This is a sight I’ve grown accustomed to. I have many photos like this taken at all times of the year: two dogs ahead of me on whatever path I choose: ears alert to sounds of chipmunk or squirrel, sniffing the air for whatever information the smells give them; tails always wagging. Sometimes the big dog takes the lead; sometimes it’s the other way around.
This one was taken in March of this year, on one of our last walks.
My big dog, Clover, developed a limp about a month ago. I thought she twisted her leg stepping through piles of deep, softening snow, or that she slid on ice. When it didn’t improve, I took her to see Jeff, my boss and our island veterinarian. She had almost entirely quit using the troubled leg. X-rays showed something on her bone. It was probably a growth, but maybe caused by a trauma. Had she been bumped by a car? Certainly not that I was aware of. We put her on gentle pain medicine, and gave it some time. After ten days, when it only seemed to be worsening, more extensive X-rays were called for. Consultations with another vet, a pathologist and a medical doctor followed. Definitely a growth…and spreading quickly.
“You won’t want to have that limb amputated,” Jeff said, more as a statement than a question.
How could she adjust to that?
Clover, who has always loved the outdoors, who never missed a walk, who would take a car trip down to Fox Lake, but always chose to run the two miles home, will not, at this stage in her life, suffer that indignity.
She has been with me for nine years. She was my daughter’s dog before that, after she rescued her from a life on the street in Tennessee. It was my granddaughter, Madeline, that named her. The first veterinarian she saw then, more than eleven years ago, estimated her age to be about seven. He also suggested she had probably been a part of the dog fighting industry. She showed signs of having lived a pretty rough life.
She’s had it pretty good since then! Kate and her family adored her. When they were moving, and couldn’t keep her, she came to Beaver Island to live with me…and I quickly grew to love her, too.
“Right now, she’s okay,” I told Jeff, “The pain medicine is working.”
That appeared to be true when I said it. The deeper truth was, I needed time to get used to the idea of life without her.
About the very moment that Jeff left for a week away, the pain worsened. I have increased Clover’s dosage, and still she whimpers in her sleep. She comes to lay her heavy head in my lap and gaze up at me, confident that I can help her. She stubbornly climbs the stairs – with difficulty – when she wants to, though I jump to get her when I hear her attempting to come down. With one front leg unusable, I’m afraid she’d topple down the stairs. She is laying now on her pillow on the floor beside my chair.
Jeff will be back on the island soon. I have a few questions, but I know, pretty surely, the direction this is taking. Clover has been a good companion, and has always trusted me. I can’t let her down now.