Thursday, January 27, 2011
This is my old man – Caleb. He became a part of my household in October, 1997. I figure he was born in either 1995 or 1996, which makes him between 15 & 16. Pretty darn old for a german shepherd mix.
He started his life with someone else, someone I never met even though he lived on the other side of my street and a few houses west of me. He was living in a house that had recently been purchased when the used car lot on the corner of my street expanded and bought the adjacent property with 2 houses on it. He worked at the car lot and the owner let him live there with his dog. When his boss found out that he was doing drugs, he fired him and kicked him out of the house. He left the dog behind to fend for himself. He did tell someone in the neighborhood that he would be back to get the dog. He never came.
Before the car lot owner bought the property, and before the last tenant in the front house moved in, the people before him moved out and left their cat and her kittens and their 3 legged dog and her puppies. The dog lost her leg after getting hit by a car. The house was (it’s demolished now) about 5 car lengths off a very busy major road in Orlando. The momma dog was very protective of her pups and all went to animal control. No doubt all were killed there. I took in the momma cat and her 2 remaining kittens – Climber, Chloe and Cleo. All 3 of those girls have passed on.
So, back to Caleb’s story. I started feeding him when he was abandoned. He had no collar, so I couldn’t put a leash on him. He would let me pet him with one hand, but not two. I wasn’t able to slip a collar over his head. If I brought both hands toward his head, he would run off. Every time I put his food bowl down, however, he would lick my face. He was obviously frightened, but friendly. After about 2 weeks, I was despairing that I would never catch him and he would get killed by a car either on the major highway or our street. He took to sleeping under one of those hot dog carts further down our block. Then a friend who did dog rescue came to help. She brought a couple of burgers and a slip noose. She held up the slip noose and held the burger on the other side. Caleb put his head through to get the burger and Voila he was finally caught.
My initial plan was to get him checked out with the vet and then turn him over to one of the area rescue groups to find him a home. Unfortunately, Caleb turned out to be very frightened. It was obvious that he had been beaten, smacked and probably kicked by his worthless previous owner. If I laughed too loud at something on TV, he would cower. If I raised my hands for anything, he would shake and cower. He wouldn’t let anyone walk behind him or touch anywhere near his tail or back legs. He just wouldn’t have been able to find a home because of how timid he was. The sad thing is the abuse I suspected isn’t the only thing that happened to him before I took him in.
About 5 years ago, his back legs went lame. He couldn’t stand up and his hind legs would get twisted when I tried lifting him to his feet. I took him to my vet, who took an x-ray. I took a look at it before the vet came in and was puzzled. There were spots all over the x-ray. I thought there was something wrong with the film. I was wrong. When I asked the vet about it, he told me that those spots were buckshot. Someone had shot Caleb with a shotgun and his body was peppered with the buckshot. The x-ray also showed that Caleb has degenerative disc disease. He was put on aspirin and prednisone. The vet wasn’t hopeful it would work, but within less than a week, Caleb was running through my backyard and acting like a puppy. He was obviously glad to be feeling so much better. He has had a couple of recurrences since that time, most recently this past weekend. Back on the pills, a muscle relaxant along with the prednisone, and getting his nails trimmed and he’s back to being his old self. At his age, he is nearly blind and totally deaf. He can’t hear the other dogs bark, thunder or firecrackers. At least the deafness is a blessing in disguise for him. He would always shiver in fear when we had a bad storm or someone nearby was shooting off firecrackers.
I thought I was going to lose him for sure in December, 2009. He had a tumor in his lower intestine and needed to have surgery. With his back problems, the location of the tumor and his age, I doubted he would pull through. He spent the night at the surgical specialists, following the surgery. I picked him up the next day, and you would think he was coming home from a spa visit. He not only pulled through, but did it like it was no big deal. The ability of animals to, so often, bounce back from surgery never fails to amaze me.
I don’t know how much longer Caleb will be with me, but he certainly has a strong spirit and desire to live. He’s come through so much and is such a sweet guy. Us humans could learn something from him.