Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Conversation About Service Dogs.

A friend who is involved with training K-9s and Service Dogs once told me that Service Dogs do not live long after they retire. The reason being their rigid training and their lives as service dogs are so tightly controlled 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, that they find it difficult to adjust to a new lifestyle after they are no longer working. I found that quite familiar because 3 months after I retired 14 years ago I had a heart attack and a triple by-pass. A lot of people also face health problems early in retirement as well.

This fact applies to old man Axl and explains his mysterious attraction to my wife from the day they first met in 2009 because my wife Jacqueline was diagnosed with Alzheimer's that same year. I am guessing that Axl, as a trained service dog, recognized that my wife was going to need him so he just went into Service Dog mode to continue the job he knew how to do best. No one had to ask him to do it, he volunteered.

In the beginning Axl enjoyed a few breaks in his daily routine and bonded with our then 3 year old Ruffin. I even used to think that Axl could become an adopted father figure to Ruffin because of their age differences. When we adopted Axl he was only a month away from his 8th birthday. In the ensuing years Axl began to spend more and more time with Jacqueline and less time with Ruffin. This coincided with the progression that Alzheimer's was taking over my wife. In the early years all of us, my wife included, used to take long walks down to the back of our property. Then when walking became difficult for Jacqueline both she and Axl would spend more time in the house together. And when Axl found it too difficult to jump up on Jacqueline's bed at night he simply took up sleeping next to it on the floor.

As I mentioned before I have had several conversations with our Veterinarian about Axl's health and his longevity. Axl gets a check up twice a year along with all his shots. The Vet agrees with me that Axl is so devoted to Jacqueline that he refuses to let the infirmities of his age keep him from staying close to her. If he has any pain he has never showed it and the only visible problem he has is a slight weakness in his hind legs. Sometimes he has difficulty standing up and needs a little help but when I am not around he still manages to stand up by himself. And the funny thing is when I do help him get up he seems to complain as if he was telling me he could do it by himself.

Over the years I've been reminded of the fact that we humans have a duty to end the lives of our devoted pets when they become sick or injured beyond the point of repair or healing. Some people almost think they should strictly adhere to the 10-12 year life expectancy rule that Rottweilers face because they don't want a handicapped old dog. Too often some would regret having assumed the worst and put down their furry friends unnecessarily. I abide by one rule and that is that none of my Rottweilers will ever endure pain and suffering. If you read back further in this blog you will note that my girl Sassy had a problem that came about from the ACL surgery on both her hind legs when she was about 3 years old. A few years after that her Vet put her on a pain management program that worked very well until she developed liver and kidney disease when she was 11 years old. And Sassy led a very happy life until the day she was put to sleep. And I will tell you I cried my heart out when I had to make that decision. It is not easy playing God.

Old man Axl will hopefully continue for as long as he wants to do the job he started doing 7 years ago. But he will never have to suffer for his devotion to duty.

Thank you for listening.

1 comment:

  1. Having to make the decision to put them down is the absolute worst. Having had to do it three times (unfortunately soon to be a fourth time) it never gets any easier but we don't want our loves to suffer and they rely on us to do the right thing.