I’ve put off writing this for too long. It’s time and I’m crying again now, just starting it.
When I was in Oklahoma, Cody, my middle son, told me to keep an eye open for an Aussie to work bulls. He raises bucking bulls. I decided to go to the animal shelter one day and adopt a cat. I found one I really liked and he liked me. When I went past the cage, he came up to the door as if saying hello and so we opened the door. He immediately hopped in my arms. It was a done deal.
It was similar to how Will found his cat, Buddy. He went to the shelter to get a kitten and walked past a cage. Buddy is a Russian Blue. He put his paw up on the cage door as if saying, “Hello, you’re here for me.” Kind of like that scene in Firefly. The attendant said, “That’s odd. He doesn’t like anyone.” Buddy and Will were soul bonded from then on. It took me weeks to get him to come out from under the bed and associate with me when Will went to Iraq.
Anyway, I assumed that’s the way Clyde the cat and I were going to be.
As an afterthought, I went to look at dogs and there was an Aussie. He jumped up on the cage and did the famous Aussie wiggle. He was mine. Well, Cody’s. I called Cody. “There’s an Aussie here at the shelter. Do you want him?”
“Sure. Pay the fee and I’ll pay you back. I’ll pick him up in a couple of days.”
I took him in to meet Clyde and make sure they’d get along. Gage the Aussie said. “Oh my gosh! A cat! I love cats.”
I was holding Clyde. Clyde the Cat said. “MREOOOOWWWW! Get that monster away from me!” He clawed his way around in my arms and flew back into the safety of his cage. If he’d had opposable thumbs, I’m sure he would have shut the door after him.
I’d already paid for Clyde, so we just switched the fee to Gage.
I kept him for two days and he made every step I did. Gage was perfectly happy with me.
Cody came to get him, and he totally ignored him, which was strange because as I later learned, Gage loved men. If a man came in the house, he was all over them. He adored Will, my youngest son, especially. Cody sat on the couch arm and talked to him. Nothing. Gage sat there with his back to him and stared at me adoringly. Cody snapped his fingers. Gage ignored him.
“Mom, I think that dog’s deaf.”
“Oh, I don’t think so.” Now we raised Aussies for years so I knew he was a defective merle gene Aussie, but he hadn’t acted like he couldn’t hear.
Cody yelled. Gage didn’t move. Yup, he was deaf.
“I can’t take him, Mom. Those bulls will cow kill him.” Yes, I know that’s an odd saying, but he was right. He needed to be able to hear commands.
And so, Gage the Wonder Dog and I became a team. He loved getting groomed and was so handsome when he got his bath and clipping. The groomers loved him. I had to tell them he was deaf. They could talk to him, and he would enjoy it, but he wouldn’t listen because hey, he’s deaf.
During this time, I got a new computer. It was a very large computer. The box was lying on the side while I was hooking the computer up. Gage crawled into the box like it was a den. I tried to get him out of it, but he was happy there. So, I cut the top off and put his blankets in there. He was very happy in his box bed beside my desk.
He loved Oklahoma. I lived in the country in a place with three other trailers within sight. In front of these trailers that were very spread out, was a large open field. I would turn him out to potty and he would get all excited. “Mom! Gopher!”
Then he’d spend the next hour digging for gophers. Red dirt would fly in a plume. All I could see was a white butt sticking up out of the tunnel he was digging. Every now and then he’d pop his head up to see if a gopher was in sight and go to digging again. I could have rented him out for a trenching service. Eventually, he’d give up and come home exhausted and happy, flop down on the porch or ask to come in. Gage was very happy. When I went to bed, he slept next to my bed. When I cooked, he sat next to me. When I went to the bathroom, he laid his head in my lap. I always had company.
He didn’t play fetch, though. I’d throw something and he’d look at me like, “What? You threw it. You go pick it up. He had no use for toys. He liked treats and pets and rides. None of that silly puppy stuff.
We went through some tough times that I won’t even discuss here, but he was always by my side. Ever faithful.
When Will asked me to move to Wisconsin to babysit so he could go to college, Gage, of course, came with me. He soon discovered there are no gophers here and decided he was a vampire. I had to force him to go outside. He did not like Wisconsin. Then we had snow and he was sure he was going to die. This was a southern dog through and through. I understand, Gage, I understand.
I tried to buy him a bed, but he wanted nothing to do with them. He slept under my desk all the time. It was getting harder for him to go up and down the stairs.
One morning I woke up to a terrible crying and thought someone I had left the tv on or something. I got up and Gage was in the front bathroom. He was scrambling around on the floor, crying, trying to get up, shaking all over. I knew he was having a seizure. He had already been having health issues and if I tried to lift him to get him up stairs or in the car, he would bite me. His sides hurt. I had to be very careful with him. He had urinated all over the floor, but I had to get him off the vinyl and onto the carpet, so he’d quit scrambling like he was. I finally got him moved. He bit me because he was afraid. I think he was temporarily blind. I comforted him as best I could and gradually, he recovered and settled down.
Not long after that, I noticed him sitting in corners staring at them. He was losing control of his bowels and bladder. I’d take him outside to potty and he’d poop on the floor five minutes later. He was entering a twilight that I feared he wasn’t going to come back from, and it scared me because I recognized it. It’s something I fear myself. What happens if I start losing my faculties? What happens if I enter that dark place where I am afraid?
What was he seeing when he stared at the corner?
I set up an appointment with the vet for a wellness check.
He had arthritis and an issue with back degeneration. That didn’t surprise me. There was something causing pain on his side. He was entering dementia. The vet said, “I can give you some medication for pain. It will help, but he is never going to get better. We can put him to sleep today, or you can wait until you’re ready, but the day is coming and it’s coming soon. He may have that seizure in the middle of the night you can’t get him out of and you can’t lift him, so you have to call him to your house to take care of him.”
They left me alone with him and a jar of treats. He loved those treats. I held him and fed him treats. Then I let him go.
I said when I put my last Aussie down, I would never own another dog again. God had other plans. I am riddled with guilt. I kept thinking in those last weeks that as I treated him so I would be treated in my old age. I could have done more. I should have given him more time.
When Gage started pooping on the floor, I was talking to Will about it. “That’s not good, Mom.”
“No, but I’m not ready to let him go yet. I keep thinking about how I will be treated later. Don’t be putting me down if I start having toilet accidents.”
“I won’t, Mom. I’ll just buy more diapers.”
We are terrible with our gallows’ humor. I was trying to make light of an issue that was weighing heavily on me. I thought I would have more time, but when he started going down, he went down rapidly. I was just shocked.
Even now I am sitting here bawling. I regret what I did.
Will has a new dog named Duke. Duke loves me. Every now and then I go over there just to hang out with him. No, I will never have another dog, but I miss being unconditionally loved and loving something so purely.
Goodbye, Gage. Mom loves you. Rest easy.
I want to write a children’s book about Gage and show how valuable and loving a special needs animal can be. Perhaps it will help children understand they are special and promote more adoptions of these special animals as well.