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Life out here by Bret Kofford: The Jewel finally shines

February 27, 2002

We can learn many lessons from dogs, including those of loyalty, love and lust for life.

From our dog Jewel, better known as The Jewel, we have learned all of the above and something even more important. The Jewel has taught us to never give up hope on anyone you love.

Three years ago we purchased The Jewel from a now-defunct local hardware store, where she had been kept for several weeks behind a little fence. Most of a large litter of boxers had been sold, with only two sisters left. We took the prettier of the sisters, not just for her looks but because she looked a person in the eye when she was addressed. She seemed to be the calmer of the two, too.

We were to be right about the beautiful and attentive aspects of her personality. Jewel has grown into an uncommonly handsome dog, and like the singer of the same name, she has tawny hair and charmingly jagged teeth. The Jewel The Dog also is uniquely tuned in and responsive to her owners.

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As for the calm part, well, we couldn't have been more wrong. The Jewel lives life to the fullest at all moments. She never walks when she can sprint like a free-range mustang, she never wrestles for five minutes when she can wrestle for 50 and she never licks a person twice when 20 licks can be slobbered upon a face.

From the minute we got her home she acted as if she had been taken to dog paradise, what with other dogs for tussling, people for cuddling, a yard for romping and fences for climbing. By the time she was a few months old, with her wiry strength and athleticism, she could quickly scale our fence, but she went nowhere beyond the front yard, because she knew she had heaven at home.

The Jewel deeply loves her family n myself, my wife, my son and our other dog n and does so with an unbridled passion. A few weeks ago I took the dogs on a walk to the neighborhood market. Out front was a man with a 12-pack of beer who seemed to be waiting for both a ride and a better mood. As I latched the dogs to a pole to go inside, I could tell The Jewel was watchful of the man.

When I came back outside she was straddling our prone older dog and staring at the man intensely, as if to say, "If you want a piece of old Mama here, you're going to have to go through me."

Such displays of devotion are not uncommon for The Jewel. As the earthquake rocked us last week, she went into her protective mode, growling and pacing, ready to take care of whichever bad guy was doing this strange, mean thing to her family.

Although we never talked about it directly, I think my son, like a lot of adolescent boys, wanted a big, tough dog. What he got was an undersized sweetheart of a boxer who was deathly ill. Tough she is, though, because life hasn't been easy for the Jewel.

Jewel, like many boxers, has ulcerative colitis, something that plagues certain strains of the breed. That means she has not had a regular bowel movement in her life … and she has many, many bowel movements.

She has been on various medications, through scores of dog foods and visited various veterinary clinics. She even had a colonoscopy. At times she showed minor improvement. Other times she only got worse.

I searched the Internet for answers and tried various medical and folk remedies. The veterinarian who worked with us most on this problem, Dr. Howard from Brawley, also was unceasing in his search for help for The Jewel, who became something of a favorite in his office because of her relentlessly sunny personality despite her obvious pain.

It reached the point a couple times where Dr. Howard hinted at the unmentionable. He didn't want to see her continue to suffer, and neither did I. I tried to broach that prospect with my son, but he didn't want to even acknowledge it. It was a hard, awful thing to consider.

By the time she turned 3 this Christmas season, The Jewel was down to fur and bones. Her once muscular body had withered to that of a dog being starved. At times she would not come in the house because she knew she might have an accident, and those accidents were more traumatic for her than us. On Christmas night everything seemed to being going fine with her and everyone else. The family was together and she was happy. Then came the sad face of a sick dog and the inevitable messy result.

One of the folk remedies that seemed to help was giving her cottage cheese once a day. Even with that improvement, she still was a mess. Finally, having run out of her hypoallergenic food that I only could get from the vet's office, and with the vet's office closed for a couple days, I went to the supermarket to find whatever might be less hurtful to a sick dog's stomach. I saw some chicken and rice formula dog food, and having read on the Internet that a chicken and rice diet had helped with another dog, I said, "We've got nothing to lose."

The food didn't make her any worse immediately, and within days her stomach started to settle. Soon she could stay in the house for hours at a time. Her stomach problems went from unbearable to just bad, a big improvement for all of us.

Now, two months later the Jewel is, well, looking healthy, almost, dare I say, robust. More than that, she is happy n happy that she can spend more time with her family, happy that she can be at relative peace, happy being happy.

She may never be fat and happy, but we can certainly keep trying.

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