23 Jul 2005A tribute to Dax, the best dog we've ever had.
Today is a sad day for our family. Dax the Wonderdog has died. I thought I'd take a minute and write about his life. Ten years ago, before we went looking for a pet to adopt, I did some research on how to pick a good one. One little test I learned was to squeeze the dog's paw really hard with your hand. If the dog lets you continue to hurt his sensitive paw, that's a bad sign. If the dog pulls away and cowers from you, that's a bad sign. If the dog bites you, that's a really bad sign. The reaction you want is for the dog to pull his paw away, then immediately come back and lick your hand. It's kind of like he's saying, "Ow, that hurts, so I'm not going to let you continue. But you probably didn't mean to hurt me, so I forgive you." That was exactly Dax's reaction, so we started filling out the paperwork to take him home. We adopted Dax from the Salt Lake Humane Society in the summer of 1995. His previous family had named him Tucker, but it didn't take him long to get used to his new life and his new name. At the Humane society, when an animal is brought in to be put up for adoption, a reason must be given. The stated reason for giving up "Tucker" was that he didn't like kids. At the time, Scott and I didn't have kids, so it was not a problem. We figured that with time for proper training before any of our children arrived, the "doesn't like kids" factor really wouldn't matter. It didn't take us long to figure out that the excuse was bogus. Dax was the best kid dog ever. He has shown a real instinct to be extra gentle and patient toward children. Our best guess is that the kids in his first family were pulling his hair and poking his eyes. Dax probably just hid under the bed to avoid their abuse. We named him Dax for a few reasons. First, my husband is a major Star Trek geek, so we liked the idea of a Star Trek name. Second, the Dax character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a symbiont that had lived several lifetimes inside different hosts. We kind of figured Dax was starting his second life with us. Third, the Dax character had no gender, and our Dax was neutered. We had found the perfect name! :) Over the next year we spent a lot of time training Dax. We taught him all the basics. Sit, stay, come, shake, off, move. Scott's personal favorite is the "move" command. If you don't like where he's standing, just tell him to move. He will take a few steps and stop to look at you and see if his new location meets with your approval. If not you just say "move" again and he'll try another spot in the room. Eventually, in his attempt to please you, he may end up coming full circle and try the spot where he started. It's really rather entertaining to watch. My favorite Dax stunt was the food-on-the-nose trick. If you told Dax to stay, he would freeze while you set a doggie treat on the end of his nose. He was so well trained, I could even leave the room and come back to find him still frozen with food on his nose and Pavlovian saliva dripping out of his mouth. Once mercy takes over and you tell him to "get it!" he would flip the food off of his nose and catch it in his mouth before it ever hit the ground. Whatta pooch! One year after we adopted Dax, Alex was born. Then a couple of years later, along came Ellie. Gwyneth was just born last November. Even from when the kids were infants (well, Baby G is still an infant) Dax would do his little part to let them know that he accepted them into the pack. He would drop his ball beside them and stare expectantly at them waiting for them to throw it for him. He would wait in vain for a few minutes, then give up and bring the ball to a grown up instead. Still, he would always give them a chance to play and eventually they grew up enough to start rewarding his patient efforts. I have to say more about Dax's retrieving. He was OBSESSED with fetching. I guess since he was a Golden Retriever mix, it's just in his blood. To test his resolve, I once offered him a steak bone in one hand and a frisbee in the other. He completely ignored the bone in favor of the frisbee. All you need to do to make friends with him is throw his frisbee. In his younger, more spry days, he would usually jump up and catch the frisbee in the air. It was fun to watch. The kids would shriek with laughter every time they saw him do it. We would attract a group of spectators every time we took him to the park. About a month ago, we noticed that Dax was getting tired a lot faster than he used to. Since he is almost 11 years old, that's pushing 80 in dog years, we just figured he was starting to act his age. Then, not too long later, we noticed that he had blood coming out of his mouth. His eyesight also began to deteriorate quickly. At first it seemed that he could still see, but not very well. About two weeks later he appeared to be almost completely blind. He also lost a lot of weight really fast and was barely eating. He would even turn down the boiled chicken and rice that I was preparing for him in an attempt to nurse him back to a healthy weight. After a few trips to the doggie doc, the vet's best guess was that he had cancer. Since Dax really had no hope of a meaningful recovery, Scott and I made the painful decision that was time to let Dax go. Farewell Dax, we love you. --Luann May Hawker