Many of you had the pleasure of meeting Dirt
Devil, one of Midwest Schipperke Rescue's lifers, at the St. Louis Schipperke Specialties. Big D came
to me in 2005 at age 12, a very small male that had not sold at the dog auction in Missouri that weekend. If the rescue group had not taken him he would have been disposed of as he no longer could breed bitches.
He was thin, had lower canines that pointed east and west, and, as we found out, had been beaten so severely that the
vertebrae in his neck had been crushed. He was not able to lift his head past the level of his shoulders and before
we got the swelling under control was in excruciating pain. From that time on he could only be fed or watered with raised
bowls as he could not lower his head easily to eat or drink.
He was also one of those dogs who had obviously lived in an environment where he
got no positive human interaction and had emotionally shut down. He was vacant, he froze in place or crouched
when I went to pick him up or handle him in any way. He had dead eyes, the loving dog he might have been was tucked
away in a place a human would have to earn the right to visit. With all this and at his age he was a lifer rescue and
would spend the rest of his days with Tom and I in our home with our own dogs and the various other rescues that come through
After two years of care, good food and constant handling, he would finally be relaxed enough to "help"
me pick him up by giving a little hop when he felt my hands near him. The day he turned to me and bumped his nose to
my face on purpose was a milestone. It was the first time he had voluntarily looked into my eyes and made the first
move at contact. The next bump involved a small lick, an act which he only repeated a few more times in his time with
me. It was the best he could do.
In the five years he was with us I watched this little dog go from an empty shell
of a dog to a full fledged schipperke. While he never played with toys, he would wear his belly band (I never
could housebreak him) in the house and prance around, always looking into a cabinet or box to see what was there.
He finally would allow me to lift him to the couch and sit for petting or grooming without going back into vacant mode and
just enduring whatever the human wanted this time.
He had a weird bark, sort of like a bull elk bordering on a screech owl which
meant it was time for dinner.....NOW. As he aged he lost most of his sight and hearing but until the last two days
never lost his appetite. He needed a lot of care these past few months as I tried to control his pain and compensate
for his loss of teeth. He loved his Pedigree choice cuts and I was feeding him three
times a day to keep weight on his aging body. He became incontinent and we had to change his bedding 4-5 times
Friends who would watch him if both Tom and I were out of town always had the scares of their lives.
He would sleep so soundly and with his being almost fully deaf, everyone thought he was dead every morning! You had
to shake him to wake him up, he could sleep through all the dogs barking, crates shaking
and food bowls banging. But he kept on going year after year.
In the last month he really started a downhill
slide that neither he nor I could stop. I asked him to stay until Christmas and he did
the best he could. His kidneys shut down late Christmas Eve and he became disoriented
and would not eat. He was in pain, only the second time I ever heard him cry. Christmas Morning Tom and I
took him to the emergency clinic and let him go. It was the only gift we had for him this time.
I brought him
back to the house as I wanted to take him to my vet for individual cremation. When I laid him on the couch, the rest
of the dogs didn't bark, which was very unusual. Instead, they all began the most mournful howling I've ever heard.
It was not anything like their usual excited singing. They knew he was gone.
The hole in my heart
is enormous. That little snaggle toothed boy was as dear to me any any of my show dogs, more so in some ways because he only got
to experience a few years of a good life, his first 12 were spent in an environment no dog should live in. I can
only hope that the life he had with me made up for those first years in some small way.
My husband Tom gave me a card today which read:
"Thanks for bringing Dirt Devil into our lives. He taught me about patience, courage, trust and love."
Until we meet again, rest well Big D, you've earned it.