1995-4. Amber

1995-4. Amber

Milton and I had talked about getting a dog at various times in our relationship. Milton was not particularly enthusiastic when I told him in 1995 that I was finally going to get one. Even though Milton was not enthusiastic, he didn’t object either.

I had done a lot of research. I knew the size of the dog I wanted. I had gone to dog shows. All of this led me to Brittany Spaniels. I love the orange and white coat that a Brittany can have. Full grown, they are a medium size dog. The are known for their intelligence. They are a hunting dog.

Initially, I had been thinking about a rescue. I looked into the Brittany rescue website and we went and looked at several in foster care. They all looked old or unhealthy. I didn’t want to start out with a lot of veterinary bills with my first dog in so many years. I finally looked into breeders and found a Brittany breeder in Napa and corresponded with her. There was going to be some pups right around Christmas.

When we brought Amber home, at first she was a little shy and reserved. Once she got to know us and knew she was safe, she could get pretty rambunctious. She was a terrible chewer when her teeth were coming in. She chewed up everything! She chewed the inside of my car. She chewed all our wooden deck furniture.

She got me out of the house on walks more often. At that time, there were more open fields around where we were in Vallejo and I would walk her and occasionally take her off leash. There were rabbits in the area and despite my objections, she couldn’t help herself but follow instincts and follow a running rabbit.

I believe people should train both children and dogs. I guess I’m in the minority because I see so many children that are out of control out in public and so many dogs that are out of control. I trained Amber not to bark when i left the house. It wasn’t really that difficult and very effective but for some reason, people don’t bother and you often hear dogs barking incessantly in suburbia.

Amber was an inside dog most of her life. We have a patio and a hillside in the backyard and I trained her to do her business up on the hillside, away from the patio and house. She was very considerate.

We took her camping with us once and she could not understand that she was expected to sleep on the ground. We had an queen size air mattress to sleep on and Amber kept trying to get on it with us. I think the ground might have been a little cold or something. She just didn’t get why she wasn’t her nice warm home. Every time someone walked by in the campground, she would get nervous and start to growl. None of us enjoyed that night of camping.

Two other things made Amber very nervous- fireworks and balloons.

We have a Six Flags park in Vallejo and they have a fireworks display every night for several nights leading up to the 4th of July and New Years Eve. Those were Amber’s least favorite holidays.

It was hilarious on the one hand to see Amber react to something as innocuous as a balloon but ultimately, you couldn’t help but feel her fear. It was just one of those irrational things that any of us can have. For her, it was balloons. It didn’t make sense but they totally freaked her out.

She was an incredible, wonderful dog. Although Milton had been a little reluctant at first, he totally fell in love with her too.

One night, Amber urinated on the floor. This was very unlike her. She kept urinating small amounts, apparently uncontrollably. At first, before i realized what was happening, I tried being stern with her. Then she started vomiting. I knew something was very wrong. I scooped her up and put her in the car and drove to Fairfield, where i knew there was a 24 hour vet. They stabilized her that night and I was to bring her to her own vet in Vallejo the next day.

I can’t remember if it was the emergency vet in Fairfield or her own vet in Vallejo that recommended out bringing Amber to U.C. Davis. They have a veterinary school there. They had better resources. I think it was there that they gave her an M.R.I. and did some other tests. The diagnosis was grim and tragic.

It had taken Amber four years to become the amazing dog I always knew she could be. She had been a horrible puppy and a wonderful dog. She had urinary tract cancer.

The doctors told me they could do some things but that she would have to live with a urinary catheter. There were no guarantees even if they did everything they could. The decision had to be made.

Milton and I took Amber for one more walk in Sacramento. Even though she wasn’t feeling her best that day, she still enjoyed seeing the multitude of squirrels that inhabit that part. She pulled on her leash, but not with her usual enthusiasm. Milton and I knew these were our last hours together. Our hearts were breaking. As I write this, even thinking back to that day, the feelings come rushing back.

When I spoke to others about what had happened, some would ask if I was going to get another dog. I know that they had good intentions but I just couldn’t fathom it. Milton and I were both devastated. Amber could not just be “replaced” by another dog! It took Amber four years to become Amber. How could we even consider starting all over again?

I love these pictures of her. She was so gorgeous, besides being so smart and so loving. Her hair got everywhere, though. It was impossible to get it completely out of my Nissan. Sometimes, in the summer, I would give her a buzz cut so her hair was just a half inch or so long. She still looked beautiful. And she liked being cooler.


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