Miss­ing (Man’s) Best Friend

Escalon Times - - PERSPECTIVE - Den­nis D. Cruz is a staff reporter for The Oak­dale Leader, The River­bank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at dr­cruz@oak­dale­leader.com or by call­ing 847-3021. Den­nis D. Cruz

March has al­ways been one of my fa­vorite times of the year. March meant that the NCAA March Mad­ness tour­na­ment be­gan, Wrestle­Ma­nia is right around the cor­ner and base­ball sea­son was in sight. How­ever, on March 21, 2016 my pas­sion for March took a dark turn. On that day I had to make the most dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion of my life: I had to put my beloved dog of nearly 15 years down to rest.

In 2001 I was liv­ing in Patterson thumb­ing through the clas­si­fieds in search of a pet. My mind was set that I wanted a Queensland Heeler and I had seen a list­ing that read “10 week old Blue Queensland Heeler pup­pies for sale in Oak­dale.” My mom and I made the trip and ar­rived on a ranch where there were six pup­pies in the yard. The first one I picked up I im­me­di­ately knew it was the one I wanted to take home. She was a plump, blue and black puppy with a con­ta­gious smile and was truly happy to be scooped up. I paid the lady and was on my way home with the new­est mem­ber of the Cruz fam­ily.

On the car ride home my mom had asked what I wanted to name her. I told her that her name was Phoebe (I am a huge fan of the tele­vi­sion show Friends). Phoebe and I were in­sep­a­ra­ble from that mo­ment on. As a puppy, Phoebe was full of en­ergy and had a great per­son­al­ity. We lived on a farm in Patterson and she loved to chase chick­ens, ducks and as in her na­ture, the cat­tle as well. She loved to go for jogs down the long coun­try roads and at the end of each night, she loved her treats. My dad taught her a few tricks in­clud­ing how to bal­ance a milk bone cookie on her nose, how to dance on her hind legs in a com­plete cir­cle and how to sing/howl for her treats. Phoebe con­tin­ued to do th­ese im­pres­sive tricks un­til her fi­nal year.

When Phoebe was nine years old she and I were liv­ing in Tur­lock. I had moved into an apart­ment where pets were frowned upon. I kept her a se­cret at the apart­ment un­til I took her for her morn­ing walk be­fore work at a nearby dog park just blocks away from the apart­ment. My land­lord saw me exit the apart­ment with her and when we got back a note that read “We need to talk about your furry friend” was placed on my door. I could not af­ford a new place at the time so I at­tempted to keep her un­der wraps there for as long as I could, mind you I also had a Si­amese cat liv­ing there too. The fol­low­ing month I re­ceived an­other, more threat­en­ing let­ter on my door. “We asked you nicely to please abide by our no pet pol­icy. We saw the dog and cat through the win­dow dur­ing the day hours and now we are ask­ing you all to leave. Con­sider this a 30 day no­tice.” Ouch. That was a major blow and I did not want to leave my apart­ment but had no choice at this point. My girl­friend at the time sug­gested that Phoebe stay with her and her sis­ter un­til I got set­tled in my new apart­ment (which was also not pet friendly) but af­ford­able. Phoebe stayed with them for a few weeks. I picked up Phoebe and no­ticed she was not quite her­self. She was not eating and did not seem in­ter­ested in go­ing to the dog park any­more.

My buddy Neal and I took her to the vet where the vet said she con­tracted a rare case of “adult parvo.” I had never heard of adult dogs get­ting this and it threw me off. He said she would not make it much longer if she did not eat or drink. Dev­as­tated, I took her home and prayed that she would make a re­cov­ery. Af­ter days of not eating or drink­ing I called my then friend, who later turned out to be my wife, and asked for her ad­vice on Phoebe. I had asked her if it was self­ish of me to keep her around when she was suf­fer­ing. Lind­say said she un­der­stood my sit­u­a­tion and that she would be do­ing the same if it was her dog. The very next day, I woke up to take Phoebe to the vet but to my sur­prise she was drink­ing out of her dish and turned to me with that happy smile and greet­ing that I fell in love with nearly a decade be­fore. Neal and I took her back to the vet and the vet was in dis­be­lief. Phoebe had made a full re­cov­ery!

In 2011 I moved to Ten­nessee for school and knew it was only tem­po­rary. I left Phoebe be­hind with close friends. Their young daugh­ter was bat­tling can­cer and she loved Phoebe al­most as much as I did. They took care of her for as long as they could and Lind­say and her mother went to pick her up from them later that sum­mer. I tried des­per­ately to get back to Cal­i­for­nia and to Phoebe but as luck would have it, things did not go to plan. I was de­layed for about three months but made it in the fall.

Phoebe was a large part in Lind­say and I get­ting mar­ried and even me liv­ing in Oak­dale now. Lind­say had lost two of her dogs and when Phoebe came into her life, it helped her cope and pro­vided that miss­ing some­thing in her life as well. Lind­say and I got mar­ried in 2013 and Phoebe was a big part of Lind­say’s mother’s speech at the cer­e­mony. Ev­ery­one loved and knew Phoebe that was at the wed­ding.

Alas, shortly af­ter, Phoebe’s once quick and play­ful steps be­gan to slow down. Her eyes be­came foggy and her nightly tricks were be­com­ing more de­mand­ing on her body. In 2015 Phoebe went to the vet for a rou­tine den­tal visit. The doc­tor called me and told me they no­ticed a cyst in her gums and that it was po­ten­tially can­cer. The doc­tor’s di­ag­no­sis was con­firmed just days later and I felt help­less. It was like 2010 all over again with the fear of los­ing my best friend. We gave her medicine on a daily ba­sis and kept her com­fort­able. Al­though Phoebe was sick, she was never unalert. In Septem­ber of 2015, when I was walk­ing my wife out to the car I left my fa­mous tri-tip sand­wich on the ta­ble (yes a tri-tip sand­wich from The Cor­ral at Oak­dale High School) and when I came back in the house all of it was gone ex­cept the bread. In dis­be­lief I looked around and saw Phoebe try­ing to wad­dle away with crumbs on her fur. She had eaten my sand­wich. As time went on the medicine was not work­ing as well as it once had and we could tell the qual­ity of Phoebe’s life was not what it should have been. She de­served bet­ter and that meant we had to end her suf­fer­ing.

We took her to the vet and said our heart­break­ing good­byes and held her paw as her eyes closed for the fi­nal time.

I will al­ways hold a spe­cial place in my heart for Phoebe. She was my best friend, my ac­com­plice and my child be­fore the birth of my son Austin. I love and miss her ev­ery day. The thing that keeps me pos­i­tive is know­ing that she is no longer in pain and is en­joy­ing her­self up in Heaven with my mom and other pets that have passed.

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