One man's best friend.
So, it will come as no great surprise that once a year I celebrate the birthday of my dog, Casey. That day happens to be today.
Of course, I don't really know for sure when Casey was born. I did not purchase Casey from a breeder. I know some people prefer that method but, to be honest, when there are so many dogs in need of homes at the local pound or humane society, I simply can't stomach the idea of purchasing a dog. I mean no disrespect to those who do, I just feel the way I feel. Doubtless this has to do with my family, which has always adopted dogs from shelters, and had simply delightful experiences with it. In any case, I do not know the precise date of Casey's birth because the Humane Society didn't know. When Casey's previous owners dropped her and the rest of her litter off, they didn't tell the shelter staff much about them. Today is simply the day I guessed might be her birthday.
When I went to the Humane Society to adopt a dog more than two years ago, I went with the intention of getting a smaller dog. I thought, perhaps, a Basset Hound, a Corgi, or maybe even a Bloodhound. (I am, of course, aware that bloodhounds aren't really "small" dogs) Being from the southeast, where Bloodhounds are almost an institution, I have a certain fondness for the dogs.
Walking along the cages in the Humane Society was, however, a sobering experience. Dogs are social creatures and, for a dog, being locked away from regular Human contact is a highly traumatic experience. I saw many, many breeds and many, many dogs that I'm certain would have made fine pets. Many were too large for my small apartment and small yard- clearly beyond my ability to adopt. I visited (By this I mean that I took the dog out to a small, fenced in area where you can meet your prospective pet and decide if you fit with them) with one dog only to discover that it was what I will term a "Crotch-Hound." I leave you to imagine what this actually means.
At some point, however, I came across a cage containing a short, sleek, dog colored in white, brown, and black. Her ears seemed too large and wide for her head, extending out like bat wings. Dark markings under her eyes gave her a permanently sorrowful look, and she lacked all but the barest nub of a tail, which wagged eagerly when I paid attention to her. Though she wasn't what I went looking for, I decided to visit with her anyway. To say we hit it off well is to understate matters. This dog made it very clear, very early on that she liked me. I have to be honest- I really liked her too. Things were not going as I had planned, however. The dog I had found was not a basset, or a corgi. Instead I had found a mix of an Australian Shepherd (Which, despite the name, is actually an American breed) and some sort of terrier.
As a side note: If you're interested in a terrier website that absolutely scares the bejeezus out of me, see here.
We're not sure what kind of terrier this dog is, but several folks have guessed it might be a
Yet, as I've told others, the reality is we don't pick our dogs. Our dogs pick us. And somehow I ended up taking this little bundle of lightning home. The next few weeks of my life are an experience I would prefer not to dwell on. Casey, as I called her, had not been housebroken before arriving at the Humane Society, and was a mere nine months old. I had to crate train her- a process Casey was not pleased with. Further, she very rapidly developed a poweful attachment to me and, consequently, a powerful case of separation anxiety. The early weeks of our life together involved a considerable amount of barking, whining, howling, and property destruction. She destroyed blinds, more blinds, and damaged walls. As the months wore on her periodic relapses into serious anxiety cost me several square feet of carpet, and the linoleum floor in my bathroom. On the positive side, I now know how to lay down linoleum bath tile. Well... badly, anyway.
Then there was the difficult battle with kennel cough that was waged, and finally won, over the first several months of our time together. I don't know where that strain of bordatella came from, but it was nasty.
As a further side note: during this period when Casey was receiving her vaccinations, the vet told me that they offered the corona virus vaccine, but it was considered optional. I inquired what corona virus did, and the vet responded with, "It causes uncontrollable flatulence and explosive diarrhea." It might just be me, but I think I speak for most dog-owners when I say that doesn't sound like an optional vaccine to me.
Still, despite this difficulty, I persevered with her. She clued in to housebreaking in about a week, and has only had a single accident since then- a time when I was delayed unexpectedly at school. She's learned to sit, and lie down, and to come when called most of the time. She's also remained the same affectionate, attentive dog she always was. For me, anyway. Other people, particularly males, she's quite a bit more skeptical of. So much so that my roommate was terrorized for some weeks when he returned from summer vacation and, to this day, must enter my room sideways (like a crab) or else risk being punched in the crotch.
I'm totally serious. Casey will get a nice running start, jump up, and plant her front paws right in my roommate's crotch. I desperately want to know where she learned this from.
We settled into a regular routine of morning walks, and nightly runs, that satisfied her need for exercise. She also entertains herself by barking at the neighbors, chasing flies, and hunting for lizards and small mammals in my backyard. Her presence has come to be something that I rely upon, and miss when I'm out of town.
Of course, our time together hasn't always been just this saga of increasing comfort. I've also mentioned before that my dog, Casey, only has three legs. This was not the case when I adopted her. A little over a year ago, when I was leaving my apartment, she suddenly, and unexpectedly, bolted for the door. She slipped out and, breaking with her usual behavior, did not return when called. I tried to catch her, but I was unsuccessful and could only watch as she ran out into a busy road and was struck by a car.
That was a bad time. When I reached her, thrashing and howling in pain in the gutter, I felt sick. When I took hold of her, she closed her jaws over my arm but, amazingly, only jawed me rapidly. She didn't bite down hard enough to even break the skin. This was one of the most amazing things to me- even in all that pain and terror she knew me well enough to hold back her full strength.
We rushed to the emergency vet, where she was examined and X-rayed. She had a broken leg, I was told, and might have internal injuries. She would have to stay for observation. The next 24 hours were terrible. I didn't know if her injuries would be any worse than a broken leg, if they would be treatable and, worst of all, if treating her would be more expensive than I could afford.
Amazingly, she did not sustain any internal injuries, but would require surgery to repair her leg. The break was above the knee in her right hind leg, and was too buried in muscle and tissue for a splint or cast to be an option. The surgeon examined the X-rays and said he thought a repair would be possible. The surgery happened approximately five days after the accident, at the earliest moment the surgeon could slip Casey into his already full schedule.
It was then that I learned the full extent of the bad news. The break was worse than they thought, the bone had shattered into more, smaller, pieces than they had realized. The leg could not be saved. We could only amputate the leg, or euthanize the dog. I chose amputation, and crossed my fingers in the hope that she would adapt as well as they said she would. She came home about 30 hours after the surgery.
He recovery was difficult. She constantly wanted to lick her stitches and loathed her "satellite collar." When she could get out of her collar she would hide beneath my bed, where she apparently felt safe. We eventually worked out a deal of sorts: she could lie on my bed, but only if she refrained from licking her stiches. Don't ask me how we worked this out, I couldn't tell you, but somehow we did, and it worked.
During this time I also had help from the very generous members of my department, who volunteered to stay with her when I had to be in class. I will always be grateful for that kindness, particularly from the men that Casey, even in her weakened condition, made quite unwelcome.
It was some time until the stitches came out, and longer til she was fully healed, but her attitude was always good. She never tried to stop walking, never tried to stop running. She was always just a dog that happened to be missing a leg, and kindly don't make a big deal out of it. Now, months after the accident, she looks forward to running a few miles with me every night, and still jumps up and down and chases her (stub of a) tail every time we get ready for our morning walk. She may be little, but she's tougher than hell.
Right now my tripod-dog is lying on my floor. She's waiting patiently for me to finish typing so that we can go out and explore the neighborhood. I think it would be a shame to keep her any longer, don't you?
So, today we celebrate my little dog's third birthday. There have been ups, and there have been downs, but I simply can't imagine not having her in my life. She's a great dog, even if she drives me up a frigging wall sometimes.
And for those who are wondering: yes, I give her a gift on her birthday. What is it, you ask?
Today she gets to eat a chicken breast for dinner. Sheer ambrosia to a 35 pound, highly-active three-legged dog.
Happy birthday, Casey.
For the curious, the above excellent paintaing is titled "Brave Cone Dog," and is by Brandon Bird. You can find out more about him and his work here.