From Karen Mackert, foster, adopter and friend to RORR...
On St. Patrick’s Day 2009, Chicki Schmidt of Cocker Spaniel Rescue happened to be checking shelter sites and spotted a couple of four legged hearttuggers. “Lily” and “Patti” were slated to be gassed within minutes when she contacted the shelter many miles from her own location and persuaded them to hold off until the end of the day. Her network of contacts came through again and both dogs were reprieved and began their weeks long journey up the coast from North Carolina to central Pennsylvania and a foster home with the Gessners. “Patti”, an older girl of 14, with inflamed skin, underweight, an ear infection (later to be determined partially deaf), and scraggly coat, cried many times in confusion during her journey.
Part buff cocker and golden retriever, “Patti” was just the girl we were looking for as a friend for our 11 year old cock-a-poo, Toby. Seniors bring a special joy and fit our quiet lifestyle. She needed to finally come home for as long as she had. And so began the adoption and approval process shepherded by Judy McArthur and a home study by Steffi Ridgel. And then we belonged to “Patti”.
The day I picked her up from the Gessners she cried like a human as she saw them drive away, but rode the 1 ½ hours home standing much of the time on the platform in back of me with her muzzle resting on my shoulder. Only one single accident did she have in her new home and, taller than I thought she would be, nevertheless quickly learned to army crawl out the access door even with arthritis. After the first few nights of waking me up to go out even when she took care of things herself during the day, it dawned on this not too bright human that she was night blind. Motion sensor night lights along her way ended the wake up calls and she was forever more self sufficient.
I was determined to give her back something more – her own name. For the first couple of weeks I tried every name I could think of looking for the correct one or at least the combo of sounds that would make her respond. Just as I was about to give up I heard the name “Sugar” on a TV show. I tried it and she came right to me with the most joyful look on her face, for the first time licking my hands and almost wagging her tail off. Sugar it was! Even when she became totally deaf, she learned to respond to the pursed lips that formed her name. In fact she developed quite a vocabulary of mouth shaped words she understood and hand signals. If she did not want to comply, she deliberately looked away, sneaking a glance back to see if I was still focused on her.
She loved nothing better to go out in the midst of a cold or wet howling storm, stand with her face to the wind and just breathe. It seemed to relieve her chronic bronchitis. The best guess was that this was the result of living with a heavy smoker. She didn’t like to stick to our shoveled “potty areas” but would plow through the snow, no matter how deep, until she found her perfect spot. Toby would happily trot in her wake.
Sugar had some excellent training in her past - perhaps an airport search dog? She could systematically search room or a vehicle, would “hit” on produce or meat in a grocery bag with a paw gesture and was positively ecstatic the day I was the person to hold drugs during a demonstration by a drug dog at school who had to find that marijuana purposely hidden in my pocket. Sugar hit on the residue scent even after I went home, dragging my slacks out of the laundry basket and pawing them. Needless to say, she got a lot of praise.
She also grew in statue, silently baring her teeth, pushing against my leg protectively and staring down an aggressive individual who came to front door. He gulped and left quickly. She shrank back down, yawned, and went back to her favourite cushion. Job done. Toby, bless his heart, would have licked him to death.
Toby’s buddy and my shadow, Sugar was always hopeful of a chicken treat from her human Dad and faithfully traveled upstairs to sleep by the bed at night. She never complained about the baths to help her skin – although I could only approach her one time with a trick to get her in the tub since that was all it took for her to avoid it the next time. She hated her prescribed ear flush but never snipped or bit. She took pills without complaint when wrapped in – oh the joy! - cheese. She did love her food and filled out nicely from 30 to 47 pounds. When stairs were too difficult for her to negotiate, she did it anyway until we started barricading them. However, Miss-I-can-solve-complex-problems would quietly dismantle the sometimes elabourate constructs and I would find a panting face next to mine in the middle of the night looking in my eyes over the edge of the bed. Up my old bones would have to jump to close the door to keep her from going down the stairs and falling. We had to use a sling system to get her safely down.
Within the last six months she began to noticeably slip. With the vet’s help and advice and Toby’s constant companionship, we continued to follow her lead to keep the quality of life up knowing that at 16 plus that was the best plan. She was ever as sweet as her name and fastidious in nature. She traveled slower but still loved going out with Toby to bark at 4wheelers. She accepted the introduction of Gracie, a new foster through Reach Out Rescue & Resources and a former puppy mill breeder, with her usual calm.
On the morning of Labour Day 2011, Sugar greeted me with a thump of the tail but turned down her treasured chicken treat. As the day progressed, she slept and began to drool. Her hind end didn’t want to work well, but she still insisted on taking herself out. Other symptoms arose and I realized she had probably had a stroke. I knew I faced the day of decision that we all dread. She slept most of the day, and I decided I would sleep downstairs beside her that night and make “the call” the next morning. As I dozed in a recliner with her beside me in late afternoon, she somehow took herself outside, across 100 feet of yard, in the rain, to lie under a bush. I found her there, staring steadily at me unable to bring herself inside. I carried her in and put her down. She wasn’t able to shake herself, so we talked as I dried her off. She kept her eyes fixed on my face, calm and peaceful. She seemed to doze, so I left her where she was and went into the other room. Minutes later, with single minded determination, she unsteadily walked in to me; her eyes locked on mine, lay down across my feet and went to sleep within minutes for the last time. Toby lay down close by.
She left us after 2-1/2 years with the same dignity and sweetness that she showed when alive. She rests now in her beloved outdoors above our South Branch cabin. Toby has mourned for the past few weeks but has taken over the education of Gracie, showing her the ropes of how to act like a dog with a family.
There will always be a spot of joy in our hearts brought by this amazing older girl. We speak of her and miss her daily. We are so lucky that Sugar chose to adopt us.
Keywords:adoption, dog, dogs, reach out rescue, reach out rescue & resources, reach out rescue and resources, rescue
Thank you for sharing Sugar's story, Karen. She was obviously so very special.
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