And Then There Were Two
"His name is Elmo, he's 3 years old, he's red and white, he's extremely shy, and he needs to be an only dog. No other pets in the household," said the GABR foster mom. That information...and that last bit of advice...was about as close to wisdom as we were likely to get in making our second adoption from Guardian Angel Basset Rescue. For even though we knew exactly when Elmo was born – February 25, 2002 (not usually the case with rescues), we would learn precious little else about his first three years of life. But then, all animal adoptions are a crap-shoot, aren't they? So we rolled the dice, had a meet & greet in our driveway in O'Fallon, and signed the papers on Saturday, September 17, 2005.
When I say "we," I mean Missy M. She had moved to her Memphis-area apartment from an on-campus room, and she was missing her two Basset buddies, Duchess and Gus. Gussie-man was our first GABR rescue two years earlier, Elmo would be the second. A beautiful, shy Basset who needed to be an only dog? Perfect. Absolutely perfect, right? When in doubt, follow the wisdom and advice of the expert, right? Welllll...
Not exactly. Elmo hated being by himself while M was at work and/or in classes. Left to his own devices, he could absolutely destroy a bed. Oh, and he let everyone know his displeasure by baying and barking...long and loud. He could aahroo with the best of 'em! And a yappy, unhappy Basset is the last thing an apartment dweller can have.
Sure, M tried all the other bits of advice about an unhappy dog: long walks (twice a day), soothing background music, leaving the TV on, etc. Nope, nothing worked. It became quite evident that Elmo needed...contrary to the 'expert advice'...not to be an only, but to be part of a happy pack.
"Bring him home. He'll fit right in here." And he did! Thus, Duchess, Gus, and Elmo became the Drool Gang. Truly, you could not have wished for a better pair of BFFs than G and E.
Mo-mo, Little Mo Man, Little Boy (since Gus was sometimes called Big Man/Boy). As with all of our pets, he went by several pet names. One of my favorites was Sweet Baby...because that's what he was. Sweetness itself. Elmo was so passive...to the point of being scared of most people outside of our immediate family...that he was easy to love, especially since he was so huggable. He was my Sweet Baby Boy, and he loved to occupy The Lap. And pretty much any bed or bed-like surface. He was a real snoozer!
The Gang was briefly broken apart when we moved from MO to NC, since the Houndz spent the transition months in KY with Missy M and her 'new' puppy, Ella Rae. The two E's, Elmo and Ella, shown together below, bonded over their energetic playtime...called Smack Down. And it seemed cruel to break up the pair at the time.
But then, heartbreak struck. Elmo was diagnosed with primary glaucoma...a particularly painful disease that afflicts certain breeds more than others, with Bassets being high on that list. It always ends in blindness as it would for E. And experts said 'a blind dog needs more round-the-clock supervision'...more than Missy M could provide while working full time.
"Bring him home. He'll be fine here." And so, Duchess, Gus, and Elmo (shown L to R below on our NC deck) became the Drool Gang, once again. Of course, the joke was on all of us because Elmo took to his total blindness within days...sure, it required us humans a little longer, but he was a gentle teacher. Couldn't even tell he was blind from a distance, could you?
The past year brought two major adjustments in the Drool Gang: (1) Gus crossed the Rainbow Bridge and left us last July, and (2) Abbie enlisted in February. The Grand Plan was to make sure Elmo wasn't left as an only dog when/if 13 year old Duche$$ made her crossing (which we thought she was going to do in January). Boy, did we get that scenario wrong.
For the past couple of months or so, Elmo has been "not himself," showing signs of distress that ranged from not eating to lethargy to upset stomach to weakness...but always returning to his food bowl after a day or so and acting normal again. During his periods of distress, he would go under the deck (which ranges from mere inches to only about 2' off the ground) where he was inaccessible and only occasionally visible (if he chose to repose under the steps). At first, Abbie the Aussie Sheep Dog (on her Momma's side) would stay outside watching over him...literally straddling his head, if she could stand up where he was. I spent several nights, getting up every hour or so to look for him, trying to make sure he was OK.
Because Elmo feared car rides, changes in his routine, and most other people...and because any change in setting can traumatize a blind dog...I talked myself into not taking him to the vet right away. When he would emerge from under the deck, he would seem fine again...who wants to upset the applecart by subjecting him to more trauma?
Until last night.
He emerged from the deck, but barely made it into the screened porch before collapsing. I got him calm and quiet for the rest of the evening, but he had labored breathing and seemed to be in a stupor. He began moaning in pain about 4:00 this morning, was drooling excessively...and I could tell he was feverish.
Although our hearts were breaking, we realized it was time. Even though we are both limited in what we can lift... Mr. T only has the use of his left arm following surgery on the right shoulder...and Elmo weighed nearly 50 pounds, we managed to devise a carry-sling out of a blanket...and somehow got him into my car. The drive to the Animal Emergency Clinic was the second-most saddest drive I've made...topped only by the lonely drive back home without my Mo-Mo.
The vet said "most likely bloat," another nemesis of Bassets and other barrel-chested canines...with "probable secondary septic peritonitis." Surgery to fix the problem is difficult even without an infection; costly; requires a lengthy recovery period; and isn't likely permanent...it can happen again, especially in senior dogs. I chose not to make Little Mo Man spend his last hour being poked and prodded, tested and tubed. It's the most difficult decision a pet parent has to make, but I chose to let him go in peace. Goodbye, Sweet Baby Boy...we shall miss you.
Tonight, Elmo and Gus can chase squirrels together again. Woo-woo!