Dog Tales – Part 1
Cato was the first dog I ever lived with, from puppy hood on. As a kid, I always wanted a dog but my Mom refused. Who can blame her? She already had one severely handicapped child and 7 other rambunctious children in various stages of life. There was also my Dad, and you know how much trouble and work Dad’s are!
You would think that when this little cutie pie came into my life when I was 30, it would be a cause for unadulterated joy. It wasn’t.
I came home from work, one November evening to find my ex husband (who wasn’t my ex….yet), standing outside the door, having a smoke and watching a little brown bundle of fur playing. I asked whose dog that was and he said he had picked him up that day at the SPCA.
He was lonely.
I was angry.
Those were the days before I had a clue how to express my anger so, of course, I just shoved it down inside.
Why was I angry? Well, I didn’t appreciate having a choice like that made without any input at all from me. What’s the big deal? I felt then and do now, that bringing an animal into your life is a commitment for their whole life. Its not something you do lightly and its not something you do selfishly.
I thought my ex was selfish. Yes. I also thought he should get a frickin’ job and stop hanging around moping and complaining about being lonely. (I guess I can’t really talk about Cato (and Torin) without including a bit about the demise of my first marriage.)
Well, none of this was Cato’s fault and we just got on with integrating him into our lives. I didn’t know a thing about dogs really. No clue.
That first night, Cato was really ill. Our hallway was linoleum so we blocked off either end and shut the doors and listened to him howl. Of course he howled. He was a baby, in a strange place, with a case of diarrhea that you wouldn’t believe. I’ve learned a heck of a lot about puppies since then but in those days, I knew next to nothing. I had no clue what to do but I expected my ex to handle it. He had brought this creature into our lives. He didn’t know what to do either so let him howl. The next morning I helped clean up then went to work. Luckily, several people I worked with knew a person on site who was a ‘doggie expert’ and enthusiastically encouraged me to go meet ‘Dianne at accounting’. ‘Dianne at accounting’ and I were destined to become lifelong friends. That was definitely a very positive part of this story.
Dianne gave me some advice to get started, recommended a few books, got me onto crate training, and encouraged us to bring Cato to Puppy Kindergarten.
Cato continued to grow and thrive as we figured out how to live with and care for a dog. I had no idea how easy it is to love a dog and what great companions they are. In the picture below, Cato is about three months old.
So, January rolled around and a new session of Puppy Kindergarten started. We enrolled Cato and together learned the basics of teaching a puppy/dog how to live successfully with humans. That was the beginning of a lot of learning for me. I became very interested in dog behavior and training and went on to become Dianne’s assistant in future Puppy Kindergarten classes and eventually I graduated to ‘teacher’. I also amassed a fairly big library of books on dog behavior and training, went to Saskatoon to hear a puppy training guru lecture at the Veterinary college there, and got more involved with the Dog club in our town. It was through the dog club that I met another lifelong friend Nancy, who I’ve talked about on my blog.
Cato was an interesting mix of breeds. I always suspected he had some kind of sight hound in him because of the way he hunted and ran like the wind. He was also one of those dogs that had at least the last 5 ribs sticking out all the time, no matter how much he ate. He was a super sensitive dog who could pick up a storm on his radar, ages before it showed on the horizon. I became very attached to him. We decided to get another dog, to keep him company in 1992. I wanted a purebred so I could try conformation showing and obedience competition and that’s when we agree on a Belgian Sheepdog. Torin was our first Belgian but his story will be told separately.
Cato was not destined to have a long and happy life. When he was about 9 months old, he had a grand mal seizure. Our vet at the time suspected it was an epileptic seizure and told us that some dogs never have more than the occasional seizure and she wanted to wait before putting him on medication. A few months later he had such a severe series of seizures that we had to take him into the vet in the middle of the night to be knocked out in order to stop them. Cato was started on Dilantin then when that couldn’t control the seizures he was put on phenobarbital. The seizures continued to increase. Our vet sent us to a doctor in the Edmonton who had more experience in epilepsy in dogs. He started him on a combination of drugs that had been successful with other dogs. By the winter of 1992, Cato was clearly not getting better and it seemed that his epilepsy could not be controlled. He got to the point where he was having small seizure throughout every day. We made the painful decision to euthanize him. That was hard. By then, I was enslaved and a dog lover for life.