There have been about ten dogs in my life that have been important to me, but none more important than three Shelties, Rappahonack (our first Sheltie, my daughter’s dog), Lujack and Gleason (two Shelties I got at the same time).
Gleason was the spunkiest of the three, a funny dog, who I named after the comedian, Jackie Gleason and a little town in Wisconsin where I found a hot-dog stand that served Chicago style hot dogs. Gleason was four years old when I adopted him from Wisconsin Sheltie Rescue. I’d originally gone there to see another sheltie named Hunter when a dog named Mickey stopped by to sniff me. His tail was bent sharply to the right, which made him look a bit different, but I thought he was beautiful. I think I fell in love with him when he laid down and fell asleep at my feet while I talked with Lisa, the Wisconsin Sheltie Rescue director.
Lisa and I were talking about the logistics of my adoption of Hunter who was playing with another dog, but I was looking at Mickey at my feet.
“Any chance I could adopt two dogs?” I asked.
Lisa smiled and I thought she was going to laugh at that idea, but she smiled because she liked people who liked Shelties and she liked the idea that I wanted two of them.
“Sure,” she said, “but Hunter might be enough dog for you to handle.”
“That’s alright, but I’d like to take both Hunter and Mickey.
A week later, the first week of December, Hunter became a part of my family and I renamed him Lujack after Larry Lujack, my favorite Chicago radio announcer. Three weeks later, two days after Christmas, Mickey joined us and I renamed him Gleason.
Nine months later I moved to California and took both dogs with me in the car. The trip was uneventful but whenever we stopped at a motel Gleason always inspected the room carefully, then sat at the door wagging his tail as if to say, it was nice of you to take us here, now let’s go home.
I’m always appalled when I hear that someone got rid of their dog because they were moving. I’ve lived in six different places in California and I’ve always managed to find places that would take dogs. Four of the places have been apartments, two have been houses. Often a homeowner that says he will not take a dog will agree to it once he meets you and finds out about the dog. Also, an apartment complexes rules are often not hard and fast, designed mostly to keep out dangerous dogs. If a person loves the dog, the person will find a way to keep the dog. The people who do not, don’t really love the dog and probably shouldn’t have gotten a dog in the first place.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how I believe Gleason and Lujack saved my life. Less than four months after I left the hospital I became even more convinced of that when Gleason got sick. He started coughing. First a few little coughs here and there, as if he had something caught in his throat. Then as the coughing increased he started wheezing. It got to be worse and worse. Within a week it became obvious a veterinarian was needed. When I brought him in I thought it was Bronchitis. I was hoping it would be something less severe. It was not. The vet ruled out Bronchitis almost immediately. Based on the blood tests he did, he thought it was probably a virus.
I was sent home with some prescriptions to fill and the hope that in 10 days Gleason would be over this and would be about as good as a 12 year old dog could be. One of the medications was a liquid that Gleason abhorred. I had to force it into his throat, but he would cough and spit out as much of it as he could. Two other medications, both pills had to be hidden in something such as a piece of bread or a soft treat; otherwise he would spit it out.
During this time he either refused to continue on our walk after he had relieved himself, or he refused to go out at all.
A week after seeing the vet he stopped eating. I had been crying off and on while this was going on, but when he refused to eat I knew it was probably over. I sat down and cried for more than an hour. Then I called the vet and made an appointment for that afternoon. Since our regular vet was off that day we saw a different doctor. She thought there was a chance he might survive, but I would have to get him to eat, she would run some tests and the treatment would probably have to be very aggressive. She took some more blood samples and gave me some other medications to give instead of what Gleason had been taking. An appointment was set to take some lung tissue samples in five days.
I managed to get Gleason to eat at least that day and each of the next four days, but each meal was different. Once he had eaten something he would not eat it again. On the fifth day he refused to eat anything.
I took him to the vet, but when I went to pick him up I noticed I missed a call on my cell phone. It was the vet she said they weren’t able to take the sample and that I should get Gleason. When I arrived she told me that he went into shock when she put the needle in to anesthetize him and that she was afraid she was going to lose him. Because of that it was too dangerous to try to get the lung tissue sample.
She gave me a new prescription for a steroid. The Vet said they had just given him one and if anything was going to help him the steroid would. I took him home and he rallied that night, jumping up onto the bed and for a moment I thought there was hope, but a few hours later he was wheezing terribly. He went into the living room for some reason, but when he returned he stumbled and walked into a wall. I knew his time had come so I eased him to the floor, and petted and talked to him for the next 20 minutes until he died.
I was heartbroken, but I was also very happy I could be there for him just as he had been there for me only a few months before. It was as if he stayed around to help get me through the roughest stretch of my life, that his reason for being here was complete.
I know Lujack missed Gleason and was lonely and confused for quite awhile after Gleason died. There were times when he seemed to be looking for Gleason or waiting for him, but in addition to me still being here it is also good for Lujack that I no longer have a job because he has a companion most of the day.
The day after Gleason died I put together a little video of him that I posted on the Internet. I play it every now and then. What surprises me is that Lujack has always barked at the sound of another dog barking whether the barking is coming from outside or from the TV, radio, or computer, but he never barks when I play Gleason’s video even though Gleason is barking through most of the video. I think he recognizes the bark as the bark of a friend.
Since then Lujack and I have moved. Again we live in a studio apartment with a fenced in yard, but this time Molly and her husband Eric live in the house across the patio from us. Lujack and I spend much of the day in the house or out in the yard and our nights in the studio. Now, in addition to me Lujack has two more people to play with and a fenced in yard.
Every day when we go out for our morning walk I thank the good Lord for sending me two Shelties to help make every day both more fun and even more worth living no matter what that day brings.