Dogs have always been part of my life; a love passed down from generation to generation. Protracted unemployment in the early 90s required some creativity. Thus, my pet care business was born. This is a continuing series.
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CHAPTER FOUR: MUSKOKA
Muskoka was a massive yellow lab and a first ever dog for his owners, Rick and Janet. They travelled a lot, so, he stayed with me quite often.
A wonderful guest indoors; he didn’t bother with the other dogs much and was perfectly house trained. You can imagine how important this is to a dogsitter! (It’s one of my stipulations, but some people actually lie about it. )
Outside was a whole different story, however. Muskoka had a fetish. Anything he saw on the ground was immediately swallowed, no matter what it was. Kleenex, lost gloves, even cigarette butts. Shortly after he was dropped off one day, I took him for a walk and he immediately threw up a large pile of them. Disgusting!
One wonders how this was allowed to happen. My best guess is that somebody dumped the contents of their car’s ashtray on the ground and Muskoka’s owners weren’t paying close attention. You have to watch these “garbage hounds” like a hawk, at all times! Even still, sometimes they’re so quick, nothing can be done about it. Muskoka caused me worry on a couple of occasions; once by swallowing a glove and another time, a broken tennis ball. Down the hatch they went, before I got a chance to fish them out of his mouth. Fortunately, in both instances, he regurgitated the objects within hours. You can imagine my relief!
He wasn’t always so lucky. A few years later, Janet told me the story of their family’s frantic Christmas. Muskoka had swallowed a sock and they were expecting to find the expelled remains, as usual. Nothing was forthcoming however and a few days later, the poor dog refused to eat, (alarming on its own!), and seemed to be in pain. An X-ray revealed the sock, coiled around his intestinal tract and emergency surgery was performed immediately.
Thankfully, he did make a full recovery, but, started gaining weight. I suspect his owners were giving him too many treats, in order to break him of the sock habit. That part was accomplished, but it came to the point where just walking would cause severe breathing difficulties. I always try to be honest with my clients, albeit diplomatic. My concern was for Muskoka’s health and I gave Rick and Janet some suggestions to help him lose weight, (prescription diet food and no more of those 50 calorie a pop “Marrow Treats”.) To their credit, they took this advice to heart. Muskoka’s next visit was about 8 months later and he was a svelte and handsome Dude, with plenty of energy.
All was well for a long time, then came the unhappy news that Muskoka had injured his right knee and needed another operation. Sadly, he wasn’t quite the same after that, (similar to most of us with gimpy knees), but, the weight stayed off and he was otherwise a normal Lab. As is often the case, his left knee started to go too and a few more years went by, with him hobbling around. Came to the point where he could barely move and wouldn’t eat. Dogs are often adept at conveying the message that they want to go to their final rest. Rick and Janet heeded the signs and said one final goodbye to their boy when he was 13; that’s 80 in human years.
Tears were shed by all. Muskoka had been coming to my home since he was a mere lad of 18 months. On a happy note, it was less than a year later that Parker came into the family. A grand nephew of Muskoka, he had similar facial features, but, a completely different personality.
That’s a story for another day.
© D.D.B. 2013