I don’ t believe in goodbyes … but sometimes … it kinda feels like …
She came into my life afraid of her shadow. She was a rescue dog that came to Milo by way of Martinez. She was fortunate enough to keep her tail. Her name when I adopted her was Giza. She was accepted instantly by my older dog Boeing. Sky was there for Boeing and I during Boeing’s last 6 months.
After Boeing left us Sky became the puppy I didn’t know she was! She was a natural in her weekly sheep-herding class. The instructor considered Sky to be too much of a natural to be good at competition but rather she would do better in a working environment. Sky was full of life and energy but scared of everything (except the sheep)! She especially could not handle being left alone. Separation anxiety. I wasted little time in seeking out a companion for her. I found her little brother, Zulu on located in an animal shelter in Madras Oregon and the two of them have been lifetime buddies.
Sky and Zulu had years of fun play and our lives have revolved around activities that bring us all joy. Zulu helped Sky mature into a confident assured graceful but always with a wild-side dog. Sky embraced Zulu as part of our family.
About 2 years ago Sky started having difficulty just standing up and walking straight. She was diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy. It is not a painful condition. The disease seems about the equivalent of what humans call ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to Healthy Paws Insurance. They have been there for everything for Sky. Harness, booties, wheel-chairs… and also a real person on the other end of the phone.
We adapted, I built larger stairs, and then we adjusted to different harnesses to help Sky walk. She adapted to a 2-wheel wheelchair. She had a little trouble learning to use the chair at first but then I distracted her by having her chase Zulu as he chased my drone!! She became a pro at her wheelchair.
The most unbearable thing for us all was as Sky’s situation had evolved to her inability to get up on her own, the separation anxiety came back in a big way. She would cry terribly if I was not in her sight. I had great neighbours who would come and comfort her and help with her walks in the harness but the separation was too much for her and the condition was getting to severe to ask others to help.
The solution came in me adapting my life to take her and of course Zulu, everywhere I went. It was challenging at first to figure out a methodology for this course of action but when you love, there are no limits or hurdles that can’t be managed. Not only did we manage but we thrived!
When the dogs were pups, I used to take them to work with me. I worked the overnight shift. They would stay in the back of my pickup during the night and I would come and visit them every couple of hours. The weather was cool and I even figured out how to have a camera on them so I could know if everything was ok. They loved going to work with me and I checked on them so frequently that it was almost as good as being at home. Then of course after work we would visit dog parks and beaches so it was always fun going home after work.
When my shift evolved into working daytime hours I had to leave them home and I paid a dog walker to come and take them out a couple of times a day. Now with Sky’s situation it became evident that I needed to take them to work again. I was still working days but living in the San Francisco Bay area and the time of year now was December-ish, I could bring them to work in the back of my pickup truck again. I rigged up the back of the truck as luxurious comfort suite the two of them and this worked well for a couple of months but I knew the warmth of Spring and summer would not allow for this to continue.
I had a plan in mind. We needed a mode of transport that could accommodate Sky’s situation and provide a temperate environment. I decided I would scout out an RV and to be one which I could bring to work it would need to fit in a 21 ft parking space.
I found the perfect solution. A 1998 Starflyte, made by Coachmen and on a Ford F350 chassis with a V-10 engine. The one I found had a mere 55k miles on it and our family of three had a new means of working through Sky’s situation and this would be a bonus for us all!
I understood that our time could seem rather limited so we were going to make the most of it. We have been on a road trip almost every month since last April. Cape Blanco Oregon was our first and our favourite place to return to. We also made our way to Southern California and to Joshua Tree and Salton City. Sky and I developed a special language over the years and as this disease seemed to make things harder on her she was still amazingly good at telling me what she needed and I became a really in-tune listener. She never lost control of her bladder function in spite of having reached the point where she could no longer move her legs at all. She would cry if she needed to pee and I would lift her out and hold her so she could do just that. Sometimes I would have just peed her and she would start crying again and I swear, she would actually look at me and look at the door and I knew she still had to go outside again. There were times I take her in and outside 2-3 times in the course of less than 10 minutes. But then she would give me this contented look and go happily back to chewing on a bone so I knew it was OK to leave her for a little.
Although I could not leave her alone at home because she would be so agitated, at work she was peaceful and content. I of course had a camera on them so I could monitor their status while I was working. The RV worked perfectly for our needs and is still working wonderfully as Zulu and I have continued on without her.
January 29th, 2020. The day seemed fine overall. It was a day when none of us were real motivated to go outside. I was tired and Sky and Zulu seemed just as content to spend a day in bed. Finally around 3 in the afternoon we ventured outside. I was just getting ready to load Sky up in her cart so we could go for a walk. I turned my back for a few minutes and when I came back to her she was salivating quite a bit. She was not gasping for breath or anything but she had been having a harder time breathing at times. It seemed to me that this was a sort of a sign that I needed to be willing to let her move on to greener pastures and different adventures.
My vet met me at a park overlooking the Bay. I held Sky in my arms and he was able to very discretely give her a little boost to falling asleep peacefully for the last time in these surroundings. Zulu was right there with us and has been a steady friend and strength of companion as we have moved on to new journeys with Sky in thought but not in presence.
I brought Sky back to the harbour where I would lay her to rest next to Boeing. As I drove down into the harbour I could see some lights at the area I intended to bury her. I was disappointed to discover that some Kayakers were there. I really wanted the place to myself. As is turned out I am so glad they were there. I knew them as friends over the years who have ventured out on Thursday nights and this night they were friends indeed. They helped me bring Sky to the grave-site and adding cheer to an occasion that was less than cheery.
Here is a link to their writing of the occasion. It really touched me that they were so supportive and then this posting made of the evening by them brought chuckle and a tear to my eye but ultimately gratitude!! https://www.thurseve.com/page-5.html
The days following have been challenging. It got harder not easier. Zulu has been a rock but I could tell that even though he is relishing in all my attention he is also missing his companion of so many years. Zulu and I took our first solo road-trip together this last week. That has been a challenge to not have Sky with us but Zulu and I are also doing activities we couldn’t do in the last several months. He is much calmer on the road and he has been loving running with me while I ride my bicycle. We are managing though he is not fond of being on his own when I have to be at work. But he is only alone for an hour or so at a time and is managing as we both are.
Zulu is a joy and wonderful companion. Sky has been a great influence in shaping his demeanor and loving playful puppy like spirit.
Below is a 360 of our sky from a few nights ago. It had been a rainy depressing sort of a day but it ended in such beauty. The light the clouds were just majestic. A very peaceful beautiful setting. Scroll around in the picture to see the full thing!!
God-speed my friend Sky!!
Thank you so much for my Veterinary – a no nonsense common sense approach without the frills or unneeded other things … Steve Egri DVM what a great guy!
Also -a shout out to Roger Silver who helped me through the process and my good friends in the harbour, Daryl, Dave, Robert and Zeva who got the grave ready for my return with Sky. Thank you Zeva and Kayakers for the ‘ceremony’