Zoe’s disappearance has made me think about my Doberman Sheba’s disappearance, and that has made me think about the long search for her that eventually resulted in my finding my second Doberman, Bella.
I said in my post about Sheba that I read the lost-and-found section of the Huntsville newspaper for a year after Sheba disappeared. It was a year before a Doberman appeared. It was a female with uncropped ears and a docked tail, a description that fit Sheba but also fit many other Dobies. I was certain it couldn’t be Sheba, but I had to look anyway.
And, of course, it was not Sheba. It was a Doberman that had appeared at a family’s house and stayed, probably because they had dogs in their fenced back yard. They wouldn’t let the Doberman into their back yard, and they said if no one claimed her in the next few days, they would take her to the pound. I said if no one claimed her, I would take her. And that’s how I ended up with my second Doberman.
There was no way to know her name, so I called her Bella. She jumped up into my truck and we went home. Bella was mature, and I think she had led a hard life. She showed signs of having had puppies. Every bony point on her body had calluses. It was obvious that she had spent a lot of time on a hard surface. I imagined that she had been bred, probably more than once, and that she spent her life in a kennel with a concrete floor. In her new life, she had a soft bed next to the wood-burning stove in the living room. No more hard surfaces for the rest of her life.
Right after I got her I tried to train her to her name by sitting next to her every evening petting her gently and saying her name over and over. I think that kind of attention was new to her.
Bella seemed to settle in pretty quickly. As with the dogs that came before, she went everywhere with me. When I first got her and was trying to acclimate her to her new life, I took her in to work with me when I had to stay late. She had an unfortunate problem with gas at first, so she was not popular at work. I eventually found a dog food that didn’t contain soy, and that seemed to resolve the issue. However, I think her digestive problems were a sign.
Bella had health issues for most of her life. On one occasion I took her to the vet with vague symptoms that ended up being what the vet called a “toxic insult to the liver.” That seemed to indicate that she had somehow ingested some kind of poison, but since I controlled her food and never let her run loose (I learned my lesson with Sheba), I have no idea how that could have happened. All the vet could do was give her fluids and let her rest. It was not at all certain that she would survive.
One a couple of occasions she became lame, and I had to carry her down the front stairs of my house to let her outside. She showed signs of hip problems all her life, even on her best days.
At that time I was still trying to run. I took Bella on walks every day, but when I ran I didn’t want to take her with me. I knew she would make it about a mile and would then have to walk, which meant I never got a full run in when I took her with me. When I closed her up on the deck and left, she barked and whined until I was out of sight. I knew what would happen if I took her with me, but sometimes I couldn’t resist her pleas. And she would make it about a mile before she had to walk.
I have no idea how old she was when I got her, but I suspect she might have been as old as five or six, possibly even older. Whether it was from age or from poor treatment in her early life, by the time I got her she was not an athletic dog. But she seemed happy enough. She took several trips with me and my parents when my parents were traveling with their RVs. Here she is on one trip to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.
It’s not really visible here, but Bella’s tail had been docked too short. It occasionally bled. I suspect that the original owner docked the tail himself. I have found that some Doberman owners think docking a tail is easy. All you have to do is cut it off with pliers. Or so they think. Most are smart enough not to try to crop the ears, and Bella fortunately escaped that particular mutilation.
She was house trained from the start. The only time she ever pooped in the house, it was my fault. One day I was working outside for most of the afternoon, and I left her inside. Later that evening as I laid on the sofa watching television, I noticed that a little rug I had in front of the sofa was folded in half. I opened it up, and there was a little deposit, which Bella had very neatly covered up.
I had Bella for five years before she showed signs of osteosarcoma in her right rear leg. Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that large-breed dogs are particularly susceptible to. It is a terrible disease for which there is usually no treatment. It appears at a joint. The first sign is usually a slight swelling of the joint. The only treatment is amputation, but by the time osteosarcoma is diagnosed, it has almost always metastasized. Here’s what the North Carolina State University vet school Web site says:
With surgery alone, most dogs experience a good quality of life for approximately 4-6 months. With the addition of chemotherapy, survival times extend to approximately 10-12 months.
That is probably optimistic, although maybe treatment has improved since the late 1990’s when I had Bella.
At any rate, Bella’s right rear leg eventually became essentially locked. She was obviously in pain, but Rimadyl worked well for her. Amputation for pain relief was not an option for Bella. I don’t think she would have recovered from the surgery, and I don’t think her hips could have taken it anyway.
The disease and her hips caught up with her when I was visiting my friend Tom in New Mexico. She went down and wasn’t able to get up. After a full day of watching her struggle to move around and to have a bowel movement without standing up, I decided that it was time to end it. We took her in a stretcher to a vet and I had her put down. That was in 1999. I still have her ashes.