I probably shouldn’t be doing this now but it’s all I can think of to do. The act of writing this out will be therapeutic for me. Spikey, my not-quite-11-year-old golden retriever, is dying. I got the word last night from the vet.
I’d always wanted a dog but things had just never worked out. When I moved to San Francisco in 1999, it was a very dog friendly place and I was renting a house with a small yard, so it seemed like the time was finally right to get one.
I got Spikey from a breeder in Northern California in 2000. His dog had just had a litter and I was one of the first ones there, so most of the two week old puppies weren’t spoken for yet. I’d read this thing, it said if you want a mellow dog, pick up the puppy, hold him belly-side up, and if he is content to just lie there, he’s gonna grow up mellow. And not only was Spikey content to just lie in my arms, when I put him back down on the ground, he kept coming back over to me while the others were busy running around playing. I knew he was the one.
I brought him home when he was 8 weeks old. I put him on the seat next to me in the car and he kept crawling over, trying to lie in my lap, basically I had no choice in the matter.
I figured I’d name him Spike, after me. I was separated from my (second) wife at the time but several weeks later we reconciled and she moved from Hong Kong to SF. She said that I couldn’t call the dog Spike, it wasn’t a good name for him. We tried lots of names, dozens of names, none of them fit. And then one day she called him Spikey and we looked at each other and said that’s the one.
The first few months were a nightmare. Neither of us had ever owned a dog before. We read through books, we watched videos, we did what we could, but at first he seemed untrainable. (It was really horrible since the house I was renting had white carpeting, use your imagination.) Then, I don’t recall exactly when, everything snapped into place. We took him to training classes and he was the star in the class. Back at home, he learned stuff really fast, you only had to show him once and he had it. He learned so fast, he seemed so smart, I seriously expected him to start talking.
When he was about a year old, he was attacked by a pit bull on an SF beach. The dog came running, seemingly from nowhere, went right for Spikey, grabbed him by the neck and locked his jaws. I started screaming. I was freaking out. The dog’s owner had to grab a stick and stick it between the pit bull’s jaws, prying its mouth open. Miraculously, Spikey was only scratched and got up, shook it off, and wanted to play some more.
We moved back to Hong Kong at the end of 2001 and of course we brought him with us; there was no way we could leave him behind. We were living in Marina Cove for awhile and my next door neighbor was the head of Warner Bros. Records Asia. His kids used to come over after school every day to play with Spikey; sometimes they’d bring him back to their house to play. And then one day I had a meeting at Warner Records. And this VP sat in the conference room, all his staff gathered around, and spent the first 15 minutes of the meeting telling them all how amazing my dog was.
On New Year’s Day, 2003, Spikey was a victim of the Bowen Road dog poisoner. I turned my back for a second, he grabbed something off the ground, by the time we got him home it was obvious that he was very sick. But there was a vet in Happy Valley working that day and we got Spikey there in time. He was one of the lucky ones.
Spikey’s always been a happy dog. He’s loved living in Sai Kung for the last three years, where he can run off-leash, can go swimming and has lots of friends in the village. He took on the role of guard dog in the house here, I don’t know where he learned that from, but he’d growl and bark at any suspicious noise from outside. But he’d greet everyone at the door with a wagging tail and a smile and I suspect if someone did actually break into the house the worst that would happen would be that Spikey would lick him to death.
It was a sad day about two years ago when the vet told me it was time to put him on “senior” dog food. And a sadder day about a year ago when he was diagnosed with arthritis and hip dysplasia. (I’d always been extra careful about his weight but in the end it didn’t matter.)
He got sick several weeks ago and the doctor thought it might be tick fever, but we’ve always used Frontline with him so I didn’t think it was that. And he seemed to recover so quickly even the vet was amazed. Except that he didn’t recover completely. He was slower and weaker. There would be days when he wouldn’t want to eat or go for a walk but then he’d be fine again the next day. Monday he was fine but Tuesday he was out of it again. I took him back to the vet Wednesday morning and they said his spleen was enlarged and we should check for tumors. They did an ultrasound on him last night and found tumors and internal bleeding.
At this point, they can remove his spleen and give him chemo. But presuming that he could survive the operation, which isn’t a given, they think it would give him at most another 6 months. I don’t see the point of putting him through all of that misery for just a few added months. I’m not going to put him through all that. They tell me the internal bleeding is light for now and that he’s not feeling any pain from that or from the tumor, just that it makes him weak and tired. I’m going to bring him home from the vet this afternoon and try to make his final days as happy as possible.
This photo is probably from the day I first brought him home; definitely from that first week.
Here he is, about a year old, after finding an especially fun mud puddle to play in.
This is from 2003, the day we brought his “brother” Bogey home.
They were inseparable.
Spikey doing his second favorite thing – swimming. (Eating was always his #1 fave.)
And just six weeks ago at the Sai Kung waterfront.
Yes, I know, all living things die. I didn’t expect this to happen now though, I thought Spikey would be okay for another few years but it is what it is. I know most of us pet owners have a tendency to anthropomorphize (sp?) our pets, to assign human qualities to them that they don’t necessarily have. What I chose to see as a smile on Spikey’s face, was that a smile or just the way he looked when breathing through his mouth or him just copying the expression that was on my face every time I saw him without him knowing what it was supposed to mean? I have no idea so I’ll choose to remember things the way I want.
I’ve decided that I don’t want comments on this post. I’m not writing this to get a dozen sympathy messages and I’m certainly not in the mood for “it’s just a dog” comments either. This is just me, doing what I do, for whatever reason I do it.