My heart has been heavy lately with thoughts of the impending passing of our little friend Scruffy. Scruffy is a little dog, a variety of breeds. Our teenage son found her beside the road, after having been hit by a car. She had some bumps & scrapes but other than that was ok. He picked her up, put her in his Jeep and drove her to her new, and forever home. Jon & I were living in a small apartment at the time with our son Justin and Abby, a Golden Retriever, while we were in the process of building our current home. The apartment got smaller but our hearts grew bigger when we met Scruffy. I realized Scruffy was obviously a neglected soul at her previous home when I noticed under the thick fur, she was wearing a collar that was way too tight and literally beginning to grow into the flesh around her neck. The first thing we did for Scruffy was to carefully peel the collar from around her neck and treat the open wound that was left. After some petting and assuring her that she wasn’t going to be hurt anymore, we offered her food and water and she ate a hearty meal, hydrated her little body and found her spot to rest from her ordeal.
It wasn’t long, maybe an hour or two, when our son headed out the door to go and meet up with some friends. When the door closed behind him, Scruffy was up and on her feet and whimpering at the closed door. Trying to assure her that Justin would be back, she didn’t believe me and continued to cry for him to return. I was amazed at how quickly she fell in love with her savior. They say that rescued dogs are the most appreciative and loyal of all and Scruffy confirmed that.
Eight years later, Scruffy, (also known as Scrumshie, Scrumptious or Special) still demonstrates her appreciation and loyalty on a daily basis. She has been an exceptional farm dog…following us everywhere we go, she arrives long after we do but she still arrives. She lays in the shade of the farm equipment we may be using, the tractor, 4-wheeler or whatever while Abby lays in the cooler barn or in the air-conditioned house. It doesn’t matter how hot it is outside, Scruffy is there, helping, supervising or maybe just protecting us from unseen danger.
She has always walked with a stiff hind end and we know now that she has severe arthritis in her hips. The vet told us it was one of the worst cases he’s seen. Her age is starting to show more and more every day and the arthritis is beginning to cripple her mobility, but don’t tell her that. We’ve had to make the dogs sleep in the barn at night in the last year since Scruffy hasn’t been able to go all night without needing to go potty. In the barn, she can go whenever she needs to. In the mornings when we open the barn door and let Abby & Scruffy in the house, Abby runs to find a toy and Scruffy gimps along behind her and straight to the front door to go outside. Once outside, she stands there looking lost. Occasionally, she’ll walk down the sidewalk, turn around and come back inside. Sometimes she wanders down the hall, stops & stands there for a moment, then turns and comes back. A touch of dementia is apparent.
Several months ago, last fall, we thought we had lost our little angel. Both dogs went outside to potty, play and roam around a bit. Abby returned to be let back inside but Scruffy was missing. Not one to wander very far, I worried. I looked everywhere for her…everywhere. I took the 4-wheeler and combed the property the best I could to no avail. I returned to the house hoping she would return eventually. I worried myself sick when the sun started to set and she still wasn’t home. I left the barn door open enough where she could get in if she returned but I found Abby alone in the barn the next morning. This series of events repeated every day for the next 3 days. My biggest fear was that she had gone someplace to die. I held out hope that someone had found her and taken her in. Jon had been out of town and returned one day while I was at work. He went through the steps that I had and as luck would have it, found her. Alive. She had fallen into a ditch near our pond and couldn’t get herself out. It was obvious that she had tried and exhausted herself. She was muddy, wet, and cold. Jon washed the mud off of her and when I got home, she was still shivering. I wrapped her in warm towels from the dryer and just held her. She wasn’t herself. There was something different about her. She was in shock. I just knew she was going to pass overnight. Her eyes were dark, dull and lost-looking. By morning, she seemed a bit better but still not right. I took her to the Vet where she spent the next couple of days being re-hydrated, x-rayed, and loved on. But, this was the start of her going downhill. She is not as active as she was, although she was always slow and stiff, she is slower and stiffer today. Her eyes are bright and she gets excited and jumps up and down with just her front feet…her little bent over ears flopping up and down…she wants to play but it hurts.
As I watch her closer, I realize she can’t see anything that isn’t some distance in front of her. Things close to her are invisible. She steps on things, stumbles and fall down. She steps in their water bowl if she gets too close to it for some reason other than to drink, so often I stopped counting the many times I’ve mopped up water. She doesn’t hear much if anything. Her eyes are always focused on your face, taking cues I guess. Poor Abby is tolerating her aging buddy like a champ…Scruffy has taken to loving on Abby by leaning on her, standing over her and licking her head, and blindly stepping on her.
Her days, I know in my heart are numbered. The day this little soul leaves us plays over in my head. As she lies on the carpet with her head cradled in her food bowl, dreaming…twitching in her sleep, my heart swells & I feel tears coming to my eyes.