Saturday, March 22, 2014

Goodbye Josie

Yesterday we had to let sweet Josie go. She had gone downhill rapidly over the last week, wouldn't play with her friends or chew her toys, and seemed to be in increasing amounts of pain. She had begun having occasional incidents of bladder incontinence, and was reluctant to stand up. I decided to finish her life on a good note, before the bad days began to outnumber the good.

We began Josie's perfect day with breakfast, and then headed to the beach for a slow amble through the sand. She enjoyed sniffing the piles of seaweed left by the tide. We stopped at In-N-Out for lunch, Josie had a cheese burger and fries. Her sensitive stomach had always meant she wasn't allowed to have new foods or special treats, but on her perfect day it didn't bother her at all.

Our next stop was the Wise Tails pet boutique, where Josie happily explored and visited with the proprietor. They had quite a few products I had never seen before. Josie enjoyed the crunchy dried cod skins. After that we visited a local park for more ambling and sniffing.

Josie rode happily in the back seat of my car from place to place, smiling contentedly, or snoozing peacefully. She was always happiest when she was close to me. Josie had always been nervous at the vet, but on her perfect day there were so many treats and so much love that she didn't even notice where she was. She fell asleep with her nose in a bowl of treats, while I scratched that special spot on her neck.

Josie was only with use for three months, but she was a big part of our lives. She loved going to daycare with me. When she arrived, she was at least 15-lbs underweight and used to spending all of her time alone and inactive. We never expected her to be with us for so long, at the time it seemed like she had at least two paws in the grave. She dragged her back feet terribly, didn't really engage with people, and seemed perpetually confused.

While she was here, I switched Josie to a higher-calorie diet and got her up to a healthy weight. She developed enough muscle in front to compensate for her degenerating back end and barely dragged her feet. I was delighted the first time I returned from a break at work and she came running to greet me. She got regular baths and the occasional fancy spa treatment to keep her clean and fluffy in spite of her incontinence.

Josie joined Brisbane and I at an agility trial and lurecoursing event. She wasn't particularly interested in participating, but she thoroughly enjoyed the chaos of the trial environment. On days we didn't go to work or have some other outing, she was restless and full of energy. These were the days she ate her meals out of puzzle toys. Nothing made her happier than having her leash snapped on and the front gate opened so we could go on an adventure.

Because Josie still dragged her feet at least some of the time, we walked exclusively on non-paved surfaces. The dog beach was a favorite destination because she could roam off-leash, sniffing at her own pace and greeting new friends. She didn't reliably come when called, but she mostly stuck close, and I could outrun her when she occasionally decided to charge down the beach after horses. At first she followed wherever I went, over difficult rocks and into the water. As her cognition got better, she eventually began picking her way around and finding the easiest path.

As Josie's mind healed, her body deteriorated. Hikes that we finished together in February ended with me carrying her by mid-March. She lost interest in her rawhides and bully sticks, once prized shoplifting targets. Puzzle toys ceased to fascinate her with their hidden treats. I didn't want her last days to be filled with pain. She was a treasure, a dog for whom I had no training goals and no plans other than to love her and fill her life with wonderful things.

Josie spent three months being spoiled rotten, and the end of her life was filled with peace and contentment.

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