Contractors were doing some renovation work in our basement and one of the guys told us he saw our dog go by with what looked like a whole cooked chicken in its mouth. It was indeed our would be dinner but it was also a signal that life with Squix was going to be, how should I put this….interesting. This happened exactly one day after he came to live here. His way, I guess, of ingraciating himself to his new forever home. It is but one of many memories swirling through my mind this evening.
To start at the beginning, the day before he claimed our chicken dinner as his own, our daughter Coleen and I had gone upriver to a dog rescue facility to meet this dog with the intent of adopting him.
He was big, mainly German Shepherd and who knows what else. And he was strong and would pull like crazy whenever I took him for a walk. Tried obedience lessons. He failed.
He’d especially pull when there was another dog out walking, or a person for that matter. And his size and the pulling would intimidate people. That’s quite understandable, but when other owners were willing, we’d let them meet and the only thing Squix ever wanted to do was smell their butts, or in the case of humans, get petted. Here in Parkview Gardens many neighbours got used to him, and as the years went on the pulling abated, not because of any intention on his part, but just because age was catching up. It got to the point in recent months where our walks would get shorter and shorter in distance, but longer in time as he seemed to need to sniff more trees and bushes, and rest. He’d still find the energy and effort to try to chase a squirrel though, at least for a few steps, and strangers would still give us a wide berth.
From the day he arrived to live with us seven years ago, he always needed to be in whatever room I was in. No matter how many times I moved, he followed.
And if he couldn’t, like when I’d leave in the car, I’d look back and see Squix great big head in the picture window. I interpreted the look he gave me as one of sadness for leaving him behind. He had me feeling guilty even if I was just making a quick run to the Petro Canada for a loaf of bread.
Speaking of bread. While the chicken episode taught us never to leave food within reach on the kitchen counter, Squix one day taught us another lesson. Never underestimate his ability to somehow reach the far corner of the counter. We had left a loaf of bread and a pound of butter in the far corner of the counter, because he’d never be able to reach that far. When we arrived home from wherever we were, we were greeted by a mangled bread bag and butter wrapper in the middle of the kitchen floor. From those grocery remnants he looked up at us with an expression of either guilt or satisfaction. Not sure which. Probably both. But another lesson learned.
A few years ago we took him on vacation to Janet’s old homestead in Pictou County. We figured he’ll love it with all the space a city dog could ever hope to run around in. We arrived and he immediately ran into the woods and it wasn’t two minutes before we heard yelping and out he comes, his poor face looking like a pincushion. A city dog’s curiosity and a country porcupine is a terrible mix. As Janet’s sister put it “worst vacation ever”. So our vacation started with a trip to the vet.
Starting a few months ago, and becoming more so since, I got into this routine where I would ask myself if I really needed to get up from my La-Z Boy. Because if I got up to go to the fridge, or get a book, or go to the bathroom or whatever, Squix would get up and follow me. And that increasingly meant him struggling with his failing hips. Encouraging him to stay fell on deaf ears, as I never managed to teach him anything, including to stay. So I reduced how much I would leave the chair as much as possible, so as to spare him the considerable effort it took for him to get up. I especially avoided going down stairs, as the stairs represented an especially awful obstacle. The fact he would endure whatever pain it took to follow me was unsettling, but aside from staying put as much as possible, there’s nothing I could do. Did I mention he would never listen?
My mind goes to his quirky habits. Whenever Janet and I would slow dance in the living room, which we would often do on Saturday nights back in the days of Danny Finkelman’s 45s and later Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap on CBC, Squix would be immediately on his feet trying to work his nose in between us. He’d jump up and with his full size he would be well beyond anything we could ignore. He’d eventually settle, but he sure didn’t like us dancing. Never figured out what that was about.
Nor did we ever figure out his weird eating routine. He’d never eat out of his bowl. And it wasn’t the bowl’s fault as we tried different ones – plastic, metal, didn’t matter. He’d take a front paw and take as many tries as he needed to flip his bowl and spill his food all over the floor. Then he’d eat whatever was left in the bowl and then eat the food off the floor like a vacuum cleaner, but not a Dyson vacuum cleaner that sucks up everything, more like a Walmart vacuum cleaner that leaves lots of stuff behind. There was nothing I could do to break him of this habit, until one day we accidently figured it out. Or, as it turns out, we came to an agreement.
For whatever reason he went a couple of days without eating. So to try to encourage him, I took a cheese grater and grated liver treats over his food. And he ate it. From the bowl. Didn’t spill any. So from then on he had his designated cheese grater and he and I had a deal. I would grate liver treats over his food and he wouldn’t spill it. It worked splendidly. If on the odd occasion I forgot his grated liver, he would go back to his old ways and spill the works. It was his way of reminding me that we had a deal and to get with the program.
It’s late Thursday night as I write this. Earlier this evening I took Squix to his vet appointment for his monthly injection of something that is supposed to help with his hips. For some time I have been preoccupied with his deteriorating condition, hoping and praying that I do right by him. When we got to the vets, I got him out of the car and his back legs wouldn’t support his weight. I had never seen him quite that bad and took it as a sign that his time had come. I changed the appointment from the scheduled injection to euthanasia. It was good that the vet working at the Douglas Animal Hospital was Nicole Jewett, a wonderful and compassionate young veterinarian who had been Squix vet since we got him, so she knew Squix, and vice versa.
As she readied the boy for what needed to be done, I said “you must really hate this part of the job?” She said it is sad but at the same time a gift, in that she was providing a dignified death. I took some comfort in that.
After she explained the procedure and gave Squix something to make him sleep before the second needle served its purpose, she left to room while the sleep medicine did its thing. I laid on the floor beside him, patting his head and talking softly as I looked into his eyes as he looked back at me. I tried not to let him see me cry. I could see his eyes getting heavier, and then he fell asleep to my caressing his head and telling him he was a good dog. An exaggeration by some standards, but I loved him despite his flaws, and besides he never listened to me anyway. He sure was an interesting dog though, and I liked that he was a dog who marched to the sound of his own drummer,. A big, gentle, quirky dog who never had any use for dog toys or his master’s commands. Sit, stay, fetch. As far as he was concerned, I must be mistaken, I certainly wouldn’t have been saying these things to him, or if I was, why would I be wasting my time?
He sure left an impression. As I sit here in my chair, nursing a scotch, I look down at his cushion on the floor. A big, empty cushion, save the three big bones he has been chewing on, off and on, for months. What do I do now? Do I still go on our daily walks, but solo now? I think of the little girl up around the corner. A little girl of maybe three or four, who loves dogs and whenever we met on the street, she always wanted to pet him, and he always accommodated her, because that’s who he was.
Squix, with your weird quirks and all, you gave us seven wonderful years and lots of great memories in exchange for a forever home. I don’t really know why no one else would take you, but I’m so happy that we did, That’s a win-win in my book any day of the week.
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