Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Story from the Past - Devon

I was going through some of my old writing last night and I came across this story that I wrote over 6 years ago. It's the story of a dog called Devon - I thought it was worth sharing as it brought a huge smile to my face as I remember the soul of a wonderful friend!

This is the story of a little black Labrador Retriever/Gold Retriever who was a loving member of our family. Little “Devie” was born on February 11, 1997. At the time we had no idea that we would end up owning her. She was part of a litter of puppies born to John Zicing - one of Patty’s co-workers. Originally when we found out about the litter and saw the puppies for the first time we selected one of her littermates, a golden colored puppy to be ours.

However, on April 8, 1997 - the day we came to pick up the puppy we found out that we would not get our pick because of some situation with another family having “pick of the litter”. So we instead decided to take little Devon, the runt of the litter to be ours. Though she was small she didn’t seem afraid when we put her in the car and drove her home. Unlike our other dog, Bailey who had whimpered the whole way home, Devon was quiet and seemed content. She seemed to understand that she belonged with us and we would love her unconditionally.

When we arrived home that first day, she was eager to come inside but shortly after she came inside she decided to pee on the carpet. But that was as it should be with a little puppy that was new to her home. Bailey was quite interested in this interloper that we had brought home. He came running up to Devon with his hackles raised. He sniffed her from head to the end of her tail. He was not necessarily sure of what to make of her and Devon wasn’t sure of what to make of him.
Devon’s first night with us was a little difficult as she did cry and whimper for a good part of the night. We had set a kennel up for her in our bedroom so she would be close to us. She did manage to fall off to sleep and the 4 of us all ended up getting a good nights sleep. Bailey and Devon quickly bonded together. Bailey was very tolerant of the little puppy that was always at him. They learned to play very well together - though we did see lots and lots of roughhousing going on between the two. In one memorable incident we saw Bailey carrying Devon across our back deck by the scruff of her neck.

During this time Devon learned lots and lots from Bailey. Devon quickly became house trained and followed Bailey outdoors every morning for the “morning routine”. Besides bonding with Bailey, Devon quickly bonded with both Patty and I. She became our “little princess” who loved every bit of affection we gave her. Devon’s personality totally matched that of Bailey. Like Bailey she was happy, gregarious and totally and completely excited by life. Though I don’t like to use the term, some people classified her as being a total spaz. But the most important thing was that she was happy and every day she got to enjoy the fresh clean air and outdoors of Colorado.
In September of her first year with us, we began to notice that she was limping a little bit after vigorous periods of play and running. We took her to our vet at Companion Animal Hospital. After a series of x-rays, we were informed that she had hip dysphasia in her left hip.

We were referred to an orthopaedic specialist in Fort Collins by the name of Dr. Erich Egger. Devon had her initial appointment with Dr. Egger on November 24th, 1997. He offered us several options to think about what we could do for Devon. We could simply do nothing, have her hipbone removed or have an artificial hip inserted. The artificial hip was the most expensive option but would give Devon the best chance to have a normal life. We decided to take this option. However, due to the fact that Devon was still growing the operation could not take place until she was close to a year old.

Devon’s first surgery was scheduled for her first birthday – February 11, 1998. I took the entire week of February 10th off from work as I had just returned from a long term out of town assignment. On February 10th, I left the house shortly after noon to take Devon to Fort Collins. We didn’t go straight to the animal hospital, instead we went to Lory State Park and took a hike before hand. I managed to take some wonderful pictures of Devon as we hiked. She appeared to be very happy and enjoyed our hike very much. After our hike we went to the Animal Hospital.
Devie went with the technicians very nicely and did not show any fear. Devie’s surgery took place on February 11th. I spent the day out hiking with Bailey and then eagerly awaited word of the outcome. I received a call from Dr. Egger in mid-afternoon saying the surgery had gone well and Devie should recover with out any problems. Patty and I were quite happy that everything had gone well. The next day I drove up to Fort Collins to pick Devon up. The technicians went on and on about what a sweet and wonderful puppy Devon was. My meeting with Dr. Egger went well and he indicated that he thought Devie would make a full recovery.

As soon as we got home, Devon was eager to get back to her normal life. She chafed at the confinement she had to go through during the first several weeks after the surgery. But she did recover quickly and by early spring was back to her normal self. The next several years were wonderful for Devie as she was in prime and she didn’t experience any pain from her legs. She developed a personality that was strictly Devon. In Patty’s words she became our “mon petit kisser” due to her delicate little kisses that she would give us unlike the giant face washings we would receive from Bailey. She didn’t give many kisses but each one was delicate and conveyed a ton of love.
She loved to chase birds and squirrels even though she never had any chance of catching them. When we were out for walks she would stalk any other creature she could see. Even though she never caught anything she never, ever gave up. She would silently stalk the birds. When she exploded into a full run, the birds would simply fly off before she came anywhere near them. The relationship between Devon and Bailey blossomed and the 2 of them became inseparable. They developed a relationship that was based upon the pursuit of “puppy fun and mischief” at every turn. Their “grab-assing” became a favorite entertainment for Patty and I as we would sit and watch them play. They would lie next to each other with their mouth’s open as wide as can be and make large growling noises that would leave Patty and I laughing until our sides split.

Occasionally, the “grab-assing” would take a turn for the serious. This would normal occur when Devie would do something that would accidentally hurt Bailey or would just piss him off. For instance, the time we observed Devon biting Bailey’s penis was one of those times the “grab-assing” took a turn for the serious. When this occurred, Devon was in for a good thrashing by Bailey. He would chase her all over until he got her. He would then proceed to give her some serious nips. This kind of activity would usually end with Bailey doing his dominance dance (i.e. humping) over Devon. By that point, Devon simply wouldn’t care and would let him do what he pleased. Despite these little frays, Bailey and Devon really did love each other.

Devon and Bailey also developed a unique system for fetching buoys when they went swimming at Chatfield reservoir. They would both swim wildly to reach the buoy. Bailey would always get there first as he was the stronger swimmer. He would grab the buoy and begin to swim back to shore. However, once Devon reached him, he would drop the buoy and let her swim with it back to shore.

Besides swimming together they also loved to play “fetch” with a soft doggy Frisbee. They really didn’t end up fetching that much though. The fetch was simply the beginning of game that they would play. After you would throw the Frisbee, Bailey would usually catch it. However, he would never bring it back to me to throw again. Instead, Devon would run at his side and they would both have their mouths on the Frisbee and be running in lock step. When they stopped running they would enter in a viscous game of tug-of-war over the Frisbee. Eventually, one or the other would win and they would go running off. However, if Devon got the Frisbee you could be sure that Bailey would be hot on her tail trying to steal it away from her. And he always did.

Devon established a very thorough morning routine that she did every day. Her routine of course started when she had breakfast. Her normal breakfast was 1-½ scoops of puppy kibble. After eating her puppy kibble she would go outside and do her “business”. Then should would inevitably take a seat at the top of the stairs on our back deck. She would then proceed to sit there and survey her world. She would watch every coming and going on the greenbelt behind our house. She would watch the squirrels and birds as they went about there business in our backyard and on the greenbelt. You could always count on seeing little Devie in her spot on those stairs.

Besides just sitting on the deck, Devon had another activity that she just loved. Whenever it would snow, she would go onto the deck, or out into the yard and find the deepest snow and plunk down in it. She loved being out in the cold snow. Given her thick furry coat and her overall size, it must have felt very comfortable to sit there in the snow. Whenever we had a good snowstorm, you could count on Devon to do this. When it was hot in the summer you could always count on Devie to find a comfortable place to sleep under the deck in our back yard. She would work to scoop out a little indentation in the soft ground underneath the deck. She would then sprawl out in this indentation and let the earth and shade keep her cool during the hot summer days. She would spend hours and hours under the deck during these days. Bailey would lay there with her for a while, but then eventually he would crawl out from underneath and go find some other place to sleep.

Like a human, Devon established complex relationships with the other dogs in the neighbourhood. One of the most interesting relationships was that with a dog named Blossom. Blossom lived 2 houses up the street from us and we would normally go by this house every time we went out for a walk. Any time Blossom was in the back yard, Devon would have a freak out. She would run along the side fence of Blossom’s yard, barking her head off. Blossom would do the same on her side of the fence. Combined the two of them would make enough racket to awake up everyone in the neighborhood. But when Blossom and Devon would meet in person, they were the best of friends. They would run around like fiends and play with each other. It seems so amazing that they could be so different when a fence separated them.

Kirby the dog next door also had a love-hate relationship with Devie. They would frequently spend long periods of time across the fence from each other barking at one another. However, at other times they would still stand there and sniff each other through holes in the fence.
Whenever we could we would take Bailey and Devon out for a daily walk. Devon’s favorite walk was down to the Willow Creek Park. We would walk along the greenbelt behind our home and then down the hill to Willow Creek. (This of course was preceded by a barking fit at Blossom along the way.) Once we reached Willow Creek Devon and Bailey would take a nice long romp through the water. Once they were done in the stream we would proceed to the park. At the park there was all kinds of mischief to get into. Of course the favorite activity was meeting and greeting other dogs.

Devie was strongly protective of her home and Patty, Zack and I. She had a very, very deep and fierce bark that served to scare anyone who came near by. Whenever, we had work men come to do some work, she would make a big fuss and have her hair standing on end. But despite the bark she was very friendly with any one who came to visit. There was only one exception to this rule, which was my parent’s dog Puni. During the last year of my Mom’s life, she spent a considerable amount of time living in Denver. During that time, my parent’s dog, Puni lived with us. Puni was a nice puppy, but she was 11 years old and very set in her ways. One Friday evening we gave all 3 dogs chewies to eat. I am still not exactly sure what happened, but Devon and Puni got into it over one of the chewies. Puni tried to bite Devon and Devon reacted. Devie grabbed onto Puni’s neck with her teeth and won’t let go. In the end, Patty and I had to pry Devon off of Puni. Puni was left with several puncture marks in her neck that required attention from a vet.

Despite her fierceness, Devie could certainly exhibit a lot of “puppy qualities” where she really needed her Mom and Dad. Devie was particularly afraid of thunder and loud noises. During the summer whenever a thunderstorm would come up, you could always count on Devon running up the stairs as fast as she could and curving up in a ball near our bed. This was her refugee whenever she was really scared by loud sounds. The same thing would occur on the 4th of July and on News Year Eve when our neighbors were shooting off fireworks and firecrackers. Even despite her large size and fearlessness she was still a little puppy at heart!

Another activity that scared Devie at first but then became a favorite game with her was Patty’s Darth Vader act. Patty would change her voice to sound like Darth Vader from Star Wars and would say “Young Princess Devon” and other things. At first, when Patty started to do this to Devie it scared her something silly. However, over the years this became a favorite little game to play with Devon. Eventually, every time Patty did this to Devie, she would come up to us with her tail wagging a hundred miles a minute. The game stuck and one of the nicknames that Devon picked up as a result of this was “Princess Devie”.

We had many other nicknames for Devie over the years. We would frequently call her “little piggy” because of the way in which she would attack her food. Devie loved her food and when presented with a treat she would snarf it up as quickly as she could. Whenever we would give a treat to both Bailey and Devon, if for some reason Bailey would miss his, you could be sure Devie would pounce on it before Bay ever got the chance. However, Devie would usually gentle take the treats out of our hands unlike Bailey who would sometimes almost take our fingers off.
Besides “little piggy” we would also sometimes call Devie “snarfage” or even the “snaugage”. Though these names might sound a little harsh, they were only meant to show Devie’s love for her food.

Devie loved Zack very, very much. When Zack was first born, Devie kept her distance unlike Bailey who immediately started almost laying on top of Zack. Devie was a little bit wary of this little man. But as Zack got older and began to move around, the relationship between them became much more close.

As Zack began to crawl and walk, he found that Devie was a particularly interesting object to crawl/walk over. She was exceptionally soft and furry, so she made for fun crawling. Unlike Bailey who would immediate get up and walk away if Zack started crawling on him, Devie would just lie there and let Zack crawl all over her. As he got older, Devie became more and more protective of Zack. Particularly when we were outside for walks, Devon would constantly be on the look out of what was happening with Zack. She would never let him get too far away from her. She was Zack’s little puppy guardian angel!

Devie loved to take hikes with her Dad. Over the years, she covered many hundreds of miles on the trails of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. One of the areas that we frequently hiked was the Colorado trail starting at the South Platte River. Devon loved the opportunity to get out in nature and just run. I often let both Bailey and Devon hike with me off leash. This was usually never an issue and neither one of them ever ran off. However, Devie always like to run much further a field than Bailey ever did. She would frequently be a ¼ mile or more from me. Because of her desire to do this, and to protect them from mountain lions I equipped both Devie and Bailey with bells that they would wear when we hiked. This would allow me to keep track of them as they ran through the forest.

Devie was also an accomplished mountain climber. She climbed 2 fourteeners will me over the years. They were Mount Bierstadt and Mount Democrat. The hikes up both of these mountains were long and very hard. But Devie was a trooper nonetheless and she made it up both of them with out any major problem. To this day I have many pictures taken on the tops of these mountains with both Devon and Bailey at my side.

The hiking style Devie employed on these long hikes was quite unique and resulted in her doing double the distance I normally did. If I was hiking with any one else, Devie would continue go back and forth from the front of the line of hikers to the back of the line. As a result, for every step I took, I am quite certain that Devie took two. Even Bailey did not hike in this tiring manner! But nonetheless, Devie had the strength to do it and always made to the top with me.

Rocks and heights did not bother Devie at all. On the tops of many of mountains we hiked and climbed, the trail would become lost in the jumble of rocks and boulders that make up the summit. Bailey would usually become quite intimated by these and often I would be required to help him over some of the rocks or boulders. Devie never needed help. She seemed to be an excellent judge of how best to navigate these fields of giant boulders and rocks. She was fearless in her approach to getting through these things. And unlike Bailey, she never ended up scratched or with sore paws as a result.

In the evenings, Bailey and Devon would frequently do a favorite activity of my. They would “book end” me on the couch. I would sit on the couch watching TV and they would both get up on the couch, one of either side of me. I would sit there watching TV with one hand petting Devie and the other petting Bailey. This was always a wonderful feeling to sit there with my pups on both sides of me! When the puppies were not sleeping on the couch next to me, they would frequently vie for the most favorite position in the entire house. This was the huge chair in the study. The pups would curl up in a ball on this chair and step for hours. Devon and Bailey would do mischievous things to try and get one and another out of the chair so that they could each get in it.

Both Patty and I would frequent sit beside the chair when the puppies were sleeping there and pet them. It was a wonderfully luxurious spot for our puppies to hang out. In January of 2002 we drove across the country to Pennsylvania as my Dad was very sick and in his final days. We took both Bailey and Devon with us in the back of the Explorer.
Little did we know that this trip would herald the beginning of the illness that would eventually take Devon’s life. After a marathon 28-hour drive from Denver to Pennsylvania, we noticed that Devon had begun to limp. It wasn’t marked at first but it was certain something that bothered her. After our return from Pennsylvania we didn’t think too much about it and we went about our normal business.

However, at the beginning of April the limping was pronounced enough that we decided to take Devon to the vet to see what was going on. From the initial x-rays the vet couldn’t tell us anything and so we made an appointment at Surgical Referral Services in Loveland. Dr. Egger at Surgical Referral Services really could not figure out what was going on. There was some separation of the artificial joint from the bone but he didn’t think it was something that would be causing her a lot of pain. We all thought we would let it go for a while and see what happened.
On Friday May 31, 2002 I took what was to be my last hike with Devon. I got up early in the morning and took Bailey and Devon out to hike along the Colorado Trail near the South Platte River. We parked right near the bridge that crosses the South Platte River and we hiked to the east up the steep ridge towards Bear Creek. We made the top of the ridge and then spent a considerable amount of time sitting there looking out over the wonderful landscape. (Little did I know that this would be the last time that I would hike with Devie and the last time I would see this landscape untouched by fire. One week later a massive fire would start – the Hayman fire, that would eventually burn over 150,000 acres along the South Platte drainage.)

After we returned to the car, Bailey and Devon took a quick swim in the South Platte River. The river was moderately high with the springtime snowmelt. (What little snowmelt there was during the drought year of 2002). Both Bailey and Devon were taken by the current and swept down stream into the rapids. Bailey managed to quickly get out of the dangerous situation, but poor little Devie was pulled into the middle of the river and had to endure a serious dunking through a series of rapids before she was finally able to break free. Despite the drama both dogs had a lot of fun.

In June Devon’s limp was worse so Patty took her back to Surgical Referral Services in Loveland. After examining her x-rays, Dr. Egger determined that her left artificial hip needed to be removed because it had separated from the bone. Devon’s surgery took place on Tuesday July 2. Everything with the surgery went as planned and Devon came home on Wednesday July 3. We had lots of instructions as to what to do to get Devon back to using her left back leg.
Patty worked hard to rehabilitate her and get her using her legs properly. Patty would walk her every day to help her build strength in her leg again. As much as we worked with Devon it didn’t seem as though her strength returned. Finally at the beginning of September we decided that she needed to go back to Surgical Referral Services to see what was going on.

Devon’s appointment was on Monday, September 16th. After a brief examination, the news was not good. Dr. Egger found an unusual swelling in her left leg. After a quick x-ray he was convinced it was cancer and he referred Devon to the Animal Hospital at Colorado State University. Two days after the 3-hour round trip drive to Loveland, Patty and Zack took Devon up to CSU for an assessment. Our worst fears were realized. The doctors at CSU confirmed that Devon had cancer and it was worse that we imagined. The cancer was located in her leg, her lungs and her right eye.

They didn’t offer us any hope and informed us that they felt Devon only had 2 weeks or so to live. We were all devastated by this diagnosis. Patty and I resolved to make Devon’s final days as good for her as possible. Most of the responsibility for this fell upon Patty as I continued to work out of town in California. Patty went to great lengths to do whatever was needed to make Devon feel comfortable.

There were countless trips from our house to Fort Collins for chemotherapy and supplies of morphine. Patty and Zack worked really, really hard to do whatever they could for Devon. Devon did seem to enjoy the days and weeks of September and October. She was treated like the “little Princess” that she was. She loved all the affection and special treats that she got during this time period.

At the same time we were also in the process of taking possession of our condo in the mountains and Devon enjoy every trip we made to the mountains. She relished the opportunity to get out in the woods of Summit County and she seemed energized every time she did. At times she was her playful old self. She would go get her favorite old green and blue toy and bring that out to play. Or she would snuggle up to Bailey and rest against him.

As the calendar slowly moved into November, Devon’s condition worsened. She lost all sight in her right eye as a result of the tumour there. She frequently ran into corners and objects that she couldn’t see because of her eye. The tumour in her leg grew to a very large size and her whole leg became swollen. She began to pant constantly because of the tumour in her lungs. But despite it all she still seemed to enjoy life.

She loved the affection we showered upon her. When she didn’t feel well, the affection Patty showed to her got her through the rough patches. At night when she didn’t feel well she would come up to Patty in bed and nudge her for the affection and love she needed. After Patty sat down on the floor and held her and petted her, she would eventually fall into a restful sleep.
The weekend of November 16 and 17th found us in the mountains at our condo for the first time in several weeks. On Saturday Devon seemed to be doing well and she ate a ton of lunchmeat and kibble for dinner. Sunday, November 17, 2002 started out like normal as I took Devon and Bailey down to the courtyard to do their business. At first I didn’t really think anything was wrong, but Devon had a hard time walking through the deep snow and she fell twice. Each time I had to pick her up to get her going.

Later that day as we packed to go back down to Denver, Devon had a rough time getting up and walking. As she descended the stairs from the condo to get into the car, she collapsed several times. She just could not coordinate her actions to walk down the stairs. In the end, I had to carry her the whole way down the stairs and then assist her the few short steps from the stairs to the Explorer. She appeared to be comfortable throughout the ride from the mountains to our home.
However, once we got home we quickly determined that she was not able to walk without assistance. For a while she lay out in the cool air of the night in our front yard. Over the next 12 hours Devon steadily got worse until by early Monday morning she was not able to move much at all. She could barely lift her head or open her mouth. Patty called me early that morning as I had flown back to California for work on Sunday evening. At that point we decided that the time had come for Devie to have a peaceful death. Patty made an appointment at Companion Animal Hospital for 6:30PM that evening. I quickly arranged for a flight to come home.

That afternoon, the whole family spent hours just lying beside Devie on the floor of our study. We petted her, kissed her, tried to make her feel comfortable and we cried. At about 6:10PM we got Devie positioned on to a blanket and we carried her out to the back of the Explorer. We drove to Companion Animal Hospital with Patty in the back with her. We arrived at about 6:25PM and several members of the staff of the Hospital helped us in. Patty and I spent another 10 minutes with her, holding her and crying before Dr. Benson came in with the hypodermic. At about 6:35PM, Devon died with both Patty and I holding her close.

The following morning, I picked up my precious little Princess puppy and drove with her to Evergreen Memorial park in the mountains. In a high mountain meadow, next to the graves of many other dogs and cats, with a tremendous view of the mountains in front of her, I laid Devie to rest on her favorite bed with her favorite toy by her side.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A loving story of a beloved pet.