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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, March 31, 2017

Farewell to a friend: A short life made better




My dad never had the heart to tell Floyd that, at 70-plus pounds, he was no longer a lapdog. - Photograph provided by Amy Jennings

I said good-bye to a friend today. He went by Floyd, no official last name, although it was surely Jenkins. He is, or was by the time you read this, a 3-year old boxer mix – the good kind, the doesn’t slobber on the couch/furniture/bed kind.

At a glance, people who didn’t know him thought he was a pit bull.

Those people never saw Floyd lying on his back enjoying a belly rub. But when he was protecting his turf – by “turf” I mean our yard; by “protecting,” I mean running right at you barking like he was on a mission – he was the best kind of watchdog. 

But Floyd hasn’t barked, or run, or wagged his tail, for the last three days. In fact, he really hasn’t eaten, either. His stomach even began rejecting water. Unsteady on his legs, his weight has slipped dangerously close to the emaciated level of when fate allowed us to find Floyd some three years ago.

To call Floyd a rescue dog is like calling a hurricane a windstorm; it doesn’t begin to tell his story.

It was on the slimmest of chances that my sister, who is uniquely qualified to rescue an animal in distress, was able to bring Floyd to us. Her daily drive to work frequently went via Shallowford Road, taking her past Airport  Road, the cemetery and the wooded area around the granite quarry.

Coming home one evening, she happened to catch in the corner of her eye a nearly grown dog wandering around in the small grassy area by the roadside.

After a sleepless night, my sister Amy had made up her mind that she would not, could not, let that obviously lost animal become roadkill. Grabbing a collar and leash, she and her husband returned to the same intersection.

Floyd, all skin and bones, was there.

It was miraculous that Amy needed only 15 minutes to bond with the distressed dog, but in that time she was able to talk him over to where she knelt, was able to outfit him with a collar and hook him to a leash. Just like that, she picked up a passenger for the trip home, and Floyd found himself with a name, a person he could trust and a meal fit for a king.

Once we had devised a way of keeping Amy’s three other dogs, Floyd quickly became a full-time resident on our living room couch and a constant companion of my dad, Ray. Now, I could begin describing my father as being 85 years old, but that would be painting the wrong picture. My dad is in no way elderly, as he works 20-30 a week at Publix and is on his feet up to eight hours a day and still drives himself to and from his job.

So, when I tell you and he and Floyd became as thick as thieves, it was because Floyd was there to transfer some youthful energy to my dad when he would come home weary as often as not. Only one person got to feed Floyd, got to walk him, and had him sleep on his bed, and that was Dad.

We wasted no time getting him to the vet for shots and whatnot, and we soon realized that sometimes rescues come with a cost. He had a serious case of heartworms, requiring either prompt treatment or an expedient death. It was never a question.

But it required keeping him inactive – in a standing cage – for weeks to allow the medicine to work without complication. Floyd never fought it, never questioned. Once his trust – earned only after several days around one another – was gained, it was absolute.

The medicine, costly and difficult to administer, did the trick, and gave Floyd roughly a year of joyous, playful health. As he grew to 70 pounds, he shared with us the fact that he was still a lap log (see photo). In fact, he decided when he would let someone other than grandpa (Ray) sit his personal chair.

His illness this spring appeared gradually, but the end came quickly. His healthy appetite, often battling our cats for their Friskies, went away suddenly. He was unable to hold anything down, and a trip to the vet last Monday revealed that his blood cell count was dangerously low. One symptom piled up on another.

By Sunday morning, it seemed inevitable that, come Monday, Floyd and my dad would take one last ride together. He did eat his breakfast, hung with my dad until Ray went to work. He then climbed up onto their bed to wait for his return.

But around 3:30 in the afternoon, a lifetime of medical problems caught up with our buddy. He’d gone outside on a beautiful afternoon, to do his business; tried to drink out of a mud puddle (his favorite guilty pleasure), climbed up onto the porch, took two steps into the house and laid down in the foyer for the final time.

We brought dad home early from work so he could spend a few minutes telling his good friend thank you and good-bye. Any words he had for his dog, dad kept to himself.

Floyd will be nearby as long as we remain at this address, part of the family from now on. Animals come and go at the Jenkins estate, but few were ever invited the way Floyd was, and few ever wound up being such a pleasant surprise.

I was in the middle of writing this when Floyd’s short life came to an end. I was glad I had a chance to sit and talk with him about an hour before he passed away, but I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to read this to him, to tell him that he was loved and appreciated and would be missed – even by the cats.

So instead, I’m reading this on my noon talk show (The Clubhouse, 94.7 FM in Ringgold, Georgia) as my way of saying, Floyd, thanks for your time.

(Rescue animals can by adopted at the McKamey Animal Center (423) 305-6500; the Hamilton County Humane Educational Society (423) 624-5302; or the Catoosa County (Georgia) l Animal Shelter (706) 935-2454.)