Friday, August 21, 2009

cerberus takes a holiday

You can't get a porter to help you with this type of baggage.

The emotional kind.

The gut-wrenching telephone call in the middle of the night. Smoke coming over the hill from the valley of your little home town.

Or bloody diarrhea. (Sorry about the word, but there is no way to get around it.)

Last week, I took Jiggs for a walk. He obviously did not want to go very far.

That did not surprise me. His left rear leg has been giving him a rough time. So rough that he needed my help to get up off the floor, and to carry him up and down the stairs at the house.

I had decided to take him to the veterinarian after our walk. But then it happened.

I grabbed a sample, put Jiggs in the truck, and we were on our way to Manzanillo to see the veterinarian.

The veterinarian was very encouraging. Simply an intestinal infection. A week's worth of antibiotics should clear it up.

That was Saturday. Even though he kept drinking his water, Jiggs stopped eating his dry food. I tried everything. By hand. Dampening it. Trying to prime his appetite with bread. Nothing worked.

The odd thing is, he would eat the bread. And he would eat a small amount of canned food.

That went on for four days. On the fifth day, for no apparent reason, he broke his fast. He ate his full dinner. You can see by the photograph that he has his old spirit back -- and a good portion of his Oregon haircut.

Last Sunday in
hello, dollars, I set out my expenses over the past three months. Almost 20% of the total was for Jiggs -- the largest portion going to veterinarian bills.

Owning a senior dog is not a cheap proposition.

Tonight I went to dinner in Barra with my professorial neighbor. We rambled through such topics as Aristotle, how the mind processes information, the future of Mexico -- the usual dinner conversation banter.

At one point, while discussing the dog, he turned to me and said: "You know, you are doing a very noble thing. It is not easy to care for an old dog."

I found the adjective strange. Noble. Perhaps, from the outside looking in, it is.

But I truly have no moral choice to do other than what I am doing. Professor Jiggs has given me the best years of his life. And he still is banking those dollars in his old age. The fact that he insists on being near me at all times is as touching as any experience I have had in my life.

I thought about leaving him behind in Oregon -- because the trip would be too hard for him. And it was a rough trip. Just as this heat and humidity has been rough for him.

But I suspect that if he had a vote in the matter, he would have chosen to come live the adventure.


Nah. Paul Anka knew the answer. It's just puppy love.


Anonymous said...

You are good man.

Mic said...

Looking good!! As it cools, I'm sure he is going to perk up more....and by next summer, will be more climatized to the heat. Then you might need to get him some jackets and booties if your sojourn takes you into the cool dampness of higher his blood will have thinned from the coastal heat.

But, yes, it's clear he'd rather be with you where ever that is.

Anonymous said...

Noble is a good word to describe what you are is also loving, generous, kind, heartwarming, poignant and, at times, tedious and expensive.

Not everyone has it in them to do what you are doing....myself included.

Islagringo said...

You had me scared and crying by the time I got half way through this! I thought for sure this was it. Certainly glad it wasn't...for both of you. You have certainly encapsulated the reason why we love dogs in this post.

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Awww, LOVED this post!
My time with my old best friend ended a couple of months ago, you're right, it's not easy. And it is noble, and you are a great doggy dad.
Jiggs is very lucky guy and I bet he knows it.

Larry in Mazatlan said...

Anonymous, above, used all of the words save for one; obligated. I too have an elderly dog who is 12 years old. She also came to Mexico with me. I couldn't leave her behind because I owe her so much. She was my best friend for a number of years and helped me get though a difficult divorce. She showed me it was worth living.

I owe her my life, and will never forget it. So, yes, obligation is also part of it.


Babs said...

OK this was a tear jerker. I remember when Flash got into rat poison and they said she was going to die. I went to pieces. I laid in the cage with her and fed her from a tongue depresser. No one would ever believe that I would do such a thing. She lived five more years and was such a gentle friend.
She's been gone 5 years and I wish I had her here to take care of. She would be 18 now.
Keep on keepin on til the end. You'll never regret it......

Steve Cotton said...

Min -- I wish that was true. But I try to do what is right.

Mic -- Thanks. Wherever I go, I know he will be tagging along. Right now, he is barking at me to come down stairs.

Islagringo -- Thanks. When the time comes to write the bad news post, I will be certain to let folks know what it is up front. Jiggs, of course, is convinced that I will die before him.

Mexican Trailrunner -- Jiggs and I have a very odd adversarial relationship. For 13 years, we have vied for the alpha dog position. I guess you could say we are co-alphas. (Don't tell him I said that. He'll rip out my throat.)

Larry -- "Obligated" is one of those words like "duty" that I have generally removed from my vocabulary. If I cannot do something out of love, it generally will not get done. But I know what you mean.

Babs -- One of these days we need to sit down and swap dog tales.

Anonymous said...

I had two old dogs, mother and daughter, who I was afraid to take to Mexico (Barra de Navidad) but I finally relented and the doggies loved the trip, loved their walks in our Mexican neighborhood and most of all loved being with me. The daughter died in 2008 at 13, and her mom died in 2009 at 14. I was so lucky to have such great dogs for such a long time. Their medicines and vet bills in their old age were very costly and worth every penny to me. Both my dogs are buried in our backyard in Barra.

I'm glad you're still having adventures with Jiggs!

glorv1 said...

I definitely agree with Larry. Nobility is one thing but obligation is where it takes over. There could be no other way. Looking back at all the years you and Mr. Jiggs have had together, the heartwarming times that will remain long after Mr. Jiggs has left. There is no other way but to remain dedicated to your "family pet member" as he has done for you "all his life." That is the responsibility that comes when someone brings a family pet member to live in the household. I could say I applaud you for doing what you are doing, but no....Mr. Jiggs will count on you forever.We all know that you will be there for him. Well I could applaud a little...:::clap::: :D I'm glad Jiggy is a little better. Give him a big squeeze for me and tell him I love him. Have a great weekend.

glorv1 said...

I forgot to say that the picture of Jiggs above is looking pretty good. He really looks happy.

Nancy said...

I am a dog lover. We spent over $3,000 US keeping our scottish terrier alive for a little over a year. I took off work one morning every week to drive 100 miles to the vet so he could have chemo. I was determined to give him every day he could have. And then one day I realized that I was doing it for me. That I needed him. And really, more than he needed me. Or that he loved being alive. I mean truly, dogs do live in the present.

I learned a lot from that experience. That I love sharing my life with my dogs, and that I am willing to spend money and time to care for them.

But I also learned that you can go too far, spend too much and obsess too much. I wasn't really fair to Angus. I wish there had been a way to ask him what he wanted! The answer might have surprised me.

I just thought I'd tell you that.

Anonymous said...

Claro que si you would do anything in your power to ensure the quality of life for your friend Prof. Jiggs.
Anyone that has ever loved a pet will understand this. I feel sorry for those who do not.
I'm glad his illness wasn't more serious. I'd say the Prof and you were both lucky to find each other.

BoBo's Mom said...

I agree. It is not a choice. But a lot of people, even some pet owners, do not get that. Jiggs is so lucky to have you, and likewise for you to have him. Glad to see a photo of Jiggs. He's looking great!

Steve Cotton said...

Anonymous -- Eventually, I am going to have to face the burial issue. But not today.

Gloria -- I gave your hug to Jiggs. In return, he sent a smile to you.

Nancy -- Wise words. And I have been trying to work them into my care for Jiggs. This past week when I was carrying him up and down the stairs, I was convinced that the pain must be terrible for him. And I could make a decision to have it stop. I have been watching his face and attitude. The dog has one of the strongest life forces I have ever seen. The moment that it is obvious that he is no longer getting joy from life, I know what I need to do. I also know there is not a reader of this blog who will not know when it is time. As always, I thank you for your wise advice. I will probably be looking for more before too long.

Francisco -- He really has been my best friend for these past 13 years.

Joanne said...

I started a couple of posts and deleted them. All I can say is that I understand. Hugs to Jiggs.

Steve Cotton said...

Bbo's Mom -- He really is looking good. Especially, after all he has been through. He hates cameras. Whenever I can get a photograph where he does not look like a surly teenager, I feel victorious.

Steve Cotton said...

Joanne -- Thanks. Yours were words enough.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Steve, I think that bringing Jiggs to Mexico has probably helped him, yeah you spend "a lot" of money on him, but if this was nob, it would have been even more, at least here you don't need to take out a loan to pay for his vet bills. But really what is a money for? I am cheap as they come, but we decided to put Mr Dog back on the expense dog food because he is healthier on it (now he is eating Science Diet as per his vet's recommendation), almost $1000 pesos for 30 pounds which is insane considering our monthly income.
I am so glad that the Professor is in Mexico with you for both of your sakes!

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks, Theresa. You are correct. I do not begrudge a single peso I have spent on him.

New Beginnings said...

Great shot of the camera shy Jiggs. He has a strong surviving spirit! J & J send sloppy kisses.

Steve Cotton said...

New Beginnings -- Strong spirit, indeed. If I get to 100, I hope I have the same elan.

Melissa said...

You know, I don't think what you do for the Professor is noble. I mean, doing something noble is implying that you are choosing the high road. You really don't have a choice in the matter when you have shared your life with such a special boy. You just do it. My heart aches for you as you help Profe through his golden years, and reading your posts gives me a glimpse of what I will go through with my little man.

mdoneil said...

That is the nice thing about having no moral choice... you have no choice.

I am happy Jiggs is feeling better. I truly think of this as more his blog than yours as the first post I read a year or two ago was about the Professor. I've been checking in on him since.

Steve Cotton said...

Melissa -- My neighbor was making the point that most people would have had Jiggs put down some time ago. And several of my friends have made that case for the past year and a half. As you have said, though, that was not an option or me then. He still has a lot of life left in him. The moment I see that change, I will then have to be the person who makes the adult decision. Until then, we are sharing a nice life together.

mdoneil -- I learned early on with ths blog (within the first week I started writing it: that Jiggs would be the star of the whole enterprise. And that was just fine with me. He has provided me with friendship -- and piles of writing material. We went to the veterinarian today, and will be trying some new pain medication for his back legs. He seems to be doing all right today.