Raider Power: The Purest Puppy Soul That Ever Lived

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They keep asking me if I’m ok. Usually I am. But I still have moments when the thought comes back, “He’s gone. It’s irreversible. He’s gone.” and I just break inside.

We got Raider when I was 7 or 8. Somehow a Kooikerhondje (Coy-ker-hound) mix found his way onto the streets of South San Antonio and was picked up by a family who couldn’t keep him, so they brought him to our church, where we fell in love. (Kooikerhondje’s are basically Dutch Border Collies and super rare in the US.) Suddenly we had a puppy. I hadn’t had a dog since the golden retriever, Misty, who died when I was super little. My only memory of her was her very last day. Misty had been mostly an outside dog, I think, but we tried Raider inside for his first few days. Little did we know this poor baby had every kind of worm a dog could get. Our ‘free’ puppy quickly racked up $1000s in vet bills within a few months of having him. My parents grumbled and groaned, and maybe money was tight for a bit, but we took care of him. However, during his sickness, he became an outside dog.

Now, just for everyone reading this….don’t make your dog an outside dog. It’s just bad. Take the time to train them to be indoors and everyone’s lives will be easier, I promise.

All his life, the only thing Raider wanted was to be with his family. Well…and be petted by his family. Usually just sitting with us wasn’t enough. He split his puppy days between sitting in front of the patio door and whining/watching us, and running trenches into the ground every time anything passed our corner yard. And he barked. He barked so much. Occasionally I would go outside to play with him, brush him, and love him, but I’ll be the first to admit we did not show our love as we should. I hated the outdoors, with all the bugs and the heat. And Raider was outdoors…which sucked. One time I went to feed him and there was a giant (I mean GIANT.), yellow spider sitting on the wall next to the door. I nearly fainted. Needless to say, I did not spend much time outside for a while until it laid its eggs and moved on. I was NOT about to risk that monster jumping on me and eating me while I tried to cross the threshold! Poor Raider.

He wasn’t completely abandoned, though. Every morning, my parents would take him on their runs. One morning my mom tripped on a speed bump and broke her finger. Raider could have taken that opportunity to make a run for it, but he sat next to my poor mother until she was ready to get up. The best boy!

I was the last one to go off to college, and when I did, Raider became solely my parent’s responsibility. I came home to one weekend every month my Freshman year, and when I did I always tried to spend time for Raider, as I had seen the error in his upbringing but could do nothing to fix it. Until I met my latest ex, who taught me how to properly care for dogs. I brought him home to meet my family one weekend. He took one look at Raiders living condition and declared that we HAD to take him with us. So we did. Raider went to college! (see Raider Diaries) At this point, Raider was 12. Kooikerhondje’s typically live to about 13. This boy was oooold, but he fit into our little band of misfits so well. We called him Boof, because his incessant barking as a puppy had mellowed into a soft…boof…for lack of a better description. My useless guard dog 🙂 Raider loved to lay with us on the bed, the couch, the floor, eat puppucino’s, and run after the tennis balls we threw.

A couple of months in, Raider began to pee randomly. We couldn’t figure out what was causing it, because it really was random. So we took him to the vet. Mr. Vet found out that this boy had a butt tumor that was raising the calcium levels in his body and causing him to feel the need to pee more. A butt tumor. Of freaking course. He gave Raider a year to live after we admitted no one had the money to pay for a surgery. We cried over our baby and decided that as soon as he showed signs of pain, we would let him go. And then we waited.

Raider went another year, watching a cat and another dog join the family, and only showing his age a little more. He watched my ex leave me, my struggle to maintain my household and life as a ‘single mom’, and eventually watched me help him into my moms car for the trip back to my hometown. I could no longer care for all of my babies by myself and my parents offered to take him back. They also promised to keep him inside from then on, since he had proven himself. Shortly after moving home, my parents found out Raider had to have more teeth pulled because his gums were rotting. (Remember how I said dogs shouldn’t be outside? This is why. Hygiene.) Another couple of thousand dollars later, his breath didn’t smell so bad and he was actually more hyper than ever. He was doing so well back home! Even with like no teeth!

The last time I saw Raider was when the family convened in Waco for Christmas. My boy was shaved like my parents liked him, basically toothless, but very happy and loving as ever. I gave him all the love.

March 1st, 2019, my mom texted me while I was at work that Raider’s tumors had begun to bleed. She had scheduled a vet visit for the next day, but we still couldn’t afford the surgery that would now be more invasive and expensive than before. The day that I thought I was prepared for had arrived and I was actually horribly unprepared. In the midst of trying to learn how to serve at a new restaurant, I constantly had to run to the back before I started sobbing in front of customers and coworkers alike. I was four hours away, working every day that weekend, and scheduled to go home in just two weeks. I knew I would not see him again.

I was right. The next morning, mom called to tell me they would be putting him down in a few hours and that she would facetime me so I could say goodbye to my baby. It was so short….I wanted him to hear my voice, hear the love I have for him, one last time, but I still don’t even know if he understood….and then the call was over. All morning I could only think about what was happening four hours away. My parents had brought a blanket with them, and I had made them promise to hold him and love him. This is what I imagined as the needles went in. I imagined my mother chanting “Raider Power” as she often did growing up. Raider was named for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, my parents university. I imagined my happy, unaware puppy lying down and slowly falling asleep. I imagined this and hoped, I prayed, that Raider knew how much he was loved. Because he was so loved. We were so oblivious to the care he needed for so long, but there was never a second that he was unloved or unappreciated. And I wish more than anything that my precious dog could somehow tell me that he understood, that my efforts at the end of his life were enough. Yall, the guilt eats me alive.

Raider’s tumors had become open sores. They were not going to get better. He would have to go back outside because the bleeding wasn’t stopping, and the sores would get infected. I know this. But my dog was still happy and full of life. It’s so hard to reconcile the fact that we took his life away. But what life would it have been in the backyard he hated so much? I tell myself at least 10 times a day that he’s gone, and the finality of it still shocks me. At some point yesterday or today my golden boy was lifted into an incinerator and reduced to ashes that I will receive when I go home in a few weeks. He is gone.

I haven’t decided what kind of grand cosmic existence there is out there, but I hope more than anything that we have some sort of soul that goes somewhere when we die. If any creature in the world deserves a heaven, it’s my Raider. There was never a mean bone in that dogs body. I hope that he’s up there in the beautiful fields of grass and tennis balls and that he sees my heart. I hope he sees my guilt and the best intentions I had and forgives my ignorance.

This one is for you, Boof. I will live my life in memory of your pure love and cherish the years you gave me. Thank you for being mine.

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Raider’s last picture. Happy as ever. So oblivious. Ugh…my heart. 

The Raider Diaries: An Affirmation

 

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A little over a year ago, I had the opportunity to take a kitten with me to my new apartment in Huntsville. I didn’t, because of my apartments outrageous pet prices. But when I made my decision to bring Raider to live with me, money was the last thing on my mind. Sure, I worried about being able to support him, but suddenly my life was no longer my own. Everything was about him and his well being. This is why I am offended when others try to talk like they know my dog. So, I’m going to give a little “Raider 101” so that everyone will keep their mouths shut.

Raider is my child. I love him with every fiber of my being. He doesn’t understand much about the world and life, but that’s ok. I do. He didn’t grow up in a social setting, learning dog manners and what not. This means he’s very much like a giant baby, and he will be until the end. But he doesn’t need to be more than that. Just because he doesn’t have those manners hardwired into his brain does not mean he’s a burden to me. He will never be a burden on my life. We’ve only spent a few months together, but the bond that we’ve forged since then is enough to keep him at my side, listening to my commands as best he can. He is nothing if not loyal. Raider gives my life purpose. I enjoy caring for him. His needs get me out of bed in the morning, when nothing else will. His undying affection keeps me going on the hardest of days. “Burden”, “Just a pet”….those are insults to both me and my Raider.

Raider is 12. By the new research calculations, (See embedded link for details) he is 69 years old. Raider is not a puppy.  He does not need as much exercise as puppies do. He does not get around like he used to. The apartment setting is not bad for him. He is not bored in here. He does not even want to go outside much. Trust me, he’s my dog. When Jared and I discussed all of the details involved with moving him, this was a very important one. I was worried just like you are. But he’s old! How many grandparents do you know can run around for miles? How many NEED to run for miles? Back in my childhood home, he had a whole backyard to run around in, and do you know what he would rather do? Sit in front of the back door and watch us go about our lives. His humans are all he’s concerned about. His years of running around, digging holes, eating the house, chasing passersby down the fence line are over. Done. Gone. Consider him retired.

One thing Raider does like? Cuddles. The couch. The chair. The bed. The carpet under the bed.The carpet in the closet, right next to where his humans are getting ready for the day, but not too close so they can lock him in and give him a bath. The wood floor. The wood floor behind his humans so they’ll turn around and give him pets. (or else they’ll fall. His master plan.) Tearing the fuzzies off tennis balls while he lounges in all of these places. Running after the chewed tennis ball for all of 1 time, because he gets too tired to continue. (I kid you not. He’s exhausted.) Other dogs, but only to sniff, and occasionally play fight with, until he’s bored and tired. Again. Slowly running after said dogs, because he can’t keep up. Sniffing the grass, the dirt, the wall, the pole, the tree, the random poop on the grass, etc. The most important thing Raider likes? His humans. He loves us. He trusts us. I won’t break that trust.

The task I’ve given myself is not so easy. It’s a handful. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I find myself reaching down to pet him while he’s simply walking up the stairs, because his fur is just so soft. I take pictures of him until my phone is full, then I have to choose my favorites. (An impossible matter.) I let him on the furniture, even though he leaves hair EVERYWHERE, because he just looks so darn adorable up there that I can’t say no. I pull him onto my lap and cover him with kisses and whisper my love in his ear. I tell him I love him at least 10 times a day, because I do. We both do. 12 years of his life went by without my affection, when that’s all he ever wanted. I don’t know how much time he has left, but I will work damn hard to make every SECOND the best one yet. I will give him all of my time, my money, even my food (whatever is healthy enough for him, that is) to keep that promise. I am a damn good mother for the amount of time I’ve had to be one. Sometimes we have to deal with the public’s opinion and let it slide, but this time I won’t. Raider is my child. His well being comes first, even if that means missing a family event or using my gas money on him. He is not just a pet.

So please, if you have an opinion about the matter, keep it to yourself and leave me and my quirky, adorable, loving dog alone. We’ve got things covered quite nicely.

The Raider Diaries: Raider Goes to the Vet

On day 4 of Raider’s new life, we took him for a quick check up at our local vet. He’s had his check up this year, I just wanted to hear his clean bill of health for myself. I think I fit into the Dog Mom role quite well, if I do say so myself!

He loves car rides, so he hopped into my truck willingly. Poor thing had no idea where he was going. Upon entering the office, I was instantly worried he would pee on the floor in stress or an act of dominance. This from experience. I had Jared watch him like a hawk while I signed us in.

Raider turned out to be a very well behaved dog while we waited in a room with 2 other cats and a very fat, very noisy wiener dog. He sat in between Jared’s legs while we all watched the wiener dog go nuts in the corner. Our calm puppy!

The bad started to happen when the doctor tried to stick a thermometer up Raider’s butt. The doggy nurse saw something in his eyes that made her ask for a muzzle. I don’t ever want to see my Raider so distressed again….he growled and twitched and I was so helpless. It soon passed and our new vet was on to telling us how over weight he is. (This will be a temporary issue due to his new exercise routines) We discussed his changes in lifestyle and how to possibly get rid of his bad breath. (IT SUCKS.) (even worse: WE CAN’T. MAINLY BECAUSE I’M POOR.)

Afterwards, Jared took him outside to chill while I paid. Before I left, the vet tech at the desk commented on how chill Jared and I were and how nothing seemed to bother us. (uh…what….thank you?) Overall it was a quick and easy trip, and now we can take care of him with no issues! Way to go Raider! TBC