Kelly Patrice Collins, cpsa Colored Pencil Artist
Preston was about 13 years old. He was a spunky thing and looked absolutely beautiful. He had, however, stopped running off - - NOT that I didn't keep an eye on him since I don't trust him completely.
July Fourth, 2014, was a momentous day for both of us. I can't even explain what happened on the emotional scale that I felt, and I think Preston felt. I can only explain on an intellectual/factual scale.
Preston got lost. I knew it. He knew it. It can't be proven. He became amazingly tired. He ended up at a house on the opposite side of a large hill from our parking lot. Paul and I waited in the parking lot for a long, long time. Finally, there was a call to Paul, but the only information that came through was that someone somewhere had Preston. We drove to where there was cell reception and called back...cellular service went out again. We drove further and finally reached the people long enough to have a conversation as to where they were.
On the way, of course, Paul decided to turn down the wrong road because 1) sometimes trying to read Tom-Tom is a bit unclear and 2) we were once again in a spotty space for both cellular and GPS. Anyway, it was the road where our friend Jacqui lives, but I knew it wasn't there. Eventually, Paul figured it out, too.
Finally, down the NEXT road, we found the house number and proceeded down a driveway that was at least two miles long. At the end was a lovely suburban house that was neither ostentatious nor diminutive. A man of about 58 came out of the door and Preston followed and...lo! and behold!...I swear he finally looked happy to see me. I think that was the turning point for him: a resolve that I was the best he was gonna do.
The story was that Preston had shown up in the driveway. The man said that Preston looked very, very tired and thirsty so he brought out the hose. Preston wasn't sure what he meant by it and ran off a bit. When Preston realized that the man was just offering him a drink of water, Preston immediately took the offer. As the man went back into the house, Preston followed and laid down in the foyer as if it were his own. Four cats lived in the house so, obviously, a dog was needed. The couple seemed amused that he did that, fortunately.
Yet, the fact that he didn't come back to the parking lot, the fact that he was on the opposite side of the hill, and the look in his eye told me that a lot had changed that day.
Preston didn’t run off again for a long time after that. He did continue to run some. I hoped to hell that his not running off would last for a long, long time.
One morning a little while after that incident, I ran past two women. Ursus had passed them first. One of the women said to the other as she saw Preston coming up way behind "And here comes the OLD dog."
I felt so sad. I wanted to turn around and yell to the women, “Yeah? Well you should have seen him in his glory days!! He could have run circles around you blindfolded and disappeared the second you turned around.”
Still the old dog could drive me nuts. I took him for a run on a very, very hot morning of late June (thank you, climate change) in 2015 when he was nearing 14. He looked exhausted. He was dragging his paws, he was thirsty. Fortunately, I DID bring water for him because the rest of the water around had started to dry up. I ended up walking and bringing him through the shadiest trails of the forest.
Boom, comes the next day. I was out running with my practically invalid dog, early morning, gotta get to work. It was pitch black and I was using a flashlight. What does Preston do? He found some sort of trail and wandered off the road into the grass. I ran back to find him and saw his tail in the grass. Call. Call. CALL. No, that dog is not deaf. He was ignoring me. I ended up having to walk through the grass – which as it turned out wasn’t just grass – there were hidden blackberry vines with numerous thorns. I kept trying to connect the leash to him, but he kept doing that thing dogs do so that they are only an inch away from connection. I had to follow him for at least a minute (actually, it seemed like about 10 minutes of my time). Finally, scratched and bruised, I caught up with him and snapped the leash on.
It’s amazing to me that as soon as that leash is on, he is mine. He now trots along willingly. When I first got him, I thought he was going to rip my hand off just by how hard he pulled.
As Preston got older, his needs changed as they do for anyone when they get older. He had difficulty going down the stairs from the upstairs bedroom. He would get going so fast that he couldn’t stop himself and he would end up jumping the last two or three stairs. I knew this was not good for his old joints so I tried to stop him. I bought a dog lift harness for him. When I tried to use it, it just slipped down to his rear and I imagine it didn’t feel very good against his penis. So, I stopped using it.
Finally, we settled on holding him by the collar and supporting him on the way down. It just meant hanging on and steadying him down the stairs. Mostly, I was afraid of his jump at the bottom. I even worried that we were strangling him by doing this. But, Preston was fine with it.
Preston waiting at the top of the stairs
He was so patient. He would just wait until one of us would come along and help him down.
For a while, Preston would still run upstairs to me when I was doing my floor exercises. He would listen downstairs for the moment 1) when Paul threw the “got home” treat. Preston at one time would run back downstairs to get his treat, but when he got to be about 14, he didn’t want to run all the way back down. So he trained Paul to throw it up to him. Then, 2) he listened for the sound of his breakfast being ready. Then he would run downstairs.
When he was older, he didn’t even go upstairs. He only went up once a day, at night when we all went to bed. He only went downstairs once a day, when we all woke up and started the day. Otherwise, he stayed on the first floor.
Oh, then there was the ‘going outside.’ Preston was quite old by this time (14). He would sleep on the top of the horrible, rickety stairs to the backyard. Occasionally, he would look up and around: always looking for a new chase. But it HAD to be new…
Paul realized what needed to be done. Preston needed his own little house between our big house and the big outside.
So, Paul built what he called the “PetHouse” (you know, like a penthouse). It took some enticement and dragging him into it, but Preston ended up really liking his new place. He spent many days in that little shelter. He could just sleep inside, where the rain couldn’t hit him. He would rest his chin on the side board now and then, to sniff around.
Paul also attached a ramp that we had left over from Lupi’s older days to the stairs. I tried to get Preston to use the ramp, but as Lupi and any dog I ever had, he refused to really use it. Sometimes, he would walk down about ¾ of the way, but then he would always jump off. I have never had a dog that I could persuade to use a ramp.