True to her breeding, Lula arrived at our house believing she was the queen of all she encountered. She was a brave and confident dog. She was yet to learn the prime rule of living in Spot’s house. Spot was a dog who had raised herself to adolescence from a pup and bowed to no dog. (Ok, there was a young, beautiful red pit bull named Conan but that was True Love, not submission and this is about Lula, not Spot.) As it turned out, I had more to learn about dogs in Spot’s house, too.
Spot had her own chair
(It's Good To Be Queen)
The second day, the day after the chocolate episode, I fed the dogs as I always did, adding a new dish for Lula. The dogs came to eat as they always did. Lula went eagerly to her bowl and immediately Spot loomed over her, growling. I intervened, backing Spot off and reminding her who was really queen of the house (me) but Spot still managed to get the first bite from Lula’s dish and Lula never again tried to eat before Spot had started.
Lula & AlexanderCat
all the beasties shared this old recliner
Spot's chair was long gone
- * - * -
Almost daily for several years we went to run in the gorge where the Mississippi runs through Minneapolis, the three dogs and I. I would arrive home from work and immediately change my clothes. When my running shoes came out the dogs became an instant mob, roiling around my legs, making it impossible for me to accomplish the objective that excited them so. So, “Spot DOWN,” “Rex DOWN,” “Lula DOWN.” All three went immediately prostrate, faces beaming, tails wagging, butts wiggling and then I could get my feet tied into the shoes that would allow us to leave the house. Leashes on, doors open, off to the car we went.
Most days I could park right by the path that led into the woods and down the decrepit WPA steps that began the path's descent to the river. I’d open the back of the station wagon. “Wait.” Three dogs bating breath (faces beaming, tails wagging, butts wiggling). “Okay.” Three dogs leapt free and went shooting down the path into our urban woods.
After awhile that changed a little. Apparently, after months and months of the same routine, Lula decided Rex needed her help and she began to herd him out of the car. As Spot leapt free Lula would move around behind Rex, barking and nipping at his heels, chasing him out of the car and down the path. It was hysterical. She never tried to herd Spot. Not once.
Rex & Lula
posted before, I know
but here for relative size
For a good part of her younger years Lula had occasional seizures though never severe or frequent enough to treat. The worst one happened as a result of this herding routine of hers. She had successfully forced Rex out of the car and followed him with an unsually high and forceful leap. The momentum spun her in the air and she landed flat on her back from a height of at least four feet. She immediately began to seize, her legs stretch stiffly out, eyes fixed open, panting, drooling, her whole little body stiff and twitching.
I picked her up, held her carefully. The other dogs were long gone into the woods, I had no choice but to follow them. Once their routine began there was no changing it. There was no way I would try to drive with Lula in this condition anyway. We'd been through a lot of these episodes before and I had some idea what to expect. I gripped the flailing little body tightly to me and followed the big dogs down the path. A few hundred feet along there was a spot off the trail, at the edge of a steep cliff, where I sat with her seizing, me increasingly afraid.
Typically her seizures lasted five minutes or less. This one went on for at least thirty. I was certain I should be doing something, equally certain there was nothing I could do.
The big dogs came back and checked on us occasionally, curious, maybe, about why I was deviating from normal practice.
Then, gradually, the panting slowed, her eyes focused, her body relaxed and the seizure was over. Within seconds she had popped up on all fours and taken off down the path, as if nothing had happened, as if she had not just taken years off my life. (If I said it once I said it a million times in her lifetime - the little shit.)
She ran out the rest of the hour showing no ill effects of the seizure. She was fine.
everyone should have an Eskie
Her first seizure, the first one I knew about, happened when she was about five and had been with me three years. I was taking a shower and all three dogs were gathered outside the bathroom door, making sure I didn't get away without them. I heard a banging on the door, near the floor and thought someone was scratching and setting off the canine leg twitch against the door. But it didn't stop. I finished the shower and opened the door to put a stop to the annoying thumping. There was Lula, flailing on the floor, inches away from the top of a flight of stairs with no awareness or control of herself. When she seized it would seem like she was repeatedly trying to stand on her rigid, extended legs. The thumping had been caused by that action throwing her body against the door. I had never seen a seizure before, animal or human but it was unmistakeable.
The other dogs paid less notice to her seizure than they had to her adventures in chocolate.
The medical position, as I recall it, was that until the siezures became so frequent or severe that they caused serious disruption to the quality of her life, the side effects of treatment would be worse than the condition. I got used to them, watching the time and holding her lightly through them, my main fear that she would throw herself around hard enough to break a bone.
When she was about 10, by chance I changed her food to one that didn't have corn as the primary ingredient. She didn't have another seizure for years, until a few months before she died. The later seizures always came in the middle of the night, lasted longer than the earlier ones and were much uglier. I believe I had been giving her a cheap supermarket novelty food then because she had become a very picky eater and my only feeding goal had become keeping calories going into her. (I now focus on feeding food rather than nutrients and spend more feeding one dog than I did then on three.)
Late in her life, when I spent too much time wondering just how long Lula would last, it occurred to me that she might be trying to hang on long enough to live free of Spot’s dominion for as long as she had lived under it. She had lived with Spot eight years and eight months. As it turned out, she died seven years and eight months after Spot did. She didn’t quite make it. Perhaps my calculations are wrong. Or perhaps hers were.
Gratuitous old age picture
it's just the back yard
but it looks woodsy
I should have taken more pictures
before there were digital cameras