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"A Tribute to Our Faithful Dog Dozer"

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Written by Pat Curran

Posted on 17 January 2018

Last Updated 17 January 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction:

This journal entry is in support of the Tuesday’s Children, a New York City based charity with a long-term commitment to help every individual directly impacted by September 11, 2001. To donate to this charity visit https://app.etapestry.com/hosted/TuesdaysChildren/OnlineDonation.html.

Our family experienced a tremendous loss last week. Our loyal dog and family member, Dozer, passed away the morning of Monday, August 2nd. Dozer has been with us since 1996.

It’s been quite the struggle getting through the week. For example, our other dog, Bella, did not eat for four days after Dozer left us. To help the family remember him, I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s newsletter to his memory. His life taught us many lessons that will not be forgotten.

 

Dozer: Our Faithful Dog, Family Member, and Dearest Friend

Dozer entered our lives in 1996 during Gina’s first year at Cornell Veterinary School and my senior year at West Point. It was during Neurology rounds when Gina and Dozer first met. You see, Dozer suffered from a rare condition called narcolepsy which caused him to fall asleep spontaneously and without warning. The class was studying Dozer to learn more about this disorder first hand.

The professor made clear to the students that Dozer would be put to sleep after the class. It would be expensive for the university to keep him and owners don’t typically adopt animals with disorders. Instinctually knowing his fate, Dozer saw an opportunity and a way out. He needed to find the biggest “softie” in the class, make her fall in love with him, and then compel her to save his life. Th e plan worked! After convincing her parents that adopting a narcoleptic Doberman was the right thing to do, Dozer found himself in her apartment acting as both a companion and guard dog.

The Gina / Dozer “relationship” was something I had to get used to very quickly. Vet students take their dogs with them everywhere they go so those two were together 24/7. Dozer and I had a couple of awkward encounters like the time he stole my burrito off the kitchen counter, peed in my schoolbag after I took his spot on the couch, etc. We finally came to a truce: He would stay with Gina and protect her while I was gone doing stuff for the military. In return, I promised that I would help Gina give him the best life possible. The agreement worked because both of us had the common goal of keeping Gina happy and safe.

From 1996 – 2008, Dozer lived a very comfortable life. Sure there were a couple of warning letters from landlords and dirty looks from neighbors about his deep barking and incessant crying when no one was home. There were even some moments when we came home to destroyed furniture, stained rugs, and expensive shoes gnawed like raw hide (to this day I don’t know how he knew to eat only one shoe then move on to the next pair). But, all in all, things were pretty good. As parents, we saw Dozer provide unconditional love toward Elizabeth and Lauren. This interaction helped to shape the girls’ love of animals and underscore our responsibility to be good shepherds to all living things.

In 2008, however, Dozer hit his first wave of serious issues with bouts of intense separation anxiety, multiple benign tumors appeared throughout his body, and his narcolepsy got much worse. By this point, he stopped eating and was having a lot of “accidents” in the house A LOT. After considering putting him to sleep, we found an alternative plan. We put Dozer on anxiety medication and bought him a companion cockapoo who we named Bella. Dozer began to play and eat again. Both of them became like peas and carrots. Dozer’s life certainly was extended by over 2 years because of our plan.

Unfortunately, things changed for Dozer on Friday, July 30th. I witnessed something I never saw him do before. While Dozer was eating, he collapsed extremely hard on to the deck. It was normal for Dozer to fall asleep while eating due to his narcolepsy, but this was much different.

I went outside to see how he was doing and to wake him up. After a couple of tries, I succeeded. While lying on his stomach, Dozer looked at me with eyes wide-open, ears back, and neck pulled into his torso. Right then and there, he told me, “I’m scared. Please don’t leave me!” I pet him until his nerves calmed.

I called Gina on the phone and told her what just happened. She came home, and we set up some extra pillows so Dozer would be comfortable in his bed. Later that night, we found that Dozer went to the bathroom in the house. He actually looked embarrassed and thought he was in trouble. We didn’t get upset. Clearly, something was wrong.

The next day we stayed close to Dozer. He could no longer get up or walk on his own. My wife and I worked together to help carry him outside to go to the bathroom. Later, around midnight while working on a finance project for school, I heard Dozer moan. I carried him outside but he didn’t do anything. I then brought him in the house where he moaned again. To me the message he sent was clear. “Dad, I’m dying…”

I looked Dozer in the eyes and said with a strong, confident voice, “Buddy, no one dies alone on my watch! Stay here in the hallway. I’ll be right back.” While the girls were sleeping, I got a pillow and a blanket. Lying on the floor, Dozer and I faced each other. Our heads were sharing the same pillow, his paw and my hand stayed in contact. Each time he woke up during the night, he saw me and licked my face. Then he would fall back to sleep.

The next morning, Gina found me in the hallway. I explained what happened. We decided to tell the kids that we have to take Dozer to the doctor tomorrow, but there was a strong chance he might not come home. With that statement, one can only imagine the questions and reaction that followed from the kids who are now ages 5 and 6. Gina took the lead in answering questions while I played a supporting role.

During the rest of that day, we rotated spending time with Dozer. The girls made him cards, read to him, and showed him pictures they have of him in their scrapbooks. I said a couple of prayers to friends and even stopped by the cemetery to visit Phil Esposito. I told him that he has a good dog coming his way. I also asked that he do me a favor and watch over Dozer until Gina and I get up there.

I slept on the floor with Dozer again on Sunday night. We were quick to respond to his groans; his anxiety dropped significantly. Monday morning arrived all too soon and Elizabeth and Lauren gave Dozer their last hugs and kisses. It was heartbreaking to watch.

I took the girls to camp and came back home. Gina had already made the appointment with Dr. Weiner, our veterinarian and family friend. She hugged Dozer in the hallway with tears pouring from her eyes. We both knew we were out of options. We next carried Dozer outside to make his last visits to his favorite spots in the yard and get him into the minivan.

When we arrived at the animal hospital, two technicians met us at the car with a gurney. I looked at both of them and saw there was no way they could pick him up. To help, I picked Dozer up out of the minivan, put him on the stretcher, and assisted in rolling him into the clinic.

We met Dr. Weiner in the room where he reminded us both of what a long life Dozer has had. A Doberman living 14 years is rare, especially with his unique conditions. Being in this position before with Dozer, Gina and I nodded our heads. Almost as if it was choreographed, we took our positions in the room. Gina worked for Dr. Weiner for years at that animal clinic so the steps were all too familiar to her. I also had thought through this moment before we arrived at the hospital.

Gina wrapped her arms around Dozer’s neck, supported his head, and gave him the most loving hug. I grabbed Dozer’s left paw with my right hand and kept steady eye contact with him. Dr. Weiner moved his chair to the back of Dozer with his equipment.

“We’re going to give Dozer two injections in his rear leg. The first one will put him into a deep, peaceful sleep. The second is the actual shot that will slow his heart to a stop.” We nod to Dr. Weiner and cry simultaneously. We knew it was the right thing to do.

It was remarkable……Dozer, who was always so anxious, especially in animal hospitals, never even flinched. In fact, he even licked me just as Dr. Weiner moved to make the first injection. I looked into his eyes and told him “I love you, Dozer. I will see you in heaven soon.” My words made Gina cry even more.

As the first injection went in, I observed Dozer’s head get heavier in Gina’s arms. His eyes began to lose focus and see through me. I squeezed his paw even tighter, so he knew he was not alone. Then the second injection went in. After completing it, Dr. Weiner informed us that his heart had stopped. I suddenly realized Dozer’s spirit had left the room. His soul was moving to a better place.

I could provide an endless list of lessons of what Dozer has taught me over the years. I think I can sum it up best by stating that Dozer helped me take another step in redeeming my soul. You see, his life compelled Gina and I to make decisions based on principles and faith. My wife and I did not know how we were going to take care of Dozer, but we knew that someone had to. Each unexpected event drew Gina and me closer as we found creative ways to take care of him.

Also, I can tell you that Dozer helped me personally reaffirm this commitment -- no one I am responsible for will ever die alone. It’s a lesson I learned from the passing of my first dog, Lassie, and shaped my view on life starting at the age of 12. I carried the Leave No One Behind promise with me through my teenage years and my adult life as a leader. To me, Dozer’s time with us represents the value of this commitment and helps provide my life with much of its meaning.

Dozer… I want to thank you for being such a loving and loyal family member. I can speak for all of us by saying that you are and will continue to be greatly missed. You watched over Gina while I was away and you accepted a new life with the children giving them constant love and affection. We will continue to speak to you in our prayers and remember all of the good that you brought into our lives. We’ll see you soon. God Bless…