Happy Birthday Earl

Composed on August 13, 2008

On this day eighteen years ago, my mom’s beloved Boxer Earl was born. He passed away on July 1, 2000 – just six weeks shy of turning 10 years old. Mom would be remiss if she didn’t acknowledge this special dog and his story on his birthday.

Earl was my mom’s third Boxer. When I was a mere 4 month old crazy Boxer puppy, my mom (like many) learned very quickly that having more than one Boxer is almost a necessity. She knew I would enjoy the companionship of another Boxer when she was working and so my mom and dad started the search.

One day they opened the Tampa Tribune and turned to the pet section where they read an ad that said “7 1/2 year old male Boxer needs a new home soon or will have to be put to sleep. $50.”

After my mom and dad got over the initial shock that someone would post such an ad, they talked for about half a minute before deciding to call the phone number given. A 7 1/2 year old Boxer was a bit older than what they were thinking, but a dog in need was a dog in need. My parents put me in the car and we drove about 45 minutes to the home and saw Earl in the window. He was skinny and had a huge lump in his mouth. And we could all hear him growling at us. The people brought him outside and he was stand-offish, not really even coming over to say hello. No kidneybean dance, no Boxer wiggles or kisses. Still, he was beautiful and needed a home. Mom talked briefly to the older couple who had him and learned that Earl was not their dog, but their son’s. He had moved and ditched him. Earl was used to being chained on a terrace with another dog. He stunk to high heaven and was clearly not cared for properly. While he wasn’t the friendliest upon first impression, there was no way mom or dad was leaving that day without him. So, they handed the people $50 and in return my mom got a thin folder of his paperwork.

Earl visited the veterinarian the following day and was unfortunately diagnosed with advanced heartworms. He also had an enormous epulis that was so large it prevented him from even being able to close his mouth. After $1200 and about six weeks, Earl was feeling better and gaining weight. It took about two weeks for him to even come anywhere near my mom. Later, we had him evaluated and learned he suffered from fear aggression. After lots and LOTS of patience and TLC, Earl blossomed into a more typical Boxer dog, although he was not always welcoming of strangers. Mom remembers being very happy when Earl first wagged his nub and twisted into the classic kidney.

When Earl was nearly ten, he became ill and started losing control of his bowels. It was very difficult for him to get up off the floor and he often tipped over when trying to go to the bathroom outside. My mom will never forget the look of utter shame on his face one day when he fell backwards into some fresh poop. He locked his sad eyes with hers as if to say, “Please help me. I can’t do this anymore.”

My mom was devastated when Earl passed on July 1. He had come so far and she was disappointed that she would not have more time to give him the life that he should have had all along. One day she looked through his paperwork and decided to write to Earl’s breeder.

Earl’s breeder wrote back, to my mom’s surprise, and they began to correspond through email. The woman was kind enough to go through her things and send my mom photos of Earl as a puppy. Mom told her about the neglectful home that Earl had to endure for 7 1/2 years of his life. Of course she was upset to learn this, but as my mom says when people breed their pets, they must be aware of the risks and that most of the pups or kitties will end up in unsuitable, uncaring or uncommitted homes. The massive euthanasia rate in our disposable pet society speaks to this fact.

Earl was eventually a happy Boxer dog that watched a baby grow into a young child. He was loving and gentle with this fragile being. He enjoyed his two Boxer brothers and sister and mom stayed home so he was hardly ever alone. Other than watching over the child, Earl loved his tennis ball the most. My mom and dad are very glad that they opened the newspaper that morning. He was such a joy to have and he was a great, tolerant big Boxer brother to me.

We all love and miss you Earl. Happy 18th Birthday, old man.

Your bro, Sammy

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