The Many Adventures Of Roxie The Dog

I didn’t want a dog.

I was 23 and had just bought a house with a large, fenced in back-yard. So everybody decided that I needed a dog. I needed all the dogs. I had gotten very good at declining dogs. Then, my friend found a fluffy neglected puppy on the side of Orange Grove Road, in rural Orange County, North Carolina. She pulled over and opened her door to check the tags on this puppy, who promptly jumped into the passenger’s seat.

Her exact words, as she relayed the story to me, were, “Shit. I have a dog.”

The black fluffy Roxie-Dog

She got more adorable with age.

She called me, of course, because it was decided that Rhiannon Really Needed A Dog. I didn’t intend to take the dog, but when I went to take a look, she was sitting in front of a fan, and something clicked. I took her on one condition: I could change her name to “Roxie.” They were calling her Emma, or something else, not Roxie. I had just seen Chicago, and the name on everybody’s lips was gonna be… Roxie.

I didn’t just accept this dog, though. I really didn’t want a dog. My grandmother had just lost her dog, so I asked her if she could take care of this puppy for a month or two, until a friend who was staying with me and had two large dogs moved out. I hoped my grandmother would become attached, and she would have a dog.

But no, the dog was meant to be mine. My grandmother still swears that Roxie got more excited on the day I was supposed to pick her up, like she somehow knew I was coming.

Roxie The dog in a red boa and mask

While waiting to come to NOLA, Dad dressed her up and called her “Gator Bait.”

After a couple of years, I accepted a job with FEMA, where I was to go to New Orleans and work. I asked my parents to keep Roxie while I went and found a place that she could stay with me. After a month, I came back for my dog, who went from a half-acre fenced in backyard, to staying in a Courtyard Hotel which normally didn’t allow dogs, but was making an exception. She peed on the bed while I was at work. I snuck my sheets to the washing machines and flipped the mattress, wondering how bad of an idea this was.

I had truly never walked her on a leash. She knew nothing about doing doggy business with people watching. I wanted to be taking part in all that New Orleans had to offer, but I also wanted my dog to be happy. So we found middle ground, and I took her to a parade, where she made friends with the locals and stole a boa for herself. Within a month we had moved to New Orleans proper, and Roxie became a lady of the French Quarter.

Roxie looking for cats in Jackson Square

Dogs aren’t allowed in Jackson Square, and she knew that.

I moved to a townhouse in the French Quarter, and Roxie settled into city life. She spent time at the dog park, she spent time at the pub, and she showed the tourists that Jackson Square was full of cats at night. She knew that bars, stores, and sex shops all had air conditioning, therefore, she wanted to be a very social dog.

I worried that when my parents came to visit, they would walk her, and she would drag them into one of the sex shops. When the man behind the counter greets her by name you know it’s not a random occurrence. Our daily walk took us across Bourbon Street, past St. Louis Cathedral, by Cafe Du Monde, over Washington Artillery Park, to her favorite spot by the river.

Roxie with St. Louis Cathedral in background

Did you know the best pooping spot in NOLA is between the river and Jackson Square? (Photo by Leah Peasley)

She was photographed by the New York Times, but didn’t make it into the final publication. She was in the local newspaper, touching noses with the carriage horses always parked at Jackson Square. After that, the carriage drivers always welcomed her for a visit, since she got them extra press.

Being accepted as a real New Orleanian, she joined the Mystic Krewe of Barkus. She learned that being dressed up meant that she was going to get cookies from bystanders, which made everything better. Her first costume, for the Streetdog Named Desire parade, wasn’t the most functional, but the next year, she really brought her A-Game for Raiders of the Lost Bark, where she was a tribal warrior.

Roxie In Barkus Costumes

Yes, that is a quiver of arrows on that Roxie-Warrior.

Roxie At The Entrance To The Pub

“Free To Good Home” (Too many takers)

Roxie was a regular at the Pub, watching and welcoming the late-afternoon tourists. She once barked at a patron who entered, who was promptly thrown out by management. When a sign was jokingly put around her neck saying “Free to a good home,” it had to be removed before a decent picture could be taken, because there were so many takers. She learned to tolerate people, moving away rather than biting the face off of drunk strangers who wanted to hug the fluffy dog.

After a little over two years, we did move back to North Carolina, where Roxie led a slightly calmer life.

These are the accommodations that pleased the Rox.

These are the accommodations that pleased the Rox, while traveling.

Her travels weren’t over, though. Soon after coming to North Carolina, I got the chance to work in Wisconsin for a few months. Of course, my dog had to come with me, and it was slightly too far to drive. So Roxie had to fly.

Obviously not small enough to go under the seat in front of me, Roxie had to fly in the luggage area. After consulting my best friend, who had also flown her chow-dog under the plane, I bought a crate and decorated it in a way that could be spotted from anywhere in a two-mile radius. I consulted her vet, who provided some puppy Xanax and a clean bill of health, and we were off to Wisconsin.

Roxie's crate being loaded onto a plane.

These are the accommodations that displeased the Rox, while traveling.

The Wisconsin dog parks were much different than in New Orleans or North Carolina. There were acres of rolling hills where she could run. This was too much work, she only needed a little bit of interaction with other dogs, for her sanity. We only made it out to the massive parks in Wisconsin once, because I promptly came down with the flu and spent three days in a LaQuinta hotel room with her as my nurse. She never offered chicken soup or juice, but was rather understanding about the lack of walks.

A young Roxie and Mocha playing tug-of-war.

A young Roxie and Mocha playing tug-of-war.

Back in North Carolina, Roxie had some family members to deal with, as my parents had their own house full of Newfoundlands. Boulie, the oldest of the Newfs, came into the family soon after Roxie, and from day one Roxie told her that they would not be friends. But Mocha was more easy-going, and got along well with Roxie. Even after Boulie passed away, Roxie seemed to bring comfort to Mocha, who is still adjusting to being an only-child.

Roxie appreciated the cooler weather that came with being in North Carolina. She frequently greeting the coldest of mornings by laying in the grass and declaring it a good day to stay outside. Her fur coat wasn’t just for decoration.

Tucker cuddling with Roxie.

It’s too bad they didn’t like each other.

As she got older, the potential for her to turn into a cranky old lady grew strong. She was less active, and starting to get stuck in her ways. In order to keep her young, a very special Tucker Dog wandered out of the woods, and into her life.

Tucker gave Roxie renewed energy, which she used to keep him on his toes.

Roxie chases Tucker in the snow

It’s a good thing he was faster than her.

She licked cancer with her purple tongue.

She licked cancer with her purple tongue.

Time was slow to catch up with Roxie, and showed it’s first signs when she started eating at her back left paw. After losing her toenail and not responding to antibiotics, the toe had to be removed. It was cancer, but a very slow, non-aggressive variety, and she bounced back from surgery quickly.

Unfortunately, the cancer returned, in a less-amputatable way. The vet suggested an amputation of the whole leg, which seemed cruel to do to such a large dog, who already had rather creaky joints. I decided to go to another vet, who amputated more, but left her some of her foot to stand on.

Do you want to kill me, today?

Do you want to kill me, today?

Within days, Roxie ate her bandages, and took out some of the stitches holding her leg together. As a result, I had to change bandages on her leg every day, for a month. Every time, I asked her if she wanted to bite my face off. That’s what chow-dogs do, right? They bits off faces! But her answer was always “No.”

Her cancer came back, again, gradually eating away at her leg. I was devastated. How could I ask a 60-pound older dog to get around on only three legs? Would I have to euthanize my dog because of a bum leg? The odds of the cancer having spread to any other part of her body was small. I was encouraged to go forward with the amputation.

Then I broke my own foot. We were a matched pair.

Roxie with three legs.

Most people never noticed she was missing the leg.

With time, she stopped using the leg, so as soon as I was able to somewhat manage her, I had the leg amputated. The results were amazing. Without all the pain from the cancer, she was more mobile than she had been in a long while. The day after surgery she almost ran away from the vet, who was worried how he would explain to me that he lost my dog who just came out of a major surgery.

In fact, she did so well with the missing leg, she was able to continue to chase cats, and once, on the best day ever, she got to chase a chicken.

There were many more moments of Roxie’s life, from being in the Parkwood Christmas Parade to going on short and long road trips. She was an easy traveler and a fantastic companion. Her easy-going nature was a relaxing constant over the thirteen years we spent together.

Rox

The last night we spent together, I slept on the couch, so she wouldn’t have to come upstairs. She was uncomfortable, and wouldn’t move a foot forward to get onto her bed. I set an alarm on my phone to call the vet as soon as they opened, and had her there before 8 am. Within hours, we knew that she had fluid around her lungs, most likely from cancer. There was no cure, and she was straining to take every breath.

I had already promised her that I would never make her suffer for my own comfort, but I did wait the two hours for my mom to come. She let us fawn over her, briefly, before she heard a cat in the other room, which was far more exciting.

My vet came in, talked to us a moment, then I sat at Roxie’s head while he administered the  medicine. Roxie took her struggling breaths, and… continued to take her struggling breaths. Somewhere along the line, she had pulled the IV out of her leg, giving us a few more moments for me to ask if she wanted to bite my face off. On the second attempt, she quickly laid her head onto her paw and relaxed.

 

(Cover photo by Leah Peasley)

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