Monday, August 11, 2008

paws in the sand

Factor #10 -- long walks with Professor Jiggs before breakfast and after sunset

Any parent who has ever tried to take a photograph of an unwilling child can appreciate the result posted here. My good pal, Professor Jiggs, has never liked cameras. His portraits look as if they were made during one of those 1950s duck and cover exercises.

For 12 years, he has been a major part of my life. If you were to listen to him, I never do anything with him. But I have tried to modify my life to take him with me wherever I go. As a result, I have turned down many engagements over the years.

The beach is (or was) his favorite spot to visit. The sand. The surf. The birds. But, most of all, the smells. For several years, I would drive to the beach with him every Saturday morning and we would spend hours enjoying the simple pleasures of the ocean. I credit Jiggs with teaching me the value of simple things. Sticks. Salty breezes. A plover on her eggs.

When Paul and Nancy moved to Mazatlán with their dogs and talked about evening walks along the beach, I knew there was an additional reason to move to Mexico. Of course, the timing would need to be modified for the heat. No big deal. Jiggs and I already have a routine of taking walks early in the morning and late at night.

Then time started taking its toll on him. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that last December he suffered the start of a series of leg problems. It was bad enough in December that I thought I would have to put him down then. Trouper that he is, he has managed to work around his limited use of his back legs.

It cannot go on much longer. The cortisone shots are coming far too close together. He can climb stairs, but he cannot jump out of my truck. When I took him to the veterinarian on Friday, the doctor had to come out to the truck to conduct his examination.

One of these days I will post something on how my generation has managed to over-sentimentalize our relationships with pets. I am certainly one of the worst offenders, and I can even find the point in my life when it began.

At least twenty years ago, I read one of those human interest stories that usually populate the Living section of newspapers. I do not recall the topic of the column, but the writer made a passing reference to looking into the imploring eyes of her dog, with whom she had spent joyous stick-fetching years at the beach, and seeing that the time had come to put him down. I remember thinking: "I wish I could have a dog to experience a moment like that."

I hope I did not spend these last 12 years with Jiggs just to lead up to that one terrible moment that has yet to occur. But occur it will -- and soon. Probably, sooner than my move to Mexico.

Is this factor still important to me?

I really don't know.

Grade for Melaque:


Melaque is a great beach town for dogs. I posted pictures earlier of two Irish Setters and a German Shepherd who regularly played on the beach in front of the house where I intend to stay.

However, there are dangers for any dog in Melaque. Many of the street dogs are very territorial and will attack to show their dominance.

All of that assumes that I will have a dog with me. I doubt Professor Jiggs will make the trip -- even if he is still alive.

But I can certainly take those walks. And think of how much he would enjoy each step and smell.

And there is always the possibility of bringing another dog into my life. But it is far too early to think about that.

Right now, I need to stop typing and take my joy boy for the walks he still enjoys.

Next post:
living outside of a car


islagringo said...

I think we have all come to love your love for Prof Jiggs. And having been where you are now, we all know the heartbreak that is facing you. I don't envy you that but I do envy that you have a friend as wonderful as Prof Jiggs.

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks, Wayne. This morning he is doing great. I will not worry about tomorrow.

Babs said...

Ah Steve my heart goes out to both of you! I have NEVER been as attached to an animal as I was to Flash and when I make my altars on Day of the Dead now, I always put her collar and her kerchief in with everyone else who has gone on.......she brought me 16 years of happiness and aggravation, sometimes.

Steve Cotton said...

Babs -- You may have hit on a reason why some pet relationships are closer. Even though I was put off by much of Merle's Door, the notion that when we treat our animals less like dogs and more like friends, we tend to build stronger relationships. As an example, my father would never have allowed Jiggs to be as willful as I have. I tend to treat him as a room mate. As a result, he treats me like an interloper in his life. (This may be another one of those reasons why I am still single.)

1st Mate said...

Steve - he really is a beautiful dog and worthy of all your love. I'm glad he's having a good day, and I wish him many more of them. It is sad that dogs' life spans are so much shorter than ours. But I long ago decided though I may not always have a man in my life, I will always have a dog.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Steve, I hope that Prof Jiggs makes it to Melaque, because the heat might help him. Seriously,Mr Dog was developing arthritis in Sunny Cal but here he doesn't act like he has it. Now he is 9 but acts much younger.
I know several people with degenerative disc disease and/or arthritis with the heat and humidity they feel much better than they ever did NOB, to the extent that they are cutting back on their need for pain meds.
The big hump will be transporting him. We chose to drive because we didn't want Mr. Dog to ride in a cage in luggage.

Steve Cotton said...

Theresa -- I plan on driving down for my first 6 months. I want to have a car available for archaeological trips -- and , if Jiggs can, it will be the only way to get him there. I doubt he would survive a trip in an airplane hold.

If he is still with us this time next year, the heat may be good for his joints. THis summer, he has spent most of his day sprawled on the grass. Admittedly, he seeks the shade, but he seems to like the warmth.

Bliss -- Jiggs is a great dog. He and I have our moments with one another -- simply because I have allowed him to be wilful. I will miss him. But not now. Now I will enjoy his company.

glorv1 said...

The title of your post is beautiful and I kind of think of Chorizo as "paws in my soul." Jiggs portrait is wonderful, he is who he is, magnificent. Oh wow, the memories you have with Professor Jiggs will always be with you, no matter where you go, or what you do. How wonderful that you are deicating whatever time you have to give comfort to your "soulmate." Because that is what he is now, and always will be a part of you. I want you to know that you have one of the best gifts in life, the love of your dog. I think I am getting emotional now, because the tears are welling up and my heart cries for my Chorizo. I ordered her sign today, there will be pictures on it to. It will be nice. Take care and continue to stay close to Jiggs, he needs you, and he loves you.

Babs said...

Interesting comment from Theresa because I justhad the opposite experience. Here in San Miguel our humidity is seldom over 30% and in the 50's at night and mid to high 70's during the day.....well remember I just went to Houston where the humidity is 97%, maybe a little lower, sometimes, and the temps were in the 90's - WOW, what pain from the arthritis I have, the area where I had my knee operated on about 5 years ago and my hip! I bop around here with NO pain and when I was in the heat and humidity, I was in agony! I was amazed.......
I'm back here and ALL of that pain is gone!

glorv1 said...

By the way, I backtracked on some of your postings and your precious Jiggs is always a part of your thoughts. You have a great blog.

Steve Cotton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Cotton said...

Too many spelling errors in my last post. I could not stand it.

Gloria -- I never thought I would get emotionally attached to an animal like I am attached to Jiggs. As he gets older, he also is getting more attached to me. I often think I do not mention him often enough in my blog. I am glad you could find him there.

Babs -- Heat and humidity seems to affect people differently. I tend to swell up in the tropics (rather, my wrists do; my tropics remain quite fine, thank you), but my wrist pain disappears. Go figure.

BoBo's mom said...

What a great post Steve!! I love reading your stories about Professor Jiggs. I also have a golden and I totally understand what you meant by having a willful dog. My golden was diagnosed with a pretty nasty oral tumor when she was just over 6 yrs old. I was very devastated at the time. Who knew two and a half years later that she gets to celebrate her 8th birthday today!! I guess my point is you never know. Prof Jiggs could beat all odds and be moving down to Mexico with you next year. I hope he continues to do well. And thanks for sharing his stories on your blog.

Steve Cotton said...

bobo's mom -- Thanks for the comments and the encouragement. Jiggs has defied all the odds. He is a very big golden -- tall and long. With the attitude to match. By all rights, I should have expected only 10 years with him. The last two years have been a special blessing. These last eight months a daily reminder how precious life and relationships are. We are taking it all one day at a time right now. Best of wishes from Jiggs to Bobo.

Sans said...

Kind of the same lines....we brought our dog down to Mexico with us, she was only 2 years at the time, but we chose to leave a cat behind. She was not in great health, (bad kidneys) and 18 years old. I was lucky to be able to leave her at the home of a good friend who happens to be a veterinarian. She is still not in great shape, but alive and kicking! I regret leaving her everyday in some way, but I also don't think that she would have survived the trip and is living a better and longer life for it. OOooohhh...this all sounds horrible...I am not trying to discourage you....only you really know Prof Jiggs and his limitations. I really hope that he can make the trip, the climate could very well help him and I know he would enjoy it! (sorry for blabbering)

Steve Cotton said...

Sans -- Thanks for the empathy. It helps to hear how others have dealt with geriatric pets. I am keeping my options open on Jiggs. He was very lively tonight, but he purposely cut his evening walk shirt. The cortisone only helps so much.

Cynthia Johnson and Mike Nickell said...

Steve - if you go back to our very first post you'll notice that our decision to bring Sitka with us was HUGE. We had 2 different large dog loving friends that were willing to take her. But even though she is 10, with a thyroid condition (2 pills a day) and her hips are weak (1 pill every other day) and her skin is flaky (1 tube of stuff every other day) there was no way in the world we could just pack up and leave her. And we could not have made a better decision. Not only is she our friend, she "protected" us through the many Mexican check-points and I have no qualms about walking her in Guaymas el Centro ANY time of the day/night. I don't know what we'll do when her time comes, but I'm glad it will be in Mexico.

Steve Cotton said...

Cynthia and Mike -- It is odd that you mention the role Sitka played on your trip down. When you started facing diffuiculties in Mexico City, I was amazed at how calmly Sitka took everything -- and I imagined Jiggs in the same situations -- acting much the same. Our dogs are often our anchors. Thank you for sharing. And now I need to take my boy for a truncated walk.