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Submitted by: Candy Hill

portuguese water dog in the snowIf you love dogs and you are very lucky, you may one day find that special dog; that one particular dog who becomes your child in a fur coat.  We picked him up from the breeder when he was 9 weeks old. He was the big boy of the litter with a round full tummy and short legs.  He said “hello” to us and then went back to playing with his peeps.  Hook, line, and sinker, we were gone.

We named him Moses, Hebrew for “drawn from the water.”  He was a Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) which is a breed that does well with people who are allergic to dogs, and we had a new son-in-law to consider.  Our sweet little mixed breed had died a few years before.  Then our kids moved out, and I had been an empty nester for long enough.  I needed something/someone to caretake.  These days I’m not sure exactly who was caretaking who in our relationship.

Of course, he was hilarious and terrible.  He loved toilet paper, new or used, and laundry baskets.  He was especially fond of my bras; he found that with a toss and a wiggle he could have one leg through a strap and the bra across his shoulders. He wore my bras with pride until I retrieved them.  When I planted flowers, he helped by digging holes where I did not need them. Some dogs bark to go outside and some are taught to ring a bell, but Moses would sigh.  If we were sitting, he would place his big head on a knee and sigh as if he were sorry about the whole going outside business. If his water bowl was empty, it became a hockey puck shot from one end of the room to the other. And he was smart, so smart.  He was my teammate at class after class.  He became a registered therapy dog, and we visited hospices together; however, we never attempted to show him or to let him be judged best of his class or breed.  I knew if anyone ever told me that he was less than perfect, mayhem would ensue.

Portuguese Water Dogs are a working breed, and we were his job. He knew my husband was big enough to take care of himself most of the time, but I was a different story. He felt I was always in peril, especially in the bathroom.  As soon as we brought him home, he was my attendant.  Unless I outran him, he was with me every time I entered the room where I most wanted my privacy.  I don’t think he liked the sound of the flush, and he found the drain in the shower especially suspicious.

We had him for over eleven glorious years and hoped for at least four or five more. When he did not bounce back from some sort of doggy flu in February, we took him to the vet and discovered he had advanced cancer.  We were heartbroken.  And that is where the cooler comes in.  The entire loss took two days shy of three weeks, from February 19 to March 10.  The first days I just cried every time I looked at him.  Sometime during my battle with sadness, I remembered the Georgie Project.  It is funded by the PWD Foundation at the University of Utah. Its sole purpose is to find causes and hopefully cures for canine cancer (the number one killer) and Addison’s disease. There aren’t that many PWDs, so the gene pool is small and perfect for research.  However, all dogs will ultimately benefit from any findings.

Between my tearful moments, I began playing phone tag with the Georgie contact. By March 3, I was certain this opportunity for our Moses to help other dogs was not going to work because everything at our end was happening too quickly, and I had yet to speak to the contact person in Utah.  But the next day, she called.  She waived several requirements including five x-rays and a bunch of blood draws taken over a period of days.  By March 6, the cooler had arrived.  It was actually a very large white Igloo cooler and was large enough to hold a PWD and forty pounds of ice. I hated it on sight, so my husband hid it away in the basement until it would be needed.   When beloved pets are donated to the Georgie Project and the necropsy is completed, the family receives a report.  They also receive the ashes of their special ones.  All this is completely paid for by the Foundation.  It does help a little to know that Moses’ death will help his breed and all dogs if only in a very small way.

When Moses got up on March 9th, I looked at him and knew.  His tail didn’t wag, the blindness that came and went had come to stay, and he needed more pain drugs.  The next morning we took him, held him, and let his pain fade away. Then the incredibly kind staff helped us wrap him and place ice under and over him.  By noon he was with UPS, headed for an overnight flight to Salt Lake City and then an 8 a.m. arrival at the University of Utah.  Nothing can replace that sweet, warm dog, but this worthy gift to all dogs does help some.

I no longer race to the shower to be alone.  Our remaining two PWDs, who came after Moses, are convinced that bad things like baths happen in the bathroom. I love Fanny and Doc dearly, but there will never be another Moses.  On April 5th his ashes arrived.  They are in a velvet pouch inside a small cedar chest.  He’s home.

Portuguese Water DogFurther Links:

Read more about Portuguese Water Dogs from the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America  or from The Portuguese Water Dog Foundation. Read more about The Georgie Project here or at the Portuguese Water Blog.

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