Monday, February 27, 2012

King's Story

It all started in late March of 2006. One Saturday morning, Ron and I were sitting at the table drinking coffee and planning our day. The phone rang; it was someone at our vet’s office. “This is a strange question, but do you have Wolfie there with you?” she asked.

“Yes, he’s right here.”

“Oh, good. Animal Control just brought in a wolf-shepherd mix. His foot was caught in a trap. He looks like Wolfie and we were afraid it’s him.”

“No, he’s right here, but thanks for checking.”

We didn’t think any more about the phone call until a couple of weeks later. Ron was petting Wolfie and noticed a hard, bony lump under his jaw. Concerned, we made an appointment with the vet for the following day. Dr. A felt it and took an X-ray. We took Wolfie home and later in the day, Ron and I went back to the vet to get the results. Dr. A showed us the X-ray and talked to us; the prognosis sounded bleak. She was certain it was bone cancer, but wanted to do a biopsy to make sure. She would send it out and we wouldn’t hear the results for a few days, but we were pretty sure of the outcome.

Devastated, we walked out of the exam room and into the waiting room. One of the receptionists behind the desk told us that the wolfdog they had called us about in March was still at the Animal Shelter. She also said he’s bigger and darker than Wolfie. “Bigger?” I thought to myself.

The Animal Shelter is only a block from the vet’s office and Ron insisted we go right away to look at the wolfdog. He was certain Wolfie had bone cancer and wouldn’t live long and he wanted to get a replacement right away. We went over to the shelter to see him and oh my goodness, he IS bigger than Wolfie. Longer by about a foot and taller by about a foot. He was in one of the biggest cages, but it was much too small for him. He could barely turn around in it. There was no natural light; it wasn't anywhere near a window.

We took him for a walk around the parking lot. The paw that had been caught in the trap was still bothering him and he couldn’t put any weight on it at all, so he walked on three feet. He seemed happy to be out of the cage and in the fresh air and didn’t pull on the leash or struggle at all. It was hard for us to put him back in that small dark cage, so we talked to one of the shelter workers about taking him home to foster him until they could find a permanent home. She was concerned since he was probably part wolf, but we told her about our experiences with Wolfie, who is half wolf. The biggest issue with wolfdogs is containment and we had already solved that problem (building the courtyard wall 8 or 9 feet high). So she let us take him home.

The first thing we had to do was fatten him up. Although taller and longer than Wolfie, he was much skinnier. His hip bones were sticking out and so were his ribs. He only weighed 75 pounds, even though he was 7 feet long, from nose to tail. We gave him lots of dog food and ground beef, and to help build up his bones, we gave him lots of milk. This was the start of a lifelong addiction to milk, but it built up his bones and muscle.

The second thing we had to do was change his name. The shelter had given him the name of Shadow, but we already had a cat with that name. For awhile we called him Big Wolf (although we had a dog named Big). Eventually Ron named him King; as a boy, he’d had a German Shepherd named King.

We took King on walks to help rehabilitate his damaged paw. One of the toes had been amputated and the paw pads had been worn away completely. He licked that paw constantly and we wondered if it would ever heal.

We don’t know if he ever lived with people before us. He was half wild, but quickly became Ron’s protector. Unfortunately that included protecting Ron from me; he growled if I got too close, which didn’t exactly endear him to me.

After we’d had King for about a week, we got a call from the vet and learned that Wolfie did NOT have bone cancer and we didn’t have to worry about him dying anytime soon. That was wonderful news, but what would we do with his “replacement” now that he didn’t need replacing?

We now had four dogs and for some reason, that bothered me. It was the idea of “four” more than the reality, but I resisted having four and I kept asking Ron what his exit strategy for King was. Someone he worked with knew someone who had lost a dog in the general vicinity where King had been found. They said their dog was really big, but when they came to see if King was theirs, they said, “Oh, no; ours isn’t that big!” Ron called the shelter, but they said they were full and we couldn’t bring him back.

So we officially adopted him.

His paw pads grew back and his foot became strong enough to put weight on it. That foot became tired before the other three, but we were amazed at the comeback he made.

Of course I grew to love him and I found out that having four dogs isn’t much different from having three. And he grew to love me, too and didn’t see me as a threat (giving him lots of treats and lots of love helped). And the other dogs taught him how to be a dog.

And now we just miss him so much.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

R.I.P. King

We came back this afternoon from a wonderful weekend with our close friends in Amarillo to a sad sight. King had died, probably during the night or early in the day. There was a little bit of snow on his body, but he wasn't frozen solid.

He had been in declining health, ever since his Night of Many Seizures as we call it. Medication stopped the seizures, but there were other side effects. He had trouble using his rear legs, and the trouble ranged from minor to major; it was a constant roller coaster from one day to the next. It was hard on King and it was hard on us. We had a feeling he wouldn't last much longer, but we didn't want to face the Big Decision yet. So, in a way, it was better like this. King died peacefully and he wasn't alone; he was with his packmates, Wolfie and Brutus.

Someday soon I'll post King's full story. I think when I posted the stories of the other dogs, I stopped before I got to King's. He had a lousy life before he came to us and a really great life after he came to us. I'll post that story in a couple of days.