by Rosemary Peterson, Apr 18, 2008
Rosemary Peterson and her husband, Richard, lived for some years on a farm in Minnesota…
I’ll tell you about the Irish wolfhound, McAllister. This was my husband’s dog, a very big wolfhound, about 210 pounds. Richard is 6’ 2” and when the dog would get up and put his paws on Richard’s shoulders, they stood eye to eye. He was an imposing presence and a very regal and beautiful animal. Now he had this long tail and it could very easily get caught in the door, and one day it did. The door swung closed and injured his tail. Well, when the dog swung his tail, it was like a whip and his tail wouldn’t heal. So we went to the vet for advice.
The vet explained that part of the treatment would include soaking McAllister’s tail in warm soapy water. He said, “The dog isn’t going to like it, so you’ll have to secure him,” and he described how to tie this powerful animal in a doorway with shock cords.
So in the frame around the barn door, we mounted hooks and the time came for me to give McAllister’s tail its first treatment. I secured the shock cords around his neck and got him all cinched up between the two sides of the door opening. He stood there, and now it was time to dip his injured tail into the bath of soapy water.
I wondered how this would go. So taking a breath, and very gently, I dipped his tail. The dog just went wild— this very powerful animal and, immediately, I saw this was going to be impossible.
So, for some reason, I simply took the shock cords off him. I got down on my hands and knees in front of him and took his face in my hands. I said, “McAllister, I need to soak your tail in the water. It’s going to hurt, but it’s going to help your tail heal.”
Holding his head in my hands, I went on, “If you could sit down, it would really help when I put your tail into the water.”
Now while I’m holding his head in my hands he tilts his head slightly looking at me as though he is wanting to understand what I’m saying. Have you seen how dogs will do that sometimes?
So I’m holding his head and looking right into his eyes saying, “McAllister we need to do this to heal your tail and I know it’s going to hurt.” Then I started stroking his back and saying “Just sit McAllister and I’m going to put your tail in the water.” As I held him I said, “You’re such a good dog. You’re such a good dog.”
Then I said, “Actually, if you were to lay down, it would even be better.” So I get his big shoulders down and I’m continuing to stroke him saying, “McAllister, you are such a good dog. You are just such a wonderful dog and I know you understand that this is going to hurt. It’s going to be twenty minutes that we’re going to be here. And I’m not going to leave you.”
So I gently, while telling him what a good dog he is, take the tip of his tail again and very slowly put it into this water. And it’s a big, bloody end of a tail. It goes into the water and this big dog starts going, “eeemmmm, eeeemmmm.”
I say, “I know it hurts, McAllister. You’re such a strong dog.”
So I keep his tail in the water as I’m talking to him and petting him. And the most amazing part of this whole thing was, at one point, he brings his head over to the side and he licks my hand. And he lays there while I soak his tail.
It was as if he completely grasped that this was a good thing to do. We had to go through this several times, and so his tail healed. He was a great animal.
Some years later, McAllister died. A girlfriend and I were leaving town to go up north. We’d been to a Tai Chi class and I said, “I have to go back to the farm.” We’d intended just to head north right after class, but intuitively I knew we had to go right back to the farm.
So we got there and McAllister had this terrible cough. He could hardly stand up. We managed to get him up on the stoop to the barn and I backed up the pick-up to that stoop and put the tailgate down. We tried to lift him. Well, it was impossible. We couldn’t lift this big animal into the truck. So I went and got a big sheet and we managed to get it under him. By that time, he couldn’t stand up at all. My friend and I got at either end of it and tried. She said, “This is impossible.”
I just said, “We have to do it.” And I literally picked him up and put him in the back of the truck. We stood there and looked at each other. My friend said, “How did that happen?! How did you put that dog in there??” I don’t know, but I did.
Well, we got him to intensive care, but they couldn’t save him. And this was a dog I didn’t even want to have! When my husband said he wanted to have an Irish Wolfhound, I said they have a wiry coat and I just didn’t want one. But Richard was undaunted and he brought this little dog home, that was just about this tall [holding hand low]. And he had this long tail and his paws were so big. I looked out the front door and saw this little guy coming along and I just melted. I loved that dog. He was wonderful.