Story: What’s wrong with your dog?

“What’s wrong with your dog?”

It was early fall, not quite sweater weather, with a slight wind that nonchalantly swept leaves along the path. Lost in my thoughts, I had stopped for a moment to let Pasha, my Keeshond mix, sniff at a clump of suspicious-looking weeds. Twelve years old, Pasha walked a little slower than he used to, but his tail curled smartly over his back, he still had a prancy bounce to his step, and he could be counted on to inspect every rock, bush and tree along our route. A few blue jays flew overhead, providing raucous commentary.

What’s wrong with my dog?

Two boys had come up behind me; I hadn’t heard them approach due to the cacophonous jays. One kid wore the requisite hoodie uniform of eleven-year olds, and the other had a football secured under his left arm.

I looked down to see what might be wrong with Pasha. He was still inspecting, his question mark tail stirring slightly in the breeze, his graying muzzle tucked deep into the plants.

“What do you mean, ‘What’s wrong?’ He looks fine to me.”

“His back,” said Hoodie Kid. “What’s wrong with his back? Does he have some kind of disease or something?”

Football scrunched up his face. “Eww.”

Oh that.

The Keeshond breed has a double layer of luxurious fur, and Pasha certainly wasn’t cheated out of that part of his inheritance. Yet on his back was a platter-sized bald spot, mottled bubble-gum pink and chocolate brown.

“He was hit by a car years ago. He’s okay now, but he lost the fur on his back.”

They looked unconvinced; maybe the dog had something contagious.

“Want to pet him? He loves when people pat him on his bald spot.”

The two boys looked at each other. Neither wanted to appear grossed out in front of his friend, yet both weren’t in a hurry to make contact with that awkwardly naked surface.

“Sure. Okay.” That was Football. Pasha was finished with his business, and he looked up as both boys walked toward him. The dog wagged a greeting and offered a welcoming sniff.

“What’s his name?” Hoodie softly brushed his hand across Pasha’s back. The other boy set his football down as he kneeled next to my dog, who leaned toward them in anticipation. Three wags later, the two boys were on the receiving end of soggy dog kisses, as they alternately ran their hands through Pasha’s soft fur or gently stroked his bald back.

A cat, a dog, an accident

A scene like this played out often when I took Pasha for a walk, and I was nearly always caught off guard by the “what’s wrong with your dog?” question and its variants.

Years previously, Pasha had chased a neighbor’s cat into the street—oblivious to the car turning the corner. The emergency vet told us he was very lucky; there were no broken bones, no internal bleeding. The night of the accident, I slept on the floor next to Pasha, propping him up when it hurt him to lie down, comforting him, and giving him pills the vet had prescribed for the pain.

The next day, I noticed blood on Pasha’s back. I gingerly moved his fur aside. A clump came out in my hand, and underneath was angry skin, oozing blood. Every time I touched him, more fur fell out. This was more than I could take care of by myself; it was time to call the vet. Words tumbled out almost incoherently as I tried to describe the wads of blood-tinged fur that were falling off of my dog.

“You’d better bring him in.” Those words made me simultaneously relieved that Pasha would get the care he needed and scared that his injuries were worse than we had originally thought.

A vet tech took Pasha straight into the back while I sat on a hard plastic chair in the waiting room, staring blankly at the pictures of happy pets on the bulletin board. I checked my watch every few minutes to see that only seconds had gone by. The longer he was gone, the more insistently my heart pounded as terrible scenarios cascaded through my brain. After twenty real-time minutes inched by, the tech called me into the exam room. She closed the door and looked at me kindly, lightly touching my arm.

“He’s okay.”

I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath until it escaped in a rush.

“But the vet wanted me to prepare you for what Pasha looks like now. When we shaved his fur to get a better look at his back, we discovered that the injury was…well…rather large. We thought it might be a bit shocking when you see him.”

Even with that preparation, I gasped when Pasha walked into the room with the vet. Nearly half of his back was bloody and furless. He offered a sorrowful wag. My poor baby.

To us,  he was normal

It took months of three-times-daily warm compresses, two surgeries and tons of love, but Pasha recovered—mostly. His fur never grew back; instead, our dog now sported a pink and brown bald spot.

As for Pasha, once he healed completely, he enjoyed having people pat him on his bare skin. It must have been a unique sensation, without fur blocking a cool breeze or getting in the way of a loving caress.

For family and friends who knew Pasha, his naked spot was normal. My young kids and I would look at the patterns on his skin, finding images in the shapes we saw there. My daughter was sure one pink splotch looked just like Snoopy’s pal Woodstock from the Peanuts comic strip. My son insisted another area looked like Australia. We’d pat the shapes and continents and watch him wiggle with pleasure. To us, Pasha felt very alive, as the warmth of his body was no longer trapped by the insulating fur.

In the summers, we protected his exposed area by slathering on sunscreen. The kids helped rub it in as Pasha danced with excitement; not only did the dog enjoy the attention, but it meant we were going outside!

We didn’t see anything missing when we looked at Pasha. We saw a whole dog whom we loved completely.

Which was why I was so clueless when those boys—or anyone else—asked me what was wrong with my dog. I would patiently explain to people who thought Pasha was “ruined” and no longer beautiful, that he certainly didn’t think so and neither did we; we were simply happy to still have him with us, having come so close to losing him.

Everyone who met Pasha and heard his story would eventually pet him—some more tentatively than others. He would respond the same way, with joyous sweeps of his tail and a soft nudge of his body, anticipating a gentle touch from yet another new best friend. The people would all take something away, too. A lesson on beauty. A new perspective on disability. An acceptance of difference.

For the rest of Pasha’s life, I continued to be surprised when someone asked me what was wrong with my dog.

Because there was nothing wrong.

 

Keeshond mix with bald spot on back.

Pasha. You can just see the pink and brown bald spot on his back.

 

Keeshond mix dog, from Life with Dogs and Cats.

To his family, there was nothing wrong with Pasha. We were so happy he was with us.

 

Pasha was the most affectionate dog I have ever known. He sought attention from everyone; friends, family, the plumber, the kid on the path he just met.

 

Dog with bald spot on his back.

We don’t have too many photos where you can really see his bald spot. In this picture, he is extra furry, as we hadn’t had him groomed for months, since his skin was still healing.

 

Our sweet, furry, lovable and perfect dog, Pasha.

 

You can read more about Pasha on this site, or look through an album of photos.

 

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26 Comments on "Story: What’s wrong with your dog?"

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  1. Kitties Blue says:

    Pasha had the sweetest face and was so beautiful. Mom knows how hard it is when a beloved animal gets hit by a car. Fifteen-year old Lily Olivia was hit when she was four-years old and had major, serious injuries. Her survival was an absolute blessing and we can tell that’s how you felt about Pasha. Thanks for sharing this very heart-warming story with us. XO, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

    • Exactly. It’s not about the looks; it’s about the love. How blessed we are when a loved one–human or otherwise–recovers from severe injury or illness. Life is to be treasure.

  2. Emma says:

    Pasha was adorable! Humans can just be downright rude, but they are just as rude if now worse with other humans that are not perfect!

  3. easy rider says:

    It was great how you managed this situation. Pasha was a wonderful guy! I never thought that kids, specially boys can be as sensitive as “Football” and “Hoodie”, YAY for this boys :o)

  4. slimdoggy says:

    Great story, lucky Pasha and lucky you. It never ceases to amaze me how important appearance is to people. Pasha looks like a real sweetie.

    • So many folks told me what a shame it was that Pasha was no longer so beautiful. Once he recovered, I think Pasha enjoyed the attention and the soft pats on his furless back. Pasha never felt anything other than love. Looks meant nothing. Maybe that’s a lesson for all of us.

  5. I don’t know how anyone could have thought Pasha wasn’t beautiful. He was a stunning boy. There are many forms of beauty and the most precious is the soul of a person or animal. :)

    You are a very good writer and I was very impressed with this post. thank you for sharing Pasha’s story and your writing with us.

  6. Ruby says:

    Awwwe! Ya know, I thinks it made him more beautifuls! I would have loved the slobbery kisses!!! BOL
    Just lookie at that face!
    Great story, and what a cool dude Pasha…
    Kisses,
    Ruby ♥

  7. I LOVE this! Tears came to my eyes as I read Pasha’s story – so sweet and touching. Just looking at the photos of his sweet face, I see so much love. What an incredible dog. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I can’t wait to share it with others.

  8. meowmeowmans says:

    This is such a beautiful story. Pasha was a beautiful soul — inside and out. You were so blessed to have each other!

  9. Rebekah says:

    Sweet boy. This made me cry. How scary to go through that. It was certainly a conversation starter, I am sure.

  10. That is such a sweet story. I truly hope that those who had the opportunity to meet Pasha are now less wary of other animals – and people – with disabilities. A disability does not define someone; there is so much more to a companion or a human.

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story!

  11. Dawn says:

    Pasha is gorgeous! And what a beautiful name too. I admit that if I met her I’d ask about her back too. I wouldn’t be grossed out, though.

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