Back in 2003 we were in Europe, taking a cruise around Spain, France, Croatia, and Italy. It was a hell of an experience and I’m glad I did it. I got to drink a gallon of beer and eat tasty food in a tapas bar in Barcelona. I found genuine absinthe in Spain. I met some really interesting people and saw things I’d only ever seen in books. Let me tell you, the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona is something you absolutely have to see in person to really come to grips with.
While we in the middle of the Mediterranean, cruising away from Rome, we got an email from a friend who had just had a pitbull puppy show up on her doorstep. The little girl was scarred up and scrawny from being on the streets and how she wound up where she did we’ll never know. But she wound up there and decided to stay. Our friends already had two dogs so they didn’t really need another and asked if we could take this new dog. We already had one dog, a lab-cattle dog mix named Miyamoto who was (and still is) terrified of the vacuum. We named the new arrival Sistina after the Capella Sistina we had visited earlier that day, but for the most part she became known as Tina or Tina-Lou.
At first we were a bit concerned. Pits have something of a bad reputation here in the States, largely due to the actions of a handful of complete assholes who think it’s fun to breed them to be agressive. They’re incredibly willful dogs, but I never found Tina to be overly aggressive with me or anyone else in the family.
Moto and Tina got along famously and, aside from the occassional confrontation if Moto got tried to eat her food, they basically acted like pack mates. When my wife got pregnant, Tina would put her head on my wife’s stomach and listen to the little human brewing inside. After he was born, she was incredibly protective of him. Tina would take up position between my son and anyone who wanted to get close to him. If you wanted to see the baby, you had to get past the pitbull guard. Even as he got older she was patient and protective of him. He’d put his head on her tummy and she’d just snort that snort that pits have that basically says, “I don’t like this but it’s not enough of a problem to really concern myself with.”
She danced when she got excited. She could make such a wide variety of sounds you could sometimes swear she was trying to talk to you. She was the bane of pigeons everywhere. She could snore loud enough to rattle the windows and her farts could clear rooms, but she’d do anything for her people and loved to wrap up in her Dr. Seuss blanket in front of the fire when it got cold out.
Last week sometime she started having trouble walking and pretty much refused to put her right rear foot down. The condition would go up and down and she still managed to get all the way across the yard and hop down to the lower part. She also took out another pigeon. We assumed she had pulled a muscle and did everything we could to keep her safe, warm, and happy.
Last night she started crying, so I took her to an all night vet. The vet there did a cursory examination, determined she’d torn ligaments in both knees, gave her a shot for the pain, and prescribed some low calorie food and heavy pain killers. At midnight, when I got her home, she was still crying so I slept on the floor with her and rubbed her back and generally tried to keep her comfortable. She finally fell asleep at 4am. At 6am she was back up and still crying so I gave her more pain killers. The pain killers did absolutely nothing to help so we took her to our regular vet.
Our regular vet had only seen her once before; a couple years ago when Tina managed to scrunch under the fence that divides the dog part of the yard from the garden part of the yard. In so doing she cut up her face and had to get some minor surgery done. She also ate most our herbs. That dog loved herbs.
Turns out she had knee problems, but she also had an incredibly agressive form of bone cancer in her spine that had degraded her L6 vertebrae to the point that it had all but collapsed. At approximately 5pm today, sobbing, I held her paw and scratched her head as the vet put her to sleep.
She was right around twelve years old.
Good night, Tina-Lou. I hope you wake up in a field where steaks grow on trees and there’s an endless supply of pigeons.