Six blessings of my dog's senior status

Six blessings of my dog's senior status

Our dog is getting old. Depending on the chart used, Mickey — the pit-pointer we rescued at six weeks old — has reached senior status, hovering anywhere around 80 years old to 93 or so.

Mickey’s advanced age is obvious in myriad ways. The bold brown coloring on his face has gone gray, he has trouble on stairs, he sleeps much of the time, he rarely gets excited about even his once most favorite things … including squirrels needing his exuberant escorting out of the yard and …

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Rest in peace, Lyla girl

In 2009, our youngest daughter, Andrea, adopted a frightened little stray from The Denver Dumb Friends League. The little girl — about two years old, they guessed — had roamed the city streets on her own most of her life, it seemed.

Andie took in the black lab/shepherd mix, fittingly named her Lyla — which means "black as night" in Persian — and gave her a happy home and lots of love.

black lab/shepherd mix

Then Andrea gave her to us, months later, when it was clear Lyla needed a yard to run in and Andie's apartment didn't provide that.

Lyla had issues, to say the least. Psychological ones, likely...

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A dog by any other name

As part of the From Left To Write book club, I recently read Cowboy & Wills by Monica Holloway, provided for free through the book club. It's the true story of young autistic boy, Wills, and the golden retriever, Cowboy, that transformed his life. Written by Wills' mother, the book is an unflinchingly honest look at parenting an extraordinary child and the efforts taken to help him lead as ordinary a life as possible. Wills' saving grace turned out to be Cowboy.

Early in the book, Holloway writes of how Wills names his soon-to-be-adopted puppy -- a puppy that would decidedly be female -- "Cowboy" after a quick run-through of ideas with Mom. His first choice (for a female puppy, mind you) was Vincent, of which Holloway writes: "'Vincent is good,' I said, hoping we'd come up with something more upbeat and less like the conniving killer with the bone-chilling laugh in The House of Wax." So she offered up "Ringo." Wills countered with "Cowboy" (from his bedtime song of Cowboys Sing Good Night). "And it's okay that Cowboy's a girl?" Holloway asked him. "Who cares?" was his response. Simple as that, Wills' puppy became Cowboy.

ShannonIt reminded me of Andrea -- the biggest animal-lover in our family -- and her penchant for giving animals unusual names, starting with the naming of her first cat at about the same age Wills named his first puppy.

For many years, our only family animal was a beautiful blue-point Siamese I named Sadie. I can't remember why I chose that name, and I don't recall there being any huge significance to it. The name just sounded good, it fit, it stuck.

Then for animal-loving Andrea's fourth birthday, she was given the kitty she'd begged and pleaded for after seeing it during a July 4 party hosted by a friend of mine. (I'll never cop to a few drinks being the reason I gave in to her requests.)

MickeyFor Andrea, her new itsy-bitsy gray-and-white kitty's name did have huge significance. So she named it Shannon. After one of Brianna's friends. The loveliest of older girls, with long blonde hair, an infectious laugh and a perpetually sunny disposition. All the boys at school pined for her; Andrea idolized her. So she named her cat after her. Which was perfectly fine -- except that Shannon regularly got out of the house and I had to try to lure her back in. Calling out the door or roaming the block calling "Shannon ... Shannon ..." surely sounded like I was the worst of the worst mothers ever, nonchalantly searching for a lost child who'd wandered away.

Soon after, we got Moses, a black lab/collie mix and our first family dog. I gave him that name in hopes he'd live up to it and follow our commandments. Then my sweet Sadie passed away at 19 years old and was (eventually) replaced by tabby Abby. Then, soon after Andrea went off to college, her precious Shannon passed away and was replaced (for me and Abby, not Andrea) with crazy Isabel, a Halloween cat if ever there was one.

KamileahAndrea had no say-so in naming that batch of animals. But when we unexpectedly rescued a sweet 8-week-old pit/pointer mix who'd had both back legs broken by his previous owner, we offered for Andrea name him so that although she was away at college, she'd feel some ownership of the newest family pet. The puppy was white with caramel-colored spots and made Andrea think of her favorite thing in the world at that time: Caramel Macchiatos from Starbucks. She wanted to call the puppy Caramel Macchiato -- but I couldn't go that far in allowing her free reign on the naming. We settled on Mickey. Good enough, she agreed, huffing adding that she'll just name her own animal Caramel Macchiato when she gets one.

LylaAnd her first animal did, indeed, have the same coloring as our Mickey. But she chose to name the calico cat Kamileah, which means "perfection" in Egyptian, Andrea says, and was chosen after much Googling and searching for the absolute perfect name for her very own pet.

LukeHer next very own pet, a rescue dog of black lab/shepherd descent, she named Lyla. Because in Persian it means "dark as night." And Lyla she remains -- although she's been adopted by Grandma and Grandpa (meaning me and Jim) after apartment living didn't suit her style ... and her overactive bladder, constant chewing, and hyper disposition didn't suit Andrea's patience.

It was only with her most recent pet acquisition that Andrea settled on something a little more "normal." A few months ago she purchased the cutest little fluffball of a dog ever, a Zuchon, and she named him Luke. Of course, unlike her mother who names animals just whatever sounds good, she crowned the puppy Luke because he looks like an Ewok from Star Wars, but calling him Ewok would have been a little bizarre, she thought. So she named him Luke ... after Luke Skywalker.

And it was that reasoning, that relatively normal name for a pet -- coming from a young adult who not so long ago thought Caramel Macchiato was an acceptable name for a puppy -- that led me to the most bittersweet of realizations: My animal-loving little girl, the last of my three babies, had truly grown up.

Today's question:

What's the strangest name of one of your past or present pets?