So, here's the good news about Sgt. Thomas Tibbs:
After three and a half years with me, he is still making slow progress toward becoming, as I like to characterize it, "a real dog." He has settled in nicely to life in Calimesa. We both loved the fact that over the Fourth of July holiday it was relatively quiet around here, except for the occasional bottle rocket shot off by some miscreants on the nearby golf course, and of course, a half hour or so of muted booms from the fireworks display at the local high school (which we toughed out nicely by sitting in the truck in the garage, me reading, Thom panting).
Dog lovers know that living with a dog is like living with a secret agent; you're constantly followed by someone who seems to take notes of everything you do, everywhere you go. I never thought Thomas would ever get to this level of companionship, but since I've been retired, he's been very intent on scrutinizing my routine. He knows if I put on a certain pair of sneakers, we're going for a walk, and he will follow me down the hall without being called. On the now rare occasion that I put on slacks or a skirt, he stays on his bed—with very sad eyes. In that case, he knows I'm leaving without him and will be gone for a long time.
And he absolutely loves riding in the truck. Every afternoon at 4:00 (he reminds me if I'm caught up in writing something and forget the time), we go for a drive to get the mail and just get out of the house for awhile. Thomas is happy to sit in the back seat for as long as I want to chauffeur him around. Yes, this is the same dog whose anxiety would make him puke if he had to ride more than a mile or so. Now that's progress.
He's also gotten extremely good at playing 'possum. I'm still getting up pretty early, usually around 5:00. All the dogs I've ever companioned with (except for Osa, when she was very, very old) have begun their potty dance as soon as I swing my legs over the side of the bed. Thom remains where he is, absolutely still, until I come to his bed and rub his belly. When he first started this, I thought he wasn't feeling well. He'd lay in his bed, unmoving, until I came to sit by him and pet him. Slowly, he'd begin to "wake up." It took me awhile (humans are notoriously slow to catch on, as dogs know), but I finally realized he was staying in bed so I would come scratch his back and behind his ears. When he's felt sufficient love and adoration, he simply jumps up, shakes all over, wags his tail and trots for the back door. He's such a goofy, funny dog now compared to the depressed, traumatized and shut down dog he was three years ago.
But... here's the bad news about Sgt. Thomas Tibbs:
He was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. It's called Pemphigus. When his nose began to look like this
I Googled "Why does my dog have spots on his nose?" and ended up on PetMD.com, reading about how dogs can get lupus. I picked up the phone and called the vet's office.
Our new vet, Dr. Thompson at Adobe Veterinary Clinic, was really great with Thom, understanding and empathizing with his fear of humans. (And Dr. Thompson appreciates the work of Temple Grandin, so that makes him even more wonderful.) Plus he has horses. And a sense of humor.
He explained that no, we don't know what causes Pemphigus, but yes, it usually does respond well to a certain steroid, and he is confident that Thom's quality of life will remain good. "He has a strong heart," he commented as he applied his stethoscope to Thom's ribcage. We left with medicine which Thomas is swallowing down with his treats (never suspecting). I think he'll be fine in a few weeks. I've already told him I need him around for a few more years. We've got a lot of walking—and driving—to do.