Dog Stories (II): Syd (2002-2012)

This post is part of a series of stories on the dogs that have been part of my life. You can read the story of my first dog, Desi, here.

The post will be updated with links to next stories.

Syd squinting at the sun
Squinting at the sun

A Peculiar Background

Syd was a German Shepherd crossbreed. She started in life with a peculiar background: her mother was also her grandmother, and her father was also her half-brother. She was the only puppy in her litter.

She came to live with us when she was between 3 and 4 months old. Unlike Desi, who was a house dog, Syd lived for most of her life in a kennel outside, next to the house. There is a funny story about that kennel: my father built it for Desi, but the kennel was finished after she came to live with us. By then she was already used to being inside the house with us. So, in the end, Desi refused to go to the kennel when we were around, and I guess my parents felt sorry to force her to live outside. Ironically, though, she knew perfectly well that the pack were my parents, herself and me, because whenever we went on holiday and left her with my grandparents, who lived with us but in another area of the house, she had no problem at all going to the kennel when told to.

Syd relaxing in the garden
Syd relaxing in the garden

But I digress. Syd became used to the kennel. Unlike Desi, who felt very much at home and never tried to run away, this wasn’t the case for Syd. I don’t know if this was due to their different personalities or that it took us longer to bond with Syd, since she wasn’t really living with us. Early on, my father would let her out of the kennel at lunchtime, but eventually stopped doing so because she ran away at least on one occasion, and had a lot of trouble to get her to come back.

Syd in the car
At first she didn’t want to get in the car, but then she’d stay inside after returning.

Some (Funny) Stories

One day, while we were having lunch (she was still a puppy then), I heard her whimpering. I went to take a look, and I found that she had dug a hole to get out of the kennel. Unfortunately for her, she hadn’t dug deeply enough and got stuck trying to escape. I called my dad and he managed to let her out. Later that day, he placed some big stones strategically around the perimeter of the kennel to avoid her carrying out other similar shenanigans.

There was also another occasion in which my mum went out to the garden to hang up the laundry to dry. Syd was running around. Unbeknownst to my mum, Syd decided she wanted to have some fun. So she picked up some knickers that were waiting their turn to be hung and started running around the garden, knickers held in-between her teeth. Fortunately, my father saw it and retrieved the stolen piece of clothing before my mum noticed anything. Both my father and I laughed really hard that day. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the knickers made their way back to the pile of dirty laundry, as if nothing had happened. It wasn’t until many years later that we told my mum what she had done.

A Happy-Go-Lucky Dog

Throughoutt her life, Syd was a welcoming dog. She didn’t have any problem with visitors and wouldn’t bark. For many years people thought she was younger than she really was, due to her trust of people and active attitude. She was also a licker. I’ve never come in close contact with a dog who was such a licker as she was. She would start licking your hands, would grow more intense by the minute, and when you realised it she would be licking your whole arms.

Syd with a hamburger toy
Manel gave her the hamburger in the picture as a gift. Nix inherited it, but we lost it at the park.

She also became a really good hedgehog catcher. She would roam the garden at night during the summer, and we’d then hear intense barking. We’d then see her with a hedgehog at her feet, which she’d carried from who-knows-where. She never hurt the hedgehogs in the process nor herself. I still wonder how she managed to do that.

Syd with a hedgehog
The hedgehog catcher. The thing in front of her paws is a hedgehog.

Fear and Running Away

Another time my mum and I decided to go for a walk and take Syd with us. She usually was on a lead the whole time, due to her tendency to escape. However, at this point she was older and didn’t seem to have the same need to escape. So I decided to let her free. Boy, was I wrong. Initially everything was fine, until she heard some dogs barking in the distance. I have no clue what went on through her head then, but she pricked her ears up, and started moving quickly away from where we were. I tried calling her back, to no avail. By the time I realised she was really running away, it was too late.

Syd on a lead
She couldn’t be let free or there was the risk that she’d run away.

I left my mum behind and I tried to keep up with her as much as I could, but it was impossible. I wasn’t fit, Syd was running, and she could run faster and longer than I could. I saw more or less that she was following the way back, so when I lost sight of her I just hoped that she would be indeed heading home. Fortunately, she did, and by the time I got there I found her waiting at the gate to be let in.

At this point, I realised that she had some kind of huge fear, but I never figured exactly what exactly she was afraid of.

Illnesses and Learning an Important Lesson

Although for the first years of her life she was a very healthy dog, things got complicated when she was diagnosed with Leishmaniosis at about 4. I know I took her to the vet for something very minor (so minor that I can’t remember what it was) and then, almost as an afterthought, I told the vet that she barely had any hair on her elbows. Turns out this can be a symptom for Leishmaniasis and, after having the test done, she was positive.

She was too young to die and to be so ill. At that point I realised that I should value the present and be happy for every extra day that she lived. Although we had to deal with plenty of up and downs for the remainder of her life, and had to undergo regular checkups, she managed to get to 10 and a half years of age. However, her life wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. From this time onwards, she was allowed inside the house, especially when she was most ill.

The End

At 9 years of age she was diagnosed with cancer and had to have her uterus removed. Some months later, I noticed a lump on her side. Since it seemed to be getting bigger, the vet thought it would be better to remove it. Right before the surgery, however, he saw on an X-Ray that cancer had spread to her lungs and decided not to operate on her.

By this time, Syd was already ill. This is one of the last pictures I took of her.

Some months after this, she started having some very weird seizures, from which she would recover as if nothing had happened. It was very painful to watch. My parents and I decided to put her down on November 7th, 2012, after having gone through multiple seizures in a very short space of time.

Again, we don’t know exactly what was causing the seizures, but my theory is that cancer had spread to her brain.

Although she had her issues, she was a wonderful dog. She was clearly the most submissive dog I’ve had – I don’t think I ever heard her growl towards a person or another dog – and she taught me a very important lesson: be grateful for all the good things and good times you have in your life.

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