Trixie Is Retiring

Well I said I had more to say. I’m going to try and write something. But I’m writing this at 6:30 in the morning, so it may look a little foggy.

Yesterday I looked back in the Trixie category and found this post, chalk full of foreshadowing. I didn’t want to face it then, but that dreaded r-word, retirement, was coming at a thunderous pace.

Here comes the reader’s digest condensed version of the last few months since recently I fail at actually writing things as they happen. Hmmm. Now that it’s written, it doesn’t look so reader’s digest condensed ish. Back in March/April, I started noticing that Trix was just draggy, didn’t seem to have the stamina, and always had to pee! She also had a long episode of unexplained, explosive diarrhea. The little trooper made it outside all the time, but holy mother did she unleash once we got out there. The always having to pee part turned into meaning she had a UTI. She also seemed to be having trouble navigating narrow spaces as I had said in that other post.

But after we cured her of the UTI, she really picked up her pace and went back to normal. So I was amazed that a UTI could cause such many and varied symptoms, and was sure we’d have another long time together. I had called Chuck during the low time, worried that my life’s commuting and stress had caused her to shut down or not want to work anymore. He agreed to come up in the beginning of May. I worked her pretty friggin hard the day Chuck came, and even still, she was perfect, flawless and happy. So I was sure that was proof that she was on the mend and we were good…and so was he. This continued through May and the beginning of June, but this was not to be. I also took Trixie to one of those service dog eye screenings, and the lady didn’t seem to think she had a bad vision problem or anything.

In June I found two lumps in Trixie’s ribcage area. I had them looked at, and they appeared to be fat, but man…2 of them? And then things started to decline again. There was no need to pee, but the vision troubles and losing steam and seeming to stress out and want to sniff stuff came back. She also seemed to spook easier. I first blamed it on the crazy heat, but it was persisting. Then, she started refusing to move after doing work, and sometimes, refusing to do more than pee and go back home.

I was coming up on going to a conference related to work in San Diego and I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to manage and actually considered leaving her with a friend. I ended up taking her, and it was an interesting experience for sure. I could feel her growing more and more exhausted and less and less able to do the job. She just wanted to follow people, and once, she got up to go with me, then lay down again unexpectedly. This scared the hell out of me.

When I got back, once again, we went somewhere in the evening and then, when we tried to come back, she froze, refusing to go beyond a certain point. It was then that I really had to consider that this work thing is getting too hard for her. One day, I heard that doggy voice I have talked about before. But now, it sounded surly and displeased. Once it said “It’s all about you, isn’t it? You you you. You go to work. You have evening meetings. Just when do I get any goddamn say in what happens to me? I’m trying to tell you I don’t want to work anymore, but you choose not to listen. Just what in the name of all that’s holy do I have to do to get you to hear my message?”

One day, I was noticing I had to motivate her to keep moving with a lot more treats. I felt like I was at the mall where the kids play, and there was one of those ride-on horses that you put a quarter in and it starts moving. I felt like Trixie had become that mall horse. To keep her going I had to keep giving her more kibble. Then I heard it. “Sweeten the pot, a lot, or I’m taking my early retirement package!”

I was noticing that even food didn’t excite her. She would eat it, but it was like a requirement of life not “ooo! Fooood! I’m a lab! I like food! Bouncebounce!” She would just come to me, then go to the hall, sit and wait for food. That scared the hell out of me.

First, I changed things up a bit. I decided that my longest days were when I went to work in Kitchener, so left her home those days with Steve. He got a crash course in taking a woofer to pee, and it’s pretty cute. The two of them have become even more attached to each other than they ever were before.

Even then, the exhaustion and funky guide work persisted, and I was seeing more of a pattern to do with trouble seeing whenever we went through some light level changes. Chuck agreed to come back in August, but I don’t think he thought such a sudden change was possible. He was sure it was all heat-related. But I’d been keeping a log and stuff was happening in cool places too. But intermixed among all the bad were some pretty stellar workouts. I was so confused. Plus, she would get some energy back, at which point I was sure she was healed. For half the route I felt pretty good, but the other half always happened. I really had to keep up that log to remember all the bad, because all my heart wanted to focus on was the good stuff.

Chuck came up and saw two different Trixes on one route. One the way there was a stellar guide, and I felt just a little bit silly. But we got to our destination, talked a while, and went to come back. then he saw draggy, unable to go very fast at all Trixie, and asked “Is this part of what you’re going through?” Yes, yes it is. He gave me a few suggestions of what to do, but thought retirement was pretty much an inevitability.

He left and I got her eyes examined again, and this time, we saw retinal degeneration significant enough to cause her to have trouble seeing when passing through light changes and in the dark. It really only came through when the doctor set up an obstacle course for her, turned off the lights and called her to him. Wammo! Smack into a box. We turned the lights on and she could see fine. I was relieved that I was right that she had a problem, but bawled my eyes out because I knew this meant her career was over. Even in the daytime, we can pass through places where the light changes enough to throw her for a loop, and some of those changes are at dangerous places like intersections.

That Sunday she worked her last route. All we did was drive to a restaurant with a friend, then drive to Walmart and walk around it, and she was cowering behind my legs, and acting like this whole work thing had her stressed beyond words. We took her to our friend’s yard and she didn’t even want to run around much at all. It was then that my heart broke, and I decided she needed to retire. Not semi-retire, but retire.

So yeah. Trixie is retired, and we’re making preparations to bring her to stay with Brad. That won’t be until the end of October, but that’s coming faster than I would like. I know that Trixie and Brad love each other to pieces so I’m sure it will work out. If it doesn’t, we’ll figure it out, but I hope it does.

We’re also trying to get to the bottom of some medical issues. At least once a day, she needs to sprint out and pee, and it’s so urgent that I feel like I’m being dragged and no amount of “heel” will fix it because she feels like if she goes slower at all, she’ll have an accident. The urine came back normal, and blood taken in April when we had the first UTI came back normal, so as far as we can tell there isn’t some kind of evil disease ravaging the poor beast and we just don’t know about it.

So…that’s part of the reason I’ve been rather quiet. I’m by no means ready to retire Trix, but really it doesn’t matter what I’m ready for. She has spoken, so that’s what we’ll do. One thing I know is she has gotten quite a lot of her bounce back since the working stopped, so that helps reinforce that I got the right message. She doesn’t seem to have been too upset by being left here when I, or both of us, head out. Sure she comes to the door, but she has accepted staying behind pretty easily. Plus she’s still tired. Short leash walks make her unbelievably tired. And remember her friend Ruby? She doesn’t want to play with her! Maybe wrestle on the ground a bit, but no running and roughhousing. Not so long ago, those two flew around together.

I have a class date of March 24 in San Rafael. So since the new dorm won’t be built by then, I’ll be in a crazy hotel. This should be an interesting experience.

Um…how do I end a post like this? Trixie prefers I end it quickly since it’s 7:00 and she’d like her fooderoo right now. I knew retirement was a part of the deal, but I was not ready for what it would do to me when it was time. I also expected some great big sign from the heavens to come and drop on my head and make it clear what to do. Trixie would run from the harness, or some obvious physical condition would appear. Until the eyes, that was not happening. Plus, she wasn’t even quite 7.5, so nobody could believe she would need to retire. But it seems this is what I have to face down.

At least this way, hopefully Trix will have a long, happy retirement and give Brad lots of fun memories. She has given me one heck of a lot.

I’ll keep you guys up to date. Some of you have followed Trix and I since the beginning, so I felt like I had to talk about what’s going on.

And the show must go on. Trix wants grub, so I’d better get to steppin’.

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22 Comments

  1. Trix and I do pretty well together. She was always a suck, but now that we spend so much more time together and there’s the prospect of me feeding her involved, she’s even more of a suck than she ever was. Sometimes she wants to get my attention so badly that when I’m typing, she’ll actually come over and smash my arms with her head until I get down on the floor and give her a pet for a while.

    “No! You! Are! Not! Finishing! That! Post! Steve! Oh, it’s an email to Carin? Well then…Nope! You’ll write that later! Make with the pets, fatboy!”

    Other than her trying to cripple me a few times by breaking into a dead run over curbs and retaining walls, we get along great. I know she’s just testing me like she does with everybody so I can’t stay mad, but sometimes…let me tell you.

    She does really well by herself. I’ve started leaving the radio on for her when I go out, and that really seems to help. When there’s silence in the house, she’s usually waiting by the door when I come back, but if there’s music or something to keep her company, I’ll come in and sometimes it’ll take her a little bit to notice I’m home. I’ll get the groggy “oh hey, how was your trip? Thanks for waking me up with that squeaky door.”

    She’s adjusting to her retired life nicely, which is good. and as much as it hurts, you’re starting to adjust to it too. I knew you would.

    1. Hey. Thanks. It’s appreciated. It’s been such a weird road.

      And Steve, it’s so funny to see her being all pet me right now to you, and so weird how she pulls shite with you that I’ve never seen with me. Ug. Sometimes I worry that she’s going to kill you!

      1. The only thing I’ve got going for me is that I’m bigger than her. This is balanced out somewhat by the bad ankle, however. I worry about it now and then too, believe me. She can get a real good pull on when she’s interested in something or wants to be somewhere like right now. But just you wait, dog. Once I find myself a physio and get a strengthening program going, I’ll be unstoppable! Then again, by that time she’ll be happily in her new home and I may be in a heap somewhere near a retaining wall.

  2. Thanks Ceci. And Steve, guh. I don’t need visions like that. That just about made me cry. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to you because of Trixerooski.

    1. I’m sure I’ll live. She’s just an excitable one that I don’t think is intentionally trying to get me killed. In fact if anything, she might just get herself killed before anything happens to me. NO Trix, running across traffic after some interesting yappy dogs is not a good way to spend an afternoon.

  3. I’m sorry I didn’t see this earlier. Internet problems again. Poor Trixie and poor you. I’m glad though, that you have someone who loves her too and that she’ll have a happy retirement. I read your later post and of course I don’t think you’d toss her out with the trash but I have wondered sometimes what happens when service dogs retire. There must be some provision to make sure they’re loved and cared for when they can no longer work.

    1. I know Carin could answer this better and probably will, but it seems to be left very much in the hands of the handler. Some keep the dogs if they have the space and time to care for them, some of them go back to their puppy raisers, and some, like Trix in a few weeks, go to family.

  4. Hey. Yup, as far as I know most schools talk to their grads about plans for the dog once it retires. Some of them can even place the dog if you don’t have any family or anyone that can take it, and you don’t live in a place where you feel you could take it. I think lots of grads keep their dogs…they live in a house with a fensed yard and sometimes their wife/hubby takes over caring for the retired one, for example, or heck, they work from home and take care of both pooches. Also if they’ve been in contact with their dog’s raisers, sometimes dog goes back to the raiser…if the raiser can do it. I think it’s a sad rare case that a service dog gets abandoned. Most of us have become far too bonded to that dog to ever let anything happen to him/her.

  5. Two great answers. I guess I was wondering most about keeping an older dog while a younger one took over and how it would work out between the two dogs. I guess it depends on the two dogs, doesn’t it.

    I was hoping you would answer just as you did – lots of solutions; beginning before the dog actually begins work. Hope your beloved Trixie thrives in her retirement – she’s earned it.

    1. There are quite a few stories of retired dogs living happily with the new working dog. They seem to become friends quite a bit, though I think sometimes it takes some time and getting used to.

  6. It’s good to know. Thanks, Steve. It was probably an odd question to begin with but it’s something I’ve thought about in the past.

  7. Yeah every now and then the retired dog just can’t handle the new dog doing his/her job, I’ve heard of one case where the dog actually had to go to another family’s home because she was just too darn upset about their person going out with a new dog and leaving her behind, so much so that she started barking up a storm! But I think in most cases they learn to love the new dog and all become buddies.

  8. I think one of my comments didn’t get to you. No problem. I was just mentioning something along the line of what Carin just said.

  9. I’m so sad to hear that Trix has to retire.

    But at least she let you know and unfortunately she had to make you hear it loud and clear for you to notice. This isn’t a bad thing though.

    I felt like crying when i read it.

    I hope your friend keeps in touch and you get to see her every so often.

    Take care, and huge hugs from me and Ushi. Xxx.

  10. Yes, worry not faithful Trixolians. She’ll have the best life I can give her for as long as she wants it.

    1. I kinda like the term Trixolians.

      Oh, and thanks people for commenting and leaving all those well wishes on Twitter. I know Carin appreciates it, and I think it’s pretty cool myself.

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