Optimus (aka The Moose) came from one of Jules' students. He needed a home, Jules needed a Mastiff, and one day Moosey followed Jules home from work.
On Saturday early morning, The Barracuda let Optimus outside to go potty. He was limping a little, but with his giant size that isn't odd first thing in the morning. Often times he flops his big Moosey butt down and winds up lying funny on one of his hind legs. We left to go visit a friend's farm, but when we came home he was still limping. We checked him out, but couldn't find an issue with his paw. Then we noticed the large lump on his back hip. In three hours, it looked like it was his front paw that was hurting instead. By that time it was Saturday evening/night and we decided to take him into the big city animal hospital on Monday. There aren't too many vets that know what to do with a 220 lb Mastiff. Our rural area helps quite a bit since there are many "everything" vets, which are both large and small animal vets all in one building, but it is still an issue sometimes.
Jules helped Optimus out to go potty Sunday early morning and it was obvious Moosey was starting to hurt. He isn't a fussy dog. Yelping or whimpering means quite a bit. It became apparent Optimus was losing mobility fast. We hadn't thought about that. If your giant dog (who is far bigger than either adult in the family) can't move, you can't move him. He just can't get to the point he is completely immobile. We went to church and arranged for the local vet (a church member) to come over that afternoon and check Optimus out.
When we got home, that wasn't even an option. We took him to the emergency hospital in the big city that afternoon. They knew when we brought him in that it wasn't good. He was in late stages of a systemic problem and had almost reached paralysis in his right side. It took less than 36 hours for our very young doggy to go from big slobbery to critical condition.
The beginning of Optimus' life wasn't very happy. We rescued him from an unstable situation. He had had lots of pain and fear somewhere judging from the nightmares we frequently had to talk him down from. More pain and fear wasn't something I was willing to put him through, especially since the vets didn't know if they would be able to fix it. They weren't going to flat out say it, but the options were pretty minimal.
We buried him today, out on the sand flat which he loved so much (in what must have looked like a Mafia hit to anyone who didn't realize we owned a dog that big). Guadie came out to supervise, nudging and smelling her treasured brother and bringing all of us to tears. We called on St. Isidore, the Patron Saint of Agriculture, to look out for Optimus (Isidore was his patron saint due to how much Moosey loved food).
Ashes to Ashes. Stardust to Stardust.
Death is something our family has seen a lot of due to working with at-risk teenagers. When The Barracuda was about 5, he was completely amazed to go to a funeral for an adult. With wide-eyed astonishment he declared, "Adults die?" (It was a parent of the year moment for Jules and I). So we are grieving slowly, coming to terms with what we can in the quiet silence of the woods. The Barracuda is whittling a memorial and Jules is getting Optimus' paw prints framed. Guadie is still looking for him and perks up anytime she hears his name. It might have only been a year, but the big, drooly, stinky, stubborn mutt was definitely a member of our family.
Moosey liked to eat things - drywall, the couch, paint, 2x4's, anything dead, the digital camera, my clothing, insulation, library audio books, anything plastic and expensive. Moosey stank worse than any animal I've ever known. He snored like a 90 year old man, grunted whenever we asked him to move more than about 4 yards, farted more often than should have been normal, belched audibly, sneezed in your face and groaned from the strain of sleeping on the couch 16 hours a day. As far as he was concerned our 380 square foot house was the basecamp of the Optimus theocracy which worshiped his awesomeness.
Moosey was very stubborn, very drooly, wandered off frequently, had more confidence than anything I've ever known, and in general was Jules' favorite creature on earth. He liked to give hugs, loved to snuggle, and would crawl into your lap whether you wanted him to or not. Any sort of contact normally resulted in a need to change clothes due to the 6+ inches of drool (and whatever he recently ate) dangling down from his massive lips.
As annoying as all that sounds - and at times was - it quickly became incredibly endearing and very soon Optimus had his own voice in our family (it sounds something like Forrest Gump since genius is not a major character trait).
His head was huge, his body bigger, and his visual spacial skills were seriously lacking. He'd frequently lock himself in the bathroom, step on your unsuspecting foot, or knock you over with his giant behind. Watching him eat was legendary, watching him drink water was a bit upsetting to your stomach, and often Guadalupe would stare at him in complete bafflement/awe as he ate or drank.
You will be missed you giant, snaggle-toothed lummox. There is nothing in creation which could ever possibly replace you.