18 January, 2012

Maddox And Me

We have a little boy dog named Maddox. He's six.

Well, that's not quite right. He's no longer a male. Oh ... and he's not really little - unless you call 130+ pounds of pure Yellow Labrador Retriever little. And I guess if the truth be told, he's not really ours; Maddox belongs to my younger daughter.

Maddox is the fifth dog in my life since I moved to New York in 1975. I arrived with a pure-bred Collie named Miss Bo Jangles and a 20 pound wonder mutt I adopted from the shelter in Virginia Beach in 1972. Bo was gone by 1977 having moved elsewhere, but Dixie was with me until 1989. She was my first dog and dearly loved. Such losses are rough.

Dixie disappeared a week before my wife, my two daughters, and I were due to travel to Italy. We searched everywhere including the shelter and the pound but couldn't find her. We were gone three weeks, and shortly after our return, the animal control folks called to tell us she had been found in a yard just down the street from us. She had evidently died of old age but happy and running with the wind - which was not a bad thing for a dog who was 121 dog years old.

This would not do, of course, for a family with two young daughters. We saw some puppies on television who were at a shelter in Rome. We soon returned with a new mutt, Tocco - not taco but Tocco, with long O's and named after the Abruzzi village where we had just stayed for a week. Unfortunately, Tocco had distemper, and after she had a couple of seizures, I had little choice but to have her put down. Notice the pronoun use has shifted from "We" to "I." Ugh. There was minimal angst after such a short time, but Tocco did need to be replaced. And quickly.

We traveled to Herkimer and soon had a pure-bred Black Labrador Retriever. She was to be named Tocco also. After all, how could you resist a name like Tocco II? Isn't that what Dorothy said? "And Tocco Two." Wait, maybe that was "and Toto too." Anyway, Tocco was with us for a good long stretch until her hips became problematic, and she could no longer stand. It wasn't the dysplasia of many large dogs but another problem, and the vet did not think that surgery would help.

Her loss was very difficult, and the memory of my last visit with her remains vivid. When I turned for one last glance and she wagged her tail, I swore there would be no more dogs. The good-byes are just too painful. With my daughters now into their twenties that was an easy decision and one that made our lives much easier.

Maddox Imitating the Luck Dragon

Then one day my younger daughter appeared in my office door. When I looked up from whatever I was doing, she said, "Mom says I have to tell you." Oh, dear. You can imagine all of the bad things that are running through my mind. Well, it wasn't any of those, but it was that she had purchased a puppy and would be bringing it home in a few weeks. Maddox has been with us for about six years now except for the two years he went to graduate school with my daughter in Mississippi.

Just over a year ago he had surgery on his left knee. Everyone who saw him limp said "oh, that's too bad, but big dogs get that hip thing." Nope. He had a problem with his knee; there's nothing wrong with his hips. The only real challenge was keeping those 130 pounds quiet for six weeks after surgery.

The condition had existed for about a year, and it was as if he had torn his ACL - except dogs don't have an ACL. If he got busy running or jumping, you know the next time he got up from a nap he'd be limping. Well, that's repaired now, and he's again terrorizing those Little Bunny Foo Foos who dare come into his yard. He doesn't discriminate though; he chases the birds too. And with equal success.

One more thing. It's about my decision never to have another dog. The research is pretty clear that petting a dog lowers your blood pressure, and I've been informed that when my daughter moves out, Maddox will be staying behind. It's a good thing I like him, but I also know that someday there will be a difficult moment. Such is life.