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We begin this New Year saying goodbye to an old dog. Dixxy Blu told us quite clearly her time here was done and she needed our help to move on to whatever the next phase may be. You’d think after having to make this decision over 30 times it’d be easy, but it never is, no matter what the circumstance. I sit here now, surrounded by the remaining pack members all napping peacefully and I feel the definite energy change. Scottie and I hadn’t realized how huge a presence Ms. Dixxy projected. The whole house is subdued.

I’ve told her story before but it deserves to be told again.

We attended an adoption event held by Seminole County Animal Services in early Spring 2010. We’d recently adopted a senior Cattledog from them and the workers really wanted to see how she was doing. So, Scottie, Barby, Eva and I embarked on a little adventure. We weren’t there more than five minutes before people started telling us about two Cattledogs in a shelter in Melbourne, FL. Every booth we stopped at someone mentioned them. “Two older girls, one red, one blue; may be related, time’s running out!” That’s the power of Internet.

Dixxy in her shelter run.

Dixxy in her shelter run.

Joolz in the shelter.

Joolz in the shelter.

We did not need or even want another dog, much less two and much less two female Cattledogs! I saw the shelter photos and my heart broke. Scottie’s heart broke even more. I left the decision up to him. They’d been there twenty days and no one showed any interest. They were in danger because the shelter needed room for more dogs. Sheltering is a vicious cycle of saving lives and ending them. Before long they were hitching a ride to come home. (Much appreciation to Cheryl Lynn Vaughn of Ruff  Rescue for arranging everything.)

From the moment we met these two we knew they were special. We sure couldn’t understand how their family had walked away from them, much less in the middle of the night from the horrid drop box. Shelter night drop boxes are designed so cowards can leave their pets without the scrutiny of others. They did leave a note – “This is Dixie & Jewel, they are good girls.”

Starting their new lives as Prince girls.

Starting their new lives as Prince girls.

Being good girls was quite the understatement. On our way home that day we stopped at Twistee Treat. (Scottie cannot drive past one!) They both laid quietly in the back of the Scion and took turns licking their cone. Quite impressive. They both had a myriad of obvious health issues: missing hair, inflamed skin, creaky bones, abscesses. Nothing we couldn’t handle. Everyone assumed they must be related and we settled in on the mother/daughter dynamic, Dixxy being Mom. She was older (estimated to be 10-12 yrs. when rescued), Joolz was more around 8. Hard to tell sometimes, though, especially when you’ve been rode hard and put up wet as Dixxy had been.

This shows what rescuing is all about. Look at those faces.

This shows what rescuing is all about. Look at those faces.

Their distinct opposite personalities didn’t take long to emerge. Joolz was the flower child, loving everyone and everything. She did pirouettes of joy constantly. Dixxy was a tough, tough, tough biker chick. She took no lip from anyone, not even our “boss dog” Eva. They came in as if they’d always been part of us.

Eva (front) can't believe this old lady's staring her down!

Eva (front) can’t believe this old lady’s staring her down!

Dixxy grew more and more beautiful everyday. She was a sweet as she was tough. She would shiver with happiness just to be scratched. She would give gentle kisses even if she’d just snapped at one of the other dogs. She was a control freak! This is a good trait to have as a herding dog. Six months after acclimating to the family, her big health problems began. She healed from a massive dental overhaul, we were treating her thyroid issues and creaky joints but cancer decided to rear it’s ugly head. Dixxy had never been spayed. Most older females will develop either ovarian or mammary/breast cancer if they haven’t been spayed. It’s all about the hormones. We found extremely aggressive ovarian cancer in Dixxy.

She was given three months to live.

Dixxy & her 3 lb. boyfriend, Gus.

Dixxy & her 3 lb. boyfriend, Gus.

It was no real surprise but those three months turned into nearly three years! Yes, our tough girl simply had too much zest for life to let a little cancer get in her way. She had a tumor pop up on her leg. She chewed it off herself. She had a tumor pop up on her eyeball. (You can see it in above pic.) It ended up rupturing, twice, and she didn’t even flinch. Never came back a third time. She loved chewing on bones and rolling around in the grass. If the younger dogs started wrestling she would pull her tired, old body up and jump right into the middle of them. She ate tree roots like there was no tomorrow. Maybe she had found some magic in those roots? She was a joy.

Lounging in the yard during her final days.

Lounging in the yard during her final days.

When you hear a calling in life you have to follow it. We were called to help the old and sick. We help them have faith in people once again after utter disappointment from those they depended on. We help them feel safe. We help them find joy. And when the time comes, we help them have a dignified death surrounded by love and respect. This is the part that scares the bejeezus out of most  people. We don’t look at death as something to fear, it’s gonna happen, make it a wonderful thing. We look at the blessing of the time we have with the old ones.

Joolz says goodbye to her Momma.

Joolz says goodbye to her Momma.

Oh, to have known Dixxy when she was young! As amazing as she was old, it’s difficult to imagine what she was like young and robust. She had to have kicked much ass and I say that in the most respectful way. We cherish having known her at all.

This expression is Dixxy. Cutting those eyes and giving "the look".

This expression is Dixxy. Cutting those eyes and giving “the look”.

As is my usual, Dixxy’s things were put away. The counter has one less bowl as I get food going and family traffic no longer has to step over her bed. She preferred to be right in the middle of everything. But this morning it was just too empty looking upon “her spot”. I put her bed back. It wasn’t too long after when I saw her daughter.

She looks lonely in her Momma's bed.

She looks lonely in her Momma’s bed.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss

We are smiling because Dixxy happened and she happened to us.

Dixxy Blu a gem of a cowgirl.

Dixxy Blu a gem of a cowgirl.

Dixxy’s song.  Pearl Jam – Just Breathe

“Nothing you would take, everything you gave…”

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Eva (our main cattledog) had a swollen face a couple weeks ago. I assumed she’d been bitten or stung by something and treated her accordingly. The Benadryl and Prednisone combo kicked in and the swelling subsided by dinnertime. Thought nothing more of it. A few days later her face was swollen again, in the exact same place.

A Roman nose does not suit her!

It was time to see Dr. Rick. He immediately found she had an abscessed tooth! Ouch! We scheduled her surgery for the next week and began antibiotics. My girl was still chewing her bones despite the pain she had to feel. Cattledogs are simply tough dogs.

Well… until they get scared about going to the vet…

Doing her best to hide under the chair.

Surgery day arrived. I have the utmost faith in our beloved Dr. Rick (Longwood Vet Clinic) but I actually had butterflies in my stomach as we waited. I was making my girl more nervous. My feelings reinforced how important this particular dog is.

The Cattledog stare. (She looks like a bobble-head!)

I made sure to completely scare the techs into believing Eva would rip the face off any dog that got too close. I didn’t want them letting their guard down where she could take advantage. I’ve had five years spent training this dog and know all her signals. I can block her behaviors before she even starts to think about them. A dog of her intensity can nip the face of another in the blink of an eye and leave everyone wondering what the heck happened! So I told them not to let another dog look at her, don’t let another dog pass by her, don’t put her next to another dog… or better, yet, how about we just keep her in the isolation room until her surgery time? 🙂

Vet tech, Kristy, keeps Eva out of trouble pre-surgery.

Dr. Rick & Kristy start her la-la-land cocktail.

Now she is off to sleep. Thud!

Breathing tube is inserted. Try that when she’s not asleep, Dr. Rick!

Yep, she’s feeling no pain.

X-rays are taken of the suspect tooth.

Root causing her problems. It’s gotta go.

Scaling the tooth.

Cutting the tooth. Good thing she’s asleep!

Elevating the roots.

Where’d that tooth go?!

There’s the culprit.

Once they were able to see completely inside her mouth they found another problem. She had a broken tooth on the other side of her mouth. That one had to come out, too. This one really should’ve been causing her pain.

Broken tooth on other side.

All done. Now just have to wake up…

Eva was his last procedure of the day so she wasn’t on the table until noon. He had me come pick her up at 1:30 since he trusts me to carefully watch them as they recover. She was walking on her own but pretty groggy!

Did you get the license of the truck that hit me?!

In my car is one of her favorite places. She’s been my co-pilot since she was 10 weeks old. She settled right in.

We going to work now? How ’bout we wait till tomorrow? 🙂

The afternoon was spent sleeping. Then more sleeping after a small meal of canned, soft food. She was back to her usual, intense, wonderful self the next day. We give all thanks and great love to Dr. Rick & his staff. They’re simply the best!

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