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My Tucson: Pampered pooch curries friendship

Orphaned dog thrust upon family, then torn away by deadly disease

Katie taking in some sun.

Katie taking in some sun.

I am seated on the bathroom floor beside Katie’s resting body. She’s stretched out on her left side, breathing regular, slow breaths.

Today she’s weaker than before. She can’t find her way to the door. Outside she squatted to pee and couldn’t stand back up again.

The veterinarians are wrong. She can’t recover from this illness. It’s too pervasive; she’s too weak. Her eyes fill with water; I think she’s crying.

She’s refusing food. She’s refusing water. I am crying too. I am singing to her.

This is a true story about a funny dog. She died from brown tick fever, Ehrlichia canis, on Christmas Day.

Katie belonged to Rose, an old lady with white hair who could hardly breathe and smoked constantly. Rose was my neighbor, and Katie was her silly dog.

Most old ladies do not walk outside and sit on the earth, but Rose did.

She could barely take three consecutive steps without gasping for breath, but twice a day she exited her side of our shared duplex. Katie waddled after her. Rose would sit on the ground and light up a cigarette and let Katie sniff important pieces of dirt.

Katie was a happy old lady dog. She let Rose take her to the doggy beauty salon. She would smile afterwards; all perky and perfumed, she would trot along the sidewalk to her door.

One night several years ago, Katie was barking outside at 2 a.m. Sleuth that I am, I knew something was wrong.

I dialed the police and reported Rose as dead. That really got their attention. They wanted to know how I knew.

“Old ladies do not leave their dogs outside at night.”

So, there was Rose laid out near the back door of her apartment in an apparent attempt to let Katie inside. And me, in my pajamas, talking with the seasoned cop talking about the squeamish young officer he’s working with who can’t view the body, and . . . there’s Katie panting, or hyperventilating, in full awareness that things are about to change.

Police officers have magic keys that open all doors and magic phones that call living relatives of the newly deceased.

Rose’s daughter had some nasty things to say about Katie, which impressed the seasoned cop enough to comment to me, “She doesn’t like that dog.”

Understandable. Katie appeared to be sort of ridiculous.

I agreed to keep Katie that night. The next day, all her doggy paraphernalia appeared mysteriously upon my doorstep. Without my permission, I inherited Rose’s most precious possession and closest friend.

Neighbors around the duplex courtyard sent smiles for housing Katie.

Fast forward: Katie learns how to hike with my real dog, Tuzigoot. See Katie lifting her perfumed paw saying, “I don’t do dirt.” One hour later, she returns to the truck covered in seeds, dust and thorns, filled with rapture, born anew as a desert rat.

See Katie finding her place in a new family of cats, male dog and crazy mistress. She did exceptionally well for three years. She had the dramatic ability to be cute in the way that softens old hearts.

That’s why I was crying as I sang to Katie. She was my friend, too.

I knew something was wrong with her when she walked into walls. I suspected she had a stroke. The vet incorrectly diagnosed an inner ear disorder.

Katie suffered and died from chronic brown tick fever. It is a blood parasite, which is treatable when diagnosed early.

Look for signs of anemia, lethargy, pale gums, poor balance, etc. Humans are also susceptible.

Ehrlichia canis came to us via military dogs during our American war in Vietnam.

Kathi Sabot enjoys traveling in the pursuit of truth and beauty. She works as a registered nurse promoting health with Native Americans. E-mail: kasabot@gmail.com

Tuzigoot (left) is the columnist's



Learn more about brown tick fever at:





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