We have had him for at least 13 years. Six of our children have never known a day in our family without Dexter in it. My niece and nephew have swiped baby hands at his tail and stacked blocks on his head.
We made the decision to have a dog when Riane and Braydon were 5 and 7 years old. We visited the pound and picked out this beagle mix who seemed very calm and "smiley". We got home and had to pick ticks swelled to half an inch in diameter off of him. I cleaned him up and then wondered why he didn't eat. He tried to sit at the table like one of the children and thought their bathroom must be his bathroom. We quickly trained those "people" habits out of him and took him to the vet.
The first news was devastating. He had parvo. I had just gotten him from the pound, I wasn't going to pay close to $1000 to have him hospitalized. I took the medicine and advice they gave me and went home. Just so happens we received our first foster placement that weekend. I spent the next few days cleaning up after Dexter who vomited regularly. Using Turkey basters to force feed water and a little mushed up dog food down him with his medication. They told me I had a chance if I kept him hydrated. At the same time I was dealing with CPS workers and a baby in a cast.
He lived -- I lived and the dog was forever devoted to me from that point on. He loved me and wanted to be with me every moment. I thought that I could cage train him to sleep downstairs in the laundry room. Jerome left for work and wished me good luck. After over an hour of that very rhythmic "RAR, RAR, RAR" I capitulated. For years he slept in the basket in the corner of my bedroom.
When we moved to a new house I thought he should sleep upstairs closer to the children. I put his basket upstairs. New house -- he would get this. He wandered the house all night and sighed hugely at my bedside every hour or so. He won again -- more years in my bedroom.
He was faithful, but in his early years he was an escape artist. When we lived in town he was constantly finding ways out of our fenced backyard. I was forever looking for Dexter. We plugged every hole and attempted every fix -- he was truly an artist at getting out. However, we lived on a very busy street and he eventually got hit by a car. He never had a visible wound. I thought he was dead for sure and we tearfully bundled him off to an emergency vet that Saturday afternoon. He was observed for a weekend and we were told that he was hit in the head and he didn't know what kind of dog we would end up with, but there was nothing he could do.
For weeks he looked confused and stumbled on the steps. He could not bark or make any noise. One day we came home from shopping and he barked! Dexter was back. Of course, every goofy thing he did for years after that we blamed on his car accident and any brain damage he may have received.
But 13 years have passed. Dexter is gray, is on arthritis medication, falls on steps often and the worst part, has no real control of his bowels. Despite the every other hour schedule that the kids faithfully keep to march him out to the yard -- he usually has a problem every day. He hurts. We routinely purchase antibiotics for the swelling in his mouth -- eating has to be soft. He stopped rummaging for the trashcan -- he slowed down on drinking out of the toilet. Things I was grateful for, but I know it is only because it's painful that he let those annoying habits die. He hurts and we are so tired of mopping the floor. He can't sleep in my room anymore -- he doesn't make it through the night without a problem. He has been relegated to a cage in the garage with a heat lamp. He usually can make it through the night without an accident, and the heat lamp is warm, but he hates that cage.
It is hard, but if we are going to put him down after all these years and all these memories I sure didn't want to piggy back on some event that would forever be remembered -- like Easter week, or someone's birthday or graduation. I picked a non-descript day -- just his last day. The tears are falling the hearts are breaking -- he has been a good dog.
The early days.
One of his favorite spots.
Always at my feet.