Saturday, October 07, 2017

Rollie (Rawlings) B. 2007 (or 2009) - 10/6/17

I feel like I just said goodbye to Mac yesterday, and already, I am saying goodbye to Rollie.

I barely posted about Rollie here because I quit the internet for a large part of his life with me, and then when I was here, mostly wrote my book reports. When I adopted him, I was looking for a dog. Just a dog. I loved Mac SO much that I couldn't imagine having a dog that was really special to me. I wanted something very specific: a small, male, stable pit bull. Those were pretty much my only criteria.

I went to just about every shelter in the Bay Area. I was still doing animals (though not for much longer), and had an idea of what I'd find and where I'd find it. I spent some time online before I went shelter-hopping and just didn't see anything I wanted. My last stop was Berkeley Animal Care Services (BACS), the same shelter I got Mac from. They hadn't yet moved to their new shelter. Rollie was in almost the same cage Mac had been in 10 years before. I almost didn't pull him out of the cage. He's broken, T said. He's a puppy, I said. He demand barks, we both said. We pulled him out anyway.

He wasn't a puppy- it was clear from his teeth that he was somewhere between three and five years old. But the way he moved his body and personality were very puppy like. He ran into the yard (pictured- my first picture of him) and play-bowed at his toy, then laid down and gummed it. He also had a totally janky body with a strange back end and was clearly partially blind. T reminded me again that he was broken. I told her that a healthy body wasn't on my list of criteria. He was totally stable.  He was small (40lbs), and male. He was adorable. I introduced him to everyone involved, including Stella (my then-boyfriend's dog). She tried to eat him. He was not phased, and totally appropriate in response. They became best friends.

When I took him out of the shelter, he hopped in R's car and fell asleep. I felt like, but never knew, that this dog was someone's dog before- someone's well-loved and well-trained dog. He never tried to do anything inappropriate. There was no transition period- he didn't shit in the house, he pulled a little, but not a lot, on the leash, and he was totally appropriate with everyone. He LOVED kids- his tail wagged whenever they came near and he seemed to know just to stand there and not do anything so they could do their thing at their speed. He was gentle with everything- even his toys (that first gumming of toys was a harbinger of things to come). He was the anti-Mac.

I didn't like him much, and that was okay. My dad suggested (okay, said), that he didn't have any personality. I was a little miffed, but honestly, I didn't care if he had any personality or not. Mac had So Much personality and had been a full time job. I let other people walk Rollie. I left him alone overnight. I went on vacations and trusted people with Rollie- I breathed when other dogs walked by- he was the easiest dog ever. And slowly I fell in love with him and couldn't imagine not having him.

He was the Prince of my neighborhood. C and I were a bit sloppy about closing the gate- I became a normal pet owner- because dude was blind and didn't seem to know there WAS a gate. One time the Radio Shak on the corner found him. Another time someone at Safeway called because he was literally shopping for groceries. Don't worry, we fixed the latch and started closing the gate. I took him everywhere and- gasp- tied him up outside. He went to the library, Peet's and every day, 7-11. When he eventually had a dog walker, they took him to the vet (on our corner) every single day for treats. I asked the vet if this was really okay, because it seemed kind of disruptive, but the staff insisted they loved it. He carried toys on his walk- the more realistic ones made people gasp, but people would laugh at the teddy bear and the alligator that he always carried by the butt and dragged on the ground, or the tennis ball that went in the side of his mouth and that C named his "'baccy" like a wad of chew.

Besides kids, Rollie loved dogs. Everyone and their mother thinks their dog wants another dog. While I was still in animal welfare, I did my best to disabuse them of this notion. Dogs don't keep other dogs busy and entertained, and most of the time, the dog just wants you. Rollie is literally the first dog I've ever seen that actually turned into an (even) happier dog around other dogs.
I even let him off the leash sometimes around other dogs! Most dogs liked him, some dogs loved him, and other dogs hated him. His cousin, Kona (left), and others, just tolerated him. Being stepped on isn't that fun, but when you're blind, even a white dog is invisible. Other dogs figured out that even though he acted like a puppy and was an older dog, he meant no harm, and running in the opposite way was 100% guaranteed to get you away from him. Rollie would figure out a dog was nearby, get blissfully happy and then bound joyfully in the wrong direction. A dog could choose to stay and play, and Rollie could be a really playmate.

I worked on getting him a dog. I tried one dog who ended up really not liking him. Rollie loved him because he brought him sticks and tennis balls and toys, but Batman (now Archer) didn't like being a canine toy dispenser- who could blame him? Archer now lives his best life with his mom and does amazing sports. Catfish lived with us for awhile before I showed her some mercy and let her go rest. We fostered a few dogs with no intention of keeping them- the GSD puppy who pulled a Rollie on Rollie, a tiny terrier that K carried in a bag, and a boxer that walked on Rollie. He didn't mind it, but come on, there was an entire house and sidewalk for her to walk on, but his head was the only place she wanted to place her feet. I bought him a bulldog because she was perfect, and that turned into a different story, and then T's dog Pocket (not pictured here, but one of the trio) came to live with us. For his last six months, Rollie was in heaven, and Pocket seemed pretty happy, too. They certainly didn't play, because no self-respecting 14 year old female chihuahua is going to play with Rollie, but he was thrilled and they had their moments of adorableness where I suspect even she would have admitted she liked him. 

Rollie scared a lot of people and dogs, because he was LOUD. He had a lot to say. He barked when he was happy. He barked when he wanted a dog to find him and play with him. He barked when he was playing. He barked when he wanted to talk to the closet or the TV (even if it was off). He just barked. And he had a loud bark. He did sometimes bark out of reactivity, but mostly he was just yelling out of joy. But try to tell someone that your pit bull with the weird eyes is barking because he's happy. It doesn't always go so well. Here is proof that the barking was benign. This is my dog barking in the closet because who doesn't bark at the closet?

And this is my dog play-bowing and barking at maybe his bone or maybe nothing, because that's just what he did. Tell me this dog didn't have personality. I ended up teaching him that I wouldn't open the door until he stuck his head in a basket of tennis balls and picked one up, thus muffling the bark.

When I got home from my last trip to Hawaii, a little less than two full weeks ago, I noticed a lump behind his back knee. I know dog lumps. It wasn't a good lump. I felt his other back knee and didn't feel anything. I had been noticing him panting for a couple months on and off, and sometimes a distended belly, but hadn't really thought much of it. His eyes had gone from his normal glowy green to kind of cloudy. I'll never really know if any of that was symptoms, but I suspect the panting was. The vet felt his neck and felt what I missed- all of his glands were giant hard rocks. He had lymphoma. It's a weird disease- it isn't painful really, but it makes them tired. He was so tired, and slow. He was always slow- we called him USS Rollie, because watching him try to change directions was like watching a steamship change course. But this was different. The joy was gone in Mudville. He had a great day after we started the Prednisone, and a couple of great hours each day. But really, the life was sucked out of him very quickly.

I might share some other anecdotes and pictures another time- there are lots and I don't think I've gotten his story just right. The night before I put him down, we got skunked, in my house. I don't know how it happened. But it reminded me of when Rollie really got skunked. Sometimes he would charge out of my house at night after some animal. 99.99% of the time the animal would just stand there- my urban zoo all knows that Rollie would run in the wrong direction. I've seen cats stand 5 feet away and watch him pee while he looks "at" them. Birds didn't fly away when he sunbathed. He literally had no idea where they were. But this skunk stood his ground and sprayed him in the mouth. It was awful. My house and my dog smelled for 6 months. But I brought him into the bathtub and scrubbed him with some god-awful concoction. The dog fell asleep with his head in my hand while I rubbed and scrubbed and rinsed. It wasn't that he liked being bathed, it was just that he was an easy-going, trusting soul. Do what you want with me, lady, I gotcha. 

People always told me (and keep telling me now that he's dead) that I gave him a great life- that I saved him- who would want a blind pit bull? But they're wrong. Rollie wasn't going to get put down. He was at one of the most pit bull-friendly shelters in the country. He was only partially blind then, as whatever was going on with his eyes was degenerative. He looked like a puppy, but had the maturity of an adult. He was perfect. He would have made any family the best pet ever.

The truth is, he gave ME a great life. He was exactly what I needed after 10 years with a wonderful, but very tricky dog. He was easy. He was hilarious. He gummed toys for goodness sake! He gummed toys at me. He ate kibble and never got sick. He never had any of the pit bull delicateness that all pit bull fans know to expect- no skin itchiness, no tummy aches, no torn ligaments. We taught humane education to hundreds and hundreds of children- I really could not have done that without him. He came anywhere I wanted with me- protests, big events, my parent's house, the car, the bookstore, 7-11 (every day), whatever. He did whatever I needed him to do, with no training. He was not clingy but he was definitely my dog. He made me laugh and smile. He was the dictionary definition of joie de vivre.

I will miss you, Rollie. You snuck into my heart, and pretty much, the hearts of everyone who was close to you. Thank you for being the best little buddy a girl could hope for. There is another bucket of tennis balls waiting for you when we meet again.