Athens, Georgia, Canine Cancer Awareness, Christmas, Dogs, Emotional Support Animals, Gratitude, Grief and Loss, Memoirs, San Diego, California

For the Love of Reggie

 

Reggieglowing
Christmas lights glowing on Reggie under the Xmas tree, December 2018

Tomorrow, Monday, December 10, 2018, is going to be one of the most important days in Reggie’s life.

He is having a colonoscopy at Woodlands Veterinary Clinic to determine if his 18-month-long illness originating from his large intestine is a chronic autoimmune disease – or cancer.

Last week, I had to take him back to his regular vet at Hope Animal Medical Center for additional blood work and a second ultrasound  because his condition has worsened since September, in spite of additional medications and diet changes that we were hoping would ameliorate his symptoms.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, has worked.

Dr. Clifton found increased inflammation in his blood, and the ultrasound showed that the large intestine tissue looks worse – in other words, whatever is the cause of the abnormal-looking tissue has become more aggressive.

This does not surprise me given that Reggie is in more pain than he was a few months ago, and I’m scrambling to keep up my supply of carpet and floor cleaner and paper towels because he has gotten so much worse.

I’ve come up with every trick and solution I can think of: covering the bedroom carpets with heavy duty trash bags as best as I can, and putting down cardboard on some of the hardwood, but there is only so much I can do.  Often Reggie spontaneously has an accident before I can get him downstairs, and out of the house, and in the middle of the night, when I’m asleep, I don’t hear him crying to go out – in fact, he usually does not cry, he just goes – and then I can tell he feels bad about it in the morning from the look in his eyes. I can’t be upset at him, he can’t help it, but, I have had to set my alarm 15 minutes earlier every day to make time to do the daily am cleanup.

It’s a labor of love, and I have no complaints about that part – nothing is more important than saving Reggie’s life.

I just hope and pray that once the results of the biopsy are in that I will be able to save his life – or that the vets will, I should say.

I can clean and/or replace carpets and floors. I can’t replace Reggie. He is, and always has been, irreplaceable.

Reggie and I did not start off on the right foot, although I thought he was adorable, and I wanted him (and Lizzie) with me. I was skeptical because I’d heard rumors about how naughty he was back in Seattle, WA when he lived with Addie. Apparently he was not the most obedient dog and he often got into trouble – even his pet sitters claimed that he was a handful, or so I heard.

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Reggie with Lizzie in Audie and Addie’s condo in Seattle, before I met them, circa 2007-2008

Yes, this cute little Frenchie pug was a pound, or 20 pounds, of trouble. Hard to believe when you look at those ears and big brown eyes, but, it’s true. In fact, Audie used to warn me, “You have to be alpha with Reggie. You have to be dominant.”

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Reggie, age 4, shortly after he moved in with me in December 2009

This is true, and it’s taken years, literally years, to master that with Reggie, but at this point, I’m confident I’ve elevated to pack leader status.

At least, I hope so:)

However, he definitely has tested me over the years, especially when it came to my elderly rescue dog, Toby. In the beginning, I was very worried, but I consulted with Dr. Kaleka (my longtime general vet) at Governor Animal Clinic in San Diego and she gave me specific instructions on how to integrate Reggie and Lizzie into Toby’s domain without conflicts.

Toby’s internal medicine specialist, Dr. Sara Ford, assured me that it would be good for Toby to be around the younger dogs. She told me that it would add years to his life and rejuvenate him (it was true, it did put more life into Toby’s last two years).  Having a larger pack of dogs did have its pros and cons, but Dr. Ford felt certain that the benefits would outweigh the downsides.

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Toby, Lizzie and Reggie on the patio at University City Starbucks, circa 2011

As soon as Audie and I brought Lizzie and Reggie home from San Diego airport that first day, December 22, 2009, we took them on a long walk with Toby, before we even let them into the condo.

One of the best lessons I learned about adopting a dog, or introducing dogs to each other, period, is how to avoid the territorial battle: take the dogs on a long walk together in neutral territory.

It seemed to work out perfectly. After the walk, we brought Reggie and Lizzie into the house and put them in the kitchen behind the pet gate, where they had to live for a month, per Dr. Kaleka’s instructions. They needed to learn that Toby was the “main” dog in this house.

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Reggie and Lizzie behind the pet gate in December 2009

They were allowed to come out to eat with Toby, (who had to be fed first), to go on walks together as much as possible, and to mingle with the rest of the family in the main part of the condo in gradual increments. We started with 20-30 minutes and built up to full-time intermingling by the end of the first month. (Full disclosure: it was probably less than a month and moved faster than we were told, as I recall. I hated to leave Reggie and Lizzie behind the gate, though probably not as much as Audie did).

Toby didn’t mind. He’d stare at them from the living room – they’d stare back from the kitchen.

This went on for days…I think Toby built up quite a bit of chutzpah during that time – watching Reggie and Lizzie pawing at the gate and barking, wanting to get to him, and to us.

Yes, being king of the condo suited Toby very well.

Maybe that’s why Reggie let him have it fairly soon after he was allowed to roam free.

I was angry, and scared, when Reggie attacked Toby out of the blue – with no apparent provocation.

I was so distraught, that I told Audie I wanted Reggie to go back to Seattle.

I honestly feared that Reggie might attack Toby randomly at any time, and that his life would constantly be in danger, if we kept Reggie with us.

For the second time, we considered separating Lizzie and Reggie, but gladly, cooler heads convinced me otherwise and I backed down.

We kept Reggie, and I tried not to worry.

Thankfully, he didn’t make a habit of going after Toby, although, it did happen twice more, and I didn’t see it coming. First, Reggie went after him while Toby was sitting on his own dog bed (Mind you, the first week Reggie arrived, he lifted his leg and pee’d on Toby’s dog bed. Those alpha males!).

Everything was fine for more than a year and a half, and then suddenly, one day in 2011, all three dogs were doing their own thing, minding their business while eating from their own dog bowls, and Reggie lunged at Toby’s neck and knocked him down.

It was loud, it was violent, and thankfully, it was brief – neither dog was injured, though Toby was so weak, compared to Reggie, not to mention blindsided by the sudden attack, that he never had a chance to fight back.

I was shaken up, and angry at Reggie, but by this time, there was no question in my mind that Reggie was not going anywhere – I didn’t want him to – I was completely attached to Reggie.

I stopped feeding Toby and Reggie together for a while, but it was not long before I tried again. Thankfully, nothing like that surprise lunge ever happened again.

But, I never left them alone, either, at food time for the remainder of Toby’s life.

Reggie has often surprised me, in a good way.

When Toby died – I was touched – and surprised – how much Reggie grieved for him, searching for Toby in all the usual places, and looking at me with sadness in his eyes. This went on for several days.

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Reggie circa August 2011

 

Reggie returned to his normally perky self in no time, but I never have forgotten that in the end, Reggie showed me how much he really did love Toby, and that he had bonded to him, in spite of their alpha male competitiveness.

If someone were to ask me, “What is your favorite thing about Reggie?” there is no question in my mind how to answer that. Although he doesn’t do it anymore, sadly, Reggie had the innate instinct, and ability,  to get himself revved up like the Road Runner (the cartoon character) when Audie and/or I teased him by trying to chase him, or even just pretending to go head to head by leaning down, as if we were going to pounce, reaching for his legs. In response, Reggie would lean forward, as if he were getting ready to pounce too, and then all of a sudden, off he’d go!

And when I say go, I mean gooooooooo!

road runner
Image from Warner Bros. and Courtesy of Facebook images

 

He’d jump off the couch and speed down the hallway, in a flash, disappear for about 30 seconds, and then all of sudden, he’d whiz by us, full steam ahead, back into the room. He’d get more and more excited, to the point he’d trip over himself sometimes, spinning in circles two or three times, and then he was off! Like a little bullet, he’d tear off down the hallway again, out of sight, in a black blur. He’d go back and forth, several times, until he finally wore himself out and landed somewhere close by us.

All the while, we would laugh so hard, it was as if the whole condo filled with the sound of our belly laughter.

I never laughed harder, nor did I ever hear Audie laugh harder, than I did in those times – many, many times – over the years, in all three homes we lived in together.

We couldn’t help it. There was absolutely nothing funnier than Reggie when he got himself all worked up like that. It was so funny, in fact, that Audie and I would provoke him on purpose just so we could make ourselves laugh while watching him go, go, go!

Actually, I can’t remember anything that has made me laugh harder, time after time after time, in my entire life, than Reggie’s speedy Gonzalez routine. Hands down, when I look back on my years with Reggie, it is the thing about him that brought me the most joy, over and over again.

He never does it anymore. I have tried to get him excited and worked up to it, but he is just too tired, I think, or just is not feeling well.

The other day he did show interest in one of the plush squeaky toys I bought for him two Christmases ago – a reindeer – but after a couple of rounds of toss and retrieve, he got tired. Mostly, he just wants to rest nearby – nowadays, he sleeps a lot, for most of the day.

It is hard seeing how he is slowing down more and more each day.

Still, he has not lost his loving nature, and I’m thankful for that. He wags his tail when we meet people and still barks like the territorial protector that he is when the doorbell rings. And don’t even tell me about how bent out of shape he gets when he spots one of the neighbor’s outdoor cats wandering around our driveway or in the front yard. He does not bark at the TV as much as he used to, but he did let Sully, George H.W. Bush’s service dog, have it, when I was watching the dignitaries pay their respects to Bush 41 at the Capitol on CSPAN.

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Reggie cuddled with Lizzie back in Seattle circa 2007-08

This past week, I broke down and posted a GoFundMe fundraiser to help me pay for his colonoscopy tomorrow. I really did not want to ask for help, but I need it in this case, with no money coming in for several months and so much money going out for bills that I never expected this year, on top of my usual medical expenses and necessities. My friends urged me to try it because people post GoFundMe fundraisers for just about everything, they said, even if they just need to fix their car, or want to do something much smaller than trying to save their dog’s life.

I knew it would expose my vulnerabilities to put myself out on the Internet publicly in this way, so I hemmed and hawed about it for over a month.

Finally, last week, I looked at my situation and the reality slap left a sting and a nasty red mark on my cheek.

I decided to give it a try. So many people, near and far, local and long-distance, love Reggie and always ask about him, what could it hurt to try?

I told myself, Reggie is the one thing in my life I do not feel guilty about reaching out to others for assistance with, because God knows, he’s worth it. He’s the sweetest, most loving creature, and I can’t imagine losing him anytime soon. There is no way to help him if I don’t know what’s wrong – and whatever is wrong with him, is not going to be inexpensive to fix.

I’ve prepared myself already for the worst case scenario – and what I’d want to do about it, or at least, what I think is best for Reggie.

He also has a heart murmur and he has been very stressed and anxious. I don’t want to put him through major surgery, or chemotherapy, I really don’t. Dr. Clifton said palliative care is an option for a little while, if it’s cancer, because he currently isn’t showing any signs that he cannot have more time with quality of life.

If his cheerful greetings and wagging tail when people come up to pet him is any indication, I definitely agree with Dr. Clifton. Not to mention, he still loves people food, albeit he’s had it with the hydrolyzed protein kibble – wants nothing to do with it lately. (Thankfully Dr. Clifton said to let him eat what he wants until the procedure since we don’t know what is wrong with him, let him enjoy what he’s eating.  “He has to eat to live,” she said.

And, he really wasn’t eating, sometimes for 2 days, so that was that – he got a free pass to eat white meat ground turkey and ground beef and a little bit of apple and pumpkin. (I dare not give him anything else).

A few days ago, I was reminded, again, to be grateful for all the little things and all the small acts of kindness in the world.

In this case, it was owing to the kindness of a stranger.

Reggie was sitting by my feet at Jittery Joe’s while I was editing a story for the Slackpole and he was either in pain, or cold, I’m not sure which. It has been so cold in Athens lately, it probably was the cold. I tried putting him on my lap and it helped a little, but he kept shaking, mostly by his rear end, which worries me – he does that a lot lately and I’m not sure if it’s related to his intestinal problems.

A lady who looked to be in her 60s approached me to pet Reggie and noted how cold he was, in a nice way of course, she was just concerned.

“I forgot his coat at home,” I told her. (Audie bought him a beautiful brown winter coat several years ago and he looks very handsome wearing it).

“Ohhh,” she replied sympathetically.

She left after a bit and I went on with my business.

About ten minutes passed, give or take, and the woman came back, handed me a green argyle dog sweater with a snowflake pattern, and said, “Here.”

I was floored.

“Keep it,” she said, “Merry Christmas.”

And then, just like that, she left as I thanked her profusely.

I put the sweater on Reggie right away.

It fit perfectly.

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Reggie’s new sweater

 

He doesn’t even seem to mind it, and he usually hates wearing doggie clothes, except for the coat that Audie bought for him.

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Reggie’s brown winter coat

 

It’s been a long two months waiting for this appointment tomorrow, and they said it might snow, but I think it’s going to be okay, and that we’ll be able to get to the clinic in the morning.  It felt like this day would never come, and now in 24 hours, it will be over with.

Hopefully, I’ll know Reggie’s diagnosis very soon.

In the meantime, he is resting by my feet under the dining room table, and he looks so peaceful. I hope there aren’t any complications – they said he would probably have some cramping and more gas and…more for me to clean up….if you know what I mean…but otherwise I am not sure what to expect for the aftercare. I do know that Reggie is in good hands, and Dr. Barker’s kindness and confidence has been very reassuring.

I know I’m doing the right thing, that’s what’s important.

It’s so strange when I think of Reggie and me.  I know I’ve said this before, but it comes into my head so often these days when he’s cuddling up next to me in bed, or nestling in my lap, or sitting by me near the Christmas tree, or riding with me in the car, or just about any time he comes up as close as he can get to me, looking at me with those amazing saucer-size brown eyes.

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Christmas 2018

Nine years ago, give or take two weeks, I didn’t even know Reggie, except in pictures. I almost did not keep him, twice, right before, and right after, he first came to live with me.

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Reggie and Lizzie in the dog bed behind the pet gate, circa December 2009

 

I was second-class human for years; Audie was his person, period, unless I was the only human in the house, and even then, he never climbed into my lap to get as close to me as possible like he did with Audie.

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Audie with Reggie in his lap at University City Starbucks, Thanksgiving 2011

 

I used to tease Audie that Reggie only wanted me when he was not home, and Audie used to tease me back about how Reggie liked males best, especially him. Often Reggie would not obey me at all if Audie was home, and sometimes not even when Audie wasn’t home. When he climbed up onto Audie and put his paws on Audie’s shoulders and stuck his head right up to Audie’s face, trying to kiss him, I knew, that was it, I was definitely #2. In fact, sometimes Reggie would give me this look like, “Don’t come near him, he’s mine.”

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Lizzie and Reggie climbing on Audie, circa 2012

 

I laugh about it now. Everything is always bittersweet in hindsight after it’s gone.

Reggie does remind me of Toby in some ways, especially how he likes to kiss my face for a long time. I should not let him do it, but it is really comforting and makes me happy. When I really think about it, Reggie is very much like Toby.

But, Reggie deserves his own place in my heart, and he has more than sealed that deal. He always will have as much a piece of my heart as the other two (Lizzie and Toby) did, and in some ways, being just the two of us, he has an even bigger piece of it.

And he always will.

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Our Christmas portrait, December 2018

 

Dedicated to: Reggie “Reggwood” Roberts who has completely stolen my heart.

 

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Reggie Roberts circa December 2009

 

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Reggie Roberts circa December 2018

If you happen to see this blog post, in the next few days, and want to donate to the GoFundMe for Reggie, here is the link:

https://www.gofundme.com/my-dog-reggie-needs-a-colonoscopy-on-december-10?fbclid=IwAR1VHIqjmegopAk_tbkIX_9do2pcdTV2ge2gdWQFSomps4MQK1hB3LHF8kQ

 

 

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