My beautiful girl Alex passed away on July 20, 2006, after a long illness.
She had been born, appropriately enough, on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1994. She was old for a Rottweiler, and her muzzle was gray, and she had become hard of hearing. She had gone through a lot in her life.
In late 2002, she had surgery on both rear legs and had artificial ligaments "installed." They worked great for a couple of years, and then her body began to reject the ones in her right leg, so those were removed. All that held her right leg together was scar tissue and a bit of cartilege. But it didn't slow her down much...she was just more careful going down the back porch stairs into her back yard.
She'd endured a chronic ear infection since she was about two or maybe three years old. I spent thousands on medications for her to keep it in check. The infection was resistant to every antibiotic tried. I'd cleaned her ears at least twice a week for years and years. Chief cleaned her ears, too. She would let him lick her ears and moan with pleasure.
A tumor began growing in Alex's abdominal area on her left side in early 2006. At first, it seemed minimal, though I did get her checked out, but the tests were inconclusive. It continued to grow and was surgically removed approximately six weeks before she died. It almost immediately began growing again in the same place; it had been diagnosed as malignant. I knew she did not have too much longer and began making mental preparations, though I don't believe I'll ever be ready to make that sort of decision. But I never got the chance. I took her out in the front on the last day of her life, and she walked around the yard. She was growling, but there was nothing around for her to growl at, and she seemed to be looking off into the distance. I know it sounds stupid, but it was like she could see Death coming for her, and she was letting it be known that she was going to fight. She wasn't ready yet. I had a premonition, but I had to go to work, so she went back inside and got in her bed.
To this day, and for the rest of my life, I will believe she waited until I got home from work that evening before dying. To see me one last time. To say goodbye. I came in the front door, and could hear her labored breathing. I was crying, and holding her, and trying to call my vet, but I knew it wouldn't help. She opened her eyes and looked at me ... I mean deeply looked at me ... and her tail wagged, then she seemed to just sort of stretch one time, and then she just ... stopped. And she was gone. In a heartbeat.
I took her to the emergency vet clinic, and had her cremated. I have her ashes in an urn and she rests in a lighted section of one of my bookcases, right beside my first Rottweiler, Mike. Her collar, tags, and toys are there with her, just as they are with Mike. I still miss her, and contrary to popular belief, it still does not help to talk or write about it. She was so sweet.
I still have Chief (and he has me), my best friend and constant companion. He is almost 12 years old now, and has a little gray goatee (like me), and some gray on his muzzle ... but his eyes are still bright and clear. He's been holding pretty steady at about 109 pounds for the past couple of years, after blimping out a bit to almost 120 three years ago. He can still crank up the energy level when he wants to, but mostly he's content just being around me, watching whatever I'm doing, or just napping.
I had Chief neutered about two years ago. He was having some prostate problems, and that seemed to take care of that. His liver enzymes were also elevated to way above normal, but he's tested negative for Cushing's Disease for the past two years now. He's on medication to improve liver function, and the enzymes are down slightly from last year, but not significantly. He's undergone surgery to remove three cysts ... one on his back, a small one on the top of his muzzle, and a large one on the right side of his neck. The one on his neck came back "borderline malignant," but the lab says the malignant cells did not extend out to the margins of the area that Tom (Chief's vet) excised, so we're hopeful it's gone for good. It was a type of melanoma. He also had his teeth cleaned while he was asleep, and one tooth was extracted from way back in the back.
I continue to hope for the best for Chief. Having lost my other two Rottweilers—Mike in 1998 and Alex in 2006—to cancer, I don't want Chief to go that way. I know he won't live forever, but still ... well, you know. Over the course of eleven–plus years, he's become such a huge part of my daily life, it's extremely difficult to imagine him not being here. I try not to think about it too much. I have hopes he will be here for us to celebrate his twelfth birthday on November 22.
Over the past several months, I'd been kicking around the idea of getting a new puppy. I had all the standard arguments with myself. Would Chief be jealous? Would he feel neglected? Would I spend more time with the puppy? Stuff like that.
So that brings us to Annie. I'd been looking at online ads for Rottweiler puppies. Even called a few people about them, but it just didn't feel right. You know? Then I came across an ad that included a photo of a puppy being held in the arms of the breeder. I even saved the photo in my computer. I called the people, talked a while, and said I'd call them back later that day and probably come look at the puppy the next day. I didn't call back. I kept arguing with myself. But I kept going back and looking at that photo. And for some reason totally unknown to me, every time I'd look at the photo, the name "Annie" would pop into my mind. It was just like it had been with Chief ... I knew he would be named Chief even before I got him.
Four days later, I was running some errands. I sat in my car for a while, then picked up the phone and called the people again ... left them a voice mail asking them to call me if they still had the puppy. They called back within ten minutes, saying they did. I told them I'd be up the next day...they live in a small town about 75 miles from here. So on Saturday, June 5, I went up there. And that was more or less that. I guess I spent a couple of hours with them, playing with the puppy and talking to them about Rottweilers and responsible breeding. Annie's parents are two gorgeous Rottweilers. The sire is tall for the breed, but perfectly proportioned. The people seem to think the puppies will take after him.
All of Annie's brothers and sisters had already gone to their new homes ...s he was the last out of a litter of nine. So on June 5, Annie came home to Chief and me. She rode home in the passenger seat, laying down just as ladylike as you please. She'd occasionally sit up and look around, but not being tall enough to see out the window or over the dash, I imagine all she saw were parts of the sky and the tops of trees whizzing by.
Chief was understandably a bit wary of her at first. After all, it had been four years since another Rottweiler had been with us. I don't know if he knew what to think of this little thirteen-pound ball of fur. But it really took him only about a day and a half to get used to her, and I now continue to be amazed at just how many of her puppy antics he tolerates. She climbs all over him. Nips at his toes. Tugs on his ears. If he has enough of the fooling around, he'll let her know who's the real Top Dog in the house. One time she just wouldn't stop messing with him. I knew what was coming, and just let it happen. She ran at him one time too many and he nipped her on the nose. Didn't bite her, didn't break the skin, but it sure scared her. She left him alone for about a day after that. So as Alex did when Chief was a puppy, Chief is teaching Annie the rules of the house and yard, and that she has to respect her elders. He watches her with a sort of benign curiousity now, and he really does seem to enjoy playing with her now.
Annie is now three months old. She knows her name, has learned to sit on command (most of the time), and is learning to speak, though she seldom barks yet. We're also working on teaching her to "gimme five," and doing some leash training. Like all puppies, she does not like the leash. And like a lot of Rottweilers, she is a bit headstrong, but very intelligent. Anything that moves when she touches it is a toy. Matter of fact, anything that even looks like it might move is a potential toy: rocks, sticks, leaves, toes, the garden hose, you name it, Annie's played with it. In the two weeks she's been with Chief and me, she's learned a lot ... become more outgoing. She seldom lets Chief out of her sight. She follows me so closely that I've actually accidentally stepped on her toes a couple of times. So I walk around with my head down a lot, just to keep a lookout for her. Undoubtedly this is where the phrase "dogging your footsteps" originated.
Annie loves to sleep next to Chief. After breakfast, and once she's calmed down, she'll curl up next to him, or between his paws, and they'll nap together. At night, I sleep on a futon ... and Chief sleeps beside me on it. Annie still sleeps in her crate for now, because she gets so excited about being up on the futon with Chief and me that she can't calm down enough to fall asleep.
So my worries about not spending enough time with Chief were groundless. I'm actually spending even more time with him now. As Annie plays with him, I am playing with and talking to both of them. Chief is more active as well.
Jim Adams is retired now. but used to donate his photography services to North Mecklenburg Animal Rescue in Harrisburg, North Carolina. They have almost fifty dogs there, including quite a few Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes. All are beautiful and gentle dogs, but have been abused, neglected, and/or abandoned. If you would like to view some of these dogs, click here.