Brody – 7/24/2017

Posted: 07/19/2017 in dogs, Hunting, Photography, Small Game
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Brody_portrait

Brody, at his best.

Sometime in early 2008, my wife sent me a text with a photo of a German Shorthaired Pointer in bad shape.  She was working as a manager at a major pet store chain, and a customer had brought in a dog that was in bad shape from neglect.  The customer told my wife that they had noticed this dog, and it’s condition, and had confronted the owner, who promptly said ‘take it then.’

He was between 37-40# when we brought him home.

Brody_faceBefore_eating
All he really had left was a kind of quiet dignity.  He was physically very weak, having to stop and catch his breath multiple times just to walk around the backyard.  I was in physical therapy for my own injuries at the time, so I could feed him small amounts every other hour or so at first, to get him used to eating again. It was heart-breaking to watch him painfully lay on the ground and root under the cabinets for any stray piece of food the other dogs might have knocked out of their bowls.  It took almost a month to get him used to regular meals again, and probably a year before he stopped searching for every piece of kibble, every meal. During that year, his strength came back, and he shed completely as good nutrition finally started to repair his coat.  The vet guessed that he was between three and four years old, but we’ve never been sure of his age.

He had nightmares.  We noticed that he had bad scabs from sleeping on what we guessed was a concrete pad. He didn’t know how to drink water out of a bowl,and would stick his face in it and clomp his jaws.  After the first few days, he was allowed to walk around the house with the other dogs, since they were used to him being there and could socialize more. The first time I brushed him, he was scared of the brush until I started to gently work on his coat, then he looked at me with an amazing ‘whut the heck is that?’ look on his face. (We’ve always used a kind of Sam Elliot voice for him.) The pattern of discovering new, pleasant things included: soft dog beds. Couches, my chair, a soft carpet and sunbeam near an AC vent, in case he got too hot in the sunbeam.  A fire in the fireplace, Thanksgiving and Christmas, which at our house usually included a tiny meal mirroring what we had for dinner on top of their kibble. (A tablespoon of mashed potatoes with a spot of butter and gravy, a nice piece of turkey sans bones, a small scoop of my country stuffing with minced chicken livers in it, you get the idea.)

As his body became used to good nutrition, the gas was nearly enough to trigger an evacuation of the living room.

Brody had a way of moving his eyebrows, and using body language, that led to years of us saying ‘Ah wuz abused, you shud give me sum o’ what yer eatin’…’   He used that face and general look to good advantage over the years.  He never did really learn to wag his tail though, the stub would just jerk back and forth without any rhythm.

After about a year, we had to have some of his molars removed. The vet guessed that he had been chewing on rocks when he was starving.  In time, other issues included a heart murmur (which no vet could ever seem to remember that we had the problem checked out, which at the time was NOT inexpensive, and would bring it up like it was a new condition) and a large, fatty tumor on his chest that had to be removed so he could walk normally.

The fatty tumor surgery required a drainage tube, so Brody ended up helping us at one of the 323 Archery shoots, when we were still running them, so that I could keep an eye on him.  He managed to use his eyebrows and general body language to get a bite or two of hot dog off of everyone that bought one.  And when we went to shoot ourselves, Clay’s wife reported that at least two people bought him his own hot dog while she was watching registration. That led to years of another staple Brody-joke “Gimme yer hotter dawg…”

He loved hikes.  He loved water, ponds, streams, it didn’t matter to him, as long as it wasn’t a bath, though eventually he gave up and let us ‘take his stink’ every month, since it became obvious that we weren’t going to let him keep it.  (Around that time, I parodied Judas Priest’s song ‘Breaking the Law’ into our monthly sing along of ‘Washin’ the Dog’ “This here dog is really stinky, it’s time for a good bath….”  If you know the original song, it’s REALLY FUNNY to sing the dog wash version, we just made up new lyrics every month.)

Brody particularly loved snow.  This being the suburbs west of Atlanta, snow is rare, and really doesn’t stick around, so in short order, the world would turn ‘Brody colored,’ that is, white with brown spots, and the darn dog could disappear standing still.  He would jump around and this spinning, bucking dance that we always called ‘having a happy.’  Brody having a happy was a sight to see, because all of his great, dearly held dignity went right by the wayside as he spun, ducked, jumped and grinned.

The first time that Brody saw a bird bigger than the ‘popcorn birdies’ (that’s what our cats call them anyway) was at the horse barn.  One of the other boarders had, for some unfathomable reason, brought a bunch of chickens to live at a boarding barn.  The hawks got most of them, but there were a few still running around, and we took the dogs to the barn one day to see how they would interact with the horses, and hike around the trails.  Brody caught sight of one of the roosters and locked up in a near-perfect point. So did Cinders, but after looking at us, and back at the birds, Cinders thought ‘nah, the hoomins aren’t interested, I’m off to find something else.’ Brody?  We had to physically pick him up and turn him around so he couldn’t see the bird to get him to break point.

He was usually a very laid back dog, completely the opposite of Cinders, who is, we’re certain, the result of a mad scientist blending Red Bull into bird dog DNA for no particular reason.  Even at twelve years old, Cinders is still a hyper dog.  On the other hand, Brody was very, very ALPHA.  I’ve seen him walk into a room with thirty other big dogs (by this time, he was at his healthy weight of 85-90 pounds) and take the room over by walking to the edge of the ‘dog’ zone and standing still.  The people at the dog day care he ‘worked’ at for a while (another of the wife’s jobs over the years) called him the Peace Maker. Because when Brody was around, there would be Peace, or there would be Angry Brody.

The only time I ever saw him react negatively to a person, ever, was one delivery driver pounded on the front door very hard. I have no idea why, he just pounded three or four times like he was trying to wake the dead.  What he got was Brody hitting the other side of the door at chest height, roaring more like a lion than a dog.  I couldn’t get outside before the driver got in his truck and floored the gas.

On the other hand, Brody would brook no dog trespassers on HIS turf.  Before we had him fixed, taking Brody outside was a constant challenge, because while he knew very well what the limits of the yard were, he wasn’t about to stay inside an imaginary line if he could sniff so much as a molecule of ‘dog in heat.’  And this dog could vanish without a trace if you took your eyes off of him for more than two seconds.  Once he made it several miles before deciding that he’d had enough and wanted back inside, so he went to the nearest house and sat on their front porch until one of the semi-terrified homeowners gathered the nerve to check his collar and call me.

By the time I got there, everyone in the house was petting him. And yet, the father told me they were all terrified of big dogs.  Brody was like that, he could convert a cat person if given a few minutes to work on them. He grinned a bit of a doggy grin, wandered over and got in the passenger side of my car. He slept good that night, and we still wonder if there are Cocker-Brody’s running around, or maybe a couple of yellow labs with suspicious brown spots and the urge to point at birds.

After we got him fixed, he’d still pull this trick now and then, I’m certain he was just checking how loud I would yell before he’d trick me by reappearing after ten or twenty minutes of frantic searching in the woods, the neighbor’s yard, etc.

Brody was fine with other dogs, provided they didn’t flat-out challenge him or threaten his people or his pack.  But when the rare times that it was just the two of us, usually because he was on a different vaccination cycle than Cinders and Gretchen, he was amazing.  I swear I could have taken him anywhere with me and he would have heeled and been the best companion ever.

We also used to have a problem with stray dogs in the neighborhood. And I mean ‘stray’ dogs, not the ones our old neighbors owned, but let run crazy.  I opened the back door one day and there were two pit bulls standing in the back yard, no collars, just marking over top of Brody and Cinders’ scent.  I yelled at the dogs to get gone, but they didn’t listen.

Brody moved me out of the way then knocked the bigger dog tail over teakettle for about ninety yards, until the other dog gave up and ran as fast as it could.  Keep in mind, this started in the back yard, and my dogs herded these intruders around the house and down the driveway.  Cinders was snapping at his target, while Gretchen was letting war-woo’s out that probably rivaled air-raid sirens in volume.

Our house sits back in the woods a bit, so we have a front neighbor.  Once, that house was occupied by a nice man named John, his wife, and their big German Shepherd, Bishop.   By that time, we had rescued a German Shepherd as well, Zelda, and despite being fixed, she thought Bishop was very interesting.   Brody thought Bishop should stay in his house. All the time.  Bishop tried to sneak up our driveway for a sniff or two of Zelda one day, and Brody ran him all the way back to John’s garage, then sidled up to John for a good ear rub while grinning at Bishop, who was cowering in his kennel.

To illustrate how strong he was at his best, once years ago I flopped face down on my bed, a game the dogs knew very well, but usually only Cinders and Gretchen would play it with me.  (Cinders – 40 pound GSP, Gretchen, 70 pound Blue Tick hound)  Once I flopped on the bed, I’d cover my ears with both hands and pretend they weren’t there. The two of them would burrow under my arms, play-pounce on my back, and have a grand old time until I would laugh and roll over to pet them.  The one time when Brody played, he just stuck his nose under my rib cage and flipped me like a leaf.

To illustrate how clever he was, once at dog daycare, during a rainstorm the dogs all had to be herded into the building.  My wife (who would watch the small dogs, because if she was in the yard with our dogs, our dogs just spent the entire day being a protective detail) told the other dog handler NOT to let Brody inside the building without first putting clips on all of the indoor boarding kennels.  The handler didn’t listen, so Brody opened every single kennel (I think there were nine?) and proceeded to eat every bite of food in every kennel. Right in front of the occupants of the kennels, regardless of breed or size. And none of them dared protest.

Nine years.  Nine years of one of the most wonderful dogs I’ve ever known. That makes him between twelve and fourteen years of age.

He’s still here, for today. Tomorrow is a maybe.  A month would be a miracle.  But I doubt very much beyond that.  The vet doesn’t really know exactly what’s wrong, the best two educated guesses are a tumor on his liver, or heart failure of one kind or the other.  His belly is distended, and obviously causes him discomfort.  He’s having a difficult time standing up, and he’s back to having to walk, take a break, walk, teak a break to go thirty yards.  He is in bad shape, and before long it will be the end. He’ll most likely never have a happy again.

It’s breaking my heart.

(I wrote this last Thursday – this morning, 7/24/2017, Brody passed away.  It feels like somebody has ripped my heart out of my chest.  There is so much more to Brody’s story that I didn’t have the strength to record that day, or today, but hopefully soon the pain will be bearable.)

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