Sunday, October 13, 2013

31 for 21: Part 2 of 2 (or 3). Murphy

Part 1 is here, or a whopping two posts ago if you use the older button.

I'm going to make everyone uncomfortable and seamlessly (ha!) shift gears from thinking about people dying to dogs.  More fun that a barrel o' monkeys around here!


We adopted Murphy a month or two before I got pregnant with The Girl.  He was 80+ pounds and the shelter described him as "spirited."

A more inadequate word was never uttered - the mere mention of it now can trigger peals of laughter.

We already had two dogs and were soon to discover we had NICU and PICU stays in our future, but he'd been on my brother's short list and lost out to a quiet redhead.  Because I am a giant ball of mush, once I saw him I couldn't just leave him, caged and family-less.  What's one more dog?

Exponential chaos, that's what

I'm no longer allowed to visit any dog rescue websites or shelters.

He is slightly dog aggressive and has worn a trench along the fence in his quixotical efforts to eat the little dog next door.  A trench that fills with water in the rain, which he churns into mud as he gallops, and which is almost impossible to wash off because the top soil is long gone and he's well into the clay.

But oh-so-gentle with the kids.
Patiently waiting.
He is severely claustrophobic, which we discovered when he ate our wall trying to escape the basement during a thunder storm.  He'd already eaten the laundry room door and the upstairs banister dowels when he'd gotten stuck accidentally, but I figured the basement left him plenty of room.  Silly me.

Patiently waiting for me to turn my back
Should I mention the shedding?  There are clouds - sweaters - swirling mountains of dog hair that accumulate daily.  We may be singlehandedly propping up 3M's lint roller business.

But he is a fabulous watch dog, with that lovely deep throated roar that scares off errant teenagers and Fed Ex men.  I've always believed that even someone hopped up on something will retain a vestigial fear of big loud dogs and pick a different house, so I've never minded muchexcept maybe during nap time, even though it is usually a passing neighbor and not a cracked out kidnapper he's warning off.

Scary watch dog. 

No really, here he is on duty.
He is also one of the happiest damn dogs I've ever owned.  He is obsessed -obsessed- with his ball and performs gasp inducing acrobatics in his efforts to catch it before the bounce.  He'll fly back up the stairs to deposit the ball carefully at your feet and then, not so much race off again, but bounce like Tigger, filled with glee that you're going to throw it one more time.  And then again.  And again.

His joy in those moments is Zen like.  All the bullshit of the day fades because The Ball! Flying! Naaiillleed It!                           

Last Friday night he was whimpering and pacing.  I assumed he'd pulled something mid-pirouette. I really should learn - it's never just a strain.  Saturday morning it turned into yelps and then I was sure it was something awful - intestinal blockage, flipped stomach, heart failure, cancer - again.  I drove to the vet in tears.   It's not cancer.  Cancer was... easy isn't the right word but Maude was an older doggie and in terrific pain and it was terminal.

Murphy has a congenitally* malformed hip bone - see the nice clean ball & socket on the right?  And the lumpy blob of bone on the left?  It's grinding into his hip socket, bone on bone.  The vet thinks he did something to trigger it and/or his "ability to compensate" gave out.   She agreed the $5000 hip replacement wasn't realistic but suggested an $800 femoral head ostectomy.  We can try to medically manage too, assuming the current symptoms fade, but either way there should be no more pirouetting or leaping.  No more late afternoon Zen moments with all that infectious joy.

Which is why I'm troubled by how we decide what is and isn't worthwhile.  At bedtime Murphy will trot upstairs and quietly curl up in a corner (if we're watching - if not, he makes a beeline for the guest bed) but during the day he's happiest outside, waiting for his services to be needed to chase off the neighbors or retrieve his ball.  He comes inside to check on us, get his ears scratched, and shed some more, but soon gets anxious and wants back out.  Even assuming we could scrape together the money for the surgery it seems to be a rather intense recovery period with -what?- on the other side?  Slow quiet walks?  Enforced inside time?

That is Matt he's happily crushing.  Nothing like an 80# lap dog.
I keep hearing Van Ingram's brother, "[He] spent half his time jumping and spinning and dancing around the hallways...his whole life was about movement." 

So is Murphy's.  
I'm not comparing people and dogs, I'm just...NOT, but even what seemed like the right thing to do with Maude suddenly becomes a lot more complicated when it's not terminal and just goes to that nasty phrase, "quality of life."  Murphy is about 8, give or take a couple years, so should have at least 4 years before reaching "that age," when the end is pressing down and it seems only kind to offer a gentle passing. And instead of quietly judging movie plots and others' decisions (about people) from the sidelines, suddenly the calculation is mine alone to make.  How much pain is too much?  How much time is left?  What shreds of happiness survive?  Do we have the money?

We might have a bit of a reprieve - By Wednesday or so he was bouncing again, trolling the counters on his hind legs, and giving me his ball for a game of catch.  (I may have even thrown it for him once.)  I've cut his pain meds in half but this morning just before another dose he let out a little yelp so... I don't know.  I'll see what the vet says about long term pain management versus surgery.  Live large and go out without compromise, right?
Did I mention the counter trolling?  Bad dog!
Ugh.  Way to gut punch me with a life lesson, universe, just as I was building myself a nice, safe tower of unequivocalness.  You couldn't spare my effing dog?


  1. Murphy sounds like an awesomely fun dog! I'm sorry he's hurting w/his hip and that you ha ve to think about things and options to help him not be in so much pain. Here's hoping that pain meds will help alleviate the pain so he can still do the things he loves to do!

  2. Your Murphy and my Ruby sound like they were separated at birth. Sweet, sweet boy. It's so hard to see our guys in pain when they want so desperately to be happy (and chase those balls!).

  3. P.S. That pie pic is THE BEST. :) Ruby was a counter watcher/stalker too.