Saturday, May 31, 2008

My Beautiful Boy

Fritzy turned 10 years old in January. According to web statistics, the average life-span for a miniature Schnauzer is 12 years.

Fritzy is our fourth Schnauzer. MillyWilly was our first pet and rapidly filled the spot of a child in our household. Hubby, who initially had not wanted a pup, immediately bonded with her. We got her in 1990 from the local pound. She was five when we adopted her.

Three years later our groomer asked us to take in a second pup, one he had bred and sold to a family that was proving not very desirable. Johann joined our little family -- but, sadly, not for long. He was only three years old and the most perfect of any Schnauzer we've ever owned. However, he had not been house-trained and all our efforts to get him to poop anywhere other than in the house were to no avail. Consequently, he spend his mornings in the yard, happily barking and running - and hopefully divesting himself of some of the mammoth poop I was required to scoop up after him on a daily basis. One Saturday morning, when both Joey and Milly were in the yard, I heard the commotion when they both started frantic barking, but quickly, Joey stopped and soon afterwards, so did Milly. Ten minutes later when I went outside to call them in, only Milly was in the yard. Her little barrel chest and Yoda like ears were quivering wildly. Joey was gone forever, stolen by someone who had understand that his bloodlines were perfect.

In trying to find Joey, we placed ads everywhere, canvased the neighborhoods, posted flyers, and answered any ads from folks who had found male Schnauzers. And so Wolfie, my heart dog, came into our lives. Escaped from some concentration-camp like setting -- or tossed out because he was no longer useful -- he was a terribly abused seven year old. Our line about Wolf is: The Best Dog in the World. And he was.

We lost Milly in 1998 and because her aging had been difficult, Hubby and I decided that one dog at a time was enough. We focused on Wolf from November until February of 1999, when we got a call from the same groomer that had gifted us with Johann.

"There's a Schnauzer two-year old, who has been in the Ottawa pound far too long. If you're interested give me a call," was the message he left on our answering machine. We talked it over, called, and a week later Fritzy came into our lives.

Now he's 10. My how time flies when your having fun! We've known that his health is getting more precarious. At Christmas he took to shivering and being stand-offish in Houston. The vet did tests on his return to the Heartland and we learned that Fritz was beginning to show some signs of kidney failure.

He's getting worse. The good news is that his heart is strong -- no signs of congestive heart failure. He runs and jumps and plays and pees and poops. But . . . he is losing weight no matter how much we try to convince him to eat his prescriptive dog food. He's lost seven pounds since Christmas -- that's a lot of weight when you consider he only weighed in at 26 pounds. However, the vet says he's still within normal range, not too thin. If we can keep him from vomiting up nearly everything he eats, then we may keep the 19 pounds he now weighs from melting away. We've got to work harder at getting him to eat the R/D dog food that he's sure is not nearly as good as the much less expensive stuff that his companion snarfs down. The last week I've been hand-feeding him dinner.

Fritzy is beautiful when he's groomed. People stop and "ooh and ahhh" over him when he's shiny and clean because he has very silky fur, lovely unclipped ears that fold just perfectly, and a nicely formed Schnauzer shape. The silky fur, though, picks up everything he runs through in the park. He licks himself like crazy so he turns the snowy white beard and paws rusty brown by the end of the second week. We groom him once a month and by day three, he looks bedraggled.

Fritzy is our dominant dog. He humps little Gus whenever he thinks Gus might be having more fun or getting more attention. Fritzy is also the Schnauzer that is capable of giving a sharp nip if he thinks you have invaded his space. Periodically, I have to up-end Fritzy, toss him on his back, and remind him that his place in this household is below me. Hubby doesn't have the problem, of course, because he's clearly alpha -- but Fritzy and I sometimes vie for second status. I get into bed and tell Fritz to move and he growls at me at least once a week. He's sleeping in my spot in the bed, of course.

Fritzy has never been an easy dog. He's had some expensive health issues and he has poor teeth. We've never totally gotten him housebroken. We go long spells where I don't think he's been peeing in the house -- and then I discover he's simply moved his position and his spot and has been happily and sneakily peeing on 1. the teacups on the bottom of the china cabinet -- and each one has a quarter inch of pee in it; 2. on the books on the bottom shelf in the computer room; 3. on the three CD racks in the living room, managing to ruin the cases and covers of at least 25 CDs; 4. on any box he can find sitting on the floor or in the closets; 5. sneaking downstairs to pee on the furniture stored in the basement (we now have a board blocking the stairs so he can't escape there).

And yet Fritzy is our little love. When he came, Wolfie was heartbroken that we had brought another dog into the household. He had relished being the center of attention. All the way home from the pound, Wolf had sat in the back sit, facing the back seat cushion and wouldn't even look at us. We had blockaded Fritz in the kitchen that first night and the second day when we had to leave the house. But Fritzy, with his sense of play and fun, had escaped, gone directly to Wolf and had played with him and all his toys, until exhausted they both collapsed on our bed and there we found them, sleeping together. Wolf never minded Fritzy again.

When Wolf died, Fritzy grieved with me. We both went into a huge decline. I cried. Fritzy hid under the bed. He would come out periodically to eat or get some snuggles -- but otherwise, we really didn't see him. At the end of the week, when we brought Gus home from the same pound that Fritz had come from, he welcomed him easily and happily. Gus now adores Fritz the way Fritz loved Wolf. They get along beautifully.

Fritzy knows how to cuddle. He will come to you as you're reading in bed, nudge the book away until you pay him attention, and then cuddle down right by your face, his soft beard soothing away the troubles of the day. He isn't demanding at other times. He doesn't try to run off in the park. He comes when he's called. He doesn't pester for attention. He travels well.

And now he's beginning to show signs of aging. The vet drew blood this week and said the kidney functions are getting much worse. We need to keep his tummy happy, make sure he doesn't get into any rich food or try to steal Gussie's dinner. We need to give him medicine on a daily basis.

We've lost three dogs. Milly took a long time to leave us and so we were prepared. Joey had only been with us eight months and then he was gone in a flash -- and though I shouldn't admit it, he really was totally replaced with my beloved Wolf. Wolf got sick in the night and within six hours he was gone and left my heart so broken I thought it would never heal. I'm not prepared to lose another one, not so soon after Wolf. I need time -- maybe another 30 years or so.


Laura said...

Thank you for visiting Phoebe's blog.

Your dogs are BEAUTIFUL.

I hope Fritz's health stays well enough that he is with you for a very very very long time.

My girls are the first dogs I've ever owned, so I have not experienced the loss of a pet yet, but I came very close to losing Phoebe in January when she was in the hospital. It was the worst weekend of my life.

Take care!

mary said...

What a lovely dog family. I hope there is a dog heaven where all the dogs can be reunited and play.

I have a dog, Simon. He is a 6 year old Beagle who I adopted last year. I wasn't quite ready for a dog but a coworker convinced me that he thought he was a cat and he would fit in fine with my two felines. He did. Altho, he barks a lot more!

BTW, before reading your blog I was reading another post about doggies at: