It was one and a half years ago that I met my dear friend who I would come to know as Falcor. The name was picked out by my partner who said she reminded him of the dog-dragon from the Neverending Story. She was a chow-lab mix with a fluffy beige coat, a pink and purple tongue and nose, and big brown hound-dog eyes.
The shelter said she was six years old when we got her, but I had a feeling she was probably a little older. (Shelters do that sometimes to boost a dog’s chances for adoption, but I wouldn’t have cared either way.) She was always a timid, gentle dog, especially on her first day at our house. We did our best to make her feel comfortable while still giving her enough space so she would be able to get used to us on her own terms.
When we first got her, she was the fattest dog I had ever seen with my own eyes. She had difficulty walking and her breathing was labored. For the most part, she tried to stay sitting or laying. She wouldn’t even get up to eat.
We had already been feeding our younger dog, Layla (a 2-3 year old german shepherd-husky mix), a vegan diet and had seen good results, so there was no question that we would feed Falcor vegan food as well. After a few weeks of feeding her vegan food we noticed that she was able to move around a little easier and could come get her food rather than having it brought to her where she was sitting. We started giving her some exercise. Nothing too tough at first, but soon enough she was keeping up with Layla running laps around the pool, chasing squirrels and rough-housing with us. Within a few months time she slimmed down to a normal, healthy weight and even our veterinarian was impressed by the unlikely turn-around.
Layla had been an “only-dog” in our house for a year before Falcor joined our family and she would sometimes assert her dominance over Falcor in very nasty, scary fights. One particular fight landed me in the emergency room with blood running down my left arm and leg and chunks of adipose sticking out from the wounds. Someone didn’t close the door to the room where our three rabbits live and the dogs must have seen them and gotten excited. I’ve heard you’re not normally supposed to get in between two dogs in the middle of a fight, but I had to push them out of the room where rabbits were hopping around without any barrier between them and the dogs. I don’t blame either of them for what happened.
Falcor would always lose their fights and after the first one she realized that I was protecting her from getting beat up. She started following me around everywhere. When new people would come to the house she would stay close to me and when people would pet her she would look to me to see if it was safe to trust them. She considered me her guardian and I was honored to have that duty.
She loved getting pets and rubs and would do this funny thing with her head if you stopped rubbing her, even for a few seconds. She would snap her head back and give this disapproving stare back as if to say “I didn’t tell you to stop”. Wherever I went, she wanted to go too. When I would be finished showering I would open the bathroom door and see her laying on the floor looking up at me with her head resting over her paws, waiting for me to come out. When I would come home from work she would do this “happy dance” with her front feet as if the ground was really hot. Any time I would say her name (I called her Falcorsies), she would wag her tail.
My fondest memory of Falcor would have to be right after the first time we had her groomed. My partner brought her home smelling like flowers with a big pink bow on her collar. She was glowing with happiness. She must have felt like a princess. Moments like that is what rescuing a dog is all about. She would have languished and died in a shelter, wondering where her family went, feeling afraid, alone and confused, but in that moment she was the happiest, most loved dog in the world.
One night she couldn’t stop panting. She panted so loudly I wasn’t able to sleep. I took her to an after-hours emergency clinic. She didn’t want to go into the back with the veterinary technician without me. She took a few steps, looked back, noticed I wasn’t following her and promptly planted her butt on the ground and pulled against the leash. She wasn’t going anywhere without her protector. They let me come in with her.
They took x-rays of her abdomen and discovered that she was full of fluid that had collected around her lungs, making it difficult for her to breathe. They would have to do a tap to remove the fluid. After about an hour and just over two liters of fluid removed from her chest, the vet recommended that we send the fluid to a lab to see if her condition was caused by an infection or cancer. About a week later we had the results. It was cancer. Continue reading “I Lost My Friend Today”