Coping with the loss of my best friend
Over the past week I have been reading a lot of anything Vizsla - and found this place. I thought I'd share my story. I lost my Vizsla, Gibson, due to medical reasons last week. Its been very hard and very quiet this past few days... talking about him really is the only way I have been able to feel better.
Back in the spring of 2009, my previous dog (a wonderful female Shepherd mix I rescued as a pup in 1997) was nearing the end of her life. She had been ill with various things - and we knew it was going to be that time soon. In the weeks near the end of her life, some friends of my wife and I (who had Weim's) said there was a Vizsla at the local SPCA up for adoption and that I should go look at him. I remember asking the the heck a "Vizsla" was... and then started doing much research on the internet. I spoke to my vet and she suggested I was active enough, and would most likely make a good owner of the breed. I was a little worried going into the unknown, but in the end I said I couldn't get another dog while my Teak was still alive. Sadly, the following week Teak's body had had enough of the sickness and my vet suggested it was time... as you all know, that was one of the saddest days of my life.
A few days later, I decided to give the SPCA a call and see if the Vizsla (who they had named Smiley) was still there. He was, but he was due to be transferred the next day to Southern Ontario to a larger SPCA shelter. I was working nearly 2 hrs away at the time, so I decided to leave work early, rush back home - pick up my wife and get to the shelter just before closing. Which we did...
Enter the first time I saw him.... bounding into the kennel with one of the workers, he started to pee from excitement, and I thought " oh dear... what have we here?! "... my wife and I had about 20 minutes to take him on leash and for a short walk up and down the road to familiarize ourselves with this guy. In that short time, I just knew he was coming home with us! Its hard to explain but he had found his forever home. And I think we both knew it.
Since he had a tattoo, the SPCA had traced him back to Onpoint Vizsla's - I emailed them and was told that they couldn't make contact with the original owner. I was also told the last owner (who haddecided to give him up to the pound and not pick him up) remained anonymous and didnt want to tell the SPCA anything other than they didnt want to claim their dog. We learned that Gibson was actually born April 9th, 2006 - three years to the day I adopted him (April 9th, 2009). Other than that I knew nothing of his history, name etc.
Gibson immediately took to our home (at the time it was just my wife and I) but had many destructive behaviours - mainly chewing anything he could get his mouth on! He was not a jumper though, but was scared of EVERYTHING. Any noise, sudden movement, etc and he was trying to make a new doorway.
Being self employed, I had the ability to bring Gib to and from work with me every day. At the time I was commuting 140 km one way to work and back again. So, at 6am Gibson and I would drive for 1 1/2 hours to work, Iw ould take him for a run before I started - work until 5pm, and then drive home. Half way to home I would stop by this lake I know, and take him for a 45 minute off leash run. I also quickly discovered Gib had never learned to swim! Weird I thought. But, I am always hiking and love the outdoors, and Teak was always in the water. I knew Gibson needed some help. So, once the spring tuned a bit warmer, I would wade out into the lake every time we went for our walk and using a tennis ball (his favourite toy) try to lure him out. From May, June, July... he would get out to maybe his knees and then stop. i didnt want to drag him out into the water for fear of scaring him. It seemed futile - until one fine day he just decided to keep walking out into the deeper water and Wow! He was swimming... from that moment on - it was impossible to keep him out of the water. It was beautiful to see that whole episode unfold that first year and take part in it. On our walks I also got him to stop picking up garbage (he had a thing for pop cans..) That summer, my wife and I had only been married for a year and a bit. She was pretty jealous of all the time I was spending with Gibson, but I tried to explain that it was now our (ok, my) responsibility to try and get Gib trained enough to be safe and happy.
On all my spare time, we would go for walks (at least once 5km a day, sometimes twice) and when the winter came, and it was dark before and after work - we still did our off leash walks using a large flashlight. even when it was -30, we never missed a day..
Somewhere along the way Gib turned from that timid, clumsy relatively non-trained dog to a really super guy. He was the most loving, caring, affectionate dog with not one mean bone in his body. Where we went for our daily walks, is a place near my home where many people take their dogs off leash in the trail system. He never had any issue with other dogs, always friendly (but cautious). Just a really well behaved dog. We became closer all the time. He was also sleeping in the bed with my wife and I (although he was 60+ pounds and quite tall compared to most Vizslas) each night. Life was good - and then in 2011 we had our first child. Gibson was great with the new baby! As he started to get older he didnt seem to want to slow down. At age 5, then 6 - he was still a ball of energy and although I had started a new business, and had a child to look after - we still never missed a walk, no matter what the time of year, weather or whatever else had to be done.
SOme of our best times were going camping in the summer. Gibson loved swimming and we took him several trips to the shores of lake Superior. He always traveled well and loved to be in the truck. It was like his big dog house... lol.
Around January 2013, one day I called him to go for a walk. For some reason, the stairs he came running down a thousand time before - he decided to skip the bottom 4 steps and jumped to the kitchen floor. I knew immediately something was wrong (he did the splits) and couldnt put weight on one of his legs. Over the next weeks, and visits to the vet - we knew his ligaments were torn but thought it was best to try phyisio and wait to see if things would improve. That was difficult - although we still went for a daily walk we didnt play ball at all. I was scared. A few months after, and another Xray, it was decided Gibson needed surgery. In the mid summer Gibson had a TTA on the knew that was really bad. After two months of daily physio, we were again able to walk and have fun. But no more ball - and no crazy off leash bounding around. Just a nice gentle run and walks mostly on leash. Things were looking OK, and we started some meds (not daily, just when things got bad) and other things to try and keep the legs working and Gib's pain to a minimum. Then last summer (2014) the other leg started to deteriorate. Scheduled a second operation for last fall and although the weeks following were rough, afterwards things were really good - but now Gibson was on daily meds for pain and his arthritis. I knew there can be some bad side effects, but without the meds he was crying up all night and unable to walk.
Everything was fin until just over a week ago - he started to have the textbook adverse reaction to the medications he was on. By the time we stopped, tried to counteract the effects the damage to his body was too severe to cope with. Last wednesday, we decided to let him go peacefully.
It was a very unexpected and sudden turn in our lives. The past nearly 6 years we had together were just amazing. To spend so much time together - morning to evening day after day. It was such a wonderful experience I cannot describe to anyone else, except perhaps other owners.
Im not sure what the future will bring for me - I would love to share my life with another Vizlsa some day... but I know my love for Gibson will always be remembered, and I hope I did give him the life he deserved. He will always be remembered... Always.
Andrew Joseph Coholic