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Missing our foster baby Ardo, our little jet. You were only with us 15 days but you will be remembered forever. Evelyn Brugh
Message to my Master(s)
You sent me home, to heaven above,
My sickness is gone, and I'm free here to roam.
I know you will miss me; I miss you all too,
When you look out into the dark of night,
In Memory of Arko
Mr. Arko came into my life in late May, 2012. I hadn't really been looking to adopt another dog, but had this sense that I should attend a particular adoption day in Winchester. I grabbed a camera and off I went. I was standing there, chatting with some friends, when a big black-and-red GSD came up to me and introduced himself by sticking his big, wet nose into my hand, with a wagging tail. I took his leash from the foster and spent some time walking with him. He had absolutely no leash manners whatsoever and pulled like a freight train, yet I was taken by his gregarious nature and sweet personality. It soon became clear that he wanted to adopt me, and I just saw absolutely no good reason to argue the fact. I immediately put in the necessary application paperwork and jumped through the usual and customary hoops. Curiously, though, the foster seemed to think I wouldn't give him a good, appropriate home. The bottom line is that with the intervention of others that know me and how I love and care for my best friends, I was able to adopt him and bring him home.
When Mr. Arko came into the Rescue from the Virginia Beach SPCA, he weighed 64#, just skin and bones, with a very bad case of heartworm, was scared of everything, and had a name that didn't fit him and which he didn't seem to recognize. When I adopted him, I chose the name Arko for him, and he seemed to recognize it immediately, so he became Arko forever. When he introduced himself to me, his heartworm treatment had been successful and he was up to 78#, but his ribs were still quite prominent. I was told by his foster that he didn't know how to do stairs, yet when I brought him home, I deliberately came into the house through the basement door with him on a leash and went right up the stairs, he just came along and that was that, so I continued on up to the second floor and again, he came right along with no difficulty. No more problems with stairs, ever. He had some PTSD-like issues stemming from his maltreatment during his early years in that he would do an involuntary fear-pee if something happened that he didn't understand or if it in some way reminded him of something that had resulted in his being abused in his original home. If I dropped my keys, it would scare him. He would never go into the garage, even if I was out there with the door open, which told me that he had been relegated to the garage in his original home, rather than integrated into the home. By the time he had been here for 18 months, he weighed a slightly chunky 108#. My vet and I concurred that he should lose a few of the pounds, so I got him down to a very healthy 98# over a few months. Arko was also able to stop fear-peeing in the knowledge that he was never ever going to be abused again. His progress made me so very proud of him. He learned to walk on leash beside me without pulling in a very short time. He learned his basic obedience tasks so very willingly. All I needed to do was to whisper to him to give him confidence and let him know he was very much loved. Beef liver treats and peanut butter cookies didn't hurt, either.
Unlike Benny (who went to the Rainbow Bridge in February 2014), Mr. Arko just loved to be groomed. When he saw me with a brush in my hand, he tried to anticipate where I was going, so he could hurry and be there in front of me, lying on his side, waiting to be brushed. He even learned to “give me the other side” when I was done brushing the first side.
When Benny was here, the two of them would always greet me at the door with smiles and wagging tails when I got in from work and were very happy to go out for their yard patrol. After Benny went to the Rainbow Bridge, it seemed that Mr. Arko matured into being the “gentleman of the house” and took over the duties that Benny had executed so well while he was here. Arko loved the fact that he and I would go for long walks through the parkland behind the house. In warmer weather, Arko loved to belly-flop into the stream and try to bite the water. When he was done, he would get out and, of course, share his wet coat with me by shaking as much water as possible on me, smiling at me all along.
All of my GSDs have been very sweet, loving, loyal best friends; no exceptions. But among them, Mr. Arko was arguably the most overtly sweet one who enjoyed, even asked for, his evening snuggle time which was very happily provided. All of my GSDs were my greeters, calmly welcoming approved visitors happily while at the same time letting those that they didn't trust know that this was not a house that tolerated misbehavior. Mr. Arko was no exception in this regard, and he frequently welcomed in Miss Megan, a little black dog from up the street, when she needed a place to stay, playing very happily with her and sharing his bed while she was here.
In May of 2014, Arko and I were snuggling while watching the evening news one Friday evening. I ran my hand under his collar to massage him the way I usually did, and happened upon a walnut-sized lump that I'd never felt before. Saturday I called his vet for an appointment and got one for the following Monday. Dr. Rice tried to do a needle biopsy but got only blood. We agreed that the lump needed to be removed, so Arko went into surgery the next day. The following Friday we got the pathology report. The bad news was that lump was a hemangiosarcoma, a rapidly growing, highly invasive variety of cancer that feeds and travels via the blood vessels. Although the surgery had been apparently successful, Dr. Rice recommended that we consult with an oncologist nearby and sent her the pathology report.
Arko and I got an appointment with Dr. Manley the next week. When we got there, she took Arko into the back for an examination that took nearly an hour. When she brought him back to me she was raving about how well-adjusted Arko was. They had not needed to crate him at all. He just went around the clinic greeting the staff in his usual gregarious manner. The bad news was that she recommended a pretty stout (and very expensive) course of chemotherapy for him that would include five doses of some pretty nasty stuff with three weeks between doses. Arko took it all in stride (while I was a basket case with worrying about my best friend). After four cycles, Dr. Manley recommended that we not go further with that course, but put him on a metronomic product which he received daily. In October 2014, although it appeared that the treatment had been successful, Dr. Manley laid out the horrible news that he might have another three to four months left, due to the aggressiveness of the cancer. Surgery and radiation were options, but would not stop the advance of the hemangiosarcoma. Arko, nonetheless, relished life with me and was my daily companion.
On Friday, January 23, 2015, Mr. Arko and I had a routine appointment to get a urinalysis to continue his metronomic chemo meds. Mr. Arko jumped right into the car and away we went. Dr. Derbin at Towne Animal Clinic has a very soft spot for German Shepherds and just thinks the world of Mr. Arko. Each was happy to see the other. We got more of Mr. Arko's meds and came home. Late that afternoon I saw Mr. Arko go upstairs as he frequently did. At walk time I put on my coat and grabbed his leash, a signal that he always hears and comes for without a need for me to call him. He didn't respond, so I called him, but he still didn't come. So upstairs I went to find him in his bed, and not wanting to go outside. He did come to the top of the steps, but collapsed there and couldn't get up. I called Dr. Derbin to tell her that he'd collapsed and was told to bring him right in, that they'd wait for me. I carried him to the car and settled him in the back. It took almost an hour to get there to Leesburg with the Friday evening traffic. On the way there, I heard him rustling around as he frequently did. I was given a vision of Benny and Arko trotting off happily together, but looking back and wagging their tails.
When I got to the clinic in Leesburg, it was very clear that my ever-so-sweet Mr. Arko's spirit had left his body. Dr. Derbin and I suspect that he may have had a stroke or a bleed-out that is common with hemangiosarcoma, but in any case, my beloved Mr. Arko left Friday afternoon at approximately 5:30 for his trip to the Rainbow Bridge to be with Benny.
Right about now, the house is painfully empty, and there's no huge nose greeting me when I get home. There's no big hair-generator flopping beside me for evening snuggles. I'm comforted by the fact that my sweet Mr. Arko's body is no longer being consumed by cancer and that he and Benny are together in spirit again. In time, I believe that Arko and Benny's spirits will be coming back in new bodies, and I long for the day when the house will be full of critter-fur and my big, sweet best friends again, but right now, it's just so empty. So long for now, Mr. Arko. Know that you're deeply loved and appreciated, no matter what. You will always be a part of me and reside in my heart forever.
4/27/12 - 5/7/21
RIP baby. Athena was an owner surrendered puppy who came into rescue 5/15/13 and succumbed to Parvo 6/28/13.
It was with deep sadness that I said good bye to Athena yesterday afternoon. She became my foster dog when she was 10, and it didn’t take long before she won my heart and became a permanent dog. She turned 15 in November, and those 5 years were very happy and much too short. She was an amazing and inspiring dog who lived life on her own terms. She was strong and determined, and triumphed over any adversity she encountered. There is now a huge empty hole where there was once a loving, devoted companion. She is free of her physical limitations now, and is waiting with JT until we can all be together again.
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