14

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.