April 24 2012 - A Eulogy for Simon

 

I never pictured myself as a small dog person, having always had labs or lab/shepard crosses in the past, but then I was asked to foster Simon for a 2 week period.  When that 2 weeks turned into 6 months, I became hooked on a happy, playful and very demanding little dog.  

When I adopted Simon at age 6, he was a "special needs dog" with chronic liver disease that had required several surgeries to insert shunts.  One vet estimated that he probably wouldn't live much past his 8th birthday, so I initially assumed that Simon was going to be a "short term" project.  Luckily that vet's prediction was wrong.  With the right diet, we soon had Simon's liver functioning "almost" normally.  Another problem Simon arrived with was bad teeth.  My brother, Sean, who adored that dog as much as any of us, liked to tease me that I could have bought myself a nice car with the money spent on Simon's dental surgeries and other health issues.

After being surrendered by his original owner and having various fosters, Simon had major separation anxiety and cried pitifully when left alone.  Luckily he only weighed 6 pounds so it was easy enough to take him anywhere.  He easily fit in a backpack or shoulder bag and he knew enough to keep quiet on public transportation, in stores, at the movies, and during important meetings at the office. 

Simon and I used to work at Amnesty International, where we often worked with refugees and people who had encountered serious trauma.  Simon's job was simply to look cute and put people at their ease.  He was very good at his job.  Sometimes he got a bit confused though, and thought he was supposed to be a watch dog, barking at the volunteers or the people we were there to serve.  Luckily, most people were willing to forgive him for that.  That's where the cuteness came in handy.

The one place Simon was not well behaved was in the car.  I suspect he may have been left alone in a car at some point for long periods of time.  He would start to bark and whine and sometimes even howl, from the moment he got in the car to the moment you reached your destination.  In fact, once you arrived where you were going, he got even more hysterical, as if to ensure that you didn't forget to take him out of the car.  One time my daughter I took a 10 hour return trip with Simon, thinking he would calm down after an hour or two.  He never let up the entire time!

As close as Simon and I were, his favorite person in the world was my daughter. Her favorite animal in the world was Simon, so that worked out well.  She always said that Simon's "one trick" was to jump into a backpack or shoulder bag on command.  It looked impressive to onlookers but it simply came down to Simon not wanting to take any chance of being left behind.  As soon as you brought out a bag, any bag, Simon was in it.  Simon actually was a very well trained dog, thanks largely to time spent with Hilary from Homefinders Animal Rescue.  Simon knew all the basic commands, and hand signals.  He could sit, stay and even heel off leash... until he saw a squirrel or another dog.  I preferred to keep a leash on him for safety's sake.

Simon was not that great with dogs he didn't know, especially big dogs.  Whenever he encountered a big dog I think he just assumed he was going to be dinner and that his only advantage was to get in the first strike.  Whenever I saw a big dog coming, I would pick him up, cover his eyes, and sometimes even cross the street if the dog was off leash.  Often the other dog owners would act all offended and proclaim that their dog was friendly... I would then explain that "mine wasn't".

Other than that, I would say that Simon was a typical dog.  He loved to chase squirrels and cats, if the cats would run.  Most didn't because they were bigger than he was, and if they didn't run, he simply did his best to ignore them.  He also tended to ignore most dogs that he knew and most small dogs, perhaps after a very brief greeting.  He also ignored my pet rats most of the time, although he had been known to snap in their general direction on occasion, but only when he felt that they were getting more attention than he was.  He was the jealous type, and very possessive of "his people".

Simon also loved to play with his many toys but only when he was in the mood.  You couldn't just throw a ball when you felt like it and expect him to fetch it... but if he was in the mood to fetch a ball, you had better drop whatever you were doing and throw it for him or you would be growled at until you did.  The more I write, the more I realize that I'm not exactly painting a picture of the "the perfect dog" but Simon was just perfect for me, and for the other members of my family.  He loved to cuddle and snuggle with his people and he would get so excited when it was time to snuggle up in bed at night that he would do his "happy dance".  A friend of mine, who has known a lot of dogs, just described him as the "best little lap dog" she had ever known... and yes, yes he was!

A few years ago Simon was diagnosed with pancreatitis and we nearly lost him then.  Although he did slowly recover, it was the beginning of the end for him.  Miniature Poodles are actually prone to pancreatitis, but the special diet he'd been on for his liver disease probably didn't help.  The pancreatitis completely ravaged his pancreas leaving him an insulin dependant diabetic and needing pancreatic digestive enzymes added to his food.  From then on it was an ongoing struggle to keep his blood sugar balanced but I think we did quite well at that considering.  A common side effect to canine diabetes is cataracts and Simon developed them on both eyes, becoming completely blind, he also began to lose his hearing and become senile.  This was probably helped along by several years of ever increasing diabetic related seizures.  Some of the petite mal seizures appeared to be quite painful, so we began to realize his time was drawing near. 

Simon actually used to love going to the vet, but in recent years the first thing the vet usually did was stick a needle in his neck to test his blood sugar, and that made him revise his opinion.  We had actually been talking about finding a vet willing to come and do home euthanasia, but thankfully, Simon took that dreaded decision out of our hands.  

Simon passed away in my arms just before 5 am this morning, following the mother of all seizures.  At 10 am Sean and I buried him in the middle of the rock garden that my brother is planning to reconstruct in our front yard.  He is right under the center stone and Sean plans to plant poppies around it.  I'll be sharing actual pix once the flowers begin to bloom. 

    

   
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