Tuesday, July 10, 2007


It’s been a tough July. I haven’t felt much like blogging. Our dog Shambaugh has been battling health problems since late last year and the time finally came to say goodbye. He lived more than 12 years which is quite an accomplishment for a big dog. He was born the same year as Buckingham and outlived him by 5 years. Trish saved him from a shelter back in 1996 shortly after she graduated from college. She would go to the shelter 2 times a week looking for a Golden Retriever but couldn’t help noticing this mutt made of malamute and possibly a hint of wolf. He didn’t bark like the others. The first time Trish saw him, he put his paw up on the cage as she walked by.

After seeing Sham for more than a month she noticed that he was getting pushed father down the line. The people at the shelter said that dogs get pushed down the line farther as they get closer to the end. Sham was only a couple of days away from the needle when Trish decided to abandon her retriever plan and take Sham instead. Her father was against it but her mother lobbied hard. He didn’t want any dogs around the cats. Sham was relegated to the garage, and then the kitchen, and then downstairs and finally in a month he owned the whole house. Tricia’s parents became so fond of Sham that they flew him back to Iowa during the first few winters after Trish moved to Florida.

Sham was already an older dog when I met him in 2002. Bucky had died of cancer only a month earlier. Sham reminded me of Bucky quite a bit. Neither barked often, Bucky only when I confused him and Sham only at other animals. Neither made good watch dogs, neither met a human they didn’t like. A few years ago Trish found Sham with a captured opossum in his mouth. She got angry at him and forced him to spit it out. It reminded me of the time that Bucky caught the small yippie dog in the same grip.

He would often sit between the couch and coffee table while we watched TV. It would sometimes startle him when I cheered for the Yankees or yelled at the TV for some political speech I was seeing. He was slow to new things. We lived in this house for more than a month before he felt comfortable climbing the stairs. Tricia’s mother bought him a special orthopedic bed last year and he was three weeks before he would try it out. You didn’t have to convince him to eat any kind of meat or peanut butter. He would pretty much eat it until it stopped coming. He was only a portion of his old self, but it was a reminder of what he use to be. Tricia put her Appletini on the porch floor once and Sham snuck in and drank it gladly. He did the same with beer another time. Why would a dog like beer? He was so interested in the TV that time we watched the documentary about wolves.

Sham’s decline began with his inability to jump up on furniture. I use to ask Trish why she let a big dog like that jump on couches and beds and later I felt sad when he was no longer able to do so. Last September we found him limping after returning home from some outing. Soon he could no longer climb the stairs. We gave him medicine and he could climb the stairs again, but it killed his appetite and he dropped from 80 lbs to 50lbs. We saw a thing on the CBS Sunday Morning show about giving pets acupuncture and we tried it in January. It gave him his mobility back and his appetite returned. But he hated going to the place. The lady doctor there had no bedside manner and didn’t understand Sham like his regular vet. She kept forcing him down rather than waiting for him, which only made him hate the whole experience. On top of that, the treatments were effective for shorter periods of time. Finally last week, he had gotten so that he couldn’t even get up in the mornings. He would frequently fall and just sleep where he lied. He stopped coming up to us or listening to us. He seemed by the end to be in his own world much of the time.

Not having him around has been tough. I drive home and think that he will greet me. I go out to get the mail and try to remember not to let him out. When I wake up in the morning I look over the rail upstairs to see if he’s asleep. My mind still hasn’t totally accepted that he’s gone even though I stood by the Vet in his final moments. It seems trivial to worry about animals with so many problems in the world, but its loyal dogs like Sham that make life less brutish. It was a gift to know him.

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