Monday, November 17, 2008

Special Needs

My dog, Cyrus' Veterinarian is the House Call Vet. He calls Cyrus a Special Needs dog. Those of you who've been reading me for awhile have heard Cyrus' story before, so if you know all this, skip this part. Cyrus was either born in a "shelter" or was dropped off there when he was very young. He's a lovely Rottie mix but spent his first nine years in that "shelter." I put quotes around the word shelter in this context, because there is some question as to whether the woman who ran the shelter was running a legitimate shelter or was just a hoarder and animals were part of what she was hoarding.

At first her house and shelter was located in a suburban part of Tucson. As the number of pets grew, so did the discontent of her neighbors. She was reported to authorities and eventually moved her shelter to an area in the desert about 200 miles from any populated area, and thus it was also 200 miles from a veterinarian or doctor. She was in her late forties when this move happened. Her records were sketchy, so not much is known about the health care or behavioral problems of her animals. When she was in her mid fifties she died suddenly. Her family kept calling and getting no answer or return call. They eventually called the authorities and it was discovered that she was dead and all her animals were in desperate straits. That's when Best Friends stepped in and rescued all her animals.

At this point Cyrus probably got his first real medical attention. He was bathed and groomed, probably for the first time in his life. He was anesthetized and given a thorough going over. His teeth were cleaned and a few extractions were done. It was discovered that he had arthritis in his hips and that one of his legs was at risk of needing an ACL repair. They discovered a thyroid problem. And true to any creature with a thyroid problem he was over-weight. He was ID chipped. He was found to be a sweet natured dog, and with a little socialization was deemed ready for adoption. But Cyrus would need just the right home. Cyrus was depressed.

It's hard to find people who will take an old dog. Most people want a puppy. Or if not a puppy, a well trained one or two year old. But I love old dogs. I'm a bit of an old dog myself. So after many calls and much time spent on the internet, we arranged a day when they were having an adoption event at one of the suburban Petcos. They did not tell me the size or breed of Cyrus. The reason for this oversight is that they had arranged for me to adopt another dog, who, at the last moment, exhibited behavior that make her unadoptable, so Cyrus was a bit of a last minute substitution. And in truth, I think they were afraid I would say no to such an enormous dog with health problems. His medication costs very close to $100. a month. Now I've added supplements to his diet, which brings the monthly pill cost to over $100 a month. This is a wild extravagance, but I would go without cable TV if my budget got that tight, and it is close to that now.

When I first saw Cyrus he looked depressed. In the midst of Petco, surrounded by thirty other animals there for the adoption event, he was lying flattened, head down. The only indication that he wasn't sleeping was the open eyes, tracking the activity. When I told the woman from Best Friends my name, she started crying. She reached across the table and hugged me. "We are so grateful to you. So few people will take an older dog. But you will really love this dog."

Best Friends gave me a two month supply of his meds. and about a weeks supply of his food. They'd had him on Kirkland kibble and mixed it with a bit of canned food to moisten it some. He was on a diet, so I was told exactly how much to feed him twice a day. So far so good. He came with me without any resistance, but I thought right then that Cyrus was a profoundly depressed dog. I had his medical records, complete with dental x-rays and copious notes--all of which has been very helpful to the House Call Vet.

I'm something of a recluse. I have my own mental health issues, and one of them is that I feel slightly agoraphobic when I leave my property. It's doable but I'm never completely at ease out in the larger world. This is probably a result of early abuse. I always preferred to play alone in my room and was forced to go outside to play with other children. Bipolar disorder has probably made this tendency toward agoraphobia more pronounced. But with Cyrus, I felt it was important to take him for a short walk twice a day. He was docile on his leash and would walk with me very nicely. He seemed interested in his surroundings, did a lot of pee trumping, and paid close attention to his environment. He was nice when we passed other dogs out walking with their people. And then one day while we were out, we heard what sounded like gunshot. Cyrus turned and started to drag me back home. He weighs about the same as I, so when he is pulling on the leash, I am the one being led. There is almost no stopping him. I did manage to get him to stop. I crouched down beside his head and talked calmly to him. He was trembling all over. And I then realized that he was not able to listen because he was terrified. We came home very quickly and he has refused to budge from the property ever since. He will go outside to do his dogie business, morning and night, but that's it.

The month of July was a nightmare for Cyrus. I contacted Best Friends and talked with their trainer. She said to put him on Melatonin and sent me an article about dogs with fear problems. We have no idea if Cyrus was ever shot at or if it's just the "normal" fear of a dog who is noise sensitive, but Cyrus and I are two of a kind. Both Best Friends and our House Call Vet have assured me that I have not made Cyrus crazy. Cyrus was raised in a crazy situation. He has lots of face scars so has probably been in some nasty dog fights--too many dogs in a too small area with too little supervision or training. And now if Cyrus is outside for his first pee of the day and has just lifted his leg, and a car off in the distance backfires, Cyrus cuts that stream and runs to the house. He will not go outside under any circumstances if I close the door behind me when we get outside--he simply wheels around and puts his face to the door, waiting for me to open it. In order to get him to go outside, I must go ahead of him, the door must remain open, and as soon as he's done he runs into the house and flops down on his bed.

Our Vet has reassured me that I am probably the perfect person for Cyrus. Cyrus seems happy enough to be in what must seem like a very luxurious kennel here in the little house with me. He has one large dog bed next to my bed and one near my computer table. He and Roscoe (Melea's big yellow Lab) spends three or four days with us when Melea is at work or out for the evening and the two dogs get along swimmingly. Roscoe likes to lick Cyrus' face which sometimes sends Roscoe into an air-humping frenzy.

For the first four or five months Cyrus was with me I never heard him make any noise at all. No bark, no growl. But now if someone comes to my door, Cyrus sits up and barks very authoritatively. So I now have a very large guard dog in the house, and Roscoe is the guard dog that keeps anyone who doesn't know us from entering the property without an escort from either me or Melea.

So the crazy old woman has a crazy old dog and we comfort one another.


Gail said...

Hi Utah-
That is the best dog/person perfect love story ever. I am sobbing here with gooey schmaltz.
Our dog and best friend Harley had to be put down a few months back, he was 15+. A lab-cocker-terrier mix, just beautiful. We held him until he took his last breath.
I miss him terribly. I still can't eat my toast crusts, they were always for him.

Utah Savage said...

Gail, it's time to call Best Friends. My last old dog came to me through Best Friends when he was two. He been abandoned twice and was picked up by the pound twice when he was found downtown alone, untagged, no collar, and starving. Best Friends rescued him. He came to my house to be fostered and to see if he would be a good companion to my other old dog Lucy as she was starting to slow down. She loved hm. I was not so sure. I told her if she taught him to be as good a dog as she I would keep him. I swear she taught him everything she knew, and after she died, he became the most perfect dog in the world. He understood every word I said to him. It broke my heart when he died, and the absence of his sweet soul was unbearable. So, once again, I called Best Friends. I highly recommend them when looking for a canine companion. They take lots of information about you in order to make a good match--like a dating service, they want to match the right person for the right dog.

D.K. Raed said...

You are a special person, UT. Cyrus found the perfect home with you!

I only have one word of encouragement & it may not sound encouraging at first. I too adopted an older dog with an unknown past. He too went nuts at gun shots & also thunder. Completely bonkers. At first we tried babying him, but that just made him go further into his inner hell. Eventually we learned to let him hide & be weird.

Earlier this year we noticed a complete change of behavior. He no longer went bezerk over guns & thunder. We discovered he was going deaf. And let me tell you, for this dog, going deaf has been a blessing. He is no longer the trembling catatonic he was before. Life for all of us is much easier .... except when we are trying to catch his attention .... he needs to see us to know what's going on.

So, as awful as it sounds, I might wish that Cyrus begins to lose a little hearing as he ages, the same as many dogs do. Just enough to still his inner fears.

Utah Savage said...

D.K., thanks for that. I tend to keep the TV on all the time I'm awake. I hope the noise of it will mask the boom of a backfiring car or the crack of thunder, but so far Cyrus' hearing is especially acute as he seems to hear everything.

Anonymous said...

Resident Evil and I read this post together. She thinks Cyrus looks wonderful. I agree.

I'm glad you have each other.

Dusty said...

Cyrus is one of the most beautiful dogs I have ever laid my eyes on.

Baby, our older rescued pitbull had the same fears of loud bad we had to medicate her during 4th of July week every year for the five years she was alive with us. Cancer took my Baby from us.

I prefer an older dog to a puppy. I like rescued dogs and have one now I took from an abusive neighbor about four years ago. Sasha will never trust males again we believe because of that asshole...but she loves my husband to pieces.

This story made me cry and smile.thanks for sharing his story and yours. ;)

Utah Savage said...

I never shed a tear when I write something like this, but I do cry when I read you touching comments.

Dcup I love your new picture. Wow! Be careful out there.

Utah Savage said...

Oh Dcup, I forgot to say this about the new picture--the wide deep V neckline is perfect for you. Remember that whenever you shop for tops. I used to make these kinds of pronouncements when I was part of The Fashion Police. So listen up!

Ghost Dansing said...

that's a very nice story Utah..... i'm glad you and Cyrus have each other....

MRMacrum said...

As a an active foster home for critters, I don't do poor animal posts anymore. I don't read them either. I see enough pain and neglect in my own home. I have a house full of cyruses of the feline persuasion. Half blind, mentally not there rejects no one will adopt. We are finally down to an almost workable number of 7 cats and one 3 legged dog. At one point we were well over 20 cats. That was whacked. For several years we had two cats like the deaf one mentioned in your book. I love each and every one of them. I am glad you stepped up though. If only more people did, our local shelter would not have to rely on us as much. Although they just took in 275 dogs from Louisiana. I am sure they will call any day now.

Beach Bum said...

Miss Wiggles and I went to the beach Saturday morning leaving our dog Sparky at the house with Dragonwife and Spoilboy because the motel we were staying at didn't allow pets. Since we got Sparky, Wiggles and I have made it a habit to take him for long walks at one of Columbia's parks and I guess Sparky seeing Wiggles and I leave he figured it was time for an adventure. I had to gently push him back as we left to keep him inside and once I shut the door the saddest moan came from behind it that tore my heart up.
When we got back Sunday evening Sparky jumped in my lap and stayed there until I went to bed.

That was a great story about Cyrus, we learned recently that Sparky doesn't like thunder and will either find a lap to sit in or go underneath a couch.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Utah! I appreciate your fashion advice. I mean that.

(The Actor took that photo last week.)

Gail said...

Hi there,
I love that you write to your readers. I do too although I don't have any where near the loyal followers you have. I understand your popularity, coming here feels so good and so safe. And that's because of you and what you put out there, talk about that ole saying "what goes around comes around". You are living proof.

Thanks for letting me be part of your world.

Linda Sama said...

nice, sis....I'm an animal lover too....there's a special place in hell as far as I'm concerned for animal abusers. ya hear that Michael Vick?

if I did not have 3 old cats and wanted to travel so much, I'd get some old shelter mutt too....but in my old age, it's my nature to be free and not tied down by any man or pet.

BBC said...

Eat the dog and send a check to feed a fellow starving woman. That is what I do.

KELSO'S NUTS said...

UTAH: I don't think that dog has too good a chance against a properly trained bull terrier, but he could probably give a Mormon girl about all she could handle.

What do you reckon?

I'd make the dog a solid -250 favorite over a 12 yo Mormon girl.

KELSO'S NUTS said...

@ LINDA SAMA: Thanks. You've reminded me that I'm overdue for a visit to the chickens at LA GALLERA SAN MIGUELITO. 15 cockfights. You can get down plenty .

A half BBQ chicken and 1/2 lb of octupus ceviche plus a double shot of Jack Daniels and a Balboa chaser is $5.

Fuckin love the birds, baby!

Utah Savage said...

Of course there'd be blood sport for Kelso. Ok, s we're sappy for the dogs and cats. I not a vegetarian. I'm thawing chicken thighs for tomorrow. But, did you have to...?

KELSO'S NUTS said...

Kelso don't cry crocodile tears for gamecocks in Panama because at least Panama is civilized enough not to incarcerate 13-year old children with adults like your "evolved" country does.

We don' need no stinkin' lectures.

linda said...

dear utah, I loved your story of Cyrus and you...I love dogs and don't remember a time when I didn't have dog hates gunfire and I live in an area where there is plenty of it...not much to do except keep them away from it, like you do...Cyrus is a lucky dog to have found you!


Utah Savage said...

Kelso, I can't help it but I'm laughing. Point made and taken. I have a story about a 2 year old St Bernard and a nine year old Mormon boy and a gravel driveway, but I'll save it for another day.

Mauigirl said...

Utah, what a wonderful story about you and Cyrus. He truly found the perfect home with you. He sounds like a great dog.

Our previous dog Alice had a hard beginning to her life too - we got her from the pound and she had probably been abandoned. She had anxieties too, which just made us love her more because she seemed so human.

KELSO'S NUTS said...

UTAH: It was just too tempting. Famous saying about Americans: "They love animals but hate people."

Can't help it, sugarplum. One of the formative experiences of my life was when I was 10 or so, and my father and I caught a cat lady in the apartment building drawing a swastika with a magic marker on our mailbox.

The old man said aloud so she could hear, "What are we going to do with this Nazi bitch, Bubs? Should we rape her? Kill her? Break all her bones? I got it, Bubs, let's kill a few of her cats and clean them for meat for spaghetti sauce and shove it down her fuckin throat"

I grew up with dogs, a bulldog and Labrador. Allergic to cats. I just get reminded of that swastika business by animal stories on the telegraph wire.

susan said...

Yes, he's a lucky dog. Getting one from Best Friends sounds like a good idea and if I didn't live in an apartment I'd do so. Maybe some day..

Utah Savage said...

I'm not much of a people person really. Is that an American trait or a crazy person trait? I'm intolerant of real people. I have offended so many people with my blurting out of things that should not be said, let alone thought. I'm insensitive to the needs of others, and so don't really nurture relationships. I used to be the friend to call if you got picked up driving drunk at 3am and needed a lift home from the police station. Now I'm the last person you'd call and you'd be sorely disappointed if you did because I'd tell you to call a cab.

I'm bipolar but would never choose to spend time with another bipolar person because I think we're kind of insufferable. But then I think most people are kind of insufferable once you get to know them really well myself included. So yes, I prefer the company of animals. They do not bore me. Once I was a nurturing woman. Three marriages and several long term lovers later and I don't like anybody. In the abstract I like the idea of certain people. It's actually being with them that's the problem.

Dusty said...

I am not much of a people person either.

People put conditions on loving and caring for each other..animals do not.

FranIAm said...

That is such a tale- beautiful, I loved reading every word.

Cyrus' eyes really get me- such soul in them.

It does sound like you two are meant to be together. I always think that our animal companions find us - that is how it seems to me.

Randal Graves said...

Our cats rarely bother me. People almost always do. Must be the talking.

susan said...

I think Randal's right about it being the talking. If you consider that language was developed for transmitting essential information like 'Run away!', 'Good berries over there', 'You smell fuckable', then metamorphosed into the highly subjective, easily misunderstood means of communication we have today then it's no wonder members of our species tend to irritate one another. No matter what you say your dog will understand.

Sherry said...

that is the work of the fates.

they gave you to each other.

he is beautiful.

Tengrain said...

Utah -

That was a nice bit of writing. My belief is that owning a dog makes each of us a better person.

I have nothing against cats, but I know that a cat is not a commitment.

Sharing your life with a dog is like signing on for a permanent two-year old. You have to really know your animal. They cannot talk to you, tell you what is wrong. They don't always know right from wrong, but they love you no matter what.

Cyrus is a lucky dog.



Dr. Zaius said...

You are a gem.

Freida Bee said...

You just made me love Cyrus. You two are a pair. I have had Barbecue, my formerly skittish Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, with me for twelve years. We were certainly destined for each other like you and Cyrus.