|Me and Datsun sometime around 2004|
He was 14, and over the week prior, I'd noticed that his jaw had started quivering, the way someone might do when they're cold. He began having trouble eating the Saturday before last, and by Memorial Day, I noticed that he would stand in front of the water bowl and just stare longingly like he wanted to drink but couldn't. A vet exam revealed a large mass at the back base of his tongue. It turned out to be cancerous, and it very quickly got worse over the days following our Tuesday vet visit. By Thursday afternoon (when the vet finally called with biopsy results revealing the bad news), he couldn't eat or drink. The vet said treating a tumor on his tongue would be tricky and would likely result in him suffering more. So we didn't really have a choice. It was time to let Datsun go.
|Datsun at age 13, one year ago|
Our Datsun story started back in 2002, when I was finishing up my senior year in college at Arkansas State University. My boyfriend-at-the-time Shane adopted this little black, white, and brown pup from a friend whose dog had puppies (the friend probably should have had his dog spayed, but we were young and dumb). Shane named him Datsun — like the car — because he vaguely remembered having a dog named Datsun when he was younger (although his mom didn't recall that).
|Datsun in spring 2002! Puppy!|
At the time, I was living in an on-campus apartment, and Shane (who wasn't in college) lived in an apartment a couple miles away. But I saw Datsun daily and checked on him between classes. Shortly after graduation, I got an internship at the Memphis Flyer (the alt-newsweeky where I'm a news editor now). Shane, Datsun, and I (and our buddy Flick) got a place in Memphis together and moved our lives across the Mississippi River.
Puppy Datsun was crazy!!! One day, while Shane, Flick, and I were at our respective jobs, I came home to find that Datsun had eaten my ENTIRE COUCH! There was foam and bits of upholstery EVERYWHERE! The next day, we started crate-training. :-)
A few months after our move, in September 2002, Shane convinced me to let him take in a kitten from a friend who couldn't keep it anymore. That was Akasha, my 13-year-old kitty who's still with me today. Datsun and Akasha used to play-fight all the time. But that stopped after a couple years.
We celebrated Datsun's birthday in February, even though we weren't certain about the month. It seemed like it should be right. We had a first birthday party and invited over his friend Mugsy for dog cake!
Shane and I eventually went our separate ways, but I ended up with full custody of Datsun, Akasha, and Pandora (another kitty who is still with me). I met Paul a few months later, and he became a great step-dad to Datsun and the kitties. Plus, Paul and I took in several more kitties and a rescued pit bull over the years. Datsun was the oldest in our large, furry family with one dog brother (Maynard), five cat brothers (Akasha, Polaris, Gelfling, Ozzy, and Seymour), and two cat sisters (Pandora and Alexius). We sent Alexius — our Tiny Dancer — to the Rainbow Bridge in 2005 after she began experiencing complications of feline leukemia.
Datsun used to LOVE car rides. As he got older, he had a harder time getting in and out of cars. But when he was young, he would prop his paws up and ride like a person.
Sticks were pretty much his favorite thing in the world. He'd go out back, choose a stick, and drop it at your feet. You'd throw it, he'd fetch, and that would start all over again. Eventually, he'd tire of fetch (but never before you did) and lay on the ground and naw on those sticks.
No matter how big the stick, it was never a match for Datsun.
It's hard to say whether he preferred sticks or balls. Probably balls. Also chew bones. Datsun was a dog who was easily amused.
Datsun was super-smart too. Every year at Christmas, we'd put his wrapped toys under the tree just before opening time. And we'd let him go first. Even though his gifts were wrapped like everything else, he always knew which presents were his. And he'd have the best time opening them all by himself.
We didn't give him stuffed animals very often, because he'd immediately rip the stuffing out and make a giant mess. But sometimes, just for fun, we'd give him cheap ones to shred.
When he wasn't busy chewing sticks or bones or opening presents, his next-best favorite thing was treats. You could yell "treats!" from anywhere in the house, and he'd come running. Or in his later years, he'd just walk slowly with determination. You can't see it in this picture, but the only reason he's looking up at me with those adorable puppy eyes is because I'm holding a treat in my hand.
More than any of those things though, Datsun LOVED the water! He could swim and swim and swim for hours. In the summer of 2011, my friend Misti was dog-sitting while I was at Bonnaroo. She took Datsun on a trip to the lake with her, and Datsun jumped in and swam forever. But when he emerged from the water, his leg was bleeding badly. Somehow, he'd cut himself on something in the water. Misti rushed him to the vet, and they stitched up his paw. He had to wear this bandage for more than a week.
The older Datsun got, the more he preferred laying around. He had his own dog couch until it got so nasty that we had to trash it. He also had a great dog pillow, but most of the time, he preferred the loveseat.
I have so many good memories with Datsun that this post could go on for days. But I'll end here — on a high note. On Thursday afternoon, after I got the bad results from Datsun's biopsy and realized that would be his last night with me, I took him to Overton Park. It's the same park he loved so much as a puppy. There's a lake there called Rainbow Lake, and he used to swim in circles in that lake for so long that I always worried I'd have to jump in and drag him out. I'd yell for him, and he'd ignore me, just swimming in circles, lapping up bits of water in his mouth as he went.
Well, Datsun's swimming days were long over by Thursday. Not only was he sick, but his back hips had been going out for the past year. He would fall in the house a lot, and he needed help up stairs. So we'd stopped going to the park in past year or so. But on Thursday, we went. And as soon as he got out of the car, he knew exactly where he was. He was on a leash, and he pulled me straight to Rainbow Lake. Even though he was in pain and hadn't eaten much in a couple days, he was so excited to be back at the park, it was as if he'd forgotten the pain. At least for that moment.
Datsun led me to the lake, and he went straight in. He tried to get out far and start swimming, but I held his leash tight enough to prevent that. I knew he'd likely drown on his own out there. But I let him wade in the water, and at one point, he tried to catch a dead, floating snail shell in his mouth. I tugged on his collar to keep him from eating it. That made him fall on his butt. And he just sat there, taking it all in. He was so happy in that moment, which would be one of the last experiences of his life.
|This is the last picture of Datsun on my phone.|
Later that night, Paul and I sat around on the couch while Datsun laid his head in my lap. We watched The Champions, the documentary about the rescue of Michael Vick's dogs. I figured a feel-good dog doc would be a nice last film for Datsun to watch. Even though his life was ending, we could celebrate the lives of all those dogs being given a second chance after such horrible abuse.
It felt like Datsun knew it was time. At one point, I even feel like he silently let me know he was ready to go. I'm sad that my friend is gone, but I'm relieved he's no longer suffering.
See you at the Rainbow Bridge, buddy! We miss you so much!!