Saturday, May 28, 2011

SWEET SIGH - JUST AN OLD HOUND (HARDLY)

She was found wandering around in a rest stop along Route 411 South about seven and a half years ago.  Her body was so thin I swear I could see through it.  A close friend said she opened the car door and the old hound slunk across the grass and got in the car.  That was the start of a seven year love affair between this old hound dog and me.  Sigh was in the yard where I stay now when I first met her.  She came when called but lowered her head almost touching the ground and slunk, rather than proudly walked toward me.  Her right ear had a huge chunk bitten out of it long, long ago lending character to the dog.  The old hound was quiet and never made a sound.  She was named Sigh, the silent breath, unheard, but just there.   When vetted;  the veterinarian indicated that her hips contained several shotgun pellets and that her pelvis was fractured from an old, old injury.  Her rear hips always were out of line with each other.   Sigh was moved quickly to my friends house and lived there for two years.  There were many rescue dogs there and they and Sigh were constant companions.  Two large pointers were added to the mix at that home.  One morning "all" the dogs turned on old Sigh and almost killed her.  Yes, the dogs she lived with for two years attempted to kill her.  Sounds cruel, I know.  Dogs aren't wolves but, they are a mixed breed pack.  I believe they tried to eliminate an old and weak member of the pack.  It's just a theory.  Sigh then was moved to this habitat area where she has lived in peace and comfort ever since.  She's never been a problem and if I didn't see her;  I'd never know she was here. 
Homer the cat took a liking to Old Sigh and the two started hanging out together.  Homer would curl up next to Sigh for warmth in the Winter.
Sigh always was a happy dog, never whining and never barking.  She was just "always there."
Every time I would take Douglas to the lake or woods she would stand at the gate and watch us until we were out of site.  One day the thought of her standing there at the gate and never getting out of the yard really bothered me.  It was on my mind the entire day.  I decided to take her along next outing.
I am so glad I did.  She could not keep up with Douglas or, later on, Shade but, she plugged along behind me.  She had no limitations on distance at first.  Every time I looked behind me, she was on my heels.  We stopped often and Sigh would crawl under a bush and lay in the shade.  She amazed me at the lake.  Sitting by my side, she watched Douglas swimming and splashing in the water.  She stood and walked to the lake and kept going until she was swimming.  She was delighted.  She would not come out of the water until Douglas did.
She looked so strong and noble out there swimming.  She swam up along the shoreline and turned and swam back down.  She was delighting in the cool refreshing water..  Her face was brightened by the experience.
"Oh, Sigh;  where did you learn to swim so well?"
Sigh went with us on every outing from that day.
Then, about a year and a half later, I noticed that she couldn't keep up and that the sun was causing her discomfort.  I sat with her that day and I new it was unwise to bring her along again.  We returned home that evening and Sigh never went with us again.  I had to bear the sorrow of watching her stand at the gate and watch us as we pulled away without her.  I don't know if I made the right decision or not but, it saddened me.  I couldn't look out the rear view mirror anymore until I got the truck on the road.  Old Sigh would be centered in the glass of that mirror every time, just standing there staring at the truck as it drove away.
I noticed a large lump on the right side of her chest one day.  I don't know how long it was there.  She was old and regardless what it was she would never stand the operation it would take to remove it.  That was two years ago.  She has been going strong since.  A nasty purple and red growth appeared between the toes of her right foot.  A wart had been prominent there as long as I can remember.  It had suddenly turned colors and reminded me of a cauliflower.  It bothered her and I had it removed.  Nothing ever came of it.  Nothing.  She plodded on just being the quiet old dog in the yard.
This Winter, I noticed she had great difficulty climbing through the dog door to the habitat.  There are five steps necessary to get to the door from the outside.  She started to labor up the steps and sort of hop through the dog door with a leap.  Her rear legs weren't cooperating.  This past Winter was a hard one for her.  At times she would stand and stare at the dog door from in the room for minutes before finally moving forward for the jump through the opening and the run down the steps that her forward momentum would cause.  She never once failed to leave this room when necessary.  Not once.  Even though it was and is the most difficult task she has;  she has been unfailing in leaving the for necessary reasons.
I kept telling her that Summer was coming;  just hold on old girl.  She did.  She stumbles down the steps on worn out legs and settles in a little depression in the yard to lay in the sun.  When I open the gate to take Douglas;  she raises her head and half sits up as if to come along but, only falls back again.  Her eyes never leave us until we pull away in the truck.
Her ability to walk is rapidly decreasing now.  I noticed "again" today that her ankles get crossed up and she trips on her own rear legs but gets up quickly.  Her rear feet sometimes turn all the way down until she walks on the tops of her feet.  She must not be able to feel her feet.  It is so sad to watch the decline of such a noble dog.
Two nights ago I looked out the door and she was standing at the bottom of the steps looking up at me.  I knew she was bracing for the ordeal of getting up those steps.  I went down and picked her up and carried her into the room.  Now, late at night, I will hear her woof, woofing.  When I look;  she is staring up the steps at the door.  She is asking me to come and get her because she can't make the climb.  I will never let her stand out there.  It's not a big deal for me to carry her in.
Awhile ago she hobbled over to me and laid down beside where I was sitting.  I laid my hand on her head and gently moved my finger tips around.  Then I started to massage her hips.  Those weary, boney hips have carried her around for about seventeen years..  She looked up at me and half closed her eyes indicating she needed petted on her head.  I placed my left hand under her muzzle and lifted it slightly and slowly drew my right hand, finger tips mostly, over her head, and I spoke in a gentle voice to her.  I explained to her that she had friends waiting to see her again, and that she would meet them very soon.  Pocus, Verdan, Pie Pie and old Julia were all coming to see her.  They would wait until she was ready to journey with them to a wonderful place where humans can't go.  I told Sigh that she would never be alone when she leaves and that I would miss her very much and not to be afraid, for her friends will come to help her along.  I talked to her a long time reminding her of walks and hikes we took together.  I guess I was reminding myself about the times this fine, grand old dog went into the woods with us.  She was just old Sigh on those walks.  But, now that I think back I am so glad I took her.  It is important now.  Those were the last moments of true freedom she ever knew.  The grass was green and the sky was blue.  The gentle breeze touched her brow and she found comfort in water that she would never see again.
"Old girl;  the time is coming soon when I shall miss you, dear one.  Your image is firmly embedded in my mind and your paw prints have made very deep impressions on my heart.  If I am not here when you leave on your journey; just close your eyes and think of me;  of us;  Douglas, Happy and Shade.  Let the sleep take you old one.  We will never forget you.  When you awake, your friends will be there to show you the way.