Pepper was added to our family in 2003. It was summer time and the Morgan County Humane Society was having space and money issues because they were overflowing with cats and dogs.
Kris and I drove up with some food to donate and with the idea of being foster parents. I remember walking into the dog area to look at the dogs and we passed the first row of inside kennels. Most dogs ran to the front and barked or whined or somehow were eager for attention. Except one. This dog was curled up in the back of her kennel, which was probably only 4 feet by 4 feet, on a wood palet for a bed. That dog looked up as we passed but remained curled in a ball. We passed lots of dogs, some in kennels piled on top of other kennels. Some puppies, some adults and some tied up to dog houses out back. The shelter was quite full. Kris felt that if we took a puppy home to foster, we’d never find it a home. I suggested we take the dog that was curled up in the kennel.
We took her out to meet her and she had a lively personality. Her leash manners were abysmal but she was eager to have attention once out of her kennel. Her fur was sparse and coarse and she was a little overweight but otherwise she seemed like a great dog. We filled out the paperwork and took her home to meet our 3 dogs.
We lived on Cobblestone Ct then. A smallish house with a small backyard. We gave her a bath and then planned her trip back to the shelter for her spay.
When we took her back for her spay, they found that she’d already had that surgery. So she just suffered some anesthesia but that was it. We picked her back up and set up flyers, etc for her.
She had this habit of pulling on the leash, but it was always straight out to the side. Not in front but straight to the side. An aggravating issue but her most annoying one. She barely barked and it was several months before we actually heard her bark. We did however discover that she loved to tug. She would growl and bark with the toy in her mouth and play keep away for a bit, before she’d let you grab it and play tug with her. She loved her tug toys.
After a couple years, our dogs taught her how to bark at people at the door or leaves blowing across the yard or even just the wind. It was funny to us and amusing that our dogs had taught her to bark at stuff.
Another bad habit of hers was her begging at the table. It wasn’t bad but she would sit beside the table and stare at us. First one, then another of us and drool. Oh goodness the drool. At her dinner time, she would sit in her spot and dance her feet and drool. Then she would shake her head and send the drool flying. It was quite gross but funny too. She would snatch food out of your hand really quickly and sometimes get your fingers. We had to teach her to take food gently and she got really good at that. It took her until about 2009 before she quit staring at us at our dinner time. 🙂 We never encouraged the begging and certainly never rewarded it, but she was our constant dinner companion for many years.
It turned out that Tasha did not like Pepper. There was not all out aggression but Tasha did attack Pepper one winter while we were out playing in the snow. All of a sudden, Tasha grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. Tasha put two punctures in her shoulders which healed fine. After that we took great pains to make sure that Tasha learned to leave Pepper alone. Whenever Kris would play with Pepper, I would call Tasha to me. Tasha wanted order and Pepper’s manner of playing with barks and growls was too much for her. Tasha would run over to her and snarl but basically put all stop to play for Pepper. So we would alternately call Tasha over when Pepper wanted to play. In this manner we managed things and all the dogs lived in modest peace.
It also turns out that Pepper was allergic to everything. And I mean everything! Grass, cats, dust, grain, everything. Or at least according to her allergy blood test. We spent a fair bit of money trying to get her coat better, get her to quit licking her paws till there was no fur left. To quit licking her butt as well. We tried allergy pills and steroids as well as trying allergy shots. We finally got her on Atopica which did the most for her itching. She regrew her fur on her feet and around her butt. Her fur came in thick and long and kinda curly too. It was great to see her doing so well.
It was at that time that Kris and I were trying to downsize our lives because I hated my job, which was an hour away. We had not planned to keep Pepper but had always felt no one would want her because the Atopica was very expensive. But we tried again. We put an ad in the paper and it was actually answered. We met the woman and her daughter at our house and then we dropped Pepper off for a week trial. They loved her and we thought she was good in her new home.
About a month later a friend asked us the woman’s name that adopted her. We did a search on her name based on his prompting and found articles on her in the newspaper. Turns out she had charges pending for child abuse. This was a Friday. That evening we tried calling her. The number had been disconnected. So we went over to her house and told her that the Morgan County Humane Society was mad at us for not following protocol. We got Pepper back and with the help of the Morgan County shelter, we officially adopted her.
It took her a couple years before she would solicit pets from us. For a long time she would find a comfy spot off on her own in the house and nap. It was only when we were eating that she would come around. The first few times she solicited us for pets, we were ecstatic! We felt that she finally accepted us but it was definitely on her terms.
She was not big on walks or hikes. Even off-leash. This one time at Griffy, I took the 4 dogs for a hike and I “lost” Pepper on the first part of the trail. It turns out that she just went back to the gate area while I continued on with the other 3. I knew she would wait by the gate, because she knew that’s where the car was. Her collar had her name and my cell on it. When I returned to the gate with the other 3, she was there waiting like I knew she would. Once we returned home, my cell phone had a message from some concerned folks that they had “found” my dog. I guess that is why there was a couple hovering around Pepper at the park when I returned.
We did downsize our house in 2006 and then in 2010, Kris and I got married in March. In May, he moved to Oregon to start a business. In June we drove the RV with Shadow and Pepper to Oregon. I stayed in Indiana until December with Kota and Tasha.
Two weeks after Thanksgiving 2010, Pepper was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had been losing her appetite and losing weight. She also had this unproductive cough which was becoming more common. Chest x-rays showed tumors in both lungs. Nothing would cure the cancer for her, the best we could do was to make her comfortable. She was on prednisone and herbs as well as antibiotics and her other supplements.
Kris flew to IN on the 22nd to help me drive out over Christmas break and our friends back in Oregon were taking her to the vets for her weekly blood tests. On the 24th of December we got news from the vet that her platelets were at 38,000. Normal is 150,000 and risk of bleed out is in the high 20,000’s. We cut the prednisone and did another blood test on the 26th which showed her platelets going back up. Kris and I took off driving for Oregon the 27th. It took us 4 days to drive the van with Kota and Tasha out. We arrived on the 30th.
When we arrived, Shadow greeted us at the door, but Pepper was in the bedroom on the bed. When I walked in there and looked at her, I knew her days were numbered. She was breathing heavy and was so skinny. So very skinny. Her ribcage stuck out, her spine was easily visible and her hips could be easily felt. Her breath was also raspy, which Kris said was a new symptom.
We went to bed that night with her between us on the bed and for over an hour, she lay panting between us, her breath heavy and raspy. We put her on the floor where it was a little cooler and she seemed to breath better. Kris called the e-vet and there was nothing they could do. She hadn’t eaten the dinner that our friends had fixed for her.
The next morning, Kris and I talked about our options. We both felt that, even though it was a hard decision, it was time to let her go. Her breathing was labored and she was quite weak. She could walk on her own, but was unstable. She was only interested in the most appetizing foods, like my eggs for example. Eating, drinking and walking around resulted in heavy panting. Each breath was shallow and hard on her.
Kris made the appointment and we spent most of the day with her. Petting her, feeding her foods that she loved but would have never had otherwise. When it was time, Kris carried her to the car and put her in my lap. From there we went to McDonald’s and got her a cheeseburger. She liked all but the ketchup and pickles. 🙂
She got to lay on an air bed at the vets while she went to sleep. Kris and I on either side of her. Her breathing got so much better and I knew we were doing the right thing, but oh it was so hard. So very hard. I hugged her tight afterwards because I was afraid of making her breathing worse had I done it before. Leaving her there was the hardest part of all for me.
Pepper was a great dog. She was friendly to everyone and every dog she met. She was more interested in laying on couches and eating food, then in being petted or going for hikes.
I like to think that she is at the Rainbow Bridge with Niko and Maggie and that as Kris said, there are no slick floors. No toenail cutting and no walks or hikes. Just comfy couches and plenty of food with the occasional tug game. And if she so desires, some agility.
Run free and breath easy girl. You will be greatly missed.