I wasn’t going to blog about this at all, but I ran across a couple of old photographs of Dino, and I realized that I need to share him and his story.
My ex-husband and I got Dino as a puppy in 2002. He was a purebred chocolate lab. Sweet, hungry all the time, a little dumb, definitely wiggly and, if you were lucky, a teensy bit cuddly.
Within a few months of him coming home with us, he started itching. BAD. Scratching so much that his skin bled. In fact, he was so itchy that he could barely stop scratching long enough to eat. If you’re at all familiar with the appetite of a labrador retriever, you’ll know – that’s DAMN itchy.
I took him to the vet, over and over and over again. We got antibiotics to fight the infections that all the scratching caused. We fed him yogurt to keep him from developing yeast infections from the antibiotics. We cooked his food to make sure he was getting no preservatives or allergens. We removed all the carpet in the house. Had the house checked for molds. Had him allergy tested by an internationally renowned animal allergy expert. Put him on antihistamines. Had him checked for every possible ailment. Over the course of two years, we saw seven different veterinarians, visited three experts, had him tested and re-tested, cooked his every meal from scratch, bathed him in prescription shampoos, gave him expensive prescription medications… and still, he scratched.
The only thing that worked was a low dose of prednisone. It didn’t keep him completely itch-free, but it helped. He could sleep and eat without frantic scratching.
But he smelled. He smelled something awful. I can’t even describe the smell – it was some kind of funk that gets stuck in every fabric it wafts near. It was barely controllable with bathing… mostly, he just stank. And his coat was greasy and unattractive. It made him really unappealing to visitors, even our friends and family. No one wanted to be near poor Dino.
When my ex and I separated, it was decided that Dino would stay with him – he had the fenced yard and doggy door, and worked mostly from home with very little traveling, while I was living in an apartment and traveling long distances almost every weekend. I would see Dino every few weeks, and occasionally had him over for long weekend visits – but mostly, he was not my dog anymore.
Years later, he became my dog again – it was to be a brief (several month) stay while my ex relocated and got ready to take him back. It was so nice to have a dog again… especially my dog, the one I’d picked out as a puppy. As smelly and greasy and ill-mannered as he was (and check out those claws that his daddy never trimmed – sigh), he was still my dog. Man did I ever love him.
He was old. He was old, and much sicker than he’d ever been before. Whatever it was that made him itchy all these years was worse than ever. He was losing some of his functions – the prednisone took several years off his life, and he really wasn’t doing so well. A little senile, a little crotchety, and still a lot itchy. Things went downhill pretty quickly, and it was strongly recommended that he be put down, as he was completely miserable.
That was probably the hardest thing I have ever done.
It’s been a couple months now. I see Dino in every chocolate lab I run across. Dumb and silly and hyper and just *itching* (har, har) for attention.
So that was the story of his health. Now let’s talk about Dino, the dog.
He smiled almost all the time. He hardly ever barked, but he jumped on visitors mercilessly because he just plain didn’t care about being yelled at. He answered to ALL of our nicknames for him – Mr. Womps, Professor Brown, Doctor Brown, Womper-Doo, Doobie-Doo, Dino-Womps, Fats (he gained a lot of weight from the prednisone), and sometimes we’d even call him Dino. He wanted nothing more than to sleep at the foot of my bed with his bone right next to him, safe and comfortable and loved. He was a big, slobbery, brown mess with terrible manners (he would occasionally rest his head on my knee and look up at me with puppy dog eyes, and then belch. Loudly.), an impossibly long tongue, and a big, dumb, perma-smile. He was awesome. He was pure dog, exactly the way dogs should be. Except, you know, for the itching and the declining health.
Dino made it all the way to nine years old before he left us. When we first started him on his routine medication, they warned us that he may not make it to seven. We were lucky. Dino wanted to stick around a little longer than they expected him to. He was always very stubborn.
The other day, someone asked me about him. It was the first time I said out loud that he’d died. I shocked myself when the words came out of my mouth. I guess when someone is in your life for almost a decade, it takes a while to believe that they’re gone. I still sometimes think that maybe he ran away, and he’s rooting through someone’s garbage looking for discarded panties to eat the crotch out of. You know, a little heaven on earth for the Wompers. That’s where I like to think he went off to, anyway.
Goodnight, Professor. We miss you.