Andy the Dog

A

N1c

Andy’s gone now. This is a recounting of his time.

Andy’s fifteen plus now. If a dog has been lucky enough to live this long, the aches and pains that might have skipped him, find their proper places to occupy his body now.

His eyesight is poor. He has to edge along the walls of each room to find his way. His hearing has diminished considerably. He detects sounds somewhat, but can’t seem to determine the exact direction. When I call all the dogs to eat, he gets up and starts walking around, and by this reaction, I know he can hear to a degree.

At night when he’s been in his bed for a long period, and it’s the last time to go out for the night, when I pick him up, I have to wait for his arthritis to deactivate, and also exercise his left back leg to be sure he can stand to walk around in his pen. During the day he can amble around without any assistance. It’s just the inactivity that precipitates his inability. I always check to see if he needs water after every meal, after he’s been outside, and other miscellaneous hours.

I have found his methods have changed in as far as noting my whereabouts. When his eyesight was good, he simply wandered through the house to see if I were there. Now I’m not quite sure how he determines my presence. We can be sitting in the same room, and if he decides I’m not there, he lets out a yelp, not a bark, a yelp almost like a small baby crying. My wife says when I’m gone, he will sit by the front door or the door leading to the basement, depending on which one I exited, and sporadically wail, the frequency governed by the length of my absence. This would appear to be a contradiction, if he can’t absolutely see me when I’m home, how can he know I’m gone. If his sense of smell were good enough to know I’m not with him, then he would be aware when we’re in the same room.

Some people might think I’m being cruel. I’m not. Other than his frailties, he appears to be happy. He has a good appetite, and at night, if he’s lying on the rug, and I put him in his bed, he senses me in some fashion, and enjoys that. Here again, if he becomes convinced I’m not there with him, even though I am, he gets out of his bed and starts prowling the house trying to find me. I get him, and put him in his bed again. This might only happen once a night, or there may be three or four incidences, but once he’s content, and all is right in his world, he goes to sleep, and stays the night, providing he’s had his snack of three M&M’s. He could sleep on the bed with my wife and me, but we are afraid he might wander toward the edge when we are not aware, and fall off.

Some might not choose to accept the effort Andy requires now. He’s provided many years of love and happiness for our family and perhaps a few mischievous moments, and is not just some creature we found at a dog breeder’s house among at least a hundred or more other dogs. With Smokey, another of our dogs, gone now, we decided that we should go with a white dog, because black would remind us too much of Smokey.

Andy never has acceded to the need to go to the Vet. Even though there are three Vets at the clinic where we take all of our dogs, we attempt to see a specific one unless he happens to be off. Andy does not acknowledge any particular recognition of any of the Vets, only shying away from needles, pills, and any necessary tests.

One day when I took Andy to the clinic for a shot, our Vet was tied up in surgery, and I took Andy home. I received a phone call from him suggesting he’d save me another trip to the clinic by stopping at our house on his way home. I could tell our Vet had grown accustomed to my face over a number of years.

Strangers are a breed Andy doesn’t care for. He acts ferocious around them, barking, and running around their legs like he’s about to take a bite of a prime cut of meat. He has never bitten anyone, but his actions are deceiving, and we normally hold him aloft to satisfy any fears those witnessing all of this might have. Who qualifies as a stranger? Anyone who is not a member of our immediate family, which to Andy consists of me, my wife, my daughter and son-in-law. Our son is a borderline situation which I will explain shortly.

Our Vet shows up and rings the front door bell. Andy’s poised to protect his turf, standing at attention and barking. I’m convinced with the number of visits Andy has been to our Vet, there certainly should be a mutual admiration society of sorts between him and our Vet, and there’s no need to feel Andy will charge him. Wrong. Some humanoid has dared to tread on his property. When I opened the door, Andy bolted out on the front porch. His eyesight and physical status was very good when this happened. Before I could grab him, I guess even in the heat of battle, he thought he should look into the eyes of the enemy to check their valor. Immediately he sees our Vet, slams on his brakes, skids to an abrupt stop, turns quickly, and without a sound, retreats as fast as he can back into the safety of the house.

When our son was attending law school at night, he worked during the day as a court bailiff and had to wear a deputy’s uniform. Andy had to be restrained at the sight of the uniform, and even when our son was not in uniform, Andy remembered who he was, and never was friendly with him. We couldn’t account for the dislike, and considering he was very young when we got Andy, it defies reason. Our son is an animal lover, and the other dogs were always fond of him

Andy has a vanity streak in him, even to this day. If he visits our Vet for a clip, on the way home, I have to tell him several times he’s pretty. When my wife sees him she has say it over and over. Our daughter may not be over at our house until three or four days later, but she has to tell Andy several times that he’s pretty.

That must have been a result of our daughter spoiling him. To comfort him after his first few clips, she would tell him that, and he’d strut around as though he was the handsomest poodle in the entire world. Clips are a continual necessity for poodles because they’ll get an infection if their ears aren’t kept free of hair.

Andy was our daughter’s dog for many years, until she married, moved into an apartment, and couldn’t keep a dog there. My wife and I thought Andy would not adapt to us only, and were surprised when he accepted us and her frequent visits and departures, with no overnight stays. Considering he had been our daughter’s dog, I naturally assumed he would adopt my wife. I suppose once you think you have a dog pegged, you don’t. He decided I was going to be his buddy. He’s great friends with my wife, but doesn’t yelp when she leaves. I don’t understand Andy’s thought process. It does raise my self-esteem a notch, thinking an animal who’s sharp intellectually, contrary to what some people say about poodles, thinks about me. Of course I could be realistic and realize Andy has more in mind my feeding him than anything else.

I’m a mild chocoholic, although there is not a 100 percent consensus on that.  During the course of Andy being with us, I shoulder the responsibility for his devotion to M&M’s. I consider those to be a minimal candy intake, if he’s limited to no more than three, or four, or five each time.

One night when I was eating a plain Hershey Bar and feeding him his M&M’s, I became engrossed in the action on TV, and didn’t pay much attention to what I was doling out to him. Normally he gobbled up the M&M as soon as he saw it. I could hear him munching it without even looking at him.

You’ve probably experienced the situation where you’re suddenly aware something’s not quite as it should be. I hadn’t heard the crunching sound of the M&M, and quickly focused on Andy.

I had given him an almost whole Hershey Bar. Instead of eating it, he was staring intently at it, with his eyes literally as big as saucers. He must have been savoring the feast that lay before him. This occurred when he was younger, and I’m sure his nose had already told him this monstrosity in front of him was not unlike the M&M’s that I so meagerly gave him one by one.

I felt rather guilty in having to swap the Hershey Bar for a lone M&M. That much chocolate would have made him sick. He stared at the M&M, and the Hershey Bar now firmly in my hand. He spoke without speaking, telling me what I had done was totally unfair. In all the years Andy has been with us, other than his insistence on being told he’s pretty after a clip along with a contented face when he hears those words, the disappointment in his face at this time was the only other discernible expression on his face I have ever seen.

Andy’s current condition has caused one theatrical event, at least I assume that’s what you call it when the faces of tragedy and comedy get together. He was sleeping on the rug in the dining room, or so I thought. I was in a bedroom watching TV. I heard one yelp, and more in rapid fire order. When I ran into the room to find his problem, he had become wedged in an open loop of wrought iron, the framework of the dining table. He wasn’t in pain, but had worked himself in as far as his stomach, his chubbiness didn’t allow him to go further or back up. I tried to free him. There wasn’t enough clearance. He also decided my hands were a good target for his teeth. Finally, I was able to work one back leg out of the open side of the loop of wrought iron. Then the other. He was greatly relieved as I held him and rubbed his back. I asked him how he got in such a predicament. He offered no answers and no excuses.

Andy and I have grown old together. I’m not ready to give up, and neither is he.

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