Goodbye Ex

// November 25th, 2008 // Life

Our much loved pet dog Ex (aka X) died yesterday peacefully at home of old age. He was 16 years old. We laid him out in a cardboard box and the boys put flowers all around him, and we put some photos of him & us in with him and sang Pokarekare Ana, then took him up to the vets to be cremated. We are planning to scatter his ashes in his favourite park in Darlington where he spent the prime years of his life.

I wanted to write a few words about Ex’s life here to remember him by.

Ex was born to be a working dog on a farm in Hawera, New Zealand in 1992. However as soon as he started walking, it was apparent there was something not right about his gait and he wouldn’t be a good sheepdog. The farmer was planning on throwing Ex in the river but the farmer’s daughter Shannelle convinced him to let her take Ex home to her mother’s house and try and find a home for him. Shannelle’s mother Melina happened to be Jan’s flatmate at the time, and Jan instantly fell in love with the little golden puppy and decided we should adopt him. Jan & I had been together about a year then, and I was living in Rotorua and coming down for weekends.

Christmas Girls 1999So Ex became our “firstborn” and we took him off to the vet to diagnose his wobbly gait. The vet told us we should have him put down as he was in pain, but we couldn’t bear it and decided to get a second opinion from Massey University vet school. They told us it was juvenile dysplasia which meant that his bones were growing at different rates, but that he wouldn’t be in pain once he reached adulthood and that with the help of painkillers and minimising his physical activity, he would be fine. So Jan carried him around stuffed down her cleavage for months, and he would drive up with her to see me in Rotorua.

Sure enough he grew into a lovely dog, but he was always a funny shape – tall with shapely long ballet legs at the back, but short and squat chunky terrier at the front, and a giant head! His lineage was never really determined, there was definitely some Staffy in there and other suggestions were Bull Terrier, Mastiff or even Pitbull. He was always a very gentle dog and very friendly.

When we moved to Sydney in 1993, Ex went to live with my mother Helen and the rest of my family in Wellington, where he became a much loved part of the family there (apart from his tendency to think the shagpile was grass, and do wees in it!). There was one occasion when my mother lost him for hours, and everyone was out searching the streets for him. Turned out he had nudged his way into the wooden sauna room which had a push/pull door, so he couldn’t get out again! By the time they realised, he had chewed his way through the wooden door and only stopped when he hit a layer of aluminium foil – must have hurt his teeth.

After a year in Sydney we sent for Ex to come and live with us again. He became part of the community in Darlington where we lived in Abercrombie Street and then in Hugo Street. He would often manage to get out of the house and we would always find him up in this particular park about four blocks up the road – I think there was a girl dog that lived up there that he couldn’t resist! He came everywhere with us – once we took him to a lesbian party and he was the only male there. Unfortunately he then started humping all the gay girls’ legs – he always had a thing for dark jean-clad legs – so we had to put him in the car – very embarrassing!

Ex At The ParkWhen we got our two cats, he got on really well with them even as kittens. They would go to sleep together and he was always very gentle. We moved to Marrickville and had the two kids, and he was very fond of going up to Enmore Park. We moved back to NZ, and after living with Jan’s brother Glyn in Sydney for a while, Ex came and joined us again while we were living at Mum’s in the Wairarapa. He adored being back on a farmlet and would just wander around for hours in the paddocks. He was getting on a bit now though, and our new house in Stoke Street was a particular challenge as it had lots of stairs which he handled with effort but I think they were good exercise for him actually!

When we decided we were moving back to Sydney at the start of 2008, we were quite torn about Ex. He was very old and skinny by then, and we pondered whether it would be better to send him to the great kennel in the sky rather than ship him back to Sydney again. He went and lived with my mum one last time in the Wairarapa while we went on, but in the end we realised we would always regret it if we ended his life prematurely just because of circumstances in our lives, so once more he made the Tasman Crossing (he made it three times in all) and came to live with us in Earlwood. He had another 9 months with us here which we will treasure. Though he was very decrepit and skinny, and was on masses of medication, he was still enjoying life and his favourite occupations – eating, sleeping, lying in the sun and pooing a LOT on the back deck.

We had an unfortunate incident a couple of weeks ago when someone, we think some workmen who were working on the house next door, called the RSPCA as they thought Ex was being mistreated as he was so skinny. The RSPCA officer turned up with a camera crew, filming for Animal Rescue! We refused to let them in the house though. Luckily Ex had been to the vets just that morning, and after we showed the officer all his medication, she went off to call the vets for further confirmation. She was quite heavy handed though and we found it upsetting to have our home invaded that way, especially with the camera crew! We never heard back from them in the end and the vet was quite angry that they had handled it like that.

ProcessionJust in the last week, Ex really started to go downhill. He wasn’t eating or pooing much, and had stopped wagging his tail when we patted him. He also started panting heavily all the time. We saw the vet on Friday who said that it might be time for the big injection, and to bring Ex back in on Monday. We spent a lot of time with him that weekend, he was fed steak which he ate a bit of, and even got to lie on the couch with Jan in the evenings (he had never been allowed on the couches!). Then on the Sunday, he had a really good night’s sleep and was snoring away. I was feeling very conflicted about putting him down, and whether it was the right thing to do or if he would prefer to die naturally at home. But in the end we decided it was too risky with the kids around to leave it to fate, and so Jan & I took him to the vets on the Monday fully prepared. But then he got a reprieve, when the vet wanted to do another round of blood tests to track down exactly what was causing the breathlessness.

Jan & I felt quite relieved that we were going to have at least one more day. We took him home and when I put him down, he wandered off unsteadily towards the hallway where his bed was. I went back to work and Jan made some phone calls, but then when she checked on him 20 minutes later, he was lying on his side, dead. He was still warm and it seemed like it was very peaceful as he hadn’t made any noise and his face looked relaxed. It was a good death and we are glad we got to prepare for it, but that in the end he died at home of natural causes and he had lived out his full lifespan.

We will miss you Exie, you were such an important part of our relationship and were there through so many good times. You were a real character and always knew your own mind. I’m sure no one who met you would ever forget you! You were a very loving, loyal and good doggy and you were much loved.

It’s been really nice having Web 2.0 in this situation actually, everyone’s condolences on Facebook have meant a lot to us. Thanks all and feel free to leave your memories of Ex in the comments.

3 Responses to “Goodbye Ex”

  1. Karen says:

    Oh my, what a lovely Eulogy and you must be very very sad!
    How terrible it is to loose the trusty pet you have had around you and loved for so long. But how lovely that he died at home, peacefully and without pain.
    He was such a sweetie and so gentle and tolerant. I remember when I stumbled across you and Ex in Redfern in 1999 (after not seeing you for years) I saw Ex first and thought he looked kind of vicious so was just about to cross the road and looked up and saw you, Em! Of course that was one of the wonderful things about Ex, he was not vicious at all, but I’m sure he must have scared of some of the crazies!

    Goodbye old Exy, old boy, you were a happy dog, a quirky dog, a faithful dog, and an especially tenacious dog… RIP, you were a cool dude and we will all miss you!

  2. Ant says:

    That was lovely Jems. Thank you for sharing Exie’s life in a nutshell. He was such a character and you’re right, he’s unforgettable.
    Bye Mr Ex. xxoo

  3. Georgia says:

    Oh I’m sorry to hear Ex passed away bet you miss him!!! I remember your “Exy the Wonder Dog” you used to sing….

    “Exy the wonder dog, is there nothing you can’t do? Running jumping something something Exy we love you!!!”

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