In October of 2003 a neighbor of the barn I boarded my horse trekked down the driveway with a box. Inside were eight adorable black fuzzy puppies. The neighbor handed my barn owner the box of cute puppies. She gave a puzzled look to her neighbor, raising her eyebrows a bit in protest. Turns out the barn owners unaltered seven month old black lab/rottie mix had escaped the yard and had some fun with the neighbors golden retriever. Since the neighbor was in the process of breeding the golden retriever, she didn’t think anything was amiss when the dog came up pregnant. However, when the entire litter came out black the neighbor grew suspicious! My barn owner readily accepted the puppies and set to work trying to find them homes. There was one that wasn’t going to have any trouble at all…
Coal was a perfect puppy. You know, aside from the accidents in the house, eating any books or magazines left within reach, terrorizing the cats – typical puppy! One thing he did well was sleep (a trait he carries to this day!) the majority of the day, usually under the coffee table. He looked like a “lump of black coal” when he was passed out on the floor. We joked about it enough that eventually Coal was appropriately named for his laziness and color. I made sure to include him in everything which resulted in taking him everywhere. Soon he was extremely socialized, and so easy-going he won the hearts of everyone he met. We had all sorts of adventures and it didn’t take much for me to trust him 100%. I’d take my horse for a trail ride, letting Coal pick his way behind us, never worried he would run away, get trampled or kicked, or engage any animals we may have met on our ride.
Once I had him hanging out in the front of my dad’s house while I was trying to change the headlight of my car. Frustrated, I went back inside to seek my dad’s help. 30 minutes later I shot up from my seat on the couch and rushed outside. I had forgotten Coal was out there! Turns out he was just kickin’ it on the front porch.
He is an easy dog. He is a goofy dog. He is a tolerant dog.
When he was seven months old he subluxed (dislocated) both of his hips in a car accident. (Someone was so kind to try and do a U-turn in front of me when I was going 50 MPH. It didn’t end well for anyone.) Months of physical therapy seemed to to the trick, and Coal was back to normal before he was 1.5 years old. For the next several years everything was great; I met Isaac, we moved from Virginia to Colorado, adopted Dio, and explored our new state via hiking and long car rides.
It was then we started noticing Coal was slowing down, which seemed premature for his six years. By this time I had started working at a vet hospital, so I took him into work to get x-rays. As it would turn out neither of his hips were in their sockets! Instead his hips had moved forward and scar tissue had created new “sockets”. (This explained the interesting hitch in Coal’s giddy-up.) There was no arthritis or other issues one would expect to find when dealing with this type of problem. In fact, Coal was so well-adjusted to his “socket” situation that it shocked all three vets who looked at him (one of which is a board certified orthopedic surgeon) that he was able to run and play like normal. Luckily, it only took joint supplements to get Coal back to his former self. We proceeded with caution when hiking or letting the dogs romp, as the orthopedic surgeons words that it was possible Coal would need a hip replacement as he aged echoed in my ears.
Turns out that isn’t really likely; Coal is now 10.5 years old and still going strong! If you were to see this dog run with his siblings and get excited about going for a walk or when it’s time to eat you’d have no clue his hips were all sorts of eff’d up. He still sleeps more than any dog I’ve known, in the most uncomfortable looking positions. Twice a year I take him into my ex-employer to run blood work, have him examined, and discuss any concerns. His eyes are slightly cloudy now, indicating cataracts, and he keeps giving himself hot spots on his tail and leg. Oh, and his muzzle, “eyebrows”, inside of his ears, between the pads of his feet, and some random places on his torso have grayed.
He doesn’t know this yet, but he’s going to live forever…