November 5, 2009 – November 9, 2023
A few days after Indy’s 14th birthday we said goodbye to our beautiful boy.
Indy changed a lot over the past two years – I called him ‘my old man’ – and his final months were tough. I was so focused on his health issues and care that I forgot about the dog he used to be. Now that Indy is at peace, I will try to remember the good times with our sweet boy.
Michael and I moved to California in late 2013 following our trip around the world. After remodeling the kitchen, we were ready to welcome a new family member. It had been several years since we had Cain and Piper. I was very excited to have a dog again but felt some apprehension. In a condo without a doggie door and yard, would it be difficult to manage potty time? Would the dog get enough exercise? Would I be able to love another dog? Would loving another dog diminish my love for Cain and Piper?
When Cain and Piper passed, we fostered with a rescue, so we knew we wanted to adopt a young adult. I registered with several Labrador rescue groups and told them what type of dog would be happy in our home / lifestyle. Then I spent a few months looking at dogs and talking with fosters. One day we got a call from California Labradors, Retrievers, and More about a potential match: a 4 1/2-year-old male. Here’s what the foster told us about Indy.
He was an only dog who lived with a woman and young child in a house with a yard. The owner brough him to the rescue because she was terminally ill. Indy is calm – not excitable, good with other dogs, and great in the car. He’s active – they walked three miles the previous day – and has great recall (he walked off leash). They went to beach twice: he doesn’t swim but he runs in the water. Indy makes a huge bark when someone comes to the door but then stops. He likes to be with you and snuggle. He’s not interested in fetch. He prefers to sleep on a bed but is ok in a crate. He was at another foster for a few days and slept on the floor. Indy drools at feeding time and when stressed. He was fed table scraps and had pancreatitis, so he needs to eat low fat food.
Indy sounded like a good match, so we made plans to meet him. We drove to San Diego one night and stayed in a hotel. The foster brought him over the next morning. He was excited and explored the hotel room while we sat on the floor and waited. He finally came over and said hi and then went to the door, picked up my shoe, and brought it over. The foster couldn’t stay long because there was an adoption event, so we planned to meet her there. We talked and decided to adopt Indy. He came home with us on March 26, 2014.
It was not love at first sight. Indy took a few months to settle in with us. He was reserved, a bit on edge, and barked at unfamiliar noises. He also had some separation anxiety. We figured that Indy missed his previous family. He also had a bad ear infection, which may have impacted his behavior.
Indy immediately gravitated to Michael as his pack leader / preferred person. He followed Michael everywhere and cried when he went out. I felt like he was not interested in me and became depressed. After the first month I sent an update to his foster, who shared some helpful insights and tips. I also contacted the woman who adopted one of our fosters and later became a dog trainer – Diane was a great listener and offered good advice.
By the end of the second month Indy started to settle in and we saw some fun changes in his personality. He seemed happier – he wagged his tail more and became interested in his toys. Indy started offering his paw and gently nudging his nose under my hand. There were even some occasional cuddles. His separation anxiety was nearly gone. He was slightly less clingy to Michael and spent a little more time with me.
Although Indy warmed up to me, he continued to prefer Michael. At home, he spent about 70% of the time with Michael. When we were out, he resisted walking away from Michael but was ok walking away from me. I did some research and saw that it is not uncommon for a dog to gravitate to one family member. I tried but was never able to find peace with it. There were bonding moments, but I continued to struggle with intermittent feelings of rejection and sadness.
We could tell that Indy had a good life with his previous family. He was calm and well behaved. He knew some commands – sit, down, stay – and we taught him stop, turn around, back up, come, leave it, and a few more.
Indy was a very good communicator – he always told us what he wanted and had a commanding bark. When it was time to go out, he brought his leash or a shoe. He never let us forget when it was time to eat.
His favorite toys were stuffed animals. He carried them around biting the squeaker or tossing them in the air. He especially liked dismembering the toys. He started by tearing off the face and then the butt (I’m not sure what that means).
Indy was very smart. He learned the names of his toys: kozi, dragon, rat, lizard, ele, and ball. He also learned to turn left and right on our walks (really – when we got to a corner, I would say ‘turn left’ or ‘turn right’ and he would go in the correct direction).
Indy was a big drooler – his mouth was like a waterfall when he watched us prepare his meals. He was a very messy drinker. We sometimes wiped his mouth with a towel; but as you can guess, he did not like it. He often took matters into his own hands and wiped his face on the couch or bed. His favorite spot was the dog bed – he would run up, leap in the air, and land with his butt in the air. Then he would furiously wipe his face and grunt.
He was helpful around the house. He carried the groceries and opened packages (he was very good at tearing apart boxes).
Our boy had a thing for stealing fabric items – no kitchen towel was safe around him.
When he was young, Indy relished his daily lounge in the sun. He kept an eye on the patio and went out when the sun was in the ideal location.
Indy shared Cain’s interest in wine time. When we opened a bottle of wine he barked, chased the cork, and brought it back to exchange for a treat.
Just like Piper, Indy loved to stand between people’s legs, get his butt scratched, and march in place.
Indy was not a big cuddler, so we treasured the moments when he snuggled up. But he always wanted to be together in the same room.
Out and About
It was very important for us to give Indy lots of exercise and activity. Weekdays started with a 45-60- minute walk before work. After work, we headed out again for a second long walk. On the weekends, Indy was our constant companion. We are lucky to live in a dog-friendly area and took him nearly everywhere. He had great manners around people and dogs and was comfortable in crowds.
Indy knew the locations of all the neighborhood dog water bowls and stopped to check out each one. He also remembered which stores had dog treats and tried to go in every time we walked by. When we did, he was very pushy until he got a treat – especially at our favorite store, Pyrrha. We went to the dog park a few times, but Indy was not interested in running around.
Indy was calm when he encountered dogs with bad or aggressive behavior. If we walked by a dog who growled and lunged, he was like ‘whatever’. Getting bit in face (small bite; non serious) and attacked by an off-leash pit bill (no injuries) did not affect his behavior. He continued to be friendly and respectful to other dogs.
One of our favorite Indy memories was an early morning walk in town. As we passed Cartier Indy became very interested in the windows and jumped up to look. The display contained several monitors that played scenes of a panther walking around. I grabbed my phone and started to film as Indy watched the panther and jumped up to get a closer look.
When Indy got older and had mobility problems, we got him a buggy so he could continue to go out and about with us.
Indy was a very popular guy around town. We often got stopped by people who thought he was beautiful and wanted to say hi. He gave a quick hello wag then got distracted and sniffed around. It was common for tourists to ask to take a photo with him (he was somewhat cooperative). Indy even met some celebrities and got a pet on the head from Harrison Ford when we stood behind him at a valet parking line (I was quietly giddy).
Indy also made friends in our building. Our neighbor Elizabeth became very fond of him. She stopped by to hang out or bring him stuffed animals. When we remodeled the rest of the condo many of the contractors befriended Indy even though he caused some mischief by stealing their tools – the big rolls of blue tape were his favorite.
Indy the Traveler
Indy joined us on several road trips over the years to Solvang, Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, and a Santa Monica staycation.
He also went with us to Arizona several times to visit my mom and clean out her house after she developed Alzheimer’s. It was comforting to have him with us during those difficult times.
When we traveled abroad, Indy stayed with our friend Linda who lives a short walk away. They grew to love each other. When Indy and I walked in Linda’s neighborhood he always headed to her house.
Our beautiful boy had several health challenges over the years. There were a few pancreatitis flare ups, ear infections, and Horners syndrome. He had terrible allergies which led to many vet visits and tests before starting at-home allergy shots and medicated baths. At age 8 he developed arthritis in his hips which caused him to move a lot slower on walks. We managed the progression and discomfort with daily medication and monthly adequan injections.
At age 12 Indy’s health issues increased and we changed our lifestyle to care for him. He developed a paralyzed larynx and had tie back surgery. Soon after he had gastrointestinal issues with constant flares of nausea and diarrhea. After multiple vet visits for tests and treatments, we saw a specialist who prescribed medications that kept him stable with just a few flare ups. Ten months after the tie back surgery he developed aspiration pneumonia (a common side effect). In his final year, Indy had a few seizures and choking episodes.
The Final Months
As Indy declined, his care needs increased. We kept an eye on him constantly and only left him alone for short periods of time. He woke several times at night to drink and pee (medication side effects). He stopped wagging his tail.
In mid-October the aspiration pneumonia recurred. The symptoms were worse at night (which is typical) and we had lots of sleepless nights. One morning, he had diarrhea all over the front stoop of the building (pneumonia medication side effect).
Indy started to sleep on the floor at the foot of the bed some nights. I figured that when he didn’t feel well, he preferred the floor.
The nerve damage in Indy’s rear legs got worse. He had trouble getting up and barked when he needed help. He sometimes fell when walking or drinking. He had trouble standing to eat, so we fed him laying down. He became a fussy eater and we could only get him to eat from our hands.
A few times there were glimmers of the old Indy. One day he asked to come up on the couch to sit with us (he hadn’t done that for months). Another day he briefly helped carry the groceries. When Michael’s friend stopped by, Indy got excited and said hi.
The Final Days
On Indy’s 14th birthday he had a small seizure at the beach parking lot. Then the nausea and vomiting recurred but responded to increased medication. He was still alert and had a good appetite.
Three days before we said goodbye, Indy started to drool on and off throughout the day, mixed with periods of rest. The day before he passed, Indy had more trouble with his back legs – he could not get up at all – and started to have trouble with his front legs. We had to hold him upright to go potty.
On Indy’s final day, he ate breakfast and then slept peacefully for a few hours. He was still drooling, but it was less than the previous days. He bugged me early for lunch and ate every bite. Around 1:00 PM he was not able to stand and walk on his own. He barked frequently and when we helped him up, he just stood there confused. He started to choke while drinking. A few times he started to gasp and seemed to have trouble breathing. Around 2:00 PM I felt that these new symptoms were serious. I was afraid Indy would have a crisis – either choking or trouble breathing – and didn’t want him to suffer. Michael and I talked and agreed it was time to say goodbye. I scheduled an appointment with his doctor for 4:30 PM.
The staff at the vet treated Indy with compassion and he had a dignified, peaceful departure.
Life Without Indy
Indy was such a huge part of our lives – we feel empty without him. He was a joyful daily companion and a comfort in difficult times. It is especially tough approaching the holidays because we looked forward to another trip with him to Pismo Beach.
I will remember some of my favorite things about Indy:
- His incredibly soft, shiny fur
- His loud, hearty woof
- The way he wagged his tail when I asked “Show me your tail Indy”
- How peaceful he looked when he made himself comfortable on a pillow pile
I will remember Indy by continuing our early morning weekday walks. Each day we went outside and I asked, “Which way do you want to go Indy?” The first day I went on a walk after Indy passed, I saw a rainbow beaming in from the building entrance across the (filthy) floor to our door. I had seen this rainbow a few times over the years when the lighting was just so, but that day it kinda felt like a sign. As I continue the morning tradition, I hold Indy’s ID tag and think of him as I walk.
Rest in peace my sweet, beautiful boy.