Nearly a year ago, I wrote about Ranger’s struggle with idiopathic vestibular disease and then his recovery [”recovery” relative to how awfully bad he was at the worst]. Ranger’s improvement plateaued after a few weeks and he never regained his sense of balance. To make matters worse, at the same time, Ranger lost almost all of his vision and hearing capabilities.
Before, Ranger could hear the jingle of a set of keys being picked up three rooms away. After, only a very loud whistle was audible. Best we could tell, the vestibular event also robbed Ranger of all of his vision in one eye, left him with very limited eyesight in one eye and his peripheral vision was non-existent.
So, for nearly a year, Ranger, felt his way around the house and the back yard. I tried my best to help him, but Ranger, like someone else I know every well, loves his independence and loathes having to depend upon someone else to help him.
(photo at right and below-Ranger 1995, approx 3 months old)
Over the past year, Ranger’s balance and leg strength, especially in his back legs, continued to deteriorate. More and more, Ranger would spend almost the entire day sleeping and then pace anxiously for a few hours, after night fall, before going settling down to sleep.
After trying a variety of medications & treatment recommended by Ranger’s longtime vet (thanks Dr. Johnson for all your help over the years), I decided a second opinion couldn’t hurt. We discovered Ranger’s lethargy could be at least partly explained by pain from a compressed (herniated) disk . The other reason, of course, would that walking around when you cannot see or hear isn’t much fun. As I understand it, when disks are compressed, the padding in between two disks has deteriorated to the extent that the disks actually rub together - bone on bone. Very painful. Plus, the spinal cord becoming exposed could have been the cause of Ranger’s decreased ability to use his back legs.
Again, we tried a bunch of different approaches: muscle relaxers, canine pain killers, human pain killers, steroidal therapy, liver vitamins, thyroid meds. None of which helped Ranger to not fall over when simply walking across the room - much less give him the strength to get up once he had fallen.
Unfortunately, all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put Ranger back together again. Ranger’s loss of nearly everything that seemed so important to him - his independence , his dignity and his ability to know what was going on around his domain at all times - led me to make a very tough decision.
Ranger had not been the same for a year and would probably never return to the frisky, playful Ranger I had always known. Last night, as I lay on the floor sobbing, praying and holding Ranger, he gave me more kisses than he had given me in the entire last year. The simple fact that Ranger let me hold him (Ranger was never the snuggly type) seemed to be a sign that it was time to say goodbye.
First thing this morning, I called Dr. Ben Morse and asked him if he had any more tricks up his sleeve - any magic potions. Basically, we had run out of options - we had tried everything to right the ship and none of it worked.
Because of some severe digestive problems, Ranger had been on a restrictive diet this week. But it didn’t matter any more. I grabbed the hamburger patties I had made the night before and loaded Ranger into my car. I carefully hand-fed some beef on the way to the vet and he quickly gobbled up each bite. Remember Ranger’s lack of vision? sometimes I guess a finger can look like hamburger!
To the folks at the vet’s office, I’m sure I looked worse than Ranger with my face red & splotchy. As I crawled into bed after being with Ranger the night before, Carey asked, alarmingly, “What in the world is on your face?” I told her I didn’t know and she asked if I had been crying (busted). She said I had broken tiny blood vessels in my face from crying too hard. To me, it looked like I had splashed muriatic acid on my face.
As we waited, I sat on the floor with Ranger, petting him and feeding him doggie canapes (dog biscuits with a piece of burger on top). Dutifully, I rubbed Ranger’s ears and scratched his back one last time. I ran my fingers through his long hair one more time in hopes I would never forget how he felt.
Just after 10:00 am, on July 9, 2008, Ranger drifted away, peacefully. I cannot even begin to tell you how incredibly compassionate Dr. Morse was during the entire process, even as I attempted to apologize for having him, a healer, do this. Although I realize Ranger is no longer in pain, I feel an incredible starkness in my heart, as if part of it has been ripped away.
Ranger was never the perfect dog. But it was Ranger’s imperfections that helped develop a kinder, gentler me. Certainly a more patient me. A more compassionate me. Thank you, Ranger for teaching me.
Ranger really loved those folks in his inner circle. Thank you Carey, Susan and Dad for being a part of Team Ranger. He could never get enough of you. I’ll remember Ranger playing the “slide the greenie” game Susan invented and remember how much Ranger loved having my dad scratching his back.
Ranger indeed was loved and loved greatly. Ranger grieved when his “brother,” Britt died four years ago. Ranger missed me so badly when I would go out of town that he would howl throughout the night. And today, Ranger, we are brokenhearted without you here.
Ranger also loved Saxon. I know this because he put up with things she did to him that he would not have tolerated from anyone else. Tail-pulling, attempted pony rides, “hair cuts,” you name it. Saxon will miss Ranger - or at the very least she will miss yelling, “No, Ranger, No, Go Away” like she did when he would get under her high chair (which was a no-no around here). We will help Saxon remember Ranger.
99% of the time, Ranger dined on dog food. But I’ll always remember how much he loved fish, peanut butter, steak and bread. I could never scatter bread in the yard for birds, because Ranger would eat it all.
I’ll remember coming home to see Ranger looking out the window and waving at us as we walked up.
I’ll remember how Ranger loved getting attention so much that he’d pose any way I wanted him too. He especially liked wearing the Harry Potter glasses. (click thumbnails to see larger picture)
I’ll remember Ranger kissing Carey, ever so delicately.
I’ll remember our great road trip to marfa, marathon & lajitas, where Ranger got so relaxed he would turn completely upside down and snore in the back seat while we’re cruising down west texas highways.
i’ll remember ranger getting on beds ONLY in hotels. never at home.
i’ll remember ranger’s big smiles, like this one when we were hiking at big bend state park.
i’ll remember our family of three portraits.
I will remember ranger’s watchful eyes.
…and our tongue-in-cheek portraits of ranger with the texas bluebonnets.
I’ll remember one of one of our happiest days together, on the banks of the rio grande.
But mainly, I’ll remember Ranger’s devotion, his sweet face, his pretty eyes and his multi-colored tongue.
Goodbye and farewell my little Ranger.