He wakes up and dive-bombs into the first scratchy carpet he finds. His butt high in the air, his back legs and hips drive him forward, scratching every spot on his face. Left turn, right. Forward and back.
He stops. Motionless. Just for a second. Then, boom! He explodes onto his back, continuing the scratch dance upside down and every which way he can. Jumping up when finished he ends with a big shake.
Good morning. His name is Scooby. A Beagle-Basset mix. He is 21 years old.
But before these days of morning happy dances there was a long list of sad. It hurts to write, it hurts to read. Severely worn and fractured teeth. Heavily infected ears. Large masses on the chest, abdomen, legs, paws, and more. Painful arthritis in the hips and spine. Severe alopecia. Thickened skin in many places from chronic infection. Severe dental tartar. Gingivitis. Allergies. Bright pink skin. Multiple warts over entire body. Numerous hematomas. Fleas. Multiple and serious medical issues. And more.
He was 17 and in rough shape. That’s why the shelter felt euthanasia was best. They said he was old. That he hurt — a lot. He could not hear much because his ears were swollen shut. He could not eat much because his teeth and mouth hurt.
But I didn’t know any of that. All I knew was that a 17 year-old dog with health issues was going to be euthanized in a shelter simply because he was a 17 year-old dog with health issues. It was not a time to place blame — that wouldn’t help. But I knew what my Pongo would want me to do. Pongo, who had passed away in 2007 when he was almost 19. He would want me to help this friend named Scooby. And I knew he was right.
And that’s when Larry met Scooby.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” — Gandhi
That long list of sad? I only learned those things after I’d met Scooby and reviewed the paperwork. It was a surprise, because when I met him it was like meeting a puppy.
His spirit was powerful and strong. He was buoyant. His eyes bright. He climbed into my lap despite the horrible pain that should have made such movement impossible. And that’s all that mattered. He needed help and I could help. Done.
That was four years ago. Scooby celebrated his 21st birthday this past August 31st. Four years ago the paperwork said he should not have those four years. They were wrong.
Many things on that list remain. They don’t get fixed or go away. But what could be fixed has been. What has not changed? His spirit. His spark. His spunk. His inner Scooby!
And while he looks a bit unique thanks to some bulging and benign lipomas, what is most noticeable is his chi. He just bursts with it. The gusto contained in this 50-pound loveboat is beyond belief.
He’s had many families over the years — I think I’m his eighth. I met his last family. During the worst of times they became homeless, sleeping in an office building doorway. They tried, so hard. I know they did. What they lacked in money they made up for in love. They loved Scooby to the moon and back. But the care he needed required more than just love.
All that pain, yet he harbors no anger. He’s a mix of the Dalai Lama, Buddha and Gandhi. I kid you not. He is the essence of love. An essence that touches everything and everyone he meets. Even those he has not yet met.
Scooby breaks it down to the most simple. He finds the good.
Shortly after Scooby and I connected I was at a party and a friend introduced me to a well-known veterinarian. My friend began the introduction by telling this person I had just adopted a 17-year-old dog. The vet’s reply? “You must like short relationships.”
More bad jokes followed. He was the only one laughing. His wife pulled him away, telling him to stop. She later found me to apologize, saying he was like that sometimes.
But I knew what he was really like: he was scared. That was all. How often do you meet someone who adopts a 17-year-old dog? And as a lifelong veterinarian he knew what that meant.
He wasn’t trying to hurt me, but to keep from being hurt. He’d been there too many times himself.
When I saw him again a few years later I told him Scooby was doing great and about to celebrate his 21st birthday. He smiled broadly. And I saw the tears in his eyes.
Science and medicine and veterinary school could not prepare him for that moment. This time there were no bad jokes — just pure, heartfelt joy. This singular moment might have given this lifelong veterinarian more hope than any textbook ever could.
21. That’s 147 in dog years. Of course he has some aches and pains. But I do too. We spend a lot of time laughing together about our problems. And we feel better.
He swims. He runs on the beach. He tickles the ocean and tries to befriend every seagull he meets. He jogs on a therapy treadmill. He gets acupuncture and massage. He’s kissed an opossum. He caught a squirrel just to say hello. He has 10 beds. He received a Mayoral Proclamation. On his birthdays we share champagne. He lets me have most of it. That’s how he is.
Every Friday he gets a couple of French fries. Because it’s French Fry Friday.
“Until one has loved an animal, part of one's soul remains unawakened.” — Anatole France
There’s no end game in sight. No bucket list. We plan on being here for many years to come. Tomorrow’s another day, and we’ve got things to smell and places to pee.
We always buy food, supplements and meds in the biggest sizes possible. We just renewed Scooby’s license for three more years, the maximum. And yes, we’re fully expecting to renew it for another three years after that.
But there’s still that number. Scooby is 21. He’s considered an old dog. But that’s not the point. For me, he’s just an old soul — he’s Scooby. He is Wise. Peaceful. Faithful. Kind. He brings Hope. Joy. Love. He brings it all. Every single day.
He should know. Because four years ago he was just days away from having no more days. Yet here he still is. Being Scooby.
Many tell me that Scooby is lucky that I adopted him. That he needed me. But they are wrong. I am the lucky one. Because it was me that needed him. And I love him so very, very much.
“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time? — Sir Walter Scott
Next August 31st we will celebrate his 22nd birthday. We’ve already got the champagne in the refrigerator.
Sit. Stay. Eat. Live. I Love Scooby.
Larry Chusid is a Portland-born entrepreneur and nonprofit activist whose accomplishments include several businesses and, more recently, the founding of The Pongo Fund in Portland, Oregon.