And Miss Dixie, the Confederate Kitty
RV Living is a multifarious way of life. There are people who have lived well and retired to a half-million dollar motor home pulling a sixty-thousand dollar SUV for getting around. There are people who live in a comfortable travel trailer because the monthly bank payment is cheaper than renting an apartment. Others struggle from Social Security check to Social Security check.
Some are contractors in the building trade who move about the country wherever their jobs send them. Many work at an Amazon facility during Christmas peak season to finance their nomadic ways for the balance of the year. Some of us workamp, partially for the free site rental and partially because Retirement gets boring. Others prefer to live off the grid and Gate Guarding is the perfect opportunity.
Gate Guarding takes place wherever there is drilling for oil. The job is just as it sounds – guarding the gate 24/7 – and logging all the trucks in and out of a particular oil-drilling operation. It is always in the middle of Nowhere Texas and generally a 24-hour gate best run by a couple, each twelve hours on and twelve hours off.
You have to provide your own, mechanically sound rig to live in and park at the gate. The Gate Guarding company provides you with a hefty generator and fuel on a trailer, a few hundred gallons of water on a trailer and a waste system or Honey Wagon of some sort, all replenished as and when. The closest Wal-Mart or laundromat might be up to fifty miles away. The sun bakes, the rain washes away and the nights can burn a bottle of propane. All-in-all, idyllic, for some.
Such a man is Andy, who runs a website named My Old RV – click here – who I have been following for about a year now, ever since I considered venturing to Texas to do some Gate Guarding myself. Andy is 61 years old, a former corporate Texan who gave up the money and the rat race for some solitude and dust.
For a while, he was married to a lady he calls Miss Kathy. Miss Kathy had Tuco the Dog. In hindsight, Andy admits that he was ornery, stuck in his ways and might just have treated Miss Kathy like a rented mule. Miss Kathy left him in July of 2014, but after a brief separation, he ended up with Tuco the Dog. Andy and Tuco the Dog have been inseparable ever since.
The following, from his most recent blog post, is excerpted from an email he sent to Miss Kathy, with whom I assume he has had little contact for some time.
“Six weeks ago I thought Tuco was a little off. Some discomfort maybe, I don’t know. I thought maybe I was just being hypersensitive. She needed her shots anyway so I took her to the little vet in Carizzo Springs. He gave her a good exam and his best guess was a little metritis (inflammation of the uterus) and recommended getting her spayed.
A week later I got a gate farther north and took her to the good vet with the expertise and diagnostic equipment to give her stellar treatment. By now, she was panting more than I thought she should, and had some very slight weakness in her legs. The vet did a total workup and her bloodwork, kidneys, liver everything looked normal. He also did a tick panel for Lyme disease and Chagas (“kissing bug”) which was negative. An EKG showed minor abnormalities at this point. We scheduled the spay for the following week.
By the next week she had degenerated even farther with the panting and weakness. She was still eating and drinking OK and bodily functions were fine. When I took her in, they were concerned she had lost 6 lbs and her respiration and heart rate were up. They decided not to operate and did a sonogram.
The next day they called and said to bring her back. Her heart was greatly enlarged from 2 weeks previous and she was building up fluid around it, in her lungs and abdominal cavity. They definitely diagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy at this time. They gave me some pills to ease her pain and some more pills for the heart condition. The vet said cardiomyopathy is a recognized congenital disease of Gordon Setters.
I took her back weekly for the next two weeks. The last time was this past Wednesday. Each time she was markedly worse and weighed only 41 lbs on this visit. She had quit eating on her own though she till drank. I was feeding her baby food 6 times a day with a syringe. It had gotten to the point she could no longer go up and down the stairs on the RV or even jump up on the couch. I carried her in and out to do her business and even walking a few steps caused her chest to heave.
I do not believe she was in any pain at all and the discomfort seemed minimal with the medications. I fixed her a soft pallet on the floor with a pillow to lay her head on and I would put her up on the couch to rest as well. She was sleeping comfortably it appeared most of the day and night.
Yesterday, I contacted the vet and told them I thought it was time to put her down. She had quit drinking and I had to resort to giving her water with powdered gatorade via the syringe. I requested them to come down here and do it in the RV where she felt safe and comfortable even though the fee was going to be $250. She had gotten to the point that loading her up in the Suburban was very stressful because she knew we were going to the doctor. It was scheduled for today and I had secured permission to bury her here in a nice spot behind the RV.
Last night at around 2300 I carried her outside to pee and then lifted her up to go back inside. I closed the door and went to lock up the Suburban. I heard a thunk sound like she makes when she lays down. When I came back inside the RV she had collapsed and was dead. I figure a massive heart attack with instantaneous death. There was no sign of thrashing around. She just fell over dead and I believe it was painless and she did not suffer a single little bit.
Ok, so I got the brush and brushed her coat out all nice and pretty and wrapped her up in that patchwork blanket my Mom made for me decades ago that Tuco laid on in the back of the Suburban. We buried her this morning just after daylight.
It is what it is and I miss her horribly. I am sorry.
I began to compose a comment to post to his blog. I wanted to say how sorry that I was for his loss, and that in my own little way, I understood.
It’s not just the dog.
I have blogged about this before but…. I was on the road as a hatchet man for a couple of years. Living in rental cars and hotels gets old really fast. I made the decision to move from Alabama to take a position with the company in Chicago. I could have a home and a plant and a pet. At the time of the move, I hadn’t been divorced all that long and my ex-wife was all-too-happy to let me have one of our cats, ‘Magnolia’, who quickly got re-named ‘Miss Dixie, the Confederate Kitty’.
I hated Chicago. The people were cold and the weather was worse. Miss Dixie the Confederate Kitty took sick and had to be put down. I was inconsolable.
It wasn’t just the cat.
Miss Dixie the Confederate Kitty was the last link to when I was happy. I was miserable in Chicago. I desired no future in Chicago. I was homesick for the South and I had made a mess of my life. I was divorced, alone and living in what was referred to as “The Mexican Ghetto” because it was better than living with white Chicagoans. And now, Miss Dixie the Confederate Kitty was gone.
I grieved. Lord have mercy, I grieved. I grieved for Miss Dixie the Confederate Kitty but I grieved more for the rudderless ship that was my life. And I think that’s where poor Andy is now. I am truly, truly sorry for Andy’s loss.
Perhaps the moral of the story is that being ornery, bull-headed and treating loved ones like rented mules isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Been there, done that myself.
Hopefully, for both Andy and me, it’s never too late to learn.