Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kady

It was the end of February in 2004. My husband was in the military. Stationed in Hawaii sounds great but I was far from friends and family, all alone in a new place, while my husband was deployed for weeks to months at a time. We had been married for nearly 2 years and decided that we should get a dog. We were waiting to have kids, and I was so lonely all the time and it's nervewracking being home alone all the time. We found an ad online for Sharpei puppies and went to see them. The store was this run down little skeezy place and the pups didn't look very much Sharpei. The man who showed them to us was either having a hard time with the english language or playing it up to avoid giving us any real answers. He told us all the pups were female. As soon as he was not looking I checked and there were 3 males and 1 female. He also told us the pups were Bull Terrier and Sharpei cross but got really nervous when we asked if he had a picture. We were young and naieve, knew nothing about puppy mills or dogfighting or pitbulls. But when I held that female pup I knew I had to have her. So we bought her. The creepy man gave her what he said was her first vaccine for free and my husband shoved the wrapper of it into his pocket. As we were leaving we asked him about the pups age. The ad had said something like 9 weeks but they did NOT look that old. He said 5 weeks. He'd earlier told us he'd had the pups for about a week already. It made me angry that someone took pups away from their mother at 4 weeks old. Nutritively they need their mother for 5 weeks and psychologically for 8 weeks. When we got in the truck with the pup we read the vaccine wrapper. It had been for parvo (!!) which is NOT the first vax and isn't supposed to be given to such a young puppy.
We named her Kady (pronounced Katie) and she was our baby. Everyone who met her said how smart she was and I would laugh and say I had nothing better to do all day at home alone than teach her tricks! But the too-early weaning and parvo vax did damage. Her immune system was shot. Poor dog made it to a couple months old before her hair started falling out and she was itching all the time. The nice vet we took her to said she had Demodex. Unfortunatley the treatment he tried made her better for only a short while.
Kady grew and grew. Her rolly polly Labrador-pup-with-wrinkles looking body changed. Her ears began to stick up halfway and then flop over and stick straight out to the sides. People started to ask what breed she was and when we told them she was supposed to be Bull Terrier (think the Target mascot) and Sharpei (the wrinkle dogs that look like a fuzzy towel) they would say how strange because she looks like a Pit Bull puppy! Now I had heard all my life how horrible pitbuills are, that they will just bite you for no reason and if they bite you you will die and they have locking jaws and laser beam eyes and come from a hell realm blah blah blah- I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Well I was quite upset that people thought my amazing sweet wonderful little dog was one of THOSE things! I denied it vehemently.
After just a few months my husband was deployed for half a year yet again so instead of staying lonely in Hawaii, we put our stuff in storage and I flew home to my parents farm on the mainland with Kady. Her health was declining though and after a local hicksville vet telling me I was causing her suffering by allowing her to live, my mom and I started looking up alternative treatments online.
Kady kept getting worse and one day she had pnumonia. In my research I'd learned alot about Demodex and had learned that dogs don't die from Demodex itself- they die of a secondary infection due to dogs with Demodex being immune compromised. Her pnumonia got worse and I had to carry her outside to do her business and then carry her back inside. No matter how much pain she was in and how sick or hairless she never growled or snapped at me. All her hair was gone and her skin looked like raw hamburger bleeding and scabbed and she labored to breathe and I knew this was her last night. I thought that horrid compassionless vet was right- I should be kind and put her down. I couldn't do it though because despite her being on her deathbed she would lick my hand when I was close enough to her face and she was still drinking water. I put a bowl of stew in front of her and she drank the broth out of it. She could barely lift her head but there was still a happy spark in her eye and a lick for me when she saw me. So as long as SHE refused to give up, neither could I. But I knew it was her last night. No way could she survive. I stayed up with her all night, laying on a blanket by her and dozing in and out, petting her and telling her what a good dog she was. I wanted to be there for her when she died.
But she didn't die. She stayed the same the next day, but the day after that she was standing up some. The day after that she could walk partway to the door herself. The day after that she wanted to lay outside in the sunshine for a while before coming back in.
Kady had lowpoints and high points but we finally found some herbal treatments that helped her through when she had a bad time of it. She began to get less and less sick each time. At a year old she was doing well, with her sick times being very manageable and her well times being longer. When she was about 3 years old was her highpoint. She didn't lose much hair during a sick point and just got a little itchy and acted fine and happy.

In the course of my research on Demodex when Kady was a puppy I kept running across things saying it was common in Sharpeis and Pit Bulls. I started to actually do research on dog breeds and when I saw a picture of a Bull Terrier I knew that's not what my dog's other half was. She was half Sharpei for sure with her cute little fuzzy wrinkles, but the other half was not Bull Terrier. They were cute, but she'd never looked like one. No, those random people had been right. And they had not been trying to insult my dog. I now saw the other side clearly. She was half American Pit Bull Terrier! It actually made sense. In the years we lived in Hawaii we saw Pit Bulls everywhere. Everyone had a back yard full of Pit Bulls in Hawaii. I met an old chubby brindle pit bull mix and a purebred rednose American Pit Bull Terrier puppy in Hawaii before we'd gotten Kady and they were both so sweet that after all the bad I'd heard about Pit Bulls I just assumed the two I met were the rare exception. And Kady looked just like an American Pit Bull Terrier except with a few extra wrinkles. Then when I researched I found that the majority of things said about pitbulls were just stupid urban legends. I learned that:
-The term "pitbull" is used by the general public to refer to a handfull of seprate and different bully-breed dogs that people lump together and call a "pitbull" due to miseducation and paranoia, so when something says a pitbull bit someone it could have been one of like 5 different breeds or a mutt mix or something not even a bully-breed at all that someone called a pitbull just because it bit someone.
-Despite the fact that "pitbull" is like 5 different breeds together, statistically you are about as likely to get bitten by a Golden Retreiver as you are by any of the combined category of "pitbulls" and that statistically the dog most likely to bite is the Labrador Retreiver, followed closely by several popular small-breed and toy dogs.
-The temperament of the American Pit Bull Terrier and it's close cousin the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is very loyal, tolerant, and loving. Everywhere reliable that I read it said they are wonderful family dogs, great with children. Can tolerate insane amounts of abuse before they snap, if at all - which is heartbreakingly why they make good fighting dogs.
-I learned about dogfighting and puppy mills and the things they do to Pit Bulls would break your heart and make you want to hunt down those responsible and do to them the horrible things they do to these poor dogs. And yet this sweet and gentle breed(s) is statistically much less likely to bite you than a Lab, even though they have much more reason to hate humans!
-Dogs are like anything else: they are a product of their environment and upbringing, not just their breed. Dogs have the mentality of a human toddler. If you locked a human toddler in a box, a yard, a room alone for 8+ hours a day almost every day... if you chained a human toddler in the back yard... well that child would be resentful and could snap. But if you raise them with love, interaction, take them with you on vacation, keep them safe and warm in the house... well then they become loyal and true family members who will stay by your side loving and defending you until their last breath.
Kady was a perfect ambassador for her breed. She was a horrible puppy, in need of CONSTANT mental stimulation to keep her from becoming bored and destructive. When we first got her she would cower and growl and snap if you moved too fast in her direction, like she may have been abused in those 5 weeks of her life before we got her. But she grew up to be the sweetest gentlest dog! 49 stocky, wrinkley pounds of pure love. She won over people who had previously never met a real pitbull and were of the opinion I had been at first- that they were some evil psychodog.
My husband got out of the military and we moved. Got a new vet who said that some dogs with Demodex never get cured but there are ways to manage it so the dog lives a happy life. This was the third vet. The first and third vets were very nice and helpful. The nowheresville middle one was the only one who said nasty things. The nowheresville vet is the same vet that I saw drag a goat with a broken leg into his clinic by it's tail as it's bleating in pain when I was a child so no surprise the jerk would rather have put her down than help her.
When I was pregnant with Chicklet I heard too many irritating times things like "Are you going to get rid of the dog?" and "You know you can't have that kind of dog around children, right? They snap around children." and "Aren't you worried she'll hurt the baby?" But I knew 2 things they did not. One, I knew the truth about Pit Bulls. And Two, I knew that responsible owners don't allow the dog and new baby to be alone together and don't allow the baby to continually hurt the dog, even accidentally or innocently pulling hair/tail/ears. And I knew my dog. I had trained her well. She could do a variety of common tricks and I would occasionally get in her face while she was eating or give her a nice juicy bone and then make her give it willingly back to me since she was a tiny puppy. By the time my daughter was crawling, Kady was trained very well not to be aggressive about her food. Chicklet would make a beeline for the dogfood and begin splashing the water or trying to eat the dogfood and the dog would not growl at her, but would instead give me this pathetic intense doggie look that said, "Mooom! She's playing in my food again! Make her stop!" And of course I always promptly put a stop to it because it is just as important for a child to learn to respect a dog as it is for a dog to learn to respect a child. A dog should not be made to take the abuse of constantly having a baby in her face while she's eating. That is just asking for long-term resentment. If the dog knows, as Kady did, that she must submit to humans getting in her bowls and in her face occasionally, but is confident that it will be made right promptly, then that dog will be happy to be non-aggressive with food. This is something that is best done from puppyhood.

So my dear baby daughter and my dear fur-baby loved each other as I knew they would. When I was in labor, Kady followed me around as if attached to my ankle. When baby Chicklet would cry, the dog would pace back and forth between me and Chicklet until I had calmed the baby. When I was sick she would lay on my feet. She loved to play soccer with the neighborhood kids, until their moms found out the dog they'd been playing with was one of those pitbull dogs and forbid them to go near her. Her favorite game was tug of war with old socks... she loved it when we would pick her up by the sock and she would dangle from it with her teeth, tail wagging furiously and paws paddling air excitedly. When we let go she'd proudly shake the sock before depositing the disgustingly slobbery thing back in our lap, begging us to do it again.

But in her 5th year, sweet Kady began getting sick again. And she got sicker and sicker each time. Like her first year in reverse. Finally she did not get better. She was missing patches of hair, scabby and itchy, and acting down for more than a month. Then she started throwing up and had diarrhea all over the house. She wouldn't go outside through the doggie door, but instead would run to us shaking and vomit or defecate at our feet. I tried a whole slew of new treatments, and with the last one as with the first one it didn't work- one morning toward the end of May 2009 I found her laying in a puddle of excrement. She barely acknowleged me. It was time to let her go.
Dear sweet Kady lived 5 1/4 years. She was sweet, loving and loyal. She was sick at the beginning and the end, but happy and healthy and vibrant for years in the middle (so there, nasty compassionless vet from nowheresville!) She wanted to live, and so she did. Her heart, her spirit, were strong and true. She was a fighter. But her immune system was weak. 5 years were all she had in her, but she put her all into those 5 years. She was so smart and so opposite of the untrue urban legends I'd previously believed about her breed. She was an undercover ambassador for Pit Bulls who snuck into our lives in the guise of a Bull Terrier and educated and changed our hearts. She left us proud to have been owners of a Pit Bull and finally educated on the truth of the breed and better pet owners for the experience. She made a mark on all of us and will not be forgotten.
Some days Chicklet, who was 2 1/2 when Kady died and is now 3 1/4, remembers her. When it happened we told her that Kady lives with Jesus now. She asked every day "Where's Kady?," then every week, then rarely. We thought she'd forgotten. Then not too long ago we were in the WalMart parking lot after dark and as we were buckling the kids in their carseats a dog started barking somewhere in the parking lot. Chicklet exclaimed, "Daddy! It sounds like Kady! Daddy it's Kady! You hear it? Sounds like Kady!" We told her gently that it isn't Kady, Kady lives with Jesus now. She, and the distant dog, were quiet for a few seconds. Then the dog began to bark again and Chicklet strained against her carseat harness and insisted, "Mama!!!! It's Kady! Oh it's Kady... Daddy you hear it is Kady! We have to go get her! Daddy we have to get her!" She kept repeating 'We have to get her!' desperately for a minute while I tried to reassure her that it was not Kady, Kady is safe with Jesus. Finally she quieted and I turned back to the front windshield and silently cried the rest of the way home. I miss Kady too.




~*~

3 comments:

  1. Oh, that poor dog. At least she knew she was loved and had a happy life with you. Any breed of dog, if is treated with kindness, will be a good dog. My husband's family always had Doberman Pinschers, and they were treated kindly and were nice dogs, as was ours when we got one ourselves.

    BTW, "Petey", the white dog with the circle around one eye on the old Little Rascals tv shows, was a pit bull!

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  2. It sounds like she had a wonderful life with your family. I don't think that any certain breed of dog is really any more dangerous then another. Actually I have known more small dogs to be aggressive the large dogs.

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  3. I am not sure how I got here, through other posts but am so glad I read your story...as sad AND joyful as it is. I have a nephew who rescued 2 part-Pits and they are both sweet dogs. I admit, they made me nervous too, but only because of the rumors like you spoke of. We did have a Pitbull attack in our area a few years ago when several pups killed a 10 year old kid as her and the owners child were playing with the dogs UNATTENDED. THere was so much publicity, but so unfair. I know there are ALL types of dogs who can become violent if treated or trained badly, just like ANY animal!
    My daughter got bit by a Cocker spaniel many years ago at my older daughter's friends house. It can happen.
    YOu have such a strong, loving voice to help and protect what you know...most pets can become loving, loyal, and sweet members of our families...if loved and taught the right way.
    I am so sorry you had to go through this pain, but you shared much joy wiht this wrinkly little angel too! Bless you and Kady too!
    ALL dogs go to heaven...no matter what "brand" they are!

    ejrichter60 at gmail dot com

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