Babe fell today, his hind legs unable to hold him up, his back half dragging and skidding through the grass. My poor boy! He was able to right himself, though, and came back when called, albeit with his hind legs acting more as a balance than a support.
Over the past two years, his health was failing. His luxurious shiny coat was dull and tufty (staring, they call that condition) and his energy gone; his hindquarters weakened, and I thought last spring was going to be his last. In September of 2004, he contracted some bacterial enteritis that we thought would kill him. We rushed him on a Sunday evening to an emergency veterinary clinic, thinking that he would have to be put to sleep.
Instead, the doctor dosed him with antibiotics, and in about three weeks, he was nearly normal. But then something strange happened: he kept getting better. And better. And still better. He must have been hiding some systemic infection for a long, long time.
Seeing Babe fall today was heart-wrenching. But I had to admit, he asked for it. No matter how sassy he feels, he's still an 11-year-old behemoth with progressive congenital spinal problems. And even though he's been using those hind legs more lately than he has for two years, they're still weak. So he had no excuse to go barrelling off down a steep thirty-foot hill in order to try to outrun young Howie, who is part whippet and has the ass of a racehorse.
Babe came back up the hill when called, and got lots of sympathy. He was comforted for his mishap, and when Howie circled near, Babe gave him a sound thumping for his arrogant youth.
Make no mistake, the big dog could still take on just about anyone on adrenaline alone. You wouldn't want to open the front door or the back door or reach over the fence with Babe around. In spite of his fall, he was still mighty proud today of his articulate demand that he be taken for a run, of his intrepid refusal to release a ball from his huge jaws, and of his ability to take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. What a hell of a dog he's been.
Both Babe and Howie are now sleeping deeply, like puppies, limp and oblivious. My two good boys.