October 13, 1997
Rescue work can be heartbreaking (and heartwarming), but a real low moment came for me two days ago. I received a call from a gentleman who requested assistance in placing his male Kerry. The story was all too familiar: the owner was moving to an apartment with a no-pet policy, and, apparently, nothing could be done about it. I have 10 days to place this dog. But the real gut-wrencher is this: the dog is 14 YEARS OLD.
Surely the landlord could make an exception for such an old dog? No. Sorry, no exceptions.
Surely the owner has a family member who could take the dog? No. They're all too busy raising their families.
Surely the owner has a friend with a heart who could help? No. They're too busy with their own lives.
Surely the owner wouldn't desert his best friend at the very time when the dog needs him the most? Ah, but the lease is signed and the money is transferred. An apartment has become more important than a life-long companion. "Duffy" has become disposable.
Partially blind from cataracts, hard of hearing, arthritic, but otherwise in good health, Duffy is no longer wanted.
His last days will be spent with strangers, and not with the master he loved.
October 14, 1997
It has been suggested that the most humane thing to do with Duffy, the 14-year-old rescue dog, would be to put him down. The questions were posed: How
fair is it to put this old dog through the trauma of a new home when he's an elderly, blind, and deaf? How fair is it to have a new family fall in
love with a dog who dies after a few months?
Many people, including breeders, share this opinion. I don't for the following reasons:
- Apart from the common age problems (failing sight and hearing, and some arthritis), the dog is healthy. He is not suffering in any way.
- I've consulted with breeders who have experience with geriatric dogs and they agree: Some aged dogs *can* adjust to a new home, others can't. We'll never know about Duffy unless we give him a chance.
- How fair it is to have a new family fall in love with a dog who dies after a few months [or years]? Well, it won't be easy, but it's far better for the soul to bury a dog you've loved than to turn a cold shoulder on a dog in need. No one said life's a piece of cake. There's something to be learned from all experiences, including heartbreakers.
October 30, 1997
I met Duffy yesterday, the 14-year-old rescue Kerry male whose owner--the only one he ever had--gave him up for a no-pet apartment. If I had expected a frail, decrepit dog, I was in for a big surprise. Duffy clamored out of the car all on his own, and excitedly began investigating me and his new surroundings, pulling on the end of the lead. He's a kisser and a tail-wagger, full of life and ready for adventure. You see, Duffy is a puppy in old clothes.
If Duffy's blind (and it's now confirmed by two vets that he is "almost totally blind"), he sure doesn't act like it. Last night he bounced around the yard "chasing" the beam from my flashlight. He had no trouble following me around, scouting the entire yard, and finding his way around by himself. If he does bump into something, he just gets his bearings and keeps right on trucking.
Despite numerous ailments (impaired hearing, skin allergies, wax in the ears, cysts, some arthritis), Duffy is in great shape for being 2 months short of 15. Apart from the vision impairment, his two biggest problems are the result of neglect and a poor diet: a diseased mouth (Please! Brush your Kerry's teeth every day!) and weakening kidneys due to high protein in his diet (Please! Feed your Kerry a proper diet--Duffy's food was 26% protein!). The teeth need "full dentistry" or they will be his undoing. My vet feels that Duffy is plenty strong enough to tolerate surgery, referring to him as "quite vigorous!" (Heck, it took two of us to hold him just to draw the blood!)
Today, Duffy made the 300-mile drive to his new home to his eager new owner--a warm, loving, Kerry-savvy woman who is a tribute to the Kerry community The report is that Duffy came bounding out of the car after the 5-hour ride, kissed his new owner, checked out his new surroundings, met his house-buddy (a miniature American Eskimo bitch), chowed down his dinner with gusto, found his bed, and went to sleep. This kid's going to make it. I can just tell.
Although his story tugs at the heartstrings, there is nothing "poor" or pathetic about Duffy. He's incredibly resilient, remarkably adaptable, and interested in everything--a sterling example of the spunk and spirit of our great breed. He's as active as he can be, has quite a personality, and is in love with life. If I was initially unprepared for this, I guess I momentarily forgot he was a Kerry Blue Terrier!
I wish to thank all of you on this list for expressing concern about Duffy. And I would like all of us to ponder this: If Kerry Rescue can place a nearly 15-year-old Kerry within a week, what more can we do if we work together? For starters, let's let it be known in breed clubs and rescue groups that Kerry people take care of their own. In some ways, Duffy belongs to all of us.
A Duffy Fund has been set up. Aside from helping his new owner cope with veterinary expenses, a small contribution is one way to say thank you to her for taking this Kerry in despite his age, blindness, arthritis, and other problems. She is a shining tribute to the Kerry community. And it's also a way to pay tribute to Duffy himself, who so thoroughly embodies the spunk and spirit, resilience and adaptability of our great breed. In some ways, Duffy belongs to all of us.
For those interested, checks should be made payable to the KBTC of Southern California (KBTCSC) and sent to
The club will then issue a check payable to Duffy's vet for his ongoing care.
As of today, Thanksgiving 1997 the fund has collected $1,115.
November 27, 1997, Thanksgiving
I can't believe it's been four weeks now since Duffy came to us.
First some bad news: we had a crisis two weeks ago when he began screaming and couldn't stand. An emergency trip to the vet revealed collapsed discs - one cervical, several thoraxic and two lumbar, one of which is "active". I find it hard to understand how Duffy's former owner could not have been aware of this condition.
Never-the-less, while in for treatment for his back, the vet proceeded with the much needed dental work and removal of some large cysts. He has since been recovering nicely. This dog is incredible. He apparently has moments of pain (he will lean into me or Tara, my daughter, and shake) but initiates play and his tail, mostly down when we met is now mostly up and wagging. We have to keep his activity down because of his back but he really tries to play and trot along when he is suppose to keep to a walk!
As for his adaptability; when we picked him up from the vet he was all over us with kisses and wiggles, as if we had been his people all those 15 years, even when it was only two weeks with us. He acts confused occasionally (but then, he's nearly blind and hard of hearing), but there's no doubt that we are family. He sleeps by my bed at night and naps anywhere near during the day.
I am working on his coat, which was untrimmed with no fall, when he arrived. Although he was adorable, it was not very Kerry-like! Because it's colder here in Northern California, I'm leaving quite a bit of coat on, but slowly trying to develop the Kerry look. I would say he was a very handsome boy in his youth!
Duffy learned his way around the furniture, etc. within a day or so of his arrival. Since he came home from the vet though, we've had to push most of it back against the walls. With his Elizabethan collar on he will knock over anything in his path and keep right on trucking!! Chairs, end tables, whatever - and no looking back!!
Asa (the mini American Eskimo) takes his lead in her mouth and takes him for walks - both in the house and out. He follows right along! The two get along beautifully except for the stand-offs over food. But we are working on a protocal here!
March 14, 1998
It's been a while since I last wrote about Duffy (the so-called disposable dog). I saw the vet the other day about a suspicious lump and scheduled its removal.
The lump that should have been simple to remove turned out to be wrapped around his jugular vein and attached to a second tumor further in that we were unaware of. The incision site is almost four inches long with drains sticking out both ends - not a pleasant sight. He also had four more teeth taken out. He's bouncing back beautifully though. When I picked him up from the vet he was groggy and disoriented. Later, he was a little more aware and obviously very 'annoyed' with me. By evening, he was playing hide and seek with Tara.:-)
This is his second major surgery since last November, as well as having 7 teeth extracted, and still in borderline kidney failure (in spite of his new diet), collapsed spinal discs, and arthritis and being almost totally blind and deaf.
But Duffy is no ordinary dog. He does not drag himself up in the morning like an old soul, but greets the world with enthusiasm. He loves to chase a ball, or a light beam - or Asa (our mini eskie). And he has a "very Kerry" disposition. He ruined a perfectly good lecture I was giving some neighborhood kids about the dangers of reaching into a yard to pet a strange dog by stretching himself forward and licking them to pieces!!
He does sleep a lot but gets up frequently to check on us with a wag and a kiss or some silly act designed to get our attention before settling down again. His lack of vision can be a problem when playing with a ball. One time we were tossing it for him and he kept losing it. I was sitting in a chair with my legs crossed so that one sneakered foot was dangling in midair (do you see where this is going?!) His jaws are very strong! We do have to take care playing such games. My foot has not been the only unintended 'target'.
He plays hide and seek with my daughter, Tara now. She runs from the deck or a well lit room into the living room which is usually dimly lit, and sits down somewhere. Duffy runs from spot to spot "looking" for her, hopping back and forth, tail wagging. When he does find her he actually leaps on her. His leap is all of 3 or 4 inches but he puts his whole body into it!
This is a dog that someone didn't want any more, that someone neglected and must not have even known anymore. Duffy is all Kerry, all Irish, and all love. He's a lot of work -- old dogs are -- but I'm lucky. He's mine now because somebody didn't even know the beauty of what he had and gave it away.
For all who have seen the picture of how Duffy looked when he was rescued, I was ready to take a new one that shows off his fall that now reaches his nose (the back of the leather) and the beautiful waves of coat across his shoulders, but alas, he's a MESS from his surgery. Perhaps I can get one when the drainage tubes are removed. In the meantime, please keep him in your thoughts while we wait for the results of the biopsy. I'll post the results as soon as I have them.
March 16, 1998
Sunny Devlin wrote, "Duffy is no ordinary dog. He does not drag himself up in the morning like an old soul, but greets the world with enthusiasm."
This is the 15-year-old rescue dog, given up by the only owner he ever had (since he was 10-weeks old) for nothing more than an apartment! (Hard to believe, isn't it?) At the risk of repeating myself, this dog embodies the spirit of all that is best in our breed. I've learned as much (or more) from him than I've learned from my own dogs about the Kerry's raw strength, indomitable spirt, resilience and adabtability, quick wit and intelligence, and pure joy of living. Duffy not only loves life--he loves everybody in it! Like the Eveready bunny, he keeps going, and going, and going!
Let's all think of Duffy next time we hear of an old Kerry. Our old ones are very special dogs, deserving of all the love, care, and protection we can give them. And let's think of Sunny and Tara who took in this dog, medical problems and all, and what they've received in return. We can all be uplifted by it.
April 16, 1998
I cry each time I try to write this but I won't let it stop me this time. I held Duffy in my arms for the last time Tuesday morning as he was put to sleep.
For six months this wonderful dog responded to treatment for back problems, arthritis, a neglected mouth, skin and coat. He bounced back from surgery like a much younger dog would and continued to give us love with playfullness and affection. But in the end, cancer sapped his life and his will. His vet removed a canine and what had appeared to be a relatively small tumor from his mouth last Friday while I was in Sacramento. But it wasn't small after all. It involved a great amount of tissue. This tumor had been merely a suspicion a couple of weeks ago. It turned out to be too invasive to get all of it (comments from the biopsy to follow). Yet Duffy woke up bouncing around, finished off a meal and kept getting tangled in his IV because he wouldn't lay down like a good post-op patient should!
Within a couple of days, though, he became weak and withdrawn. He wouldn't eat, wouldn't give kisses, and would get up only to drink water. I tried to bring his water to his bed but he insisted on drinking it "where it belonged" giving us some encouragement. I spoke to JJ Monday. Not having heard the news of the malignancy factor yet, we discussed many possibilities for his downslide -- ever hopeful of temporary causes. But when I took him in Tuesday, his vet gave me the dreadful news.
I was carrying him or holding him this entire time and he remained lethargic and unresponsive. There was no response at all when I would put my face next to his. But when the decision was made and I told the vet OK-- this is hard for me to write about -- Duffy leaned into me and gently began washing my face.
I had a few special moments with him then before he was put to sleep. He died in my arms at 10:00 am April 14.
I do hope we gave him real happiness during these last six months. My daughter and I fell deeply in love with this dog; he gave so much to us.
Thank you, everybody, for all your support and the warmth and encouragement I felt coming to us and Duffy from the people on this list, the KBTCSC, and KBTCNC. He belonged to us all.
(The biopsy report states: "Poorly differentiated malignancy. Differential diagnosis include amelanotic melanoma, high-grade fibrosarcoma, a poorly differentiated carcinoma and an anaplastic mast cell tumor." I need some time right now, but I think a discussion later of cancer in Kerries might be appropriate.)
April 16, 1998
Losing a dog is one of life's saddest experiences. And losing Duffy--our KB-L rescue dog!--is especially difficult for many of us. This was a dog who didn't let age, blindness, deafness, or arthritis keep him from playing a game, exploring new territory, greeting visitors, or keeping tabs on his owners. Even lack of teeth didn't keep him from thoroughly enjoying his dinner! None of these afflictions dampened his enthusiasm or limited his world. And he lived in a big world. This dog was game, and he enjoyed life to the hilt. How much we have to learn from a dog like this!
My heart-felt sorrow goes to Sunny and Tara who cared for him so much and loved him to the end. I'll miss this little trooper.
Although Duffy is gone, unfortunately over $650 still remain on his vet bill and our Duffy Fund is depleted. If you considered making a donation but never got around to it, now would be the perfect time. It would be a wonderful way to pay tribute to a very special dog, and say thanks to the very special people who rescued him.
April 17, 1998
I was saddened to tears by Sunny Devlins letter about Duffy's death, but I am grateful that he came into our lives. I would like to see him become our mascot, a symbol of the Kerry spirit.
It seems to me that we have all been enriched by being involved, even if only peripherally in the rescue of the Disposable Dog. There was Sunny's willingness to take in and care for a deaf and blind old dog as a remarkable demonstration of compassion and love. And, Janet's inspiring, fierce determination that Duffy would be neither dumped nor terminated. Her response to those who said that the best thing to do was to just put the poor old guy out of his misery was such an eloquent statement of the moral responsibility we have to make a life commitment. And then, there was all of the others who came together to help. As a community I think "we did ourselves proud". Duffy brought out the best in us.
Thanks Sunny, thanks Janet, thanks to all the others who made it possible for Duffy to become a part of our lives.