At the beginning of this month, our 14 year-old Jack Russell, Nehi, was diagnosed with colon cancer. We don't believe in chemo for dogs. They don't understand it and it is very difficult for them. I've seen a dog go through it before and swore then that I'd never do that to a dog of mine. We were told what to watch for and that it could be sooner or later; it all depended. This past weekend, he began to be unable to keep food down. I called the vet and we agreed it was time. I kept him comfortable until my husband could be present, which was today; he'd already planned to take the day off. The waiting was very hard. I think I'd rather be in the moment, with a sick animal and have to make a decision then; than to wait for nearly three days before it happened.
|Nehi as a Puppy|
Nehi was born in August, 1996 and we brought him home when he was 8 weeks - October. His mother's name was Pepsi and we decided that he should be called Nehi (like Nehi Grape/Orange soda). He was a bundle of energy from the very start. One thing he never had to be taught was how to play fetch. When his eyesight was still good, he was incredible at catching; even taking on full-size frisbees. He came home and played right away - a blast of fun for our then four year-old son. And he always loved going for a ride. I made him a doggie seat out of a dairy crate. The bottom of it was slanted to counteract the slant of the front seat of the car. I'd buckle it in, pop him in it and he'd go for a ride along, sometimes sticking his head out the window, sometimes not. When we got the tractor, he fell in love. He'd be all over us to let him out and he'd stand, wagging his docked tail until we'd pick him up and either hold him in our laps for a ride on it, or put him in the cart to go around and work with us.
|Going for a Ride|
Nehi thought that he was a Great Dane. Size did not matter to him. At our old house we had a mail slot in the door. It was very difficult to teach him not to attack the mail when it came in. Even more difficult to teach him not the attack the mail man who Nehi perceived as a threat to me. He didn't like it when my husband and I cuddled and horsed around - he would dance around our feet growling, whining, and barking. He knew he liked my husband, but didn't like what he was doing to me. We would always have to take a minute to calm him down and tell him he was a good boy. Several years ago he and I were out walking - Nehi was on his leash - when a neighbor, who owned a lab, opened their door. The lab came bounding out and straight away attacked Nehi. I couldn't believe it! Nehi stayed between the dog and me, protecting me, but getting injured. He had a separated ACL. The problem, the surgeon later explained to me, was his congenital knee defect. He'd been born with luxating patellas - screwy knee grooves that allowed the ligaments to pop out. If the surgeon repaired one, the stress on the other would detach that ACL. He'd have to have surgery on both legs, at the same time. I found out then just how much I loved that dog. When he came home with both hind legs in casts, I would take him out and actually lift his leg for him so he could pee.
|Nehi poses as Confucious|
He also had weak eye muscles - another congenital defect, they told me. His pupils did not decrease in dialation in bright light. So, bright light was uncomfortable for him. And even so, he LOVED the sun. As he aged, Nehi got arthritis; pretty bad in his wrist. It would give him a lot of pain in the cold winter months. He slept with me - I called him my little hot water bottle because I'd lay on my side and he'd stretch out butted right up against my back. When we went to bed he'd wait until I pulled the covers back and then we'd get in and he'd take up his position. He liked the heated mattress pad. But, his favorite, between bed, sunny spot, deck, his absolute favorite was to be stretched out on the hearth of the gas fireplace. He'd shove himself right up against the grate and go to sleep. That sucker was too hot for me to put my hand on, but if you turned on the fireplace, Nehi would jump up on the hearth and lay down right next to it. He literally was a HOT DOG.
All his life, he was a very naughty dog. Very, very smart, loyal, and naughty. Did what he did when he wanted to do it. He also had a highly developed pallet and sense of frugality - he ate his own poop (I guess he thought he was saving kibble money) as well as stink bugs. Doggie kisses from Nehi was not something any of us were EVER interested in. When he was younger, before the arthritis, he'd figure out ways to climb up on things - especially the dining room table - and help himself to whatever we were foolish enough to leave behind.
|Nehi's last photo - October 2010|