One thing about "not dying" is that ultimately it is, as the sabermatricians like to say, "unsustainable". Someone had to be put down yesterday, and it was between Poochini and Bartolo Colon. Tough call, but ultimately I knew I couldn't dig enough dirt for Bartolo so the dog got it. Poochini would have turned 17 in October.
Poochini was probably the closest thing AN had to a "mascot" but those of you new to AN who never met him, or who did not follow his various travails over the years, are under no obligation to care about my dog. I happened to care about him quite a bit, though, because while he was only a hair smarter than Bob Geren he was also full of joy, energy, and goodness.
Also, this is not a sad post -- it is a celebration of the many stages of the long and winding road that was Poochini's journey from adoption to his final resting place, which is next to the lemon tree in my front yard. Mmmmm...fresh squeezed Poochini-ade..
October, 1996: BORN
This is conjecture, as the vet estimated that Poochini was about 15 months old when my mother and I adopted him in January, 1997. In the cage at the pound he seemed nice and exceedingly cute, if perhaps a bit docile. Looks can be deceiving -- apparently he was only docile when bewildered by being in a cage at the pound. He was, in fact, a bundle of energy with both a "joie de vivre" and an "abilité to annoy".
January, 1997: ADOPTED
Poochini was adopted from the Berkeley Pound, after being picked up on Telegraph Ave. as a stray without a collar, so we don't know how he got there or anything about his breed. He looked like a skinny beagle, but jumped up and down like a Jack Russell and ran laps (often in a perfect "figure 8") like a whippet, so we decided that he was the world's one and only "Jack Weagle".
FIRST SUICIDE ATTEMPT
Though an insanely happy dog overall, Poochini had suicidal tendencies from the moment we got him. Just days after he was adopted, we took him out to Bolinas for a run along the beach. On the way to the beach we approached a short (maybe 3 foot high) wall, and Poochini ran up to it and jumped over the wall without looking to see what was on the other side. Unfortunately, Poochini had jumped off a cliff to about a 20 foot drop that led to a bunch of jagged rocks.
It is with a combination of apprehensive trepidation and gruesome curiosity that one looks over the edge of a retaining wall to see how badly your brand new puppy has been mangled by the combination of a steep drop and a jagged conclusion. To our surprise and relief, when we got to the wall and peered over we saw Poochini standing on the ground surrounded by 3 big rocks, looking dazed and confused but uninjured.
We coaxed him up to the street and continued on towards the beach. At the entrance to the beach is a similar 3 foot high wall and upon approaching it Poochini jumped over that wall too. Fortunately, this time on the other side was a 3 foot drop and sand. You could say Poochini was a very, very trusting individual and that would prove to be an endearing quality, and mostly an asset, throughout his life.
An off-leash "parks, trails, and campus" dog, Poochini had many other brushes with disaster, from the time he disappeared as usual, but never reappeared, on the Cal campus until I finally gave up and went home -- and found Poochini in the backyard, where he had been dropped off by some kind person who found him standing in the middle of Euclid and Hearst hoping one of the cars flying by might be me. He got out the front gate and started to walk across the street in front of the oncoming bus (I dashed into the street, swooped him up, and dashed past the oncoming bus, lacking only a red cape), and so on. The usual. Pet displays IQ of 7, tries to get self killed, fails.
2009: BLEEDING ULCER
At age 13, still healthy, happy, and with all his faculties, Poochini developed a bleeding ulcer. Perhaps he was worried about the economy, or maybe he was more focused on how "liver treats" were faring in the stock market. As chronicled here on AN at the time, he was a death's door when we rushed him, practically lifeless, to San Leandro's Pet hospital where he received two transfusions just to keep him alive that day. They wanted to do a bunch of invasive tests and/or treatments, to check for cancer, tumors, or other possible diagnoses, but we rolled the dice with one medication and gambled that if it wasn't a bleeding ulcer he would die but at least he wouldn't suffer through tests and treatments. And if it was a bleeding ulcer, he would probably die but at least he could do it at home in his doggie bed.
Along with two prescribed medications for ulcers, I added "top of the head kisses therapy" and gave a strong dose. Not only did Poochini survive and recover, but he reverted back to practically his old self. Even at the age of 15, passersby on the trails often asked, "Is he a puppy?" To which I would reply, "No, actually he's 15. Are you an umpire?" He was a truly remarkable physical specimen, health-wise, and was pretty mobile with strong organ function, right down to his last day.
However, by this time Poochini was mostly deaf, and in 2011 he became increasingly blind due to cataracts. Mostly, this meant he still loved to eat, walk, and cuddle, but he tended to stand right underneath you to gauge where you were, causing you to trip over him whenever you turned around and forgot he might be there. He was still happy in the "Helen Keller years," and still otherwise healthy. And then came the raccoon.
August, 2011: RACCOON
By August, 2011, Poochini's sight had mostly gone and he had also started to become incontinent which, looking back, probably also signifies the beginning of his deteriorating brain function as he did not go inside the house once in 15 years. But when he started losing the instinct to go outside each time he needed to go somewhere, he was confined to the kitchen at night because the tiles are more forgiving than the rugs.
As chronicled here on AN at the time, a raccoon came through the doggie door and Poochini must have accidentally startled it or gotten between the raccoon and the doggie door, because he was attacked by the raccoon. He wasn't seriously injured by the attack, but not being a fighter, Poochini frantically tried to escape and when he found the kitchen door closed he banged his head against it repeatedly trying to open it. I don't know whether he sustained a concussion or a more serious and permanent brain injury, but he did not even recognize me for over a week after that and I'm not sure he was really ever the same again.
Then, slowly and steadily, true dementia set in and that's ultimately why he is no longer with us. He started compulsively walking through tight spaces that were difficult and pointless to conquer, or getting stuck in small spaces and staring at the wall, or walking in circles while whimpering, and showing signs of generally being anxious and confused. This -- watching Poochini become a shell of himself -- and not yesterday, was the tragic part.
May 11th, 2012: REST IN POOCH
Friday morning, I had to go to work but my mom and I agreed it was time and that she would see when the vet could make an appointment for her to take Poochini in. I gave him a kiss on the top of the head, which I believe was exactly #100,000, and said, "If I never see you again..." I did see him again, though, lying next to the lemon tree, wrapped in his favorite blanket with his "pully-ropey" chew toy by his side, looking peaceful.
One last "earsies" later (that's when you stroke his velvet-like ears, the only thing that calmed him down lately when he was anxious), I shoveled the excavated dirt back onto the grave, and came inside just in time to see the A's rise to 1-0 in the "Post-Poochini Era".
I'm not the most religious or spiritual guy you'll ever meet, but I do believe that in Doggie Heaven they have an "all you can eat beef buffet" and for that I'm grateful. I'm also grateful to all of you who have inquired about, and cared about, Poochini over the years. He was -- and still is -- a good dog.