Back before you were born, right before the Great Career Crash of Ninety Five, I lived up in the Hollywood Hills in a groovy floor of a house that had been converted into living quarters. I had a beautiful view of the city that was killing my soul.
One of the people in the house saw a little puppy that had been abandoned. People often abandoned their dogs in the Hills. Figuring they’d become coyote food quickly and their lives would be over soon… or something.
We went out to take a look and discovered the most adorable little puppy. There wasn’t much of a coat left, she had maggots living in her ears and she was beautiful.
Since I had the largest apartment in the house, I pretty much demanded that I keep her.
I took her to the vet, who then charged me about $1,000 to get her back in shape. At that point, there was no question that she was my dog. The only thing left was to figure out a name.
Around this time, there were these ubiquitous radio ads for “TOP FUEL FUNNY CAR” racing that began “SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY” and then these two nutjobs screaming their heads off about the races. They’d always announce the racers: “WITH SHIRLEY ‘CHA CHA’ MULDOWNEY, DON ‘THE SNAKE’ PRUDHOMME AND BIG DADDY DON GARLITZ!!!!!”
I was talking to a friend’s girlfriend on the phone about what to name the puppy and she suggested “Shirley ‘cha cha’ Muldowney. But, at that point, the puppy was feeling better and was ripping up some socks I had on the floor. The dog was definitely *not* a Shirley. She was definitely a “Big Daddy”.
Once Big Daddy got completely well I came home from not getting a part on television to discover her lying nearly lifeless in a closet. Back to the vet and I maxed the Visa with another grand. I was seriously thinking of changing her name to Visa. But I enjoyed yelling “Come Big Daddy, Come!!!” at the dog park and obedience training.
Speaking of obedience training. I became a nut about it. I lived The Monks of New Skeet (Skete?) for three months. Big Daddy was a Shepard/Chow mix and from what I know about dogs, Chows are nearly untrainable. Big Daddy had a very similar personality as mine. She would do something you wanted done only if it made sense to her. Very stubborn. Yet completely loyal and sweet. She also acted more intimidating than she was.
The training paid off. She was about as trained as she could be. I think it’s important that dogs are trained. It shows respect for them and, more importantly, for other people who may not like dogs.
The 2k was the most I’ve ever spent on an animal. I now have a $2000 rule: If it’s over that, the dog dies. I can take that money that I would have spent on a domesticated animal and give it to charity.
That’s a tangent…
I was apart from her for 6 months when I lived and worked in Le Vegas back in ’96. Other than that, she’s been with me since 1995. The longest successful relationship I’ve ever had. The bride still has another 5 years.
When I was at the nadir about 10 years ago I was living at a friend’s house, ostensibly to take care of his dogs, while he was out of town working and Big Daddy and his two dogs became great buddies. One of them was very, um, excitable and the two would tire each other out. Well, the friend’s dog would tire Big D out. Both of the other dogs died a couple years ago. I make the joke that the excitable one was so happy and dumb that it didn’t know he was riddled with cancer until he literally dropped dead. No one had any idea.
Speaking of no idea… One of the things that helped my case in the early days of romancing the bride was Big Daddy. Jessie thought that a guy with a dog wouldn’t be as self-centered as other guys. Hmmm. I think that was it. Something about being able to think of something else…
The last 15 years have been a rollercoaster. No career, financial ruin, a second career, a bride, a child, another career loss.. and the dog was always there. I had a human that I got closer to, and that’s always better. We made another human and that’s even better. I felt a bit as if I’d abandoned Big Daddy, but she loved Jessie and the feeling was mutual.
As a sort of dry run for caring for a child, we got another dog, Snoot Snout, a couple years ago. They never really got along the way we’d hoped they would, but they certainly didn’t fight or anything. There was a tolerance. Better than them fghting.
On the eve of thanksgiving 3 years ago, Big Daddy collapsed and began shaking. I took her to doggie emergency and the vet didn’t really know what was wrong with her other than “she’s getting old”. She was never the same after that. She wasn’t able to walk so well, she got dizzy and fell, she got more stubborn. But she still enjoyed going to the dog park. It was as if she had a minor doggie stroke.
She’s been deteriorating since then. Losing her sight. Losing weight. She hasn’t really been able to walk or exercise over the past year. She *could* manage to drag herself upstairs if she felt lonely, but sometimes she’d fall down the stairs. She wasn’t able to go *down* the stairs without tumbling.
For a month or so, she would, sometimes, not be able to get up to go outside to poop. When she was able to get outside to go to the bathroom, she’d invariably fall down into it. She hasn’t smelled good for a while.
So. I took her to the vet today and had her euthanized. It was incredibly sad. She was such a sweetheart and I felt so bad taking her there… as if I was abusing our trust.
I was crying all the way there and managed to pull it together once I got there. A woman waiting for her pet, began cooing over Big D. “What a great dog! She’s so sweet!” I managed to croak out “She’s 15… I’m having her put down… ” and was able to at least stifle the sobs. Poor woman.
After filling out the paperwork – I opted to *not* keep her ashes. I’d had a fantasy where I have her hollowed out by a taxidermist and then get her head unscrewable so I could use her as a coin jar. It was Ajay Sahgal’s suggestion and it always seemed perfect. Unfortunately, the income couldn’t really justify that sort of expense. Oh well.
A nurse took her away and put a catheter in her. They brought Big Daddy back. The Vet came in and explained to me what was going to happen. I nodded and then she injected Big Daddy with a pain killer. I had one hand around a paw and scratched her ears the way she always liked. After 30 seconds, Big Daddy sighed and just relaxed like she hadn’t relaxed in years. Breathing got very shallow. The vet was listening to Big Daddy’s heart with her stethoscope. After another minute, the vet nodded.
The Vet left me alone with Big Daddy. I kept petting her and sobbing. It’s just sad. So sad.
I managed to make it out of the office without causing a scene, sat in my car and cried for a while. I came home to my lovely wife and son and our stupid little yappy terrier, SnootSnout (if you’re a fan of The Frogs, you’ll understand the name).
My sweet old dog is dead. I will miss her. Big Daddy is dead. Long live Big Daddy.