excited to get them settled. Well, the bulldog started to freak out when I arrived and started packing the dog stuff. Neither of them seemed plussed at all while the movers moved large furniture around them earlier that day. Arthur stood in the open doorway as all of us came in and out. But as soon as I touched the dog beds Arthur was COMING WITH ME. And I mean he showed all his bulldog colors. And those beds are bulky, and he surprised me by scooting out the door around me, at which point I had to stop him by grabbing handfuls of his neck blubber because he had no harness on. So now I was in hyperdrive trying to load the car as fast as possible and also be careful with Sugar because her slipped disc is bad, so I decided to set Arthur up in the car first and then bring Sugar. I should have known what was about to happen because it wasn’t the first time, but I was rushing and stressed and didn’t think.
I put his bed in the back of the car and brought him out, along with his ramp. He is running to the car. While I am trying to keep him from clawing the heck out of my bumper in an attempt to climb in, I set up the ramp. I get him up the ramp and put the ramp in the car, and as I’m about to close the door, I see it coming.
“Oh you’re going to take a big dump in the car now, aren’t you?” I asked him.
So I stood and watched it happen and in a desperate split-second decision, with the sudden realization that I’d never get the ramp set up again to get him out before he tracked it everywhere, I cupped my hands and scooped. I threw it in the grass on the side of the road (and yes, this one time I admit to not cleaning it up) and closed Arthur into the car. I ran to wash my hands and get some cleaning supplies, did a quick cleanup of the dog bed in the car, ran for Sugar, and with a dazed sigh of relief and unbelieving shake of the head finally got on the road with both the dogs.
But we made it! We’re starting to feel at home now.
For a long time I’ve wanted an English bulldog. I love their personality and their big wrinkly faces. Since last year when we got the yard fenced, we’ve been ready for a new addition to the family. I looked locally and found that English bulldogs are a hot commodity. There are very few people who want to give up their bullies, and when they do it’s often because the dog doesn’t get along with other dogs. This is not an optimal situation for me, since Sugar the beagle has seniority (in many senses) and a history of slipped discs in her back and I needed to be sure that a new dog would defer to her. I wanted a calm dog, probably older, not too big, who wouldn’t knock her over or bother her.
I decided in February that I would look for a rescue English bulldog for one year, and save for a puppy during that time, so that if I didn’t find someone by next Valentine’s Day, we’d get a puppy.
Eventually I decided to expand my search radius. I found Long Island Bulldog Rescue, and the rest is history. A post came up on their Facebook page about a senior boy named Cheech whose human baby sister was ostensibly allergic to him. He was described as good with other dogs. He seemed like a perfect fit for Sugar, and I applied for him that night.
I had several phone conversations with Laurette, who runs the rescue organization, and the owner, who was truly sad to be giving up his buddy. But he was happy to hear that he would be going to a good home – lots of dog beds, air conditioning, no steps, and two dog lovers to love him. I had totally fallen for Cheech before I asked how big he was. “Oh, he’s only about 75 pounds.” The phone was on speaker and my and Sherpa’s jaws both dropped. We were NOT expecting that. But we were already sold.
His previous owner is a traditional Long Island dude who I am fairly sure rarely left LI. When we were discussing how and where to meet, he said he had looked on the computer and found a Sleepy’s Mattress Center on Staten Island where we could meet, since “around here Sleepy’s has a parking lot.”
So, I bought some supplies and we drove to Staten Island and ended up meeting in a bank parking lot. His owner was there with an enormous, smiling bulldog. “LOOK AT HIM!” I yelled. He was amazing. We had an emotional time with his owner. We all cried and I promised I’d send photos and updates. Then we put a beast of a bulldog in the car and set out for home.
We have enjoyed the heck out of this funny guy. He came home to a new house and a new name: Arthur. He has been to the vet pretty much weekly since we brought him home 2 months ago. The vet literally gave me a round of applause for taking on a senior EB. He’s worth it. He’s hilarious: He snores loud, farts louder, and generally looks like he’s rolling his eyes at you whenever he’s awake.
And we lucked out – he has been great with Sugar. Actually… she barked at him a couple of times and that let him know who’s boss. He was terrified of her for a while and would run away when he saw her. Now they are settling in together. And I think he’s feeling at home now. Maybe all the pooping in the kitchen did it.
Laurette from Long Island Bulldog Rescue works tirelessly to place hundreds of English bulldogs in foster and forever homes every year. I want to give her a special shout out and also a shout out to the pet rescue volunteers I have met in the last few months! Good people with good hearts who do good things. We wouldn’t have this guy to snuggle without you.