Alabama (rescue name Shooting Star) was euthanized today because of congestive heart disease. She lived her six years with us defying her early prognosis having come into rescue weighing 35 lbs., whelping a single surviving pup in the Louisiana wilderness, feral, and ravaged by whip worm and stage 4 heartworm disease. Rescues often refer to a dog's “second chance” but in Alabama’s case, the Rescue was really her first chance in life. She was nursed to travel-ready health by her caring foster mom, Angela, and other than having developed a severe addiction to bed rest (bed being the crucial piece of furniture) she arrived in Seattle, Washington (on her way to her forever home in Vancouver, BC, Canada) lacking muscle mass but already showing her beautiful, majestic hound potential.
Taking her to the vet clinic on reaching home, the vets advised that we should only give her short outings, with no elevation gain, and keep her heart rate activities to a minimum. We discussed this idea with Alabama and she pointed out that it was not going to be much of a Coonhound life, if that was what was in store. Besides which, we have a large urban raccoon population in Vancouver … how were we going to keep her heart rate down with raccoons setting up house on our front verandah? So we compromised: long, low elevation walks, and shorter mountain hikes introduced gradually as her muscle mass improved.
At least, that was the idea until Alabama decided to track a herd of deer up the Seymour Mountain Water shed in a snowstorm for 48 hours. After travelling some 37 km of trails, she hitched a ride at the lower North Shore Mountain’s shopping plaza, on the other side of the Burrard Inlet, with a woman who just happened to live six blocks from our Vancouver home! Now that is good tracking.
We decided that Alabama had passed her endurance test, and cut the gradual, slow activity plan out entirely. She took wilderness and urban tracking. Traveled to the Interior for some serious Elk, Bear, and Beaver encounters. Learned to be a Class-A camping companion. And taught our other B&T how to conduct oneself like a lady. Alabama never met another dog she couldn’t convince to adore her. On first encountering the wide variety of breeds in an urban setting, she was a bit perplexed … Where is it’s rear or head under all that hair? How can it breath out of that squashed nose? What’s up with the puppy size but old man attitude? Etc. But she was a true dog diplomat, always able to elicit calmness out of the most burly short-dog-syndrome terrier and admiration from the gentlemen. She had a large fan club of Havanese, Maltese, and other lap dogs that found Alabama to be the first large dog they trusted as a playmate.
With long line training, and due to her eagerness never to earn the word “No”, Alabama became a hero of off leash walking. She would willingly duck her head back into her leash when we decided safety or etiquette was called for, and managed her off leash recalls like an obedience gold medalist. “What a Good Girl” was her favourite reward.
She was also a raconteur about town ready to show every human what hands are good for, and a snuggle bug with children. She would strut down busy, active, Commercial Drive popping into shops, sipping coffee, and soliciting affection from all her new friends.
She was also a shop dog, putting her days in at work in our retail shop being an ambassador for the Black & Tan breed … with her dangling ears, and head press technique. Once she spent an afternoon in her bed behind the till, following a paw injury, and customer’s kept asking “Is that a real dog?” because she was so calm, and kept offering up her sore paw like a animation character!
Two things that Alabama would have liked to have accomplished that simply defied her: (1) getting all of the hundreds of seals in the Fraser River tributary to get up on the log booms (a kind of marine version of “treeing”), and (2) learning to climb up after those pesky raccoons, or really just learning to climb up. We think it was because of her early bad luck story, but she never did learn how to get her hind legs more than a half inch off the ground. She made up for this though, by being the Queen of running to ground. No tunnel was too small to checkout, and when opportunity struck, a raccoon in a hole was as good an accomplishment as one in a tree.
In her last week she enjoyed a mix of the West Coast lifestyle she adapted to so well, with an off leash trek on the Ocean front, a long urban trail walk in her ‘Hood, and a visit to the Organic Dog Spa. Her decline in health was rapid, and mercifully short.
Alabama was a fantastic dog for many reasons, but the one I would like people to remember her most for is the fact that she was proof positive that no dog that comes into rescue, no matter how rough their life before, is a write off. Underneath the abuse and neglect is a dog waiting to burst out into life to live it to its full potential and to reward you with their company every step of the way.
Alabama's Happy Ending Page