Farewell, Fergus

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I never thought I'd be writing a eulogy for my youngest dog first. I have 2 geriatric dogs, and my 2 year old is the one I lose! On Saturday morning, my adorable Jack Russell terrier started throwing up and was restless and weak. I took him in to the emergency vet, watching him get weaker and weaker on the drive there and while we waited for our turn. The vet gave me hope, telling me he was dehydrated and some fluids would perk him up quickly, and that xrays and bloodwork should show us what was going on, and that 2 year old Jack Russells just don't die. Well, a few hours later, after xrays and bloodwork that were basically normal, Fergus had a seizure and stopped breathing and they weren't able to bring him back. I feel so guilty, maybe if I'd taken him to the vet sooner they could have saved him. The fact is, he'd thrown up several times xmas afternoon, and I was very concerned, but the vomit had chunks of a beef tendon chew I'd given him that he'd never had before, and I assumed it upset his stomach. I was going to take him to the vet the next morning if he still seemed off, but I actually ended up feeding him dinner xmas night because he seemed all better and was going nuts when I fed the other dogs. He didn't throw up his dinner, and he ate his breakfast enthusiastically, and we all went for a walk and he seemed energetic. In retrospect, maybe he wasn't as energetic as usual... but it is so easy to try to read things into the situation after the fact. At the time, I didn't see anything that concerned me. Even when he threw up Saturday morning, my initial thought was that I needed to stop giving him different chews, because I'd given him a new dental chew the night before, and there were chunks of that in his vomit. I just encouraged him to come back to bed, because it was 5 am and I wasn't ready to get up. I can't change what happened, and we'll never know what took him away from us (the vet offered the option of a necropsy that maybe could have provided answers, but I couldn't afford to spend another thousand dollars for that on top of the thousand we spent trying to save his life, and the thought of them cutting up my baby was also just way too much to bear). I don't have nearly enough pictures of him, and never did get any video of him playing with my Border Terrier, Edgar. He was only with us for 8 months, and I thought we had a long time to capture memories. I don't want to forget all of the things that made him so fun and special, so I want to share them here.

When I was trying to get work done on the computer, Fergus liked to poke his nose into my leg, then rest his chin on my leg and stare at me until I would pet him. If I didn't pet him soon enough, he would shove his nose under my hand and flip my hand away from the computer until I did pet him. There were times when this was annoying, but he really didn't get overly obnoxious about it.

On the rare ocassions when my husband and I managed to sit down and eat a meal together, Fergus would start talking to us if there was something we were eating that he really wanted. We really don't mind being surrounded by dogs while we eat, and we DO feed our dogs from the table sometimes, so if he really wanted something he usually got some. Yet, he didn't start doing this all the time. It had to be something good.

Twice, when he had decided something we were eating was really good, and I had finished eating but was still at the table, Fergus jumped into my lap and started licking my plate! Only twice, though. It was so naughty, but yet so funny! Others may not agree, but it cracked me up and I let him lick the plate clean... yet it didn't become a regular occurence.

Fergus liked to jump into my arms and then get carried around sitting on my forearm. I'd hold my arm out at an angle so my arm was a chair, and he'd just sit there and take in the view.

I had been doing agility training with Fergus, and it had been a challenge. Sometimes he would do agility, but if there was any hint of varmints around then he was too distracted and often ran off. We had finally found some success running at indoor venues, and he had finished his Level 1 CPE title. His agility class is located in a field full of interesting smells and some gopher holes, and he always ran off during class to sniff. It was a constant battle for me to keep his focus. Well, for the last 2 agility classes we will ever get to do together, he stayed with me the whole time. A couple of times he looked towards gopher holes we were near, but when I called him he refocused on me right away. He was running the fastest I'd ever seen him run agility. He was putting on the speed like he would when chasing birds on the beach. He was absolutely amazing to watch.

Fergus liked to cuddle under the covers at night, sleeping right against me and preferring to be between me and my husband. In the morning, he would get up and come up to my face and say hi, then cuddle a little more. He also loved to cuddle whenever I was on the couch, although he often came up and did the leg poke thing and then wait to be invited up.

Fergus loved other dogs. I could actually take him to my puppy socialization class and let him play with the bigger puppies. He would actually roll over onto his back for most dogs he met so they could get in a good sniff! He would even do this for the puppies, but would tell them off if they were so rude as to step on him while he was flopped over!

Fergus loved people, including children. I took him to a talk I was doing for a summer camp at a local shelter, and when I released him to go say hi to the kids who were all sitting at tables arranged in a big "U" shape, he went over to the first kid he saw and jumped in his lap and gave him kisses while his butt wagged joyously. Then he hopped up on the table and walked down the entire length, saying hi to every child there. He loved every minute of it, even when there were 10 hands on his little body at a time! I had spent a half hour talking to the kids about how to approach a dog and pet a dog, and what dogs do and don't like, and Fergus was hell bent on proving all my lessons wrong :)

Butch, my 14 year old Shih Tzu that hasn't played with another dog since he was about 8 years old, and that was really limited play, loved Fergus. Butch would sometimes totter over to him and wag his tail and try to stand tall on his toes sideways to him. Fergus would get so excited that Butch was paying attention to him, and he would play bow and bounce around him, but never on him (ha- he learned to be careful his first day here, when he ran up enthusiastically to introduce himself to Butch and got snarked at for his trouble!!).

I have to admit that the cats don't miss him. He tried to play with them a little more than they would like. Every once in a while, he would jump over the baby gate that kept all the other dogs out of the litterbox. Sometimes my onrey 3 legged cat would be hanging out in a kitty condo back there that is right next to the baby gate, and she would glare at him and he wouldn't have the guts to get close enough to her to be able to get back out of the area. So, he would sit back there and cry until I would come rescue him from the mean kitty :)

When he played with my other dogs, Fergus would sometimes grab the other dog by the back of the neck or a hind leg and make growly noises while violently shaking his head back and forth, and yet the other dog's neck or leg wasn't moving at all. It was a great illusion, and would probably have freaked out a lot of owners. I'll admit the first time I saw him do it, I was moving towards them to intervene when I realized that the other dog was still standing calmly on the leg that Fergus appeared to be violently shaking. Terriers aren't for the faint of heart, that is for sure!

It is with a heavy heart that I say farewell to this funny little dog with the huge personality. He was a friend to many and an enemy to gophers. I want to remember all the good stuff while keeping the challenges near enough at hand that I don't choose another terrier without careful thought :) I try to picture Fergus in doggy heaven, with endless birds to chase and freedom to dig as much as he wants. Still, I'd rather have him here with me.