Requiem for a Neurotic Dog

Our Toy Fox Terrier, Spunky, may not have been as ancient as Uncle Chichi, purportedly the world’s oldest dog who passed away at either age 24, 25 or 26 (depending on the source) on Tuesday, but he was definitely pretty old when he shuffled up them Golden Stairs this last week.

We figure he had to be at least 15 or 16, since we acquired him (read:  were talked into taking him by our daughter, his rescuer) in February of 1997.  He wasn’t a puppy then, so he must have been somewhere around a year or two old when we adopted him into our already dog-filled lives.

You see, in our 35 years of marriage we’ve been the ultimate suckers for abandoned and abused animals.  Mainly dogs, but the last few years we’ve expanded into the feline realm.  Currently we have six of those.

(It would be laughably easy to turn into The Crazy Cat Person.  I don’t say “Cat Lady” because my husband is probably more gaga over cats than I am—and that’s saying something since he originally wasn’t what you’d call a “cat person.”  Now, if he comes home from a trip to Walmart without a new cat toy for the two indoor cats, I’m tempted to take his temperature to make sure he’s not ailing.)

But back when we got Spunky, our lives were dominated by canines.  We had four “outside” dogs—all Collie mixes.  Three were siblings and the fourth was the mother, whom we had discovered lying by the gate to our place out in the country in California.

She’d been dumped on our road (unfortunately a common occurrence since we were not too far from Sacramento) and was really thin, with bald patches in her fur and was only one or two weeks away from delivering what turned out to be a litter of ten puppies.

Needless to say, we found homes for five of the eight puppies that survived and kept three ourselves, plus the mother.

Over the course of the next couple of years we also adopted a mini-Dachshund from the animal shelter and then a Chihuahua.  All six of our dogs made the trip to Texas with us when we moved here in 1996.

We all traveled together in our Ford Econoline van and spent the night at a rest stop on the border of Arizona and New Mexico.  When we took the dogs out in the morning, a lady who’d been parked next to us with her two Chihuahuas looked on us in amazement as one after another of the dogs came out of the van, reminiscent of one of those clown cars at the circus.  She said “You’ve got a real herd there!”

So, when my daughter called from Houston in 1997 during a visit to friends and asked if we would be willing to take another “Chihuahua” that was living a miserable life with two little kids and an overbearing Boxer dog, what else could we say except for “yes”?

The “Chihuahua” turned out to be a Toy Fox Terrier.  Kind of the same thing, but then again–not really.  He was nervous, not particularly affectionate, and it was hard to tell if he was happy because someone had docked his tail so close it was essentially non-existent.  Not much to wag there.

I really don’t know if he had a happy day in his whole life because he always looked kind of anxious and worried.

Sort of the Woody Allen of dogdom.

Plus, the other little dogs of ours did not cotton to him—at all.  There definitely was a pecking order, and he was at the bottom.  But, since he was so neurotic, I think he liked it that way.

Long after the other two passed away, he would always want us to go through what became a mealtime ceremony for him—the ritualistic “taking away of the food bowl.”  He wouldn’t eat unless one of us pretended to try to take his food from him so he could pretend to snap and snarl at us and ultimately “win” his prize.

I told you he was different.

So, last week old age, cataracts, deafness and general senility caught up with Spunky and we (meaning my husband) had to take him for that last trip to the vet.

Today we got a nice sympathy card from them, along with a doggie angel pin to remember him by.  I think that was really thoughtful of them to do that.  Our vets here have been great.

So even though Spunky didn’t live as notable a life as Uncle Chichi, it was a pretty good one.

Even for a neurotic.

Spunky as "spokesdog" for t-shirts my daughter created a few years ago.

Warming his behind in the kitchen of our previous old house in Texas.

Tolerating the proximity of Culvey, one of our indoor cats.

14 thoughts on “Requiem for a Neurotic Dog

  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful ‘Spunky’ story – and may he RIP. Being a real ‘cat (& all animal) person’ myself, I can sort of identify with you.

    Until a about 4-5 months ago, I did have 5 beautiful, indoor cats — the oldest one was 23 years old. He finally got to the point where we (he and I) both knew it was time. Not an easy choice after having spent a good part of my life with him, but it was the right choice. I still get tears thinking about him.

    And then, a couple of months later, my 16 year old kitty (I had since she was 4-5 weeks old), was not doing well. I found out she had some sort of cancer, so that was another sad decision that had to be made. I could not imagine letting her to go through all the suffering any longer.

    I now own (or am owned by) 3 cats. I keep telling myself – “No More Cats” – and then someone or other has one that needs a home — and this ‘crazy-cat-lady’ seems to be their 1st choice. Of course, I can not ever turn them down. Love them all.

    Sorry about rambling on here, for so long. Have a happy evening.


    • Thanks for your “crazy cat lady” story! It really is hard to see our pets become older and have to suffer all the problems that go along with that. The decision to end that suffering is never an easy one, no matter how many times you have to make it. And your comment about being “owned” by your cats is too true!

      Thanks for stopping by. Y’all come back.


  2. Sorry to hear that Spunky has met his day. You all have provided everything that an insane pup could have wanted. You figured the game and played it well. He was much loved.

    We’re on the brink of retirement and now have one cat that is just so pleased that her brother of 15 years died this summer. She’s been waiting all of this time to be the Queen in Residence. She does it well.

    Having said that, I am, at heart, a dog lover. I can only say however neurotic Spunky was, he loved that you all loved him that way. Pets, dogs in particular, open us to the worst side of ourselves and also all of the very best loving and caring sides of ourselves. Oh, loving a dog, and being loved back, not much better on earth.


  3. Oh, our last past cat, Nelson, was a whore for heat. The furnace would click on and he’s just go and get a butt buff of warm air from the forced hot air vent. Warming his brains, I guess. He was a good boy cat and I miss him. We’re not taking on any other pets though. Retirement is looming and we don’t want the the heartbreak again. Really, I’m sorry for your loss.


  4. Could there be a correlation between blogging and pets that could be explored? We could do one of those online poll widgets. (My research needs are apparently clamoring to be met lately.) Anyway, if there’s a pet/blog interface, I’m an outlier. One perfect dog, who lived to be 16 and who was foisted on me by my husband’s belief that his kids should have a puppy, was it for us. I have vicariously adopted literally scores of pets in the blogosphere via my blogroll, however.

    Condolences for your loss of the ironically named Spunky. Small dogs surely do love a space heater.


  5. I love the photo of Spunky warming his behind. Maybe that’s what had happened to his tail. And the t-shirt! A GEM!!! The food wrestling ritual sounds hilarious. If you ever had to board him, I can imagine that would be difficult to explain to the staff.

    Anyway, my sincere sympathies on the passing of the Woody Allen of dogdom.


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