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My Pitbull Valentine
George arrived on Sunday, February the 13th.
It is August of 2010 and a quickly growing reddish brown blob on my Golden Retriever's left paw marks the beginning of my emotional spiral down. Around this same time, my sister Susan calls with news of Dad's declining health. My vet diagnoses Retriever Amber with a very aggressive form of bone cancer. Amber's toe is amputated and by mid October I am off to visit Dad in North Carolina. Two weeks of traveling on the mainland goes well - Dad is so happy to see me - its been two years. Dad is frail and medicated, but astute as ever. Leaving Dad hurts . . . am I saying goodbye for the last time? My heart breaks again when I come home to see Amber with a new tumor growing where her amputated toe used to be.
On December 30th Dad's heart finally gives out and the funeral takes place in Gordonsville, Virginia. My daughter Jackie stays behind to take care of Amber, whose tumors are becoming larger, and have spread into her shoulder cavity. Jackie tells me they took Amber in the car everywhere - Amber loved car rides. Jackie's boyfriend Kalei had to pick her up to put her in and out as Amber's left foot couldn't take her weight anymore.
Amber after her unsuccessful tumor amputation.
Golden Retrievers are astounding dogs and Amber was my top notch baby. She was an excellent guard dog, only barking at strangers when necessary. Amber was the second Golden Retriever I have had the pleasure to care for. Missy was my first Golden and she died from health complications at 13 . . . a ripe old age for a big dog. Considered the fourth most intelligent breed of dog, they sense what annoys you and avoid that behavior. It is easy to see why Golden Retrievers were listed as the fifth most popular breed in 2010. Amber ran more than 28,000 miles with me in our seven and a half years together. I would say "get your leash", she would wrestle it off the door handle with her jaws and off we went on another adventure.
Dad the Whisperer
Dad knew an animal's heart and soul and as a Colorado farm boy was given the family horse Jigs to groom and care for. Dad loved many dogs throughout his life. There was always one lounging beneath his feet. On February 8th, when Amber lay at death's door, I asked Dad to guide her passage from our living world to his. When the vet came to the house to end Amber's pain I only cried a little, because I felt Dad's gentle spirit was there to comfort us.
George was my valentine on February 13th when I saw a stray dog lounging on my lanai. I studied him through my sliding glass door - large and very male, he had the white markings on his chest and paws common to Pit Bulls. "Pit Bulls are fighting dogs who go for the throat." Remnants of a caretaker victim article floated through my brain.
Suddenly my previous night's dream crystalized. Dad and I were on his patio in Wilmington, North Carolina. Dad regretted never seeing my home on Oahu and he wanted to visit for a month . . . yikes . . . goose bumps . . . I opened the sliding glass door and cautiously greeted the strange doggie through the screen. George, the dog perked his head up and stood. He walked over and cocked an ear, wagging his tail. A month has come and gone, but George, the dog is still here.
What breed makes a better pet?
George the Pita Bull Mix
No that is not a typo . . . pita is short for pain in the ass . . . more on that later. My mother came for a visit the day after George appeared and insisted George see the vet before I let him in my house. We threw crackers and cheese into the back of my car, flipped the seats back and scooted into the front while he was busy gobbling them up. We slammed the doors fast before he could escape and cruised down the freeway to my vet's office amid a frenzy of fur and dog slobber while he tried to climb into the front seat with us.
My vet estimated George to be perhaps two years of age judging from his teeth. She thought he was a Pit Bull Sharpei mixed breed. She and her aide pressed and poked him. They tried to stick a temperature gage up his butt. He wouldn't let them anywhere near his ears either - I thought they might be infected as he had been shaking them often. I made the few hundred dollar decision to let my vet put him to sleep so she could look at him in depth. We picked him up an hour later and drove him home along with his ear drops and other pet sundries. Perhaps George felt violated by his experience. He cried and kept trying to climb into the front seat with us. Maybe it was my Dad's spirit in him missing Mom. That night, in the wee hours Mom got up to go to the bathroom and when she came back to her bed George was lying in it.
Pita George is strong and an escape artist. Our walks are interesting. He has two speeds, the excuciatingly slow sniff and pee on a bush rate and the pell mell I smell something so fall flat on your ass mph. I use one collar around his neck and a harness that goes around his chest with a separate leash attached to each. One of his tricks is to sit down in the middle of busy streets and major traffic thoroughfares. Often I have to pick him up and carry him across - at 50+ lbs this is no easy feat. George does better off the leash. On secluded trails and fields where he runs on his own, he answers to whistles and keeps track of me, always circling back to find me, making sure I am safe.
Several months have come and gone since Dad led George to his new home. It seems he's here to stay. Maybe one day he will acknowledge me as the alpha and he will be my amazing Pit Bull. Naughty boy George has a peace and gentleness in his spirit. And regardless, George will always be Daddy's funny valentine.