A unicorn died today. At least he thought he was a unicorn, and so did I.
His first day in our home he impaled himself upon a Lilac bush; running full tilt into a low hanging branch in attempt to affix an appropriate horn upon his brow. The broken branch embedded, firmly, between his scalp and skull had to be surgically removed that evening. Our youngest son was mortified, and certain he'd killed the new puppy, for he was the one holding the leash and taking the puppy outside for his first potty training session. That puppy was a dreamer, and an adventurer. More importantly his loyalty was beyond compare, and he had a sense of duty that was balanced and sensible; both of which I've rarely seen in other dogs, and in fewer humans.
That night, at the veterinary hospital, we named that puppy San Frodobert the Huge, Frodo for short. He had very large paws to grow into; slightly smaller than tennis balls at 10 weeks, and a head that was larger than the rest of his body. With his new white stripe and stitches up the middle of his forehead between his eyes, from the amputation of his unicorn horn, he could easily be mistaken for a pair of footballs. Being a Saint Bernard, born on Halloween, we thought the name was a good match, given his beliefs, and behavior. Besides it allowed us to indulge our love of Tolkien, and my love of puns.
The surgery to remove the stick from his forehead was a success, and further examination revealed to us that he was exceptionally thick headed, both physically and mentally. Frodo had come to our family to be trained and work as my mobility service animal. In his assigned tasks he was exceptional, oft times stepping in to assist in the appropriate manner before being given the command to do so, but rarely too early to cause issues with what I was doing at the time. So eager was he to serve, and be by my side that on the day we first went to the breeder, to examine the litter for a possible candidate, Frodo curled up on top of my feet, and would not leave; always returning when removed, ignoring my attentions to his larger brothers and sisters. He was not my first choice, but I was his. After conferring with both my father, a long time breeder of German Shepherds and trainer of both GS and Rottweilers, and the owner of the service dog training school through which we were going to get our candidate's certification, we went back, for a second look, and true to their claims, Frodo remembered me and took up his spot upon my feet as soon as we entered the puppy room.
In the years that have followed that day Frodo has taken me on many adventurers through the neighborhood, running the Wally World Iditarod in their electric shopping cart of the perpetually dead battery, introducing me to the baby gator that had adopted his paw as its very own pacifier, or showing me his trophy rattlesnake bite. Both of those last were from G'ma's farm in Georgia. His favorite adventure to share with me was, "What did I eat this week?" "Did I steal the turkey carcass from the trash? How about becoming a bathroom gourmet? No? Here, have a piece of the beehive I found after the storm. I know! Help me snarf this whole box of rawhide chews! They keep coming back up. Seriously, I've only eaten half the 50 lb box, and I must eat them all. Again!" But through it all he stood by me, watched over me; stood between me and anything he perceived as a danger to me.
Today. Today, I have failed my friend, my partner, my service dog. Sometime this spring he contracted something, a parasite most likely, that caused chronic bloat, and I did not identify the problem soon enough. That combined with his latest gastronomic adventure resulted in his death today. We came back from Lilies War, and Frodo was off his feed. He was being picky about what he ate, but he was eating; and drinking even more. After a few days he seemed to be back to normal, and we attributed it to the heat. We'd had to send him home from the event, because he was not dealing with the heat at Lilies at all. Then he lost his appetite shortly after the 4th of July, and he acted like he'd indulged in the eating of things he shouldn't, like underwear or socks. The usual treatment for that is Pepcid, and wait for him to poop it out in 2 to 3 days; not this time. He puked up everything he'd eaten since we started him on the Pepcid this time around; most of it still recognizable. Our regular vet was not available when I called, and his old partner said to give him a few more days as there was a stomach bug running around in addition to the canine flu, so we wait and he starts eating again, but he's not pooping much after July 9th. OK, he's recovering, maybe. He has a slight fever; vet says give him aspirin for it and start him on a new round of Pepcid. The resulting week of gas was horrid beyond belief, but he was pooping and eating like his old self. July 16th, Frodo won't eat or drink. The next day up comes a tattered pair of underwear and a few things from the bathroom trash, and he'll only eat soft food, like roast beef hash, cottage cheese, chicken soup, and peanut butter or cream cheese, in small quantities, but no pooping. Dry heaves through the morning of the 19th, with an occasional marble sized poop, and the intermittent gorging of water. That morning, up comes another pair of underwear, and more bathroom garbage. When did he eat all this stuff? We've been keeping a super close eye on him since Lilies, and he's only made two attempts to drink from the toilet; both times when it's been occupied. That night, Frodo pukes out another two pair of underwear, more bathroom trash, and a receipt from the pharmacy. The receipt was dated a full week before we left to go to the Lilies War; it was the last in that pile to come out. My best friend has been trying to pass this for a month, and we could not identify the blockage to help massage it out. I'm horrible.
All night Frodo has paced, and panted trying to bring up something more. A late night call to the vet, and we're to bring him in later today. About 6 am, my best friend tossed out a blood clot the size of a golf ball. I call our vet, and it's time. Anything we can do to correct his condition at this time will cost us several thousand dollars; Nebraska does not recognize service dogs as medical equipment, so Medicaid here does not cover him under emergency care, or any care for that matter. Nor do they recognize any of the pet medical insurance policies that are available in other states. Not only is it time, it's money we don't have. I have failed.
Today, a unicorn has died.
Saint Frodobert the Huge, 10/31/2005 - 7/20/2015