Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

October 9, 2012

John Cannon: Miss Priss has been good for both of them: 10/10/12

ASHLAND — When Miss Priss became a member of our family in late March, I thought an overweight, deaf, elderly beagle with epilepsy, arthritis and a variety of other ailments was joining our family. But I misjudged Miss Priss. Instead of acting more and more elderly and becoming more and more disabled, this little pooch continues to amaze and delight my wife and me.

Miss Priss is my pet name for Priscilla, the nearly 14-year-old beagle who I “inherited” from my dear friend, Helen Simmons. In so doing, I was fulfilling a promise I made to Helen more than a decade ago that if Prissy outlived her, I would take her beloved pet into our home. At the time she joined our family, Prissy did not seem to be in much better shape than Helen had been before her death just before her 90th birthday. In fact, at Helen’s funeral her son-in-law and granddaughters gave me permission to have Prissy euthanized if I thought it was necessary.

To me, putting Prissy down was out of the question. While Prissy certainly had many of the problems that come with old age, she was a long, long way from needing to be euthanized. In fact, I happen to share many of the same ailments that Prissy has. I’m not completely deaf but I wear hearing aids and still do not hear as well as I would like. Like Prissy, I am a bit more than a few pounds overweight, and my joints creak and do not move as well as they once did. In fact, instead of thinking she was just an old dog not much good for anything any more, I sympathized with Prissy. In the words of Bill Clinton, I could feel her pain.

But the Miss Priss who moved into our house in March is not the same beagle who lives with us today. She is the new and improved Prissy who has gotten a new lease on life. And as her health has improved, so has mine. In short, Prissy and I have been good for one another.

When Prissy arrived on Forest Avenue, she was too fat, tipping the scales at 49 pounds during her first trip to the veterinarian’s office with me. Her weight problem was because Helen had been unable to give Prissy walks during the final months of her long life. Instead, she simply let Prissy into the fenced back yard when nature called.

As soon as Miss Priss moved in, she and I began taking walks every morning and evening. Long ones. On a typical day we walk just under two miles. As a result, Prissy began losing weight and now weighs just under 40 pounds. Now a weight loss of less than 10 pound may not sound like much, but it is a lot when one weighs only 50 pounds.

As she shed the pounds, Prissy became more and more mobile. And the same thing happened to me. I used to walk a lot, but in recent years, I found myself walking less and less as my joints ached and bending over had become such a chore that if I dropped some change it had to be at least a dime before I thought it was enough money to endure the pain of picking it up.

But after months of taking leisurely strolls with Miss Priss (we walk at a pace just slightly faster than that of a turtle),  I am enjoying the same benefits of our daily walks that Miss Priss is. I’ve lost weight (although no one would call me “Slim”)  and have gotten more mobile. I’m not ready to play shortstop or run a marathon, but if I drop a nickel, I will stoop to pick it up.

However, the greatest sign of just how much Prissy has improved only occurred lately. Counting our finished basement and walkup attic, we live in a house with four full stories. But for the first five months, Miss Priss had only been on the main floor of our house. She had never been banned from going up or down stairs and roaming anywhere in the house, she had just never done so. My wife and I assumed it was because her arthritis made it too painful for her to go up and down stairs.

However, one afternoon, I came home and could not find Miss Priss. I could hear her barking, but I looked in every room on the main floor and even in the yard without finding her. I finally found her in our bedroom on the second floor. As far as my wife and I know, that was the fist time she had ever ventured into that part of the house, and when she went back to the main floor, the trip on the stairs was obviously painful to her.

 A few weeks later, my wife returned home and could not find Prissy. After searching all the rooms on the main floor and the second floor, she finally found her — in the attic! Wow, I rarely go to the attic. What was Prissy doing up there?

My wife called me at work and said she could not get Miss Priss out of the attic. I would have to do it when I got home, but as soon as I walked into the house a couple of hours later, Prissy came to greet me.

Miss Priss now sleeps each night beside our bed, and wherever we are in the house, she is usually with us. Going down steps is still painful, but Miss Priss has decided it is worth the effort.

Miss Priss is the first “house dog” we have ever had, and my wife still doesn’t like all the hair she sheds in the house. But the old dog who moved in in March is acting younger and younger all the time, and guess what? So am I.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-2649.

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