In Memory Of Pluto

In Memory Of Pluto

When I was still dating my wife Rhiannon she rescued a 3-legged black Labrador Retriever. He was a foster dog from Safe Harbor Lab Rescue who was being fostered at the dog daycare that my wife was running her grooming business out of. He was a runt for a Lab, and along with having only three legs, daycare was a bit too hectic for him. The emotional ups and downs of that environment and having less balance than other dogs pulled at Rhiannon’s heart strings. One night she decided to bring him home for a few days. After we took him on a road trip and a hike one weekend Rhiannon wanted to adopt him. I was a bit hesitant because she already had a dog, cat, and ferret in a small condo, but he was such a handsome, friendly guy, and it was hard to not feel bad for his orphaned, handicapped situation.

Pluto was about a year old when he became a part of our family in the spring of 2004. He was very skinny and we made sure to feed him extra for a few weeks to get his weight up to normal. He LOVED food and till the very end treated every meal like he was starving. It took us a while to name him. The daycare had called him Buddy -about as generic a dog name as you can come up with these days. I wanted to call him Pooper after we took him on a walk around a nearby park and he pooped SEVEN times. Instead we settled on Pluto (after the Greek/Roman god of the underworld  -not the Disney character).

Pluto grew strong and healthy and for the first many years he could walk and run just like any 4-legged dog. He loved to go hiking with us. Surprisingly he even made it to the top of 14,036-foot Mt Sherman one summer. He also loved to swim. Give him access to a mountain lake and he would swim circles. You would never know he was missing a leg if you weren’t counting or looking at his nub.

We used to have a cat named Akela. She didn’t just tolerate Pluto like a lot of cats do for dogs. They’d lick each other’s faces and often sleep together.

Before Pluto started getting up there in years he excelled in the snow. When we’d get two or three feet of fresh snow he’d dive into the powder and plow or tunnel his way through it like a snow shark. I have photos of that somewhere, but here are a couple of him and his sister playing. The second and third photos are hilarious because despite being such a gentle soul he is so jacked up playing that he looks vicious and possessed.

One warm summer day Rhiannon took the dogs on a hike with a friend. Pluto had been hitting the mountains with us for years, but that day his leg kind of gave out and he couldn’t walk anymore. We think the heat might have been a factor, despite having plenty of water to drink. Rhiannon had to carry him all the way back to the truck a grueling mile or two away. Afterwards she made an appointment with Denver-based Orthopets who specialize in animal orthopedics. We never took Pluto on any steep mountain hikes again, but with the help of his new “bionic” leg it certainly extended the life of that leg and he would continue to go on shorter, easier hikes and walks with us for more years.

Pluto would wear this contraption when getting exercise until it no longer fit due to arthritis making a joint in his leg grow larger.

By the time Pluto was about 11 years old he could no longer go on daily walks with us and would have to stay home. It was tough, but we realized that if we didn’t start giving his one back leg a break it would wear out much quicker than the rest of his body. For a few years lesser activity seemed to help and he was pretty mobile in and around the house. Initially anti-inflammatory medicine also really helped.

For the last couple years we needed to start carrying him more and more, usually just up and down stairs or when he seemed to be struggling more than usual. Three weeks ago he couldn’t really walk anymore, other than a couple steps at a time, or he’d just attempt to drag himself. It was tragic because besides his back leg he seemed very healthy otherwise. Sure, he was starting to get senile and stuff, but he looked great for almost 14 and was mentally much better off than similar dogs his age. We had to hold him up to potty outside, but he was also having accidents in the house, and he couldn’t hold it like he used to. It had been months since he could go out the dog door on his own. With his quality of life suffering, and no doubt having pain in that back leg we finally had to make the difficult decision to let him go. We gave ourselves a couple weeks to make peace with the idea, love him as much as possible, and also align a weekend with our favorite veterinarian’s schedule. These are the last few photos we took of our beloved Pluto:

When I was a kid my dad got us a Black Lab who we named Joker. We only had him a few months before finding out he had hip dysplasia. The prognosis in the 1970s was not good and at only nine months of age we had to put him down. Rhiannon already had pets when we first got together, but for me, Pluto became that full experience that I never got to have with a dog. He was a special guy. Unlike our other dogs he never really gave us any problems. He loved everybody he met. It was so difficult letting him go. Our house is still full of furry loved ones, and always will be, but it still feels a little empty in here without him. Goodbye old friend. You were one of a kind and will always be missed. I love you.