Rocky turned 15 back in April. We had he and his sister, Rosie, groomed. The groomers are good to let us know any issues they uncover, like skin issues. Rocky was in good shape. So was Rosie. White West Highland Terrier siblings – like most white dogs, they’re prone to skin allergies caused by food. Grains are a frequent culprit. We set about to change their food again, for the umpteenth time. Not a big deal.
Within a month we noticed a front tooth protruding in an odd way from Rocky’s mouth. Closer examination revealed what appeared to be a gum infection or some sort of mouth tumor. A trip to the vet proved our fears were founded. Cancer. Surgery, including a biopsy could be performed – and would likely result in removing part of his jaw.
“No, we’re not going to put him through that.”
He did have an ear infection that we treated with the vet’s help. That cleared up within 10 days. The tumor was growing though. Rhonda and I talked about the timing of the inevitable. We’ve been dog owners and lost our share of beloved pets. “I’d rather act too soon than too late,” I told my wife. She agreed.
But Rocky was behaving normally. He was mobile, eating and doing his usual thing, sleeping a lot.
We’re just now seeing him slim down. But he’s eating. Just not as much.
He’s still alert and remaining right where you see him in that picture – within 3 feet of me or Rhonda. Any trip to the kitchen results in him following you, anticipating some edible item hitting the floor.
Last month – May – I released a podcast episode at Leaning Toward Wisdom about the high price of high value. Rocky was on my mind. Along with some human friends.
He’s a lovable, kindly dispositioned dog. Compliant to a fault. Never demanding. The kind of dog no human could ever be. I suspect no human has the capacity to be what Rocky is naturally.
The benefit of his malady is that it has given us time. Time to spend with him. Time to come to grips with what we’re going to face sooner than later. Time to grieve even though he’s still with us, behaving mostly normally. Time. The most precious thing any of us have together.
And there it is. The point.
Rocky like millions of other household pets has led a dog’s life that’s pretty good, if not great. He and his sister have chased thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of squirrels. They’ve barked at lizards. Consumed many pounds of treats, one bite at a time. Sat beside and in the lap of practically every house guest. Walked and marked the entire neighborhood. They’ve even performed the occasional stupid pet trick. It’s been a few months past their 15th birthday, a good long life for any breed of dog.
He was there through it all for the last 15 years. We were 43 when we fetched them from their birthplace in The Woodlands, a suburb north of Houston. We’re now 58. That means Rocky (and his sister Rosie) have been part of our lives during the better part of 2 decades. Not a bad run for close friends really. Not enough perhaps, but I’ll take it. And be happy to have had our time together.
I love him very much. And he knows it. That’s the most important thing!
• Life Takes Us Further Than We Think – Leaning Toward Wisdom podcast episode 4065
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NOTE – June 25, 2015: Over 15 years ago the Westie Rescue of North Texas people were among the kindest, most helpful people as we went on a search for a quality Westie breeder who cared about more than making a buck. In 2000 we found Rocky and Rosie, a brother and sister born to Kay L. McGuire, DVM and her partner, Connie Mitchell, in The Woodlands, TX (thanks to Tom and Barbara Barrie of The Trinity Valley West Highland Terrier Club and the Westie Rescue of North Texas at the time for the referral). Rosie is still doing well, but sadly we lost Rocky on Monday, June 22, 2015. It’s been a very long week around here, but if you’re considering a Westie, I can’t encourage you enough to let one (or more) into your life and heart. High value.