Our Dog T-Bone

A Heartwarming Story of Life with One Really Nervous Dog

"I've seen a look in dogs' eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts." -- John Steinbeck

"In dog years I'm dead" -- Unknown


AARPOver his time in Alcatraz things had their ups and downs.  My wife thought it would be a good idea if we went to Goodwill and bought him a nice comfortable, cushiony chair for him to lie down in when we were gone.  We went all out and spent $10.00.  The chair lost.  And only lasted one day.  Just the frame was intact.  Foam rubber and stuffing and upholstery everywhere.  No more chairs.


That reminds me.  I almost forgot to tell you about “The Day the Dog Ate the Truck Seat.”  We were in the midst of building a new church and in the fall of that year on a mid-October drizzly sort of day I took T-Bone with me in my pickup and brought him to the work-site.  Many times in the past I had taken him along with me in the truck and he was perfectly fine.  But not that Saturday.  Around noon it started to rain so I put him in the truck but I checked on him often and let him out frequently to get some exercise.  But at about 4:00 I left for the day and opened the truck door only to be greeted by chunks of foam rubber.  That’s never a good sign.  The driver's seat was toast.  On the way home I said to him, “I hope you enjoyed the foam rubber because that’s all you're getting to eat tonight.”


He shredded more blankets than we could count.  Even though they looked like Swiss cheese, at times we still took them outside to shake them out.  We wondered what the neighbors thought.


But most days during the last couple years of his life we would come home and his room wasn’t too bad – the blankets were messed up, but overall things didn’t look that bad.  And sometimes when I came home, instead of hollering “T-Bone!” right away I would sneak over to his laundry room/kennel door (he was pretty hard of hearing)  to see what he was doing – and guess what? HE WOULD ACTUALLY BE LYING DOWN!


When he was about 12 I took him for a walk through the woods and I forgot to make sure he was right beside me when I made the turn on the trail to go back to the vehicle.  I went about a ¼ mile and suddenly realized he was nowhere in sight.  I panicked.  I ran back up the trail and could see him a long way off silhouetted against the night sky.  I yelled as loud as I could but he couldn’t hear me and I could tell he was looking for me.  I kept running as fast as my out-of-shape body could carry me fearing that he might wander off into the woods.  Fortunately he just sort of stayed in one spot looking around until I got there.  From that moment on I had to put him on a rope or leash whenever we went walking.  In the last year of his life when I took him for a walk he could only go a short distance.  He was almost completely blind, he was almost completely deaf, and he limped from arthritis.  But still, when you would say, “Get your leash!” his adrenalin kicked in and he would wag his tail and bark excitedly.


Most days when we put him into the laundry room he was fine.  And sometimes he would just walk right in and start eating his snacks without a seeming care in the world.  One day I was in a hurry to get to work (my wife would say that’s my usual mode) and just as I was heading out the door I realized I hadn’t put T-Bone in lockdown and shut his door.  I turned around and he was standing in the laundry room doorway looking out at me as if to say, “Maybe if I don’t move he won’t realize he forgot to shut the door. And I can raid the fridge and sit on the futon and watch Animal Planet when he’s gone!”  I honestly laughed to myself when I saw his expression. 


But some days, and for whatever reason, he would just shake when he went into his room.  And at times (though not frequently) we would really have to coax him to get him in.  And even when we were at home he would sometimes slip into his anxiety mode and we had to holler "T-Bone!" to get him out of that zone.  When I had visited my parents on occasion there would be four dogs (all Labs) that would roam around their lake home property: Maggie, Tomack, Max, and T-Bone.  And sometimes Maggie, Tomack and Max would be laying down sleeping but T-Bone would be panting and pacing until it seemed he almost wore himself out, and then he would finally lie down.   When T-Bone was about 10, at Christmas time I called the vet and asked him if there was anything he could prescribe for the dog for Christmas Eve – people were coming over and with all the commotion and cooking I knew T-Bone was going to have a hard time.  He gave the dog a prescription for just a few pills of Valium.  He took two and I took the rest....just kidding......I took all of them.....no, not really, T-Bone took two and I ate turkey.


When my wife and I look back we are so very glad that we were so patient with him.  Sure, we got frustrated and upset with him (and maybe he did with us), but we loved him and were so very glad he was a part of the family.  When you’re a kid and the family dog dies, their passing can almost rip your heart out.  I remember our dog Max getting hit by a car when I was a teenager and still vividly recall the little funeral we had for him in the corner of the lot at our rural home.  It isn’t easier when you grow up.  I talked to my older brother on Christmas day, 2005 – he called to see how our Christmas had gone.  We chatted for awhile and as we were saying our good-byes I said, “Well, say hi to Moe and Scott and Ghost.”  He couldn’t say hi to Ghost he said, Ghost had just died.  My eyes welled up with tears, and you could hear the emotions in his voice.  His dog Ghost (a big, mellow, lovable white shepherd mix) and our dog T-Bone were only a month apart in age.  I asked him what happened and he told me what had transpired the last couple of weeks:  Ghost had some sort of inflammation in his jaw which swelled up severely so they took him to the vet to check him out, and because he didn’t improve they took him to a specialist.  But the swelling went down and it seemed he was going to be ok.  My brother took him for a short walk but Ghost was so weak he couldn’t make it back and died a couple of hours later.  It was hard for him to tell the story and we both cried.


Sir Walter Scott said, "I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten to twelve years, what would it be if they were to double?"


The lyrics of “Mr. Bojangles” talk about that deep bond that lives on between a dog and his master:

He danced for throws at minstrel shows and county fairs…Through out the South
He spoke with tears of fifteen years how his dog and him…Had traveled about
His dog up and died, he up and died, after twenty years he still grieves