Eventually the parents got a dog for me and my sisters, (yes, I should say "my sisters and I," but right now I'm Captain Antigrammar) when I was nine, who we unanimously named Disney Dude.
Disney was this brilliant Shetland Sheepdog that the parents bought from a breeder, but he was the kind of dog that shouldn't be a pet. He was working dog. Smart, instantly obedient, unswervingly loyal, wary of strangers, not much for nonsense. The neighbors loved him because he was polite around children and always, always, always did what he was told. He was playful, but only slightly, and only with us. Disney was the dog equivalent of my mom.
Years later, when I was high school, Disney was running up and down the length of the fence in our yard. Always running the fence. Duffy the golden retriever was outside, and two the dogs had this mutual understanding that when they were in their yards simultaneously, they would run back and forth alongside the fence and bark at each other, like when you do the ten meter dash in gym class and you run back and forth, picking up and dropping erasers. So they were running, and I heard Disney scream.
Sometimes animals shriek, and it's startling. This was a full on scream of pain and frustration. For me, there was no pause of curiosity, nothing, I ran outside immediately and Disney was just laying there on his stomach, his hind legs splayed out back, and he looked up at me with his sad little eyes and smiled. It was his guilty face--when he knew he did something wrong. Usually the guilty face was accompanied by a slow tail wag, but not this time.
I could hear him in my head. Oh yes, I'd given him voice. Kind of like, "Hey there, good to see ya. Listen, could you, ah, do me favor and see if you could help me stand?"
"No, Diz, you're not moving." I scratched his head, he whined a little, still smiling and apologetic, and even though I didn't have my license, I packed up my crying sister and carried Disney to the car and drove to the vet. He lifted up his head once, to look around calmly, and I just said, "No moving." He just laid there on the seat, panting slightly, completely motionless except for wandering eyes. Like I said, dog did exactly what he was told.
We went through all the vet bullshit, x-rays, whatever. Disney had a slipped disc in his spinal cord, a herniation or something. He was most likely in severe pain and would never walk again. My poor, brave dog. He's only six years old. Everyone's crying. The Mom shows up to talk to the vet, I'm all fifteen and confused, petting the dog. He has to spend the night there for further examination.
No, no, no, no, no.
Two days he's gone, my spring break ruined. One day Crazy Liz brought me ice cream to make me feel better. But I was just crying and pissed.
Luckily, this was when I was working at the stable. Oh yeah, I loved my horses. Not that I owned horses, or was capable of competing. Probably the least talented rider at the entire barn, right here.
I didn't want to compete in shows anyway. I just wanted to hang around a barn, so that's what I did. Ken, the boss, let me teach lessons to young, tiny beginners and in return I got to ride when I wanted and help him train young horses. Training? I was good at that.
Ken got a fucking bargain out of me. He never had to pay me shit, and I taught some of the pointless lessons for him and helped him raise some ponies. Most of them were bred at the barn and they all were given completely monosyllabic names: Hal, Snow, Sleep, Blue (who was red), Red (who was brown), Cash, Check, and Charge (you think I'm kidding, but I am dead serious), King, Love. Oh, that Ken. He was a creative bastard. I think he would just look up and name a foal after the first thing he saw. I tried to get him to name one Dr. Pepper, and he agreed and called the colt Beer.
Anyway, so it worked out that the dog breeders that lived next to my barn had a pregnant bloodhound, who wandered over and had a litter of puppies in an empty stall about a month before Disney went to the vet. So I decided I was in charge of the bloodhounds, since they came wandering over to the stable all the time anyway.
Over the next several months, those breeders were fantastic to me, and let me help them train their dogs, one of which later became a local narcotics police dog. So it was fucked up when she recognized me during a routine drug locker inspection in high school. I was explaining to the cops, "I have no cocaine. I trained Chessie as a puppy two years ago. She was born at my barn. FACE." I was also scared shitless.
So, back to Disney.
On the third day, he was gone, the vet tells us that there's really no hope of recovery. Disney can't use nearly two thirds of his body, everything behind his forelegs is numb. Of course, I'm going crazy without the dog, but the bloodhounds and the stable helped. Being a strict atheist, I even wrote a letter to God, declaring that I would deny atheism and start to believe in him if Disney survived. How drastic am I?
We were allowed to take him home for his final night. I mean, we even had an appointment to put him down the next day. He couldn't walk at all, so we fashioned a sling out of an old pillowcase that wrapped underneath him so he could walk on his forelegs while we lifted and supported the lower half of his body. I took him out to the backyard like that.
Duffy was outside, running up and down the fence, waiting for Disney. I walked him over there, carefully, and he shoved his nose through the slats of the fence and woofed at Duffy, who bowed, trying to entice him into the erasure run of their lives.
Disney doesn't even hesitate. He slips out of the sling and does the damn run back and forth on two legs, his hind legs high up in the air.
I would have been fucked in half before I let that dog die.
The parents had been watching the whole thing from our kitchen. It was like a goddamn Disney movie, the whole family runs outside for the joy of their dog.
We did not put him down. It took about a year for him to walk "normally," but that dog was a persistent-ass winner. We wrapped his paws every morning, because they would drag and scrape and bleed, and had to use that makeshift sling thing for months. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the dog in the sling. The physical therapy routine that we came up with worked beautifully, and eventually, he healed, and lived another seven years.