He has been my friend, my companion, my protector, my family, my sweet baby, and even my caregiver. Although he scares and intimidates most people who try to get close to us – well, who try to get close to me – he only means well. He's just not social, and he's too old to change now.
Although he is possessive and jealous, and quick to show his dominance to anyone he feels is a threat (that would be everyone), to me, he's loving, kind, caring and totally in tune to my moods, emotions and even physical health. We've been together for more than 10 years, and I've vowed to be there for him as long as he needs me, as he has been for me through all kinds of ups and downs. In a sense, you could say we're soul mates.
He has the most beautiful, knowing eyes and the softest hair. However, he is a bit short, and sometimes walks with a slow limp. Yet, there are times, when he's still quick on his feet, agile as the athlete he once was, and even though he now has saddle bags, he's in darn good shape to be 84 years old.
84 dog years, that is. I'm speaking of my beloved Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog), Rudy. If you follow me on Facebook, you know all about Rudy, who gave himself the title “Lord Rudolph” about three years ago. Sometimes, he's also known as His Lordship, The Grand Duke, Mayor of Hillcrest or simply King of Every Thing. To me, he's just my Rudy. People have been urging me to write a book about his life with me now that he is aging and facing new health issues more and more. I'm having difficulty writing it, so I'm sharing a bit of him with you today.
Rudy is so funny and entertaining. It's a shame he doesn't like or trust other people. When I adopted him, his vet told me it seemed Rudy suffered from fear aggression. He can be rough and tough; he is a Heeler, after all. But some things with him just won't change. For a while, I took him to a stock farm where he could work off his aggression and attitude by herding sheep. Actually, he did quite well with little to no training; it's in his blood. But I found the facility when he was maturing, and I had to retire him shortly after that. It was just too hard on his heart.
|Lord Rudolph, marker painting by Stacey Torres 2015|
Lately, I've been bragging about how well Rudy's been doing these last few weeks. In recent months, he has had all sorts of ailments and mysterious issues, but we've dealt with them and he always comes through. Lately, he's been doing great - until late yesterday afternoon.
We were standing in front of the house -- me pulling weeds, while he chewed on his favorite tall grass. However, when I turned to give him a treat, I noticed he was sitting on the lawn with a puzzled look o his face. His back right leg seemed to be in a cramp, and his right paw was clearly hurting him. I didn't see what happened, so I don't know if he fell, stumbled, or if it was just a cramp, spasm, or maybe even a seizure. It took him a long time to get up. After that, he seemed okay, but was limping badly and couldn't get into the car for a trip to the park. Since he already has a weakened (arthritis) back right leg, his right side wouldn't support him.
So, I'm treating him gently with heating pads and little massages -- and mindfully being vigilant. There's not much else to be done when these things happen. He's been to the vet so often lately, and that's always traumatic for him, i.e., “doggy Valium,” a muzzle and just chaotic stress. So, I limit his visits to his wellness checks and emergencies. Rudy is just like any other 84 year old man (or woman) I suppose. I'll continue to watch, nurture, love and pray for him.
This morning, my little guy appears to be a little better. His appetite is still hearty; eating like he's in training for a Sumo match, and his limp is fading more into a careful strut. He is still a trooper, still brave and proud and hilarious as ever, barking at the stove, which means “cook something!”
As so many other people who love their furry family members deal with a sweetly aging pet, we all dread the day when we ultimately must say goodbye. I've experienced this life event with a few other dogs; each one is as excruciating as the other. But each one left me with a tremendous store of happy memories and absolute love and devotion. My prayer is that Rudy remains with me in peace and comfort for a good while longer. But his happiness and quality of life are key. For now, he's just like me, ripening with rich maturity in a very special way – with aching joints that crackle, pop and snap like breakfast cereal. But we're still here – moving forward and adapting to this wonderful changing life day by day. God sent him to me, and I'm cherishing and taking good care of my gift.
Originally published in The Courier-Times, New Castle, IN, May 29, 2016