Our Dog Quin
Qui-Gon Quin the Eskimo Snyder the Slider Beadle 2/17/99 - 3/6/10
It is March Madness time. I love this time of year. As an avid Duke fan there is usually much at stake in March. Our dog, Quin, named after Duke point guard Quin Snyder, wasn't really a Blue Devil fan but he watched a lot of games with me - mainly because he was looking for snack scraps. He tugged Duke to a 2001 National Championship over Arizona though. That dog could pull on a rope or this rubber tug toy we had for an eternity. He would never tire of it. I noticed that Duke was making strides when I nervously tugged with him just so I could watch the game and avoid full time playing with him, which is what he wanted and that when we stopped the tugging then Arizona started to do better. I let him rest at halftime but still it got a bit dicey in the second half when I found that dog did have a wall and he no longer wanted to tug and then Arizona started to make a serious comeback effort. Luckily, he got a second wind and that dog and I tugged Duke to victory, thwarting a Zona comeback! I think I let him have some extra helpings of my fish dinner that night. It's possible that the Duke championship was also the end of tugging for either of us, at least for a few years.
He was just a spry pup of two or so then, probably not even 80lbs yet. Not the 110lbs he had been Saturday, the day Duke ended their 2009-2010 season with an absolute drubbing of rival UNC. The Tarheels were terrible from the start of the game. If Duke hadn't even scored a single point in the second half they still would've beaten North Carolina that night. It eased the remembrance of how heavy my boy Quin was as we carried him out of the house that afternoon. At least, the drubbing eased the pain in brief moments and for streaks of three point shots that found nothing but net.
I didn't even want another big dog before we had him. My joke on it has been that I said no no no to the dog and then one day I finally said, "If you want an effing dog than ok we can get an effing dog" and the next day we had a dog. A big dog. A dog that was surely going to be bigger than our last big dog. We had had our "big dog", my wife's (then girlfriend) dog she got when she was 19, a wonderful husky named Keirah, who had been gone for about five years before we got Quin. I put my wife off with the excuse of needing a house first before we got a dog but now it was going on a second year of living in our house and it was time. My wife has a great fondness for big dogs, especially huskies and malamutes. I have to admit that for big dogs, I prefer the husky-malamute myself... they seem to have more personality and spunk than other big dogs. I guess from having the first big dog that was a husky, they'd grown on me. We weren't going to get a huge husky either that wasn't the intent. That was on me.
As I recall, there were two dogs left when we arrived at the house that sold the dogs outside of Madison in a town called Arena. One was the small dog, a female, the one perfect for us. The other was the pick of the litter. He looked twice the size of his runt sister. She looked a tad sickly. When the door opened that he might be for sale, I know I pushed for him. My wife, who loved our female husky, might have been looking for another female but we ended up leaving with the monster boy.
I feel bad now, looking back. We weren't exactly dog people to begin with but we did our best and he was a pretty good boy overall. We weren't sure about how to discipline a dog really. One time dragged him hard down to his crate and yelled at him trying to show I was dominant and really regret that now. He was such a cocky puppy though, I could imagine this larger dominant pup who probably just went from out nudging all his little brothers and sisters to this new brand new strange world with us. He used to run circles around me to show me he was the boss or how tough he was. He was so cute and still small, even for a large puppy. He was pretty fast too. He ran circles around me and barked and nipped at me with those sharp puppy teeth. I only had a week or so with him as a puppy. I had a five night trip to Mexico just after we got him and when I got back he'd doubled in size and just grew and grew after that. He was pretty peeved I had been gone so long and ran around extra fast to let me know it.
I had some resentment of him at first. I didn't really want another big dog. I didn't know how to be an "alpha male" to him and I confused him some probably. I didn't want to be afraid of him when he was as large as a wolf. Even though, you could see that he was then as he always was, a big momma's (meaning my wife's) boy. When I'd walk him alone when we first got him, he would walk like a donkey. Sitting down on his rear or pulling back on me trying to slip out of his dog collar... all the while wanting to go back to mommy. One time after we'd had him a few weeks he got himself off his collar while it was still attached to the leash and he wouldn't come to me. I was chasing him around the block and up the street and even took a good dive at him on the sidewalk where I skinned the hell out of my knee. I remember this old guy in a Cadillac pulls up the street while I'm standing there huffing and puffing and holding this leash with a dog collar attached to it and he rolls down his window and with his cigar smoke breath he says, "curb your dog!"
As I recall I said something like, "What in the hell do you think I'm doing old man?!?!", while shaking the collar end of the leash at him. Whatever I said, it was enough to make him roll up his window and continue on his way up Roby Road, I guarantee that.
So I just decided to leave him there. Let the dog catcher catch him. Let him run away to a new home. He was just a big sleep depriving creature to me who was taking more of my wife's love and affection away from me anyway. He could just rot in hell is what I thought as I walked home. And as I walked I also noticed that chicken shit dog was following behind me at about 40 paces. When I foolishly thought this was a sign he learned his lesson and was ready to be hooked back to his leash, he started to run the other way. So I just went home and so did he. The draw of his mommy, as always, was too large to ignore for mere freedom.
I was still in the mindset of Quin was my wife's dog I'd say when she started having to go back to La Crosse more to help her brother care for his kids and mainly his wife, who was dying of cancer and was becoming ever increasingly more debilitated. My sister-in-law, Kathy, had raised several hundred dollars for us and my daughter (who had been battling leukemia) at the time she just found out she had cancer herself. A cancer that would take her life in a few short years. My wife would go back quite a bit for most of that year and leave me alone with the cats and Quin. To break the monotony of this odd solitude I found myself in, I walked Quin a lot. He made me feel secure at night. He was a big boy. He seemed to get it that momma had to be gone for awhile and he and I bonded that year.
I grew very fond of Quin during that time. And with three walks a day he grew very fond of me. He had a personality like no other dog I've known. A chicken at his core to be sure. He wanted his loved ones close by, not just his momma but me and the kids as well. When I'd come home from even a single night business trip he would scold me with his low bellowing yowls of "ohhhh where were you ow ow owwwwwooo". You could sing in harmony with him in quite a range from low to high tones. He'd cry like that if he'd gotten into something and you scolded him too. Those times it would be a much higher cry of "I don't know why I did it!!!! ohhhhhhh ohhhhhhhh I'm just compelled to go through the garbage when you are away too long!!!!! ohhhhhh ow ow ohhhhhhhhh!!!!" And we'd join him with our best dog yowling. I guess that reinforced a behavior we shouldn't have reinforced but it was so much fun at the time and we didn't know any better.
In the same vein, we encouraged some of his phobias. Quin was afraid of linoleum or similar flooring that could be "slippy". You would think a sled dog wouldn't mind a surface that mimicked ice but he did. It was OK though because it gave the guests not so fond of big dogs that wanted to lick them in the face or more preferably nibble at their chins a safe refuge, a place to stand. If you didn't give Quin 5ish minutes of your time when you came to our house he was going to "dog" you for the rest of your visit until you did or maybe until an hour or so had passed. Once we had a dog at the house that couldn't do steps so when Quin and that dog played and Quin wore out - he went up the steps and if the other dog wore out then he went into the kitchen.
Quin was afraid of watermelons. He was also afraid of a plastic hobby horse, the kind that 3 year old kids would use to ride on a sidewalk. Since he was so big and friendly, we used the hobby horse or an occasional watermelon to create a "protection corner" for people unwilling to give Quin five lousy minutes of petting and potential lick you in the face time so he could just relax and lay back down. We'd use a table and a hobby horse at the alleyway openings created by the table and couch to allow a guest a fairly safe place to sit if they didn't want to pet our 110lb dog that only looked like a wolf. Their fears weren't always dispelled by this though because Quin would sort of obsessively compulsively put the stare down on them and bark at them now and then and that look if you were a tad fearful I'm sure might have looked as if he was sizing you up in terms of how many bites until the screaming would stop but... they were safe.
Quin, sadly did have a few dark days. He bit my sister pretty badly under some harsh circumstances and almost had to be put down in 2006. He had had Lyme disease we found after that which may have been a factor but was at a point of being mostly over it by the time it was discovered. Quin suffered from seizures his whole life which we think probably added to some of the fear he felt. We weren't very good at letting Quin know that all humans were the boss of him. He had about five bad days but had well over 3000 good ones. All of them the fault of the owners (us) and not the dog (him). He wasn't a biter but he bit a few people at times of stress/anxiety and when he was afraid or in pain. He was more close with my wife and only my wife than probably was healthy.
After the incident with my sister we spent quite a bit of money on a dog behaviorist who showed us how we'd reinforced so many of his fears and anxieties. It consisted of a lot of treats and "sit-stay" command variations. He was afraid of thunder and our reassuring hugs that he was ok became a nice little reinforcer to be afraid of the lights and sounds in the sky that followed. The fix more or less was to just act like there was no big thing going on at all and he more often than not did settle down. That and we needed to be certain he went out and peed before the storm was in full force and was still off in the distance approaching. What we took for "give me a hug I'm afraid" actually turned out to be "let me the hell out so I can piss on the grass or else I'm unloading right here and right now on the carpet!!!!". We made a lot of progress with him over that summer and for the remainder of his life. We were better dog owners and Quin could focus more on just being a dog.
In 2006-2007 when Quin blew out his knee, it wasn't looking good for him. The prognosis was that even with knee surgery he would probably blow out the other knee with the month and not be viable as a dog any longer. Worse, our insurance agency was telling us we had to put him down because of the bite that happened with my sister. We couldn't afford the surgery, post Lyme Quin didn't look very healthy and his future seemed bleak. But I wrote a letter explaining the circumstances of Quin's bite which was more or less truthful and the insurance company backed off... although Quin was one "close call" away from being put down after that.
Things improved from 2006 though, his other knee didn't "blow" and his bad knee strengthened enough for him to walk pretty well again, even up to a few miles at at time - but mainly shorter walks. He liked to semi-gallop at times too. He was able to go back to the dog park even. The park where he blew out his knee, a return that we were told he'd never make but proved he proved them wrong. He was a very social and friendly boy at the dog park. I was glad we got to go there a few times this year with him, even though it is just the beginning of March and snow is still on the ground.
Last year, it was I who was away quite a bit, helping to care for my mom who was at her home in La Crosse but in hospice care. My wife was alone with my daughter and the animals at our home (150 miles away) most of the year. I was separated from pets and family quite a bit in 2009. I remember how Quin would come in to my mom's and greet me with one of his "where were you!?!?!?" bellows and our little rat terrier we got just before he blew out his knee would prance along with him. Quin had a little doggie sister now, Zoey, she'd been around for about three years by then and although with Quin's activity more limited and him unable to chase and play around like she'd like - the two of them were still very close. Zoey, was the very fast fast dog now. When she would run into trouble at the dog park she'd come running back for the safe shelter of her big brother who was more of a grazer and water wader at the park then. Quin would get caught up in the excitement and try to run or maybe even actually gallop a few paces before his bad knee would slow him back down. He did serve as a "home base" of protection for our rat terrier though on many of our dog park visits.
So here I am, without my boy Quin and March Madness is afoot. I have a little less excitement about it all than I'd like to have normally. It is unavoidable not to feel the loss of Quin because everywhere there are reminders of him and that he is no longer here. His fur for one thing. As a husky he was shedding all year long. It was pretty fun to pull those tuffs out, actually. He didn't mind that so much as long as the fur was loose. He'd rather you just scratch the hell out of his ears or scratch his sore back end gently but that wasn't as much fun as pulling a big hunk of fur out. You can see in the snow out back where his big legs sunk into the banks. I still walk in a way as to avoid where he laid on his bed in front of ours as if I might accidentally step on him as I had done many times in the past. It makes you sad but at the same time it kind of warms your heart a bit to feel he is still around now and then like that.
I wish he was here now, even in the condition he was just a few days before he went completely downhill. We miss him terribly. He was a great dog and companion and for those who really knew him they saw that his soul was one of a gentle giant that betrayed his wolfy exterior. I hope there is a dog heaven, if there is then that is where he is. In dog heaven... taking a nice run at some rabbits, dropping off a huge dump and kicking the grass up behind him with two strong and healthy back legs. He's just keeping an eye on the grounds along with my mom before the rest of us can catch up to them.
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