Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Largo's Airedale Spotlight
One of our facebook groups has picked Largo for it's spotlight airedale. Every dog owner gets the spotlight eventually, it was just our turn. I had to write his "story" for it, so I thought I'd post what I wrote here.
Largo is our first airedale. He is also our first dog. For years, we didn't get a dog because of my husband's allergies. And then we had a child, and thought he was too young for a dog. Then we moved to Baltimore City. Our nieghborhood has sidewalks, and trees, and big yards. And dogs. LOTs of dogs. Seems every neighbor had a dog. Before too long, my husband, who works at home, decided he "needed" a dog for company. Our son was older, and he too wanted a dog. And I had wanted one all along. So we started searching for a breed. We wanted something not too small, active, hypo-allergenic. We put all our searching into identifying the breed, not so much on a breeder.
We did absolutely everything wrong. I found an ad on-line, an airedale hobby breeder had puppies available. The price was right. So my husband and I drove out to West Virginia (way, way out) to a little farmette. And they had airedale pups. One little 'dale came running from the edge of the pond, and leapt on my husband. He was just so joyful. We named him Largo, after a character in a web comic called MegaTokyo, and fell in love. What we did not do was check into breeding records, get a health guarantee or a first check-up before buying our pup. We were too excited to drive him home.
Largo had lived in a barn with his brothers and sisters, but he had gotten house time, and family time.He had a pond to splash in, but hadn't learned to swim. He had also had some hunting "training" -- they shot shotguns over the pups heads so they would get used to the sound. This turned out to be perfect training for city life. Largo does not mind firecrackers, or gunshots.
We settled in right away. Largo was housebroken in two days. He hated going inside, he was so used to the "great outdoors" that he only likes going on grass. He tried to make friends with our cats, but they weren't overjoyed by his efforts. He was always trying to lick their faces. They were not amused.
We figured to have a long happy life together. He seemed a little low energy compared to what we had read, but that was okay. He was plenty energetic for us.
we took him for his first puppy checkup, and our bubble burst. Largo had a severe heart murmur. We got a referral to a cardiologist, and had a cardiac workup. Largo had a hole in his heart, a genetic defect called VSD. This means he wasn't getting enough oxygen in his blood. It wasn't fixable, but it wasn't fatal either. We would have to let Largo decide how much activity was enough. Oh yeah, and he shouldn't have anesthesia.
Which caused problem 2. Largo needed to be neutered. The vet decided the operation was so short, that Largo should be fine. His heart stopped almost immediately, and he needed an injection to jump start him. They were able to finish the neutering, but it would be his last operation. Period.
Since then,we have had a lot of vet visits. Largo is what happens when breeders don't really know what they are doing. He has hip dyplasia, first detected at six months. He has chronic eye infections, because his eyelids are too deep. He is night blind. He has had a wicked bout of pancreatitis. He has arthritis in his back and hips, despite being only 4 years old.
BUT. We would do it all again. All of it. Because whatever the breeder did wrong, she did something very right. Her dogs are bred for temperament, and it really really shows. Largo is charm personified. He is good with other dogs, with cats, with babies, toddlers, old folks. We take him to a lot of concerts, festivals, city events. He works the crowd like an old school politician. He poses for pictures, kisses the babies, shakes hands. He lets toddlers pull his ears, and stick their fingers in his nose. He doesn't mind the noise or the crowds. He loves it.
Despite his huge size (a 101 pounds as of this week), he is a perfect looking 'dale. He has literally stopped traffic. We have had cars stop on the street, roll down their windows, and ask what kind of dog he is. Or can they pull over and pet him. We still laugh about the woman who pulled her car over, parked, and asked if she could SMELL our dog. Seriously. She sniffed him, much to the embarassment of her teenaged son, who was sitting in the car. We had a group of Japanese tourists take their picture with him, each one posing with him individually. Somewhere in Japan, there are a lot of vacation albums with pictures of Largo.
He is joyful. He would rather play than anything. Even on days when he can barely walk, he will carry around a tennis ball, hoping he can con someone into throwing it for him. He is always up for a car ride, a walk, a splash in the river. He never did learn to swim. He does like to wade though. If his ball floats into deep water, he just tries to drink the whole lake to bring it back. He likes to chase rabbits and squirrels, even though he hasn't got a prayer of catching anything.
He can't jump, so has never been on the sofa, or on the bed. We have to pick him up to put him in the car. Our backyard only has a 3 ft fence, and that's plenty to keep Largo in bounds. He can get into the bathtub, but can't easily get out.
Largo hates to cuddle, won't sit on a lap, doesn't give kisses, but if he leans against you, or gives you a head-butt, you know you are loved. He will sometimes sleep with his head on our feet, and it makes you feel like you won something.
He is loyal, protective, stubborn, smart as can be. He is a perfect 'dale, and we wouldn't trade him for anything.