Rest in Peace Dog Dylan: January 8, 2001 – march 28, 2015!
Dylan was a fighter! She fought for her life! She fought to be happy! And as long as she had fresh air, friends and a bowl full of great food; she was happy! People were not always in her corner, but from day one I have been in her corner! I have always cared for her, I have fought both with her and for her for what is best for her; I have always loved her. I have done everything I could for her!
I have understood her fear for most of her life, but I didn’t always respond to it in the best way; which I regret, but I think it may be understandable. If only I knew then, when we got her back in 2001, what I know now. Dylan was not like most dogs either. She had to raise herself through two months of her puppy life while running the streets of Maple Ridge BC before she was six months old. All the while being chased by strangers, only some of whom were professionals. When we adopted her, she knew she could scare people and she was quite good at it. And she always had a very clear understanding of who was the cause of her fears, right or wrong didn’t matter.
But in part, it is that respect I have always had for Dylan and for what causes her to be afraid, and how I have responded to it, that has made us very close. I have always given her a little space to let me in, before jumping in. I am the only one and was always the only one who could get close.
I remember early on in her dog agility training when removing a dog from an agility course fun match was considered a good method for dealing with dogs that did not perform or ran away, and before I knew the truth and much better ways; I picked Dylan up a few times to remove the fun of the course (this was wrong; she was stressed and it wasn’t fun) where she opened her mouth and put her teeth on my throat as I carried her, to tell me she was not happy and for me to put her down. She scared the crap out of everyone watching and I could see it clearly as I looked at their startled faces!
If only I had known from the very beginning to use positive reinforcement; lots of reward and lots of success to build skills and confidence. But it was true then, as I also knew later; she was not trying to hurt me. It was just a fact of her life and how she had learned that intimidation moved people away. So, for both my ability to understand and give her the space she needed and knowing not react to her intimidation with fear, led Dylan to become my dog. I also realized that the negative methods like removing her from a course, scaring her, or correction and punishment for bad behavior didn’t work very well with Dylan. You would just build her knowledge base of why she should be afraid of you.
Despite her fear though, dog agility was a perfect place for her. Although not everyone was familiar with rescuing dogs and not everyone was familiar with scary Pitbulls, but for Dylan being able to run and get food for it was confidence building and certainly once it was a more positive experience for her, she made lots of friends. She eventually loved to make friends and made a lot of very special friends both in person and eventually all over the world it seems.
Due to her fearful nature, my biggest fear for much of her life was always of her getting injured or becoming ill and experiencing serious pain. She never handled pain very well as a puppy, so acute or chronic illness, or injury was something I had always been weary of.
Most recently in her life she has been under immense stress as she battled Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) for over four years. I always knew what a survivor she was and what she liked in life for the most part. But she took the survivor role to a whole new level and demonstrated a fierce drive to survive in her late life struggle with IMHA. Determination, fortitude and an incredible ability to endure whatever life threw at her, including complete and deadly anemia and complete paralysis to the point where she could barely move her head.
I have seen her completely dead 1467 days before this day back on March 22nd, 2011. I have watched her fight through that death and the brain damage that resulted, the paralysis of prednisone that followed and five more attacks over that four year period. It is this period of her life that had brought us incredibly close as together we battled the repeated challenges of IMHA.
I have seen her lose more and more of her body each time, yet never lose her joy for life. As she gains her strength back and recovers, the joy begins to return and her happiness to enjoy the simple things in life returned. It was always such an incredible joy to witness and I could see from her how important it is in our lives just to enjoy the simple things. How important it is just to enjoy the moment together.
I have seen her develop a spinal disk issue that has slowly caused her difficulties in mobility and eventually the paralysis that led to my final decision that she had been through enough. But as long as she could move and enjoy the fresh air and greet the people of the neighborhood and enjoy the food and the smells on the ground and in her bowl; she could be happy! Throughout the last four years and six attacks and the issues she faced, I have seen her bounce outside to see people or bounce inside after having greeted a friend and I have always seen her bounce happily into her kennel, excited to jump in and wolf her food down. Despite everything she had lost, she could still be happy. She amazed me with her spirit!
Until last Wednesday when I saw her lose partial use of both hind legs. She could no longer feel her left leg and trouble controlling both of them. After a vet visit it was clear she had lost much of the use of her hind end and was also experiencing some pain. Now she needed my help just to stand and to walk and although we had done this before, the first time we knew she could recover. This time it was clear, her loss was a result of long term deterioration of a lumbar disk in her spine and the symptoms were progressive over the previous two years until finally causing the loss in use of her hind legs that she most definitely needed and likely was a result of repeated high dose prednisone use. It was most certainly a contributing factor.
When she could no longer walk on her own and it became clear that this was a constant pattern of deterioration with no chance of recovery and that she was in pain; and both the paralysis and pain would likely continue to get worse, I knew she could no longer be happy. Trapped in the yard she could be happy; trapped in the kitchen was not good for either of us. She would let me help, but there were plenty of times she didn’t want me to do what I felt I had to.
She was certainly living in fearful circumstance and stress and anxiety were always present when she needed help. The pain and potential for pain made her dangerous and put me at risk despite knowing she never wanted to hurt me. And my worst case scenario and something I had many foreshadowing glimpses of; the events following any serious accident that could easily occur as a result of her rear end paralysis and overall weakness, would no doubt lead to a traumatic experience and potentially how it would end for her. I picked her up and prevented falls many times over the course of three days after the sudden paralysis. And not to mention three other active dogs moving about as well.
And for as long as I have fought for her survival with her, I have always believed she deserved a peaceful end!
In the end she died peacefully in my arms being hugged as I loved her for every minute of her life. The saddest day of my life! I did it out of love for her, because it was necessary and the last thing I could do for her as I set her free to run again. She was always such an amazing runner with an incredible gate and the ability to cover long distances quickly and smoothly. She was an incredible swimmer and I will always remember her as the amazing dog that she was.
I loved my dog! I have sacrificed everything I could for her! I wish there was more I could do for her! I wish I could have protected her! But I know I did my best! I loved her always!
Bye Dog Dylan! You will always be in my heart and a part of my soul!