Adopted: January 18, 2009
Died: June 7, 2010
“Life Isn’t Fair.”

We adopted our Boston Terrier Cagney on Sunday, January 18, 2009. We had seen his picture on the shelter website and discussed whether we should go see him because he was listed as being 5-7 years old – and because we have three other dogs, Packer and Lambeau, both Boston Terriers, and Yogi, a Chinese Crested. Naturally, fate being what it is – we happened to be going to our second home in Illinois the next day and that’s close to the shelter – we figured we had to at least go see the Boston who needed a home. We were there a couple days and decided we would just take a ride out to the shelter. He wasn’t there! He was being shown at PetSmart, with whom the shelter has an agreement to showcase their dogs, so we drove to the store. As soon as we arrived and walked in, my heart just fell because I saw him sitting with another couple. “Oh, no,” I thought, “we’re too late.” It turned out that the other couple was from the shelter. Relief! Of course, I fell in love ... another Boston!!!

We told the shelter worker that we wanted to make sure Lambeau, who we had also gotten from the shelter, would like the new dog and wouldn’t be upset because he was the “baby” of the family. We took Lambeau with us the next day, Sunday, and Lambeau loved the shelter dog. So we adopted him and named him Cagney. It turned out that Cagney’s name was appropriate, since he had to be a tough guy to go through everything he did in the short time we had him.

When we got him, Cagney was limping on his right hind leg. The shelter worker said that their vet thought it was an old break that hadn’t healed properly and not to worry about it. Well, we did worry and took Cagney to a specialist who x-rayed the problem area and said it wasn’t the leg after all; it was his hip, and he had Legg Perthes disease, which causes the hipbone to erode. We looked at the x-rays and saw little crumbs of bone so, obviously, the poor baby was in pain. In February 2009, we had the hip surgically repaired. About four months later, the hair that had been shaved for the operation still had not begun to grow back. Then we started to see other problem signs, such as excessive thirst and, consequently, excessive urination, a ravenous appetite, and a potbelly. We were back in Wisconsin by then and took Cagney to our regular vet, who ran all kinds of tests. We discovered that Cagney had Cushing’s disease, which is caused by – in most cases – a pituitary tumor. We started him on medication immediately. He never seemed to get better, but he didn’t get any worse for awhile.

In December 2009, Cagney was shaking his head like something was bothering him. We thought he had done something to his neck. Then we realized it was his eye, which was full of mucus. We called our vet who thought maybe he had scratched his eye. The vet said, “Has Cagney been out running through the weeds?” I laughed and said, “Cagney doesn’t even run to the front door; he’s the laziest dog I’ve ever seen.” Anyway, the next evening his eye was really bloodshot, and the following morning it was dripping blood. I called the vet who referred us to an eye specialist – one of the best in the world – who was about an hour away. We rushed Cagney there, but it was too late. His eye had ruptured and had to be removed. From then on, we put drops in his remaining eye to keep it somewhat healthy. After all that Cagney suffered, he still was so sweet and loving, and we thought the worst was over and maybe life would get better for him. It did for awhile, but then the Cushing’s disease took him from us ... way too soon. We’re estimating Cagney was only about seven when we lost him.

For the year and (not even) five months that we had Cagney, we loved the specialness of him. He started out being sort of aloof, but we think that was because he was on the streets of Chicago for some time. Someone probably bought him and then dumped him because of his problems. Anyway, he became so loving after he got comfortable with us.

When Cagney arrived, we once again had four dogs sleeping with us at night. Cagney assumed the place of honor at the top of the bed between our pillows. At first, he slept there by choice; however, as his health deteriorated, we made sure he stayed there so he wouldn’t wander and fall off the bed. The other boys accepted his position at the top and shifted their sleeping spots with no complaints. It seems they sensed something was wrong before we did or the vet, and unfortunately they were right. They would allow him to sleep or sit wherever he wanted, sometimes pushing them away. They treated him so gently.

When we walked the dogs individually a few times a day, Cagney always trotted to the front of the line and the other ones didn’t question that either. Cagney adored Lambeau and would lie as close to him as possible. We’re pretty sure Cagney never had any toys before he came to live with us. The first toy he got was a stuffed football that he loved. He would hold it in his mouth for hours; he slept with it and would carry it with him when he got up. His other favorite stuffed toys were his “Moosie” and his “Teddy.” We had Cagney’s favorite football cremated with him.

Cagney loved the grass; he would roll in it if we let him. Sometimes outside when he was supposed to be doing his business, he would just sit down in the grass or roll around. He also enjoyed lying with me in the chaise on the screened porch. We’d lie there together – the four dogs and me – and I’d read (or sleep!) while the breezes cooled us.

Cagney liked riding in the car – even to the vet. He would sit on the front seat of our truck and look out the window. He was a good rider and never jumped off the seat or tried to climb around the truck. Going to the library was a special occasion because the librarian gave him lots of treats! He absolutely loved dog biscuits, along with people food – especially bologna. We knew he was really sick when he would no longer eat bologna.

Cagney lost so much weight that we removed his collar; it hung so loosely on him, it was uncomfortable. That was only in the house, though; when he was being walked outside, we put his collar and leash on, of course. We gave Cagney special foods like ice cream, popsicles, and animal crackers to entice him to eat. As he ate less and less, we tried so hard to tempt him with food. We cooked him chicken breasts and beef stew, and I would hand-feed him piece by piece. The other three dogs were so good with him. Even though they had nothing to eat but dog food, they left his food alone. Of course, they all licked his bowl when he was finished.

At the end, Cagney went completely blind, either his remaining eye stopped working or the signals no longer got to his brain. He stopped eating completely and couldn’t drink. He would go to his water bowl but couldn’t figure out how to lap up the water. He would end up just standing in it. He also was walking into walls and furniture; yet he was so restless he wouldn’t sit still. After a few days of this, Jeff and I made the agonizing decision to have Cagney euthanized, as we felt his quality of life was no longer good. We held him and told him how special he was to us, how he had so enriched our lives, and how much we loved him and would never ever forget him. The vet gave him the injection, and Cagney was finally at peace.

Now that Cagney is gone, the house seems so empty and I feel as if we have nothing to do. He doesn’t have to be walked every hour, even throughout the night, and I don’t have to give him his medication several times a day. And no more cooking special foods or tempting him with popsicles. No more watching to make sure he’s not going to hurt himself somehow. Cagney’s not scrunched up next to me or Jeff as close as he can get. The space between our pillows is empty. Of course, Packer, Lambeau, and Yogi will probably be happy to have those places available again, but they miss Cagney, too. He’ll always hold a special place in each of our hearts.

JoAnne Rosenfeld

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"Tears in Heaven"