Saturday, May 18, 2013

Tribute to Rudy

Back in August of 2004, while Melinda was shopping in other stores, I went into Petsmart to look at their adoptable dogs.  There were a couple of different rescue groups there that Saturday and they had several dogs.  Now, I have a soft spot in my heart for Akitas, and there was an Akita there that day.  He seemed pretty even tempered and had beautiful markings.  The dog in the pen next to him though was very outgoing and happy looking.  He was just a big orange fuzzball.  Nothing too special looking if I’m honest.
I went and got Melinda and we stood back from the crowd and looked at the Akita together.  While we were looking at the Akita, the big orange dog played a very risky move.  He let lose and just hosed down his crate.  I mean he filled it up.  I have no idea how long he had been holding it, but they had to let him out of his crate to mop up the mess he just made.  As they were letting him out, he went into phase two of his plan and gave them the slip.  He ran past several other people, and made a line straight for Melinda and I.  We were kneeling down looking at the Akita when we were pounced by this big orange dog that immediately began licking us.  The rescue people came over and apologized and made sure we were OK, and Melinda answered with “I think we were just adopted”.
That’s how Rudy came into our lives on August 28th 2004.  We learned that he was part Mastiff and part Golden Retriever and that as a puppy he had been chained to pole for so long that the chain had grown into his neck.  Now, he was almost a year old, house trained and crate trained.  Truly a perfect first dog for us.
These are some pictures from those first few days home with us.  We tried to teach him to play fetch, but being Rudy, he changed the game.  He made it into Chase, stomp, pickup, runaway.  This was our first exposure to just how stubborn his personality was.
He was also not a fan of the camera.  He wasn’t sure what it was, but he was convinced it was evil.  Oh, and that glass looking stuff in the one picture is just plastic.  Rudy had several enemies in this world:
Cardboard boxed
Gutter down spouts
Garden edging
Squeaky balls
Water hoses
We learned about each at very odd times.  We learned about gutter down spouts after a big storm.  We had just let him out after the storm to use the bathroom when we heard something rip off the house.  I ran outside to find him pulling the guttering down spout off the house.  We figured out later that it was the dripping noise that drove him nuts.
This dog had the ability to melt your heart and drive you to fits of insane rage.  Having to try to figure out how to repair guttering at night as a second storm is coming is a good example of the latter.
The he would just do something so adorable like this, that all was forgiven.
Rudy vs. Flower bed edging.  All of this had been buried to edge the flower beds.  Rudy didn’t like it.  We’re not really sure who won, but this provided hours of entertainment.
To be as big as he was, he was very gentle.  Most of the time.  If he didn’t like you, he would let you know.  Also we learned he was claustrophobic.  The only times he ever snapped at people was when he felt trapped and who could really blame him there?
Shortly after we got Rudy, our young God-daughter came over to see him and we learned a new game.  Rudy was fine with kids as long as he could play this game.  He would charge at them full speed across the yard and then at the last second turn to avoid hitting them, but cause them to fall over.  He would then come back and pick them help with his head.  Once he thought they were stable, he would run away and charge again.  This was a great game for him, but the first few passes were terrifying to our God-daughter, but the she got into it too.
This is all Rudy vs. Camera.  Like I said, he wasn’t sure what it was, but that didn’t matter.
At our old house we had a raised section of the deck and that was Rudy’s favorite place in the world.
Oh, yeah, I forgot the plastic bottle threat.  Rudy didn’t believe in recycling pure concentrated evil.
We did intend for Rudy to be an outside only dog, but when we saw he would never use a dog house, we knew that plan would have to change.  Fortunately he was already crate trained.
After a while though, we learned he didn’t need the crate.  He would just stay on his bed.
We went trough a lot of different beds.  The raised cot with a pad on it seemed to be his favorite.  That and just the kitchen floor.
For all his strengths, Rudy did have two weaknesses:
Thunder and Cats.  Fortunately he never met the Thundercats.  I’m sure that would have been just Hell on earth.
Anytime it would storm, Rudy would leave his bed and just roam to the hallway.  In both our houses with him, the hallway was the safe spot.  Now, if we were still up when it was storming, he would walk to the room we were in and just look in as pitifully as he could and whimper until we gave him the OK and he’d just flop down in front of us and be fine.
Cats were another thing all together.  It didn’t help that we are also a big cat family, but Rudy just could never figure them out.  They were bigger than a squirrel, but smaller than any dog he’d ever seen.  One night we heard him whimpering and went to check on him.  We found him in his crate staring straight up at our kitten Ty.  Ty had perched on top of his crate right at the door and Rudy didn’t know what to do.  This 3 pound kitty had incapacitated the 100 pound dog.
Rudy did end up making one cat friend.  Leo and Rudy were good friends.  Leo would welcome Rudy in each night.  We’re not 100% sure that Rudy was as fond of Leo as Leo was of him, but it was adorable.
When we moved to Knoxville, taking Rudy out for a walk on the street became an issue.  There are too many cars for that.  Melinda ended up teaching him how to walk on the treadmill.  She would work out on her elliptical and he would walk along on the treadmill.  This is something that we kept saying we needed video of, but never got.
Sometime in 2011, we were giving Rudy a bath when we noticed a lump in his armpit area.  At first I thought it might have been a tick, but it was under the skin and solid.  The vets removed it and sent it off to be checked.  The results came back as cancer.  Thus began our adventures in animal cancer treatments.
The first vet that we talked to, honestly, was horrible.  She had no bedside manner and no personality.  Just cold and hard and quite honestly after we talked to her, we were so turned off that we may have done more harm in not looking into the treatments that she suggested just out of spite.  I mean she was one of these vets you run into with the attitude of “I got into veterinary medicine so I wouldn’t have to deal with people” and had the people skills of a rusty cheese grater.
So we worked with Dr. Reichla Kendrick at Asheville Highway Animal Hospital on a couple of surgeries to try and remove not just the tumor, but some of the surrounding tissue in order to try for clean margins. 
We would put Rudy in a t-shirt to protect the bandages and surgery area.  Yeah, some got peed on, tore up, and stained to death, but he looked super cute and really seemed to like them too.
We thought we were out of the worst of it, but later in 2011 early 2012 the lump came back.  Same spot as before.
Dr. Reichla referred us to the Animal Emergency and Specialty Hospital and Dr. Phillips.  We were a little leery of a new specialist but Dr. Phillips is amazing.  He gave us all the options and more information than we could ever handle.  He said the first and best way to try would be more surgery.  The idea was like a mastectomy.  If there is cancer here, let’s just try to remove as much as we can.  They ended up removing a lot more of him than they thought they would have to.
The Cone of Shame was eventually replaced with the T-Shirt of Cozy.
Eventually the tumor came back again.  There were no more surgeries possible unless we took out his whole leg.  This wasn’t an option for us, so we went on to chemotherapy.
Rudy seemed to react to the chemo really well.  There was only one time that he actually got sick from the treatments.  That allowed him a “drug holiday” to let his system balance and we started on a different kind of chemo.
The chemo treatments went on for a long time and we thought we were making good progress.  Until…Rudy started having a hard time breathing and would cough and choke like he needed to vomit, but would never vomit.  We took him to see the vets, and he had fluid built up around his chest and lungs.  This was not a good sign.  They drained what fluid they could and treated him with meds to try and dry him out.  By that weekend, he was swollen and bloated again.  We took him to the Emergency Center where they drained off two and a half liters of fluid.  He also got a last ditch effort chemo treatment.  The fluid was checked and filled with cancer cells.  His chest x-ray showed a mass around his heart and lung and that was the source of the fluid.  The cancer had hit his lymph nodes and spread very quickly.  By Wednesday, Rudy had more fluid back on his chest and it wasn’t just in his chest.  It had spread to just behind his skin too.  He was also breaking out in sores.  Blisters would appear and just burst.  His spirit was still strong, but his body just couldn’t take anymore.  Nearly three years of fighting had taken its toll.
No, its not fair.  He was taken too soon.  He was taken by a disease that has been around for far too long.
On Thursday, May 16th 2013 lost our best friend of 9 years.  He would have been 10 years old in September.
We were some of the last pictures we got of him.  You can see how swollen his chest is.  The paw that he is hiding was also severely swollen.  He had to be carried to the back where they examined him and Dr. Reichla broke the news that it was time.
The staff at Asheville Highway is so awesome and loving.  They heard that Rudy hadn’t eaten that morning, so they started bringing him food to see if he would eat.  They didn’t want him to go hungry.
They started with some dog food and that didn’t work at all.  Next was some cat food.  All dogs love cat food.  Rudy was having none of it.  Next came chocolate and bits of food from everyone’s lunches.  He was a stubborn dog holding out for the people food.  Being a cheese fan, he ate some cheesy queso dip.  Until he hit a spicy bit.  Then he ate a little broccoli cheese soup.  Until he hit a piece of broccoli.
His breathing became more labored at this point.  He had been breathing through his nose, but he had to start breathing through his mouth.  It was time.
We said our goodbyes.
We hugged him close.
We loved on his soft puppy ears.
We stayed with him until the end.
We are having his body cremated.  We asked that his t-shirt be left on him.  Those stupid shirts became such a part of him, it felt right.  I plan on paying homage to him by using one in an upcoming costume too.

Rudy was my constant companion.  He was my best friend.  He was the biggest mama’s boy I’ve ever known.  Seriously.  He’d refuse to do something for me, but the second Melinda asked, it was done. 
He had a rough first year of his life, and a rough last few months, but the time in between was better than any of us could have ever hoped for.
I’m going to miss my friend.
I can’t end on a note this sad.  Have some more happy pictures!
We did try a winter coat for him.  He seemed to like it, but his cousin Delta tore it off him and destroyed it.