Calhoun's Canons for April 26, 2015
In his beginning, was his end. Alpha. Omega.
The Mighty Finn McCool arrived in a cat carrier. A puppy small enough to fit easily in your lap, all elbows and stick-legs. His mother had died giving birth at the racetrack in Tijuana, and the puppies had been thrown in a cage to die. But volunteer angels from the Greyhound Adoption Center in La Mesa swooped in to save and nurse them back to health.
And so he arrived here 11 years ago to confront a dog-busy household filled with Basenjis and the late, great Archibald McDog, whose clumsy social graces towards puppies was to rudely poke them in the tummy with his nose. Finn's gentle sweetness precluded confrontation so he would hide in the nasturtiums and soon his soft, gentle nature befuddled Archie into proper Big Brother manners. The Basenjis, of course, dismissed him out of hand as some kind of small alien species beneath their interest.
He thrived and grew. And grew. Until he was towering over everyone, a stilt-legged dog who greeted strangers on the street by doing a happy little dance, convinced that this person had come a long, long way just to see him. He was also a leaner against legs, his politely insistent snooter searching for an ear-scratch. Born with a sweetness, he was a true gentleman in all things, convinced the entire world was an oyster that daily gave him pearls of joy; A morning hug and head rub, a daily walk to visit and slowly, carefully, inspect, inhale, savor each previously peed-upon bush and shrub and twig along the route as if they were the aromas from the finest wines. All of it delighted him.
As did racing runs with Archie at the dog park where, in many ways, our story begins and ends. It was there that his blinding speed and juvenile awkwardness in controlling those long legs sent him into a slide that slammed him into the leg of the kiosk. With a sickening thunk, he went down, his fate sealed. I loaded everyone into the car and raced for Coast Veterinary clinic to find Dr. Stephens waiting and the diagnosis of a bad leg break was rendered. Like race-horses, bad breaks in large dogs with tall, tall legs is very often an ultimate death sentence. But since he was so young and healthy, Dr. Stevens and I decided to go for broke. Dr. Sykes, the local dog orthopedic surgeon was called in and together they put in the steel plate and gave him his leg and life back.
Recovery took weeks of confinement, careful rehab work, endless guided potty-calls, but somehow Finn knew he had to endure all this patiently if he were ever to run free again. And so we forged a deep bond and understanding: He had my heart and I had his back. We were in this together, whatever it was.
And so his life was restored to him. A reboot. A ten year gift to us both.
But all love stories end and for Finn that came with age-related hind leg nerve damage that made one leg fail and made getting up and about difficult. Anti-inflamatories helped until a few days ago when he stumble, went down hard and was unable to move. We got him to the vet and, as fate would have it, Dr. Stephens was on duty. Once again, we tried a Hail Mary pass -- hospitalization with IV prednisone, a treatment worth a try since prednisone can often make magic happen. But in this case, magic was impossible. Dr. Stephens discovered a re-break in the old plated, repaired leg. The old fatal injury had returned.
I was able to get quickly to the office to say goodbye as Dr. Stephens, the doctor who gave Finn his second life ten years ago, was there again to gently help him out of it. Beginnings. Endings. Alpha. Omega.
I will bury Finn's ashes under the brave little apple tree. The first of its delicate, pale blooms are open now, giving me the promise of another spring. And once again, there will be another ghost in my garden. This one with tall legs, a happy soul, and all my heart.