This week’s tale is not about golf.
It’s about a tail.
With a dog attached to it.
So if you don’t like dog stories, then you won’t like this, but what golfer doesn’t like dog stories?
Crash and Zeus. The Yellow and the Black Labrador Retrievers. Although Zeus is actually a cat in a lab coat. Aloof, unless he thinks you have food handy. Not especially fond of being petted. The antithesis of Crash.
Crash was the stereotypical, dorky, lovable, never-met-a-stranger yellow lab. He received what, in hindsight, was the perfect name by my wife’s youngest son. Crash would do just that as a pup- crash into things, crash down to sit, crash down to sleep. So Crash it was.
Even as an adult, chasing a bone or toy thrown inside, he likely as not would be stopped by a wall rather than his feet. And he always crashed (plopped is too polite and too calm a description) to lay down.
You always knew where Crash was.
Crash left us yesterday- the Monday after Easter.
The “Look” and the Bark
Raymond Floyd had a “look.” Pat Summit had a “look.” Your mom probably had a “look.”
Crash had a look, too. He talked with his eyes as much as with his bark. He had those big brown/black eyes that immediately said, “Zeus has to go out.” We called him the herald, because he always knew what Zeus needed- a trip outside, more water, a lost toy, whatever. He would find us, sit and stare. That look told us.
And it was a different look if Crash himself had to go out. Something about his eyes.
That sixth sense of his worked on people, too. A few years ago I had twisted my back and was an involuntary couch potato. He rarely did this, but that day, he jumped beside me, put his head in my lap, and just laid there with me. What dog knows to do that?
Unfortunately, those expressive eyes hadn’t been there the past few weeks. They were replaced by the bloodshot eyes of a coon hound. Which work fine on a coon hound, but not on a Yellow Lab.
He also barked like a coon hound, now that I think of it. Not a shrill, or piercing, or sharp bark. More of a “ooowwll”
“arrwwlll” bark. My wife got that bark every day when she came home from work. Her coming home from work was-to Crash- analogous to a soldier coming home from active duty. It was Groundhog Day exciting- every day.
Four other events elicited that mournful bark-The first event was the doorbell. The doorbell caused a massive bark-apalooza by both dogs. Much like when the telephone rings at the Bailey household in It’s a Wonderful Life, and the kids all yell “Telephone!” As if Mary Bailey couldn’t figure out what that ringing meant.
The other events were: Mealtime; the invitation to go for a walk; and the invitation to go for a ride in the car. The last two invitations to go for a ride in the car caused his ears to perk up, but that’s all.
Crash hadn’t barked in three weeks.
We went on a weekend golf trip to Kiawah about six weeks ago. When we picked him up from the kennel, he was limping a little but not enough to keep him from jumping in the car to come home. The next couple of weeks his leg got progressively worse, and a trip to the vet gave a suspected diagnosis of a tear of (a dog’s version of) his ACL. The animal hospital confirmed that. So he had some major reconstructive work done (TPLO Surgery for the Vets out there).
But he wouldn’t put weight on it. The first week, that was expected, but he should have by the second, and certainly by the third week. Meanwhile, the leg was slowly but noticeably shriveling. So back to the animal hospital. More x-rays which showed nothing wrong. And then a referral to an animal neurological specialist (No, I didn’t know there were such specialists, either). A CT scan found a probable ruptured disc/injured nerve in his lower back, which explained why he wouldn’t/couldn’t lower his leg. No one can say if it was related to, or independent from, the leg injury.
The specialist could do surgery that “might” correct it. But it would be almost two weeks later.
In the meantime, a barrage of drugs. Two pain meds, a high-powered steroid, and an anxiety pill. Enough- I thought, anyway- to medicate a horse, let alone a Lab.
Back Pain Sucks
I’ve had back pain. I had an L5 discetomy in August of 2001. I couldn’t stand, sit, lay down, sleep-pretty much anything- that spring and summer without being in pain. It was ever-present, sometimes ratcheting up a notch or two on the pain scale for no apparent reason.
Thank God and a talented surgeon at the Hughston Clinic in Columbus, Georgia, I got fixed. But I know what that pain feels like. I’m pretty certain that’s what Crash was feeling. Or maybe more severe than that. Who can say?
I can say that Crash’s pain meds didn’t really work. He was either heavily sedated, or in agony- a low whimper that escalated to a cry with every breath until the meds kicked in again. We were giving him some kind of pill every four hours to insure there wasn’t a lapse in coverage.
Redemption and Resurrection
If you believe in anything about Easter, it’s redemption and resurrection. We made the decision that Crash had suffered enough on Easter Sunday evening. Just like Jesus Christ, he was too young. Crash was two weeks shy of his seventh birthday.
It had been a rough weekend, and knowing it was going to be another ten days at best before the back surgery, and knowing that it might or might not work, and knowing he may never get full use of his injured leg, and knowing that there was a 12-week recovery period…I said we can’t do this to him any longer.
Crash and Zeus always started off every night on our bed. Then they would hop down (Well, Crash actually slithered, then…wait for it….crashed down on his dog bed). Since the surgery, he had been sleeping downstairs in a corner of the living room. He just couldn’t take stairs. Sunday night, I carried him up and he slept with us. We didn’t sleep much, but I think Crash felt normal for the first time in a few weeks.
On Monday, he had grilled chicken for his last meal- hand fed, as he was too weak to stand and eat.
Then we went to the Vet.
As he lay there, while the Doctor was easing all of his pain, I told him:
“Go after the French Poodles if you must, but don’t try and speak French. They see right through that.”
“Get all the belly rubs you want, but you’ll never get any as good as I give you.”
“You’ve never been very good at this, but when you’re humping another dog, try and make it a female. Not that you can do anything about it, but still, appearances are important.”
“I love you buddy. I’ll see you on the other side of the rainbow bridge, and we’ll take a long walk together.”
Goodbye Crasher Dog. You’re one in a lifetime.