We adopted Lenny from our town’s animal shelter twelve years ago when he was seven, beyond the age at which many consider a dog to be adoptable. It was a coincidence for both Lenny and me that I was even at the shelter that day. We had two girl dogs (Callie and Nellie) so I wasn’t really looking for another dog. But I was worried about a pit puppy and went there to check on her. Fortunately she had been adopted, but in her place I saw this thin border terrier mix – his “family” had dumped him in the pound’s “drop-off box” the night before – he seemed right from that to be overwhelmed by what had happened to him.
As soon as I saw him, I knew he would come home with me. Since he was an “owner-given dog” we had to wait, but when I finally got him home he became what some call a “velcro dog”. He wasn’t really scared of separation, he just wanted to be by my side all the time, a leash was unnecessary; I just had to be careful if I tripped over him. It took him a couple of months to get the hang of it, including frequent and long walks with his new sister dogs that taught him how to be a normal dog in a short amount of time. Callie showed him the correct leg raises (she had mastered this “cross-gender” method for a long time), and Nell, who didn’t like him at first, quickly realized that it wasn’t like having two dogs that ruled their “favorite status” like that bad.
Lenny was always a very tough little guy, even though he had chronically dry skin and red eyes, medically there was never really much wrong with him. But when he was 14 years old, Nell died and he fell into a severe depression – we believe his experience of the months of their decline had a severe impact on his spirit (as well as ours). So we got him and us, another dog, quickly! Lola, a 10 month old rescued German wirehaired pointer, was spot on – she looked and didn’t act like Nell (who was a Border Collie mix), and although he grumbled a little at first, he quickly gained his high trot and his back Life took on a new meaning – to “break in” the newcomer. It surprised me how he seemed to be losing years, acting more like a teenager to impress the new girl at school than the moody old man he had been. Then, as I noted in my editor’s letter, he definitely started going through changes at 17. I loved taking care of his daily needs for older dogs, using eye medication, cleaning sore ears, feeding his hands, carrying him in and out of the car, taking him on ever shorter and slower walks, and letting everyone take part in long sniffing sessions from everyone I knew Tree or green spot on the way. We have gone through a new phase in our relationship. It was almost like being with a long-time married couple, we had renewed our “vows of commitment”. I took pride in taking care of him, but I also realized that this slower, more measured life was not going to last long.
But it took another year and then, a few weeks ago, time caught up with him. It seemed that he likely had a stroke at night, followed by another one in the morning. I never thought it would happen so suddenly. A few days earlier, I had spoken to his vet about how to know if Lenny’s time had come because he had no life-threatening ailments. This added a degree of complexity to the “is this the right time?” Decision. But Len did it for himself. My boy died peacefully in my arms, a true terrier to the end, stubborn, trusting and utterly loyal.