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I’m being faced with a real dilemma at the moment.  My old, toy Maltese Terrier, Bobby is 15 years old.  Bob came into our lives 11 years ago when he was only four years old.  He was originally owned by an older lady who had to go into a nursing home so had to give him away when he was three.  A friend of mine took him for a year but he clashed with her dog so he came to us.

Now let me tell you, I didn’t want the dog.  I’m not really a dog person.  Yes they are lovely, no I wouldn’t hurt one but I didn’t want to own one.  I hadn’t had a good run with them so had avoided them.  I had a dog Pixie when I was little who had two pups called Whiskey and Soda.  We kept Whiskey and I have vague recollections of it but I was very young.  Those were the days when a dog was a dog.  They lived in the backyard, ate scraps from our own meals and were loved but not quite the members of the family they seem to be today.

When I first got married, we got a gorgeous Blue Heeler cross puppy and named her Comfort (after the drink Southern Comfort).  I was reminiscing about Whiskey so decided to make a new tradition of dogs with alcohol names.  I loved Comfort but she drove me crazy.  I’m not really patient enough to train kids let alone a dog so she used to get on my nerves although I loved her.  She once licked our kitten Haggis (he named her, not me) to death trying to be kind.  I went out to hear her crying in the backyard, and found her standing over Haggis, still licking her to try to wake her up.  She was a goofy dog but sweet natured.  When Comfort was about 8 months old, I was pregnant with Aimee and due to go for my weekly check up on a Tuesday.   I was about a day away from my due date.

I was in the lounge, she was out the back yard, when I heard a noise at the front door.  I opened it to find her there.  I went crook at her for being out the front as she had been locked in the back.  When I went to bring her in , I saw blood on her and my heart sank.  I had heard a car brake a minute or so beforehand and put two and two together and realised she had been hit by the car and dragged herself back home.  I cuddled her until  my ex husband walked in the door about 5 minutes later and  we wrapped her in a blanket and sped over to the vet. She had to stay in overnight and we were beside ourselves with worry.

The next morning, as I got ready for my ante natal appointment, he phoned the vet, only to be told that she had died of her injuries overnight.  I was gutted.  My ex cried the whole way in to the hospital for my appointment.  When I got in, my blood pressure was sky high (I wonder why) so they kept me in and induced me and I had Aimee the next day.  Of course, we were thrilled and in awe of our gorgeous baby girl but were completely saddened by the death of Comfort.  We didn’t get another dog for a long time after that.

After all the kids were born and old enough to enjoy a pet, we adopted Sherry (yes another alcohol name).  She was a beautiful bitsa with lots of labrador and Heeler in her.  The kids adored her.  She was in the backyard one day and disappeared.  We never saw her again.   We believe she was taken from the yard as she never wandered and was the most beautiful friendly dog.  After that I vowed and declared, no more dogs.

I kept that pact until we were being stalked by my ex after the divorce.  The hell we were living through made it necessary to get another dog.  Banjo was being given away and was once again a Heeler cross. She was a gorgeous dog again but with a big enough bark to hopefully alert us when there was someone in the yard.  Sadly after only having her a few weeks, she was taken from the backyard through a locked fence that had been broken into.  We knew what had happened as we heard my ex’s car that night but couldn’t prove it and the police wouldn’t investigate.  She was never found.

After Aimee died, I felt the boys needed a pet to give them something else to focus on so  along came Monty.. a Maltese shitzu.  He had attitude plus.   He barked a lot so I was told to try a citronella collar.. Every time it puffed dust in his face, he barked at it more.  If the boys fought, he’d get in amongst it. My mum had a granny flat in the backyard at the time and I asked her if she was feeding him through the day as he was getting fat.  She denied it.  I came home one lunchtime to find Monty scoffing a tomato and cheese sandwich.  I asked Mum if she gave him a sandwich everyday.  Sure enough she did, because he looked at her like he was hungry when she was eating so she made him whatever she was having.  She didn’t consider that to be feeding him, just sharing a sandwich.

He protected her like the Royal Guard.  If anyone walked in the back gate he would attack them.  He just adored Mum.  If the boys were cheeky to her he would growl at them.  The night Mum died, we knew her spirit had left her body before her heart stopped beating by the mournful cry Monty let out about 5 minutes before her death.  I wrote about that night in Astral Travels with my Aunt.  After her death, he never really recovered.  He became ill tempered.  When workers came to remove the granny flat, he attacked them all.  I had to lock him inside where he tore at the door trying to get out to save her flat.  In the long run, we felt it was best to get him right away from the situation and gave him to another family.  We made sure he was going to be loved and looked after.  A few months later, we heard from the people who took him and he had settled into their family and was a much loved member of it.

So I stuck to cats.  I had never had any luck with dogs and wasn’t going to put myself through any more angst.  Then one night, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted Bobby.  As I explained earlier, he was dominant with her dog and she felt it was unfair to her original dog.  Stuart begged me to let him have Bob.  Lachlan begged me not to.  I grudgingly agreed and so he came to us that night.  Lachlan didn’t want a dog, it was never going to be allowed in his room and if it got in his way, he was going to be mean and horrible to it.. I knew that wasn’t the case but  he was a typical teenager at the time.  Within a day, Bobby had decided he was Lachlan’s dog and they have been inseparable every since.

Don’t get me wrong, he adores Stuart as well but sees Stu as his brother.  Lachlan is his love.  He used to flutter his eye lashes at him constantly.  Lachlan would watch television and Bobby would watch Lachlan with loving eyes.  Bobby has always known I’m the boss though and would listen to me before either of the boys.  He listened to both their secrets and never told.  He shared his time between them and always went to the one he knew needed him the most.

When they both shifted out of home, they’d been away for about 6 weeks and then headed home for Christmas.  I went to the station to pick them up and when I walked in the door with them, Bobby started squealing and crying.  He cried and cried, jumping from one to the other.  Both boys ended up in tears at seeing how distraught he’d been without them. When I shifted to NSW, he was my travel companion.  He sat in the front passenger seat quietly.  He’d let me know if he needed a drink or the toilet but he loved the trips we did.  He has been colored blue and white every time my footy team Geelong gets into the grand final.  He lets my great nieces turn his ears and tail pink with food coloring.  He had his own superman cape and used to love to run quickly down the stairs so it flew behind him.  His favorite colors are pink, red and purple.  He always goes for toys of those colors first.  He is and always has been, the perfect pet. Quiet (not a yappy dog), well behaved but not wimpy.

When I stayed with my sister for a while, he fell in love with her husband Neal.  Neal got sick while we were staying there and Bobby became his guard.  He would sleep with Neal until he fell asleep then come back into me.  He’d leave again at about 5 in the morning to go back to Neal to make him think he hadn’t left.  If Neal laid down on the couch on his back, Bobby laid on his back. If Neal laid on his side, Bobby laid right next to him on his side.  He mimicked everything Neal did and just adored him.  When Neal passed away after a very short battle with cancer, Bobby fretted for ages.

When we shifted to the mountains, i could start to notice the changes in Bob.  He started to lose concentration easily.  He would do things out of character.  He would look at me some days and I knew he was confused in his head.  I assumed he was starting to get a bit of doggy dementia.  His eyesight has started to fade and he was just simply showing signs of aging.  A friend of mine did a healing on him a while ago and he certainly improved for a few months.

Within the last month though, we are seeing that he is not going to be with us for much longer.  He is almost completely blind now, he sleeps most of the day and he doesn’t want to spend time with us as he’s always done.  Somehow you just know without them being able to tell you, that they are simply life tired. So my dilemma is I now have to face when the time is right to have my beautiful little man put to rest.  It’s killing me to even consider it but I think it’s cruel to keep a dog alive if they don’t have any quality of life.  (I’m crying again just thinking about it)

I would much rather he just go to sleep one night and not wake up but he’s so faithful to us, I get the impression he’s holding on because he knows we’re not ready to lose him yet.  In the last week, I’ve noticed that his legs are starting to give out on him a bit, much like an old man gets doddery on his legs.  He can’t jump up to us like he used to so we have to pick him up to put him on the couch or our beds.  He had a bit of a stroke a few months ago and his tongue hangs out of the side of his mouth.  He has moments where he just paces because he can’t think of what he wants to do.  I know some people will think I’m imagining how he’s feeling but I know for sure he’s feeling lost.  I know my little man too well.

He’s asleep on the couch with Lachlan as I write this and I know it’s going to break all our hearts when the time comes.  When did I fall in love with this damn dog? Where did the last 11 years go?? Why do they have to win our hearts over just to have a reasonably short life span? Why didn’t I just keep my guard up and not let him under my skin??  I know for his sake we will have to make the decision within the next few months but I’m dreading having to make it.  I will make it though, when I feel the time is right, as I love him too much to let him suffer.  Owning a dog may be extremely rewarding but it also makes us vulnerable and break our hearts.

For now I’ll enjoy what time I have left with him.  I’ll probably still get annoyed when he can’t work out what he wants and wants to be let out and back in again.  But generally I’ll just let him sleep as long as he wants and potter in and out as he pleases..

Happy patting your dog…. Livvy 🙂

Master Robert