Friday, April 17, 2009

Always Faithful


The name was so appropriate. He lived his name to the very end. But that end has come, and I am saddened because of it. I promised him that I would never let him suffer.

Semper came into our lives about 13.5 years ago. In fact he was in our house for almost 6 weeks before I even knew it. He was the spontaneous gift of young high school senior girl to her best guy at Valentines Day. Such foolish things we do when we are young and in love. A gift of a Dalmatian puppy to a young man who had plans of leaving for the Marines in only four months. Thus his name, "Semper Fidelis" the motto of the Marine Corps. They were afraid to tell me about Semper, and Clint and Marianne (with the help of Amber) kept him hidden from me up in Clint's room on our 3rd floor. Trust, me, I never went up there unless I had to. Clint and Marianne had a number of animals that lived there including a make shift pond on the floor which housed some turtles. And I was traveling a lot then, so it wasn't so hard to keep the secret. Then one day I heard Semper crying and asked if there was a puppy in the house. I think everyone but me knew. We already had two dogs in the house and the laws of our city say that two dogs is the legal limit per house unless you are breeding dogs and have puppies. This new dog couldn't stay.

But Clint and Marianne took care of him- and he stayed- and after graduation in June when Clint left for Parris Island and the Marines, Semper went with Marianne to the Simmon's house. As I said, young people in love do foolish things. When Marianne left for college at Arizona State, Semper moved again and took up residence with Marianne's brother Matthew and his wife Nikki. Semper did well there and was loved by all. Matthew and Nikki had a son, Cooper, who was born very prematurely, but the miracles of Children's hospital kept him alive and he came home. I remember seeing Nikki walking Semper while pushing Cooper in a stroller with an oxygen tank to supplement his prematurely developed lungs. But then Nikki and Matthew divorced and soon having a fragile young child to take care and a dog became too much work, so Semper moved again to Marianne's parents house, a house that already had two adult dogs. The two older dogs didn't exactly welcome this young pup and Semper didn't do well there. He was able to escape from their fenced yard and roam the neighborhood. I found him a couple of times on the street and took him back home.

Semper was about 4 years old when the Simmons decided that they couldn't keep him any more. It was the Christmas holidays and Brandy was in Cincinnati. With Semper's imminent loss of a home Brandy decided that she could take him, but only if he could stay at our house until she finished her flight training and relocated to Minot, ND at her new assignment. I agreed, but only if Semper and our current dog, Isaac, a large Doberman, could get along. Well Isaac didn't like other dogs, but after an initial get to know each other, they became best of friends and Semper was saved from the pound.

But Semper was a special dog. He and I found a bond that I have never had with any of our previous dogs. He lived up to his name. If I was at home, he was by my side. If I went out without him, he cried at the door until I came back in. He was always there to greet me when I came home from work or a trip. He had a tail that had two speeds, one was just your normal back and forth wag, and then there was what I called his propeller wag, which I always saw when I got home. Semper got along with any dog that came to visit. He loved everyone, but mostly I think he loved me. Semper never made it to Minot. I wouldn't let Brandy have him. He had been handed off too many times, and I decided that he wouldn't ever have to move again.

Semper loved to ride in the car and when Max and I went to visit our children who had houses, Semper came along. We would build up the driver's side passanger seat in our van so he could ride up high and look out the window. He loved to sit there behind me and put his head on my shoulder while I drove. It was at this point that I discovered that Listerine Breath Strips work great for dog breath. Just put one on his tongue, it sticks there and dissolves, and he has minty breath.

Semper also had his own health problems. It seems that Dalmations have a problem with developing bladder stones. Poor Semper was one of the dogs with this problem and he suffered through two major surgeries that included some replumbing of his urinary system. He hated seeing the Vet's office and even whined when we drove by it in the car.


In September, 2007 when Max and I left for my assignment in San Francisco, I didn’t know if I would see him again. He was almost 12 years old, a bit beyond the average age of a Dalmatian. But Amber took great care of him for those 9 months she was there, and she brought Brutus, her "house dog" from college who seemed to give Semper new youth. Then Liz and Michael took over for Amber when she went to Chicago for graduate school and the dogs did well. When we finally returned for good this last December, Semper was there to meet us. He was mostly deaf and mostly blind, but he knew me and greeted us as we came to the door.

These past several months I have noticed a slow decline in his health. His eyesight was terrible at best and his hearing was non-existent. A times he would get anxious in the house because he could not find me, even though I was sitting in the same room. He would start searching for me, not hearing me calling, and not seeing me until I was right in front of him. His bladder problems worsened, and I had to take him out every night between 2 and 3 a.m. and then again around 5:30 a.m. He rarely had accidents in the house, but always told us when he needed to go out.

Yesterday Semper woke me up at 5 a.m. He was throwing up. I cleaned things up, took him out and then got up myself. While I was making coffee, he threw up again. He didn’t eat and when Max got home he had thrown up again and then did again once more. Max called, and I came home. We made an appointment with the vet. I knew this could be as serious as a bowel obstruction or maybe just a sick dog. Regardless he would have to stay at the vets. We knew he was not doing well, and he was terrified sitting in the vet’s office. I made the decision that I wouldn’t let him suffer further. I loved that dog and promised him long ago that he wouldn’t have to suffer in his last days. I held Semper beside me with his head on my lap while the vet gave him a sedative that put him to sleep. Once asleep, he gave him an injection that stopped Semper’s suffering. Promises were kept, and tears were shed. If there is a heaven, Semper is there. The house seems empty. Brutus seems depressed, walking around looking for his friend. He must know Semper isn’t coming back. No, there will never be another Semper.

12 comments:

The Smirvins said...

Semper's devotion to Don was so obvious...and it touched us all. He was a wonderful dog whose funny face greetings will be remembered and retold for years. We are so sorry for your lose Don...and thank you for sharing it...such a beautiful and touching story.

Love, The Irvins

Liz said...

For once, no amount of what I could say could properly express how much Semper was a great friend. I am sorry for the loss of a great member of the family, he will be missed. Don, no one could say how sweet he was better than you.

- Liz

Beyond The Strip said...

Thanks for sharing your story Don, Semper was a great dog and loved by all.

Elaine said...

That dog knew he was loved. You did great by him UD. It was a lovely tale that I read aloud to people who shed big tears. Mom, Tracy and I are thinking of you and Max and the hole Semper has left in your lives but we know that Semper is up there chasing grasshoppers and butterfly's with Stranger and Boo and all our other beloved furry family members that went before him. We love you!

Elaine said...

By the way, that comment was left by your niece Lucas.

Bart said...

Sorry to hear about your dog Don. Chin up mate, chin up.

The Life and Times of Poose and Hawk said...

That's the second time I have had the heart to read this. Absolutely amazing, Don. And I am SO sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine you without Semp. Who knew what a great gift he would be in February 96?

The Life and Times of Poose and Hawk said...

It is nice to know that things have a way of working out for the best. Semper was moved all those times and was bumped from house to house so he could find the perfect fit. I truly thank you for providing the very best home for my Valentine's gift. If it makes you feel any better, I think it safe to say that you got the winning deal in that holiday gift exchange. We still have the cheap stuffed bunny I gave to Marianne. The thing doesn't even fetch.
Semper will be missed.
Clint

Mary said...

Thanks for sharing Dad. We all loved Semper (aka the dog with the spots) We all love you too Dad.
Mary

Shan said...

A great dog, indeed. You were destined to be his daddy! So glad he was able to come to the Littrell Resort for a swim.... It is on the "dog" list of 1001 things to do.....
Hugs from Florida!

Myrtle Spyker said...

thanks for sharing that story don. semper and you were very lucky to share such a bond. i am very sorry for your loss, it must not be easy and i dread the day when i may go through similar sadness having never lost a pet myself (well besides Pepto and Bismal, my 2 goldfish)...

Anonymous said...

I just read your post about Semper, and I am so sorry. Typing through tears not because of how much I loved him, but because I know how much you loved him. You were a great Dog Daddy to him and treated him with the utmost respect and consideration. He will be missed, but not as much as I miss seeing you.
Much love from Ohio above!
Kels