We had to cut our much-anticipated vacation short...like really short. News came in that our Great Dane, Domino was not feeling very well. What started as an upset stomach went downhill really fast. By the end of the week, we said goodbye.
Dogs are the most pure examples of unconditional love, complete forgiveness, true companionship, and sheer loyalty. Domino was no exception, she displayed all the perfect qualities of man's best friend. But there was something different about Domino that set her apart from the rest.
The moment you met Domino, you heart was tugged by her big ol' tilted head and her even bigger smile. You probably met her sitting on the couch like a human. It was silly and you loved it. She is so big! Beware though, she thinks she is a lap dog and if you sat down next to her, she may just have wanted to readjust and sit on you. She didn't mean any harm, she just wanted to be near you and love you. If you got up, she would follow. Only this is when you recognize that something is very different about Domino. She has trouble walking, her legs are bowed out, and her spine is kind of crooked.
We got Domino when she was 4 or so and she already displayed the symptoms of lordosis (excessive curvature of the spine) and Wobbler's Syndrome. Wobbler's is a neurological disease that affects the spine in the neck and is supposedly very painful. Domino never showed a day of pain, though we knew she had to be experiencing it. The disease becomes progressively worse and eventually leads to partial or full paralysis. Domino, on the other hand, seemed to defy the odds and began to make the best of her disability. If the other dogs were doing it, then by golly, she was going to figure out how to join in! No obstacles could keep her from living her life to the fullest. She was a model example of perseverance. Her paws were swollen and nails completely ripped off as she dragged her back legs, her massive head drooped down for comfort, she leaned on anything (and anyone!) to keep her balance, she used her head as a "kickstand" to get up on the couch, but throughout it all she smiled...and she danced.
Boy, did she love to dance! If it was food time, she would dance. If it was outside playtime, she would dance. If someone just came home, she would dance. It was quite the sight! We always feared she would lose her balance and throw out her frail hips- but who could deny her the opportunity to dance! We all could learn a lot from Domino...
Later on, she had bloat- a life-threatening condition where a dog's stomach flips. The ER doctor urged us to put her down. She was old, she was already disabled, she would never survive the surgery. We knew better. Domino was a fighter. And fight she did! A year later, her throat collapsed. Playtime was cut short to only a few minutes at a time or she would overheat. Could she survive another surgery? Of course. Domino loved life too much to quit now.
The last year of her life seemed to be the best! She was always so happy. She no longer could bark but that didn't keep her from standing at the fence and "barking" at all the dogs that went by for their evening walks. She never saw her disabilities. She only saw opportunities. She was our brave girl and we loved her so. The average life span of a Great Dane is 6-8 years. One with Wobbler's is about 4. Domino was 10.
Humans can learn a lot from a dog. We would live in a better world if we emulated the love and joy of our furry friends. We could also learn a lot from Domino. No complaining, no wishing for a better life, just living the life that we are given to the fullest!
So in memory of Domino... smile big and don't forget to dance.
You are not the only one who benefits from exercise. Dogs need it too! In honor of our four-legged loved ones- grab your doggy and go for a walk, play fetch, start a game of tug-of-war, and cherish every minute of it!