October 20th 2013 11:08 pm
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When Sabs was about 3 1/2 I had her spayed, I also had her hips x-rayed. She almost died on the table, we found out the hard way that she had serious issues with anesthetic. It took her days to shake the drugging effects and she went into shock. We also discovered that in all likely hood she was sterile to start with.
But the worst news was her hips.
She had severe HD in both hips and the prognosis without surgery was grim. My vet did not expect her to make 5. He was devastated to have to give me the news. Like everyone else she met, he adored her. The risks for her were huge with surgery, but without it things did not look good. Everyone I spoke to was fascinated that she showed no symptoms. No one was optimistic about her chances.
My decision was painful, and final. Even if she survived one surgery, she needed two. The lengthy recovery and forced immobility would devastate her. Things would play out as nature intended, I would deal with it when it became an issue.
Fortunately for me, no one sent Sabs the memo. She didn't know she was supposed to be crippled, she had no time for such nonsense. She had a job to do, one she took very seriously and the experts and vets had grossly underestimated this girls strength and determination.
We went through a few rounds of acupuncture, but essentially she never had any issues.
On a chilly January evening in 2011, she fell getting into the patrol truck. A few days later it happened again. My very accommodating boss switched us to a small car and I lightened her patrols, much to her disgust. A few weeks later she lost her balance and slipped under the car. She was panicky and upset, but I got her out and lifted her into the car. I assumed her hips were sore so I consulted with her vet and we made the decision to retire her. I wish I had known how very wrong I was. Sabi had done active patrol work until she was 9 years old, she really was a true warrior.
I noticed her stumbling and dragging her one back foot occasionally, but I knew her hips were bad and she also had a slightly twisted back leg. I never saw any indication of pain and I thought that was good.
In the fall of that year, I was outside talking to my neighbor when we noticed that Sabi was down and in a very odd position. She was stretched out flat on her side on the ground but with her feet facing the fence. I called her and she didn't move. Frightened I hesitantly approached her. Her eyes were moving but she wasn't. I crouched beside her and stroked her gently. After a minute she seemed to be struggling to get up so with my neighbors help we carefully got her on her up and then on her feet. She gave us a look and trotted off.
The next morning I opened my eyes to her yelping and whimpering. Sabi did not whimper. I was out of bed in a shot and she was laying stretched out on the floor, struggling to get up. I quieted her and checked her over. Then at her insistence I helped her up. She yelped and seemed a bit wobbly but wanted to pee and have breakfast. Her head seemed at an odd angle and she appeared dazed, but she only seemed in pain getting up or down. I put a bed in the kitchen for her and she stayed on it for the day. The following day she was no better. I reluctantly made a vet appointment.
The vet examined her and asked some questions. He thought she may have had a mild stroke the day in the yard but he was certain the symptoms he was seeing were arthritis, and we could help her. I burst into tears. Perplexed he asked me why I was crying. I sobbed that I had driven her all the way there thinking I would not be bringing her home. He gave me a hug and told me she would be just fine. Then he gave her some medication and told me to take her home and call in a day if she was not improved.
She woke me the next morning shoving at me with her head and licking my face. My girl had pulled through again. I was overjoyed and convinced that we would be together for a long time yet. In a few short months I would have the rug yanked out from under me and find out how little I knew and learn just how strong my beautiful warrior really was. Right now we had Halloween and Christmas to look forward to and I was on top of the world.
October 1st 2013 1:23 am
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I didn't want Sabi, I was adamant that no dog would ever rip my heart out again. I had had enough heartache in my life and couldn't take the pain of losing another one. My husband was relentless, all families must have dogs. I finally gave in on the conditions that it must be a dog from a reputable breeder, and I would have no part in it's life.
He came to me two weeks later, paper in hand. Local, farm raised, healthy parents.
I never did get to see Sabs parents, his truck broke down and he could only bring the pups. He was a rotten excuse for a human and I left with Sabi, daring him to call the police as I pulled away with my stolen puppy in my arms. She made not a peep, drove the whole way staring at me. I was sinking fast.
I shoved her at my husband the second we got home, she's yours, you deal with her. She wiggled, squirmed and then started wailing. Your holding her wrong, support her more I snapped. The wailing got louder. Some decidedly unladylike language and I snatched her from him, silence followed and the ice cracked. I put her down and told him to watch her, she was his problem. I left the room, she followed. He retrieved her from under my feet and carried her away. A whimper, a cry, more heart wrenching puppy wailing. He put her down, rolled a ball for her. She played, he smiled as I entered the room. A fat ball of black fur barrelled toward me and flopped on my foot. I moved, she followed. The cracks widened.
In the weeks that followed Sabi waged an all out battle for possession of me. She would play with anyone but refused to let another human hold her. Day by day the ice around my heart cracked and fell away. She proved to be a most unusual pup. She was housetrained in days, never chewed things and seldom barked or whined. She played a bit but mostly just watched everything with those solemn little eyes of hers.
She started growling at people who approached me when she was 3 or 4 months old. Not people she knew, just strangers and only if the approached me, never if they approached her. I took her to a trainer, who was also my boss. In a pattern that would follow her through life, she admitted him to her fan club. He fell head over heels for the quiet little girl with the ancient eyes. As he worked through her training with me things began to change. In the weeks and months that followed Sabi set out to earn herself a shot as a patrol dog. My husband had lost out, Sabi had made her decision, waged her war and freed my heart.
Sabi was not a working dog. She never possessed the drive. What she did want was to protect me, and to achieve that there was nothing she wouldn't do.
On a training run when she was 8 months old or so, Sabi earned my faith and secured her place as my partner in one poorly timed lunge. We always took the pups out in the patrol truck on the base as part of their basic training. I had just picked up some dinner and was on my way back through a new housing development we had recently started patrolling with Sabi riding shotgun. When I spotted a couple of teenagers messing around by one of the trailers I decided to stop and shoo them along. As I was about to leave the truck, Sabs poked a nose at my dinner so I grabbed her leash and took her with me. I ignored the tugging pup while I chatted with the two boys about the dangers on a construction site. I was oblivious to the third boy sneaking up behind me until Sabi made a desperate lunge, yanking me off balance and startling him enough that the steel pipe connected with my arm instead of my head. All three boys bolted, and were later arrested and charged. Sabi shared my dinner while we were waiting at the hospital. I suffered 8 weeks of restricted duty, in a cast, and Sabi learned the importance of sleeping under a desk.
A partnership was thus born that would last for 8 years. It was the first time she saved my sorry hide but would not be the last.
She aced the temperament test, squeaked through obedience, romped through detection, tracking and search and captivated the whole office with her sweet, stubborn charm. Certified as a PPD and cleared for patrol at 2 years old, Sabi went on to become the best dog on our team and the only one not bred by my boss. Time and again she put my little brain to shame and proved herself unstoppable. Injuries, Hip Dysplasia, stupid criminals and mother nature all took their very best shots at her and in true Sabi style, she came out on top. Sabi didn't love to work, but she loved me and that was all the incentive she needed. Twelve hour shifts, no days off, no phone, no one else to talk to. Endless nights of putting my life in her keeping, countless close calls, tears and triumph. My beautiful warrior dove through my heart and claimed my soul.