Ode to my boy

The last time I had a dog was way back in 2000 when I lived with Tracy and the kids. Somehow we learned about a lab being put up for adoption because the little girl had become allergic to him. They brought him over to meet us and, although it was very sad to see the little girl crying, we said she could come and visit him anytime.

His name was Spade and he was sure something. He was a mix, part pit-bull and part lab. We were a little concerned about how much pit-bull he was, even way back then, because the kids were small. Before we took him we made sure the kids understood they had to take him for walks and clean up his poop in the yard. They agreed, probably just because they instantly loved him.

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I digress, but maybe a little personal history here. When I was knee high to a grasshopper I had horrible eczema. I scratched and scratched so badly that the skin on my hands was pretty well gone. My mother sewed me little bags to put over my hands so I wouldn’t gross out the other kids at school. They had to tie my hands to the crib, and later to my bed, to stop me scratching. My poor parents spent a fortune on creams and medications but nothing worked.

Along with the delights of the eczema, and I don’t pretend to understand the relationship, I was also deathly allergic to anything that had fur, feathers or just about anything else that contains dander. The only animals I could ever be close to were fish. It was so bad that we could go visiting to someone’s house and my eyes would swell up and I’d start sneezing and coughing uncontrollably. We would ask if they had a dog or cat and they would say no, but then they would tell us they had a dog ten years ago. That was enough. I had to go and sit in the car.

Then by some accident, of course long before the internet, my Dad learned about chiropractors, who, back then were considered quacks by most people. We lived in Streetsville and the nearest chiropractor was in Oakville, quite a ways away. We met with him and he took a bunch of x-rays. We learned from those x-rays that there was a bone out of place in my neck that was pressing on a nerve and apparently causing

both my eczema and my allergies. He said he would do the now famous neck crack thing to move it back into place and take the pressure off. Given how chiropractors were thought of back then I had no idea why my Dad was willing to believe all this, especially when the chiropractor told him it would take weekly visits for more than a year. Even considering the cost of gas back then, that was asking a lot of my Dad. I think my parents were just so desperate to find a solution and had been spending so much on failed creams and meds that they took a chance.

To this day I still remember meeting a charming patient at his office, who was basically a paraplegic in a wheelchair, but he was such a nice guy. He told me he was twenty-one, but the amazing part was when he was born the doctors gave him little chance of survival. His poor parents were told he wouldn’t make it to two years old. Well, here he was now twenty-one and it was only thanks to the chiropractor. That sure gave me confidence that this might actually work. The treatments were kind of brutal because he would massage my head back and forth and then, without warning, give me the crack. Sometimes I thought my head was going to come off.

Sure enough he was right. My eczema cleared up and I felt my allergies were gone. At least we hadn’t been anywhere that I had any troubles. Even my aunt and uncles in Toronto for the annual family Christmas party who had four dogs. I didn’t take any chances with them by playing with them and by now my aunt and uncle were used to locking them in a room when we came.

At long last I figured I might just be able to have a pet. My Dad wasn’t keen on a dog yet but he let me get a cat, Bootsy. We became inseparable because I was so thrilled I could finally have a pet after all those years.

Well, life can certainly be cruel, even at that tender young age. I was coming home on the school bus and as we got close to my laneway someone said something about a dead animal in the road. Sure enough it was my Bootsy. She had been hit and killed by a car. It broke my heart, especially after waiting all those years to have a pet.

Not long after that my Uncle Earl asked my Dad to take their dog. They were moving to Vancouver or something and couldn’t keep him. My Dad agreed and we got Hobie, who was part boxer and part hound. He became an instant member of the family and proved to be a great guard dog even though he wouldn’t hurt a fly. During the first thunderstorm we had we couldn’t find him. Eventually we found him shivering and shaking under my parent’s bed. The funny part was that once the storm was over he couldn’t get out from under the bed. We had to all lift up their big, heavy, four-poster bed to let him out. I often wondered if the people who visited us and Hobie would come charging at them barking away ever saw him under the bed would still be afraid of him.

He was with us for years, but, again, life’s cruelty struck. My Dad had taken him to the vet in Streetsville. It turned out he had cancer and I think it was going to cost something like eight hundred dollars, a fortune back then, to keep him alive. My Dad said the vet told him it would only give him a few more months and he would be in pain, so my Dad made the difficult decision to put him down. I still remember his funeral when we buried him on the side of the hill where he loved to play with us. We all cried and cried, surprisingly even my tough Dad, who I had never seen cry.

We did have another dog very briefly, Champ, after that but he was a nutcase who attacked and bit anyone who moved. He was gone soon. I remember my in-laws had a small dog. Jiggzy, I think was his name, but we never had a family dog. I honestly don’t know why. My kids would have probably loved to have one. I think it might have been that we were so busy traveling all over the country for their sports that owning a dog would have been a challenge.

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So, back to my story. Flash forward many years to 2000 and Spade. He was the most patient dog in the world. The kids would use him as a pillow while they watched TV. They would maul him to death playing with him and he never complained. I think one time Brayden got a little rough and he let out a little growl to let him know that was too much. He was a pooping machine though and, you guessed it, I got to clean up after him. I never minded though because he was such a great dog. Every time I came home he went nuts as soon as he heard me at the door and he would greet me like a long lost friend every time.

There’s a theme here. Yup. Life’s cruelty struck again and this one was much worse. Tracy was the love of my life and so were the kids. We were twenty-two years apart in age but that was never an issue. I think she was older than her years and I was younger. When we were doing something like hiking or rollerblading she always had trouble keeping up with me.

One fateful weekend she went to Kamloops to spend some time with her friends from school. The minute she walked through the door Sunday night I knew something was wrong. I think her friends had got to her about the age difference, asking her what she was going to do when I was maybe seventy. She admitted that it might be the mistake of her life but she asked me to leave. I fell apart. The night we told the kids was one of the very worst of my life.

I found a place to live and moved out, leaving my family behind, including Spade. A few months later Tracy called and asked me if I could take Spade. Apparently he had started shitting all over the house and she couldn’t handle him anymore. I took him gladly but then at the time I was living with Ans, who had another dog, a three-legged dog, Skipper, who was not my favorite dog. Spade was okay for a while but then he started shitting in her house. After coming home I put him out after discovering a pile of shit in her living room. It was raining and she wanted to let him in. I told her that if she did that would be the last she would see of him. I guess she didn’t believe me because she let him in. The next day I took him back to Tracy. Ans was not happy and that pretty well ended that relationship, whatever it ever was.

A little while later Tracy called and asked me to come and get him again. When I started to explain that we had been down this road before she stopped me and said it was much worse. I rushed over and as soon as I knocked on the door he started barking. When I opened the door and he saw it was me he was at the top of the stairs. He came bounding down to me. I say “bounding” because I don’t know how else to describe it. He had completely lost the use of his hind legs so basically bounded down on only his front legs. Something was very wrong. Tracy then told me the news. She had taken him to the vet and been told he had to be put down, but she said she just couldn’t handle that, so she had called me to do it. Nice.

This was all going to be traumatic enough for me but my darling little Madison, who I believe was five at the time, insisted on coming with me to the vet. Here I was on the verge of falling apart and now I had to be strong for her. Looking back into the vet’s office at Spade for the last time is one of those traumatic life moments you will never ever forget.

So other than the fact that I’ve lived in BC, Panama, Ontario (twice), Ecuador and now Mexico, I haven’t even thought about having a dog again, until Rollie came along. Although I had been thinking about maybe getting a dog, mostly because of my failed relationships with women, I hadn’t done anything more. Then I saw Paola in a video walking Rollie along the malecon. Something clicked and I wanted to meet him. That was about a month ago. Let’s just say it was love at first sight on both parts. He was a riot and so affectionate. I truly wish I had been able to video me trying to put my shoes on in the morning to take him for a walk. He wanted to eat my socks, my shoes and my clothes as I tried to get dressed, laughing my ass off at this antics.

Being a rescue and a puppy he was pretty undisciplined but soon I had him sitting to put his leash on. He understood “no”, like not getting on my bed. The only problem was he wanted to eat everything in sight. He quickly devoured the chew toys they brought with him. He ate his leash. He desperately wanted to eat my slippers but got a “no” when he went near them. He started off peeing and pooping all over my apartment but soon understood that Daddy wasn’t happy with that so he started going on the terrace instead. A small improvement but still something.

Then I had to go out shopping and I wondered how he would handle our first separation. I was only gone for a couple of hours and when I came back he was thrilled to see me and hadn’t done anything bad. While I was out I had bought him a new and expensive bed and he took to that immediately. I went out at night and it was the same. No problem.

Then I was out at night working at the Spotlight Club. When I came home I guess you would call it severe separation anxiety. He had destroyed everything he could get his teeth on. His bed was in pieces. My slippers were toast. He had started eating the blanket he loved. It was a mess. He got put outside on the terrace while I fumed and cleaned up. I was not happy and he knew it.

The plan then became putting him out on the terrace when I was gone. I had always left the patio screen open all day to encourage him to go out there, but he had this strange timid reaction to venturing out there so I didn’t want to make it any worse. When I returned he was happy to see me and danger had been averted. It appeared to be a solution, although if I wasn’t watching him while I worked he was trying to eat something else. He destroyed my very expensive lifts in my shoes.

All that bad stuff being said he was still the love of my life. He brought such joy into my life at a time I really needed it. At first I had been hesitant to let him off the leash when we went for our walks, fearing that he would take off and not come back when I called him, but soon I was letting him off more and more. He never failed to come when I called him. About the only time I used the leash was when we walked to the store and I put it on him to wrap it around a tree while I was in the store. No big deal.

One thing that always amazed me, and I never understood, was how he told time. If I wasn’t up yet he would come at 8:15 every morning and start kissing me on the face, like “time to get up, Daddy”. It was exactly the same if I laid down for a quick nap in the late afternoon. An hour later, at most, he’s kissing me awake again. “Time for our walk, Dad”.

We sure had no shortage of things happen on our walks, some good, some not so good. When he did his business, which was usually at a vacant weed-filled lot just down the street, he got his treat and “good boys”. He rarely failed to do his pooping there. I always carried a poop bag with me but rarely needed to use it.

Then the little smart ass tried to get the better of me. When I had first got him he squatted like a girl to pee. Why he didn’t lift his leg like every other male confused me. I was told by others that he would eventually lift his leg. As though he understood the conversation that very day he lifted his leg to pee. Then a few days later, usually when he was not close to me and even after he had done his pooping in the lot, I would see him squatting to pee again. Then I realized that as soon as he peed he came running for his treat. Aha! Trying to fool me. No way, Buddy. Nice try.

As we came back to San Diego one day I heard someone calling his name. Sure enough it was Normis, who Rollie was nuts about. He took off to her in an instant. We ended up walking her home, mostly because she’s gorgeous and I really liked her. When we got to her place their pit-bull was safely behind the gate, going nuts. Her roomie came home with the other dog and the minute she opened the gate the pit-bull went for Rollie pinning him down with just an unbelievably strong grip on him. I tried to pull her off but that proved impossible. Finally her owner managed to get her off. I was panicking because I thought the next bite was going to be to Rollie’s very exposed throat and he would be gone.

Another day we were walking down a new road I had not been on before. We came around a corner and there was a big neighborhood fiesta going on. About ten dogs came running out to check out Rollie. The look on his face as he looked up at me was just priceless.

The last one with him was for me the funniest. Ramone Corona, the street we normally come back on was flooded by some burst pipe somewhere so we headed down to the road we had come back on before, the one with the fiesta. There was a car parked with a beautiful girl sitting on her boyfriend’s lap in the back seat with the door open. Before I could stop him he jumped up on her lap and started madly kissing her. She was squealing with laughter. I told her that Rollie’s problem was that he loved beautiful women. She liked that one. I finally got him to leave her and get out of the car.

Right before this walk, on what turned out to be our last day together, the people who gave him to me had been threatening to pick him up and take him from me. After I stopped laughing at this thing with the girl I started crying again realizing it might just be my last time with him. It was.

It’s another story, but things had basically been falling apart on me. I had just learned that I only had twenty-eight dollars to my name and a whole lot of month left and had no idea how I was going to survive. Worrying about Rollie on top of this was killing me. I did have a big bag of food left for him so I knew he was in no danger. I was. That night, having not eaten a thing all day and drinking way more than normal for me, I started losing it, believing that there was no point in going on. I just couldn’t handle all the crap coming my way all at once. It got so bad that my friend, Christine, sent over a doctor and her colleagues to talk to me. She offered to help me with food, medications and Rollie. I told her they were going to take him on Thursday but she said she would talk to them and explain that taking him from me was the worst thing they could do to me.

It didn’t matter. The next morning, without warning, they came and took him. It just broke my heart. When I told the doctor what happened she was mortified and said she would get him back. Then she called and told me they would “consider” giving him back to me, in THREE MONTHS! How stupid! Then they said I could “visit” him, as though that would make everything okay. I posted all this on Facebook. Big mistake!

First, people I honestly thought were friends started attacking me, without a clue what I was going through. They told me to “suck it up”, “stop feeling sorry for myself” and it was “all in my head”. Just brutal and the very last thing I needed. It’s no wonder that mental health is such an issue when so many people are so clueless about it.

I was deeply upset about losing Rollie, my best friend, but I had equally important things to deal with, like no food, no money, no medications and no future. Fighting over getting Rollie back was more than I could handle. I knew that the bitch who gave him to me was not going to “consider” anything. She was going to make sure he never came back to me again. I knew she would do her very best to get him adopted by someone else as quickly as she could so he could never be with me again. She showed her stripes when she took him from me in the first place knowing I was suicidal. What kind of person does that?

At this point all I can hope now is that he finds someone who loves him as much as I did and makes him happy. Daddy misses you, Buddy.

Good-bye.

Good Boy.

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