Out shopping one day, my husband and I noticed a small index card posted on the wall of a neighborhood store with a brief description seeking a new home for a male Doberman. We called and soon met Ramses, a red and tan adult, and his family. The children in the family had grown and left home and the parents weren’t as active as in years past.
Ramses’ “mom” was Austrian and she served his home-cooked meals on a handmade, raised wooden feeding station. It was obvious from their stories and affection that the family loved their dear boy and wanted to make sure he went to a good home. A few days later, they brought Ramses to our home where he was approved by Taj and Arusha (our female Dobermans) and we all agreed that it was a good match.
Ramses was a friendly, goofy boy who settled in nicely with the DoberGrrls and Surrey (the king cat). I have a photo of Ramses and Surrey sitting next to each other during their respective cone-headed recoveries after Ramses broke his toe and sported a paw-to-elbow cast and Surrey healed from an abscess. I don’t remember how old Ramses was when we adopted him, but he was an enthusiastic spirit whether he was chasing seagulls at the beach, carrying a pack up mountain trails or soaking up sun on top of the picnic table on our second-story deck.
He was my solid model-of-protection running partner and helped me train for 5K and 10K runs and my single half marathon on hilly, evergreen-lined roads in my neighborhood. After a few years, he began lagging during our familiar loops. I was annoyed and urged him to hurry up, especially when he slowed during hill climbs.
My heart broke one morning when I woke up to find his still body on his bed at the foot of mine.
Ramses was my introduction to Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). His enlarged heart couldn’t function efficiently and fluid accumulated in his lungs. DCM is a common disease for Dobermans, one of several ailments that can end their already too-short lifespan.
I had taken Ramses to my veterinary clinic the day before he died because he was having difficulty breathing. As I described his symptoms, I could tell that my vet was concerned about how hard Ramses’ heart and lungs were working. He probably realized what the prognosis was, but wanted to run some tests to confirm his worries. We went home and within 24 hours Ramses was gone. When the vet’s wife called the next morning with the diagnosis, I choked up and told her that Ramses had died during the night. Her sympathy over the phone reflected our years of shared empathy and understanding.
My husband was out of town, and I called a friend to come over and help me with Ramses’ “dead-weight” body. We wrapped him in a flannel sheet, grabbed the ends and stepped carefully down each steep stair from the deck to the backyard. We buried Ramses near a sunny spot next to my rose bushes.
I don’t remember Ramses’ age when he died in his sleep, but I think he was around eight years old. Learning about DCM helped me recognize symptoms in future Doberman companions, and I was able to provide them with better care and compassion. Thank you, Dear Boy.