He came home with us just eight months ago. His paperwork at the Humane Society of Pinellas said his name was George, and it seemed to suit him.
At 14 1/2 years he was well past his prime and looked every one of his years spent on the streets of Clearwater with his homeless companion. George’s owner had surrendered him in 2009 with the note, “I can’t take care of him anymore.”
George was a Blue Heeler. Neither my wife, Nancy, nor I had ever seen one before – they’re the breed in those “Blue Dog” paintings. Silent, we only heard him bark once. He never asked for anything. We knew he was self-reliant and still the ever fast companion, despite his crippling arthritis.
The veterinarian said he had probably been struck by a bike which had left his hip badly healed and his legs bent; the arthritis made walking difficult – bad when you live on the street.
After six months at the Humane Society, no one had shown any interest in adopting George. He could have lived out the rest of his life there among others like himself, unwanted, discarded, no place to go. When we saw him, he didn’t ask, he just came with us.
When Nancy took him out to see his new backyard – he had to be carried up and down the stairs – she said his eyes got as big as saucers on seeing and perhaps smelling grass and the small lake beyond. It was a good place to take care of business and explore, and just generally do dog things, all the while ignoring his three adopted brothers. He ran or what passed for running; imagine Walter Brennan going full out.
George had a bed and an indoor emergency relief station which he always got to in time. He was fastidious and would nose his bed covers until they were just so. He slept a lot.
He liked to sneak into the laundry room and help himself to the cat’s food, when that wasn’t available a dried sweet potato stick suited George just fine.
One night recently George ignored his food and showed no interest in getting out of bed.
The next day George couldn’t stand without support and by early afternoon his temperature began to drop; we took him to the emergency clinic.
George was leaving us and there was only one thing left for us to do, the only thing he would ever ask us for.
The doctor gave him a pain shot and we took him home for the second time. We called our friend, Dr. Dani McVety.
I met Dr. McVety at a Veterinary Hospice Symposium last summer in California. She was a newly minted veterinarian then who had not yet begun her practice. When she did it was to be a mobile veterinary hospice care. That’s all she once told me she had ever wanted to do.
Dani asked a few questions, told Nancy what we needed to be aware of, and said she would be on call if George needed her.
We slept downstairs with George that night, which passed peacefully. He slept hard maybe it was the pain medication, perhaps he was just content to be in his own bed.
At 11 the next morning we called Dani. She asked how he was doing – we thought he was doing better, but knew it was wishful thinking.
Dani arrived later that afternoon to help George. It wasn’t awful or scary; Dani was gentle, George seemed to be at peace, surrounded by his family and in his own bed.
George left us – his life’s circle complete, he was home.
Nancy and Harlan Weikle are the founders of For Paws Hospice – Keeping Pets and Their Families Together, 727-639-9285, www.ForPawsHospice.org