FORSYTH -- Scout leads a dog’s life, and that’s OK with him.
He eats. He sleeps. He lies on his belly in the garage and watches the world go by.
But the dog days of summer aren’t what they used to be. Scout lost the use of his hind legs earlier this year, making it difficult to enjoy all the works and perks of being man’s best friend.
You can call him crippled or handicapped or disabled -- whatever is politically correct for dogs -- and he will not be offended.
He’s just happy to be here.
Scout can no longer chase after squirrels or bark at the mailman, two of life’s greatest pleasures when you are a black Lab.
He can’t wag his tail when his owners, Maida and Baxter Evans, reach down to scratch his head.
Still, life is a series of adjustments, even when you’re a dog. Scout can handle just about any kind of challenge thrown his way because he knows he is loved.
“People have asked why we don’t have him put down (put to sleep),” Maida said. “But dogs are a part of your family. You don’t give up on them. He’s happy and content. He still has value.
“He has given us 12 years, and we feel as long as he isn’t in pain, enjoys life and those around him, we owe it to him to let him live out his life as long as possible. When the time comes, he will let us know.”
Maida has been bringing in strays since she was growing up in Henderson -- a little girl with a big heart for animals.
The Evanses, who married in 1972, have three other dogs and a cat at their home in River Forest.
They’ve never bought a dog. There isn’t a purebred among them. Scout is a black lab mix. Rivoli is a husky mix. Buddy is a chow mix. And Grizzly is a German shepherd mix. They have had their cat, Felix, for 16 years.
(They found their first dog at the Dairy Queen in Athens and named it “Butternut” after the ice cream flavor. They were convinced she was a new breed -- a “terripoo” because she appeared to be part terrier, part poodle.)
Earlier this year, Baxter and Maida noticed Scout was having mobility issues. His pace slowed. He had difficulty getting in and out of the car. He started dragging his hind legs and struggled to get traction. They placed socks on his paws to keep them from bleeding.
Although it is not as common in labs as it is in other breeds, Scout was diagnosed with canine degenerative myelopathy. The early symptoms are weakness and the loss of coordination in the back legs, followed by paralysis. It is to dogs what amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is to humans.
Maida left the veterinarian’s office with self-instructions.
“Bring him home, take care of him and love him,” she said.
He came into their lives in 2002, when they lived at North Rivoli Farms in Bibb County. One evening, while they were looking outside for one of their other dogs, Dixie, a 6-month old puppy appeared, with fur as dark as the night.
“All I could see was his eyes,” Maida said.
They named him Scout because he was supposed to scout deer in the neighboring woods.
“Instead, he scouted every package we had delivered from Federal Express,” Baxter said, laughing. “We would find them chewed up in the yard.”
When he was 2, Scout went to obedience school for eight weeks. After that, he and Maida bonded. They have been almost inseparable ever since.
Baxter and Maida now use a harness to lift Scout, who has to be assisted from room to room. He is not as heavy now. His weight has dropped from 100 pounds to about 60. He sleeps in their bedroom, and they usually get up with him several times during the night. It’s like having a baby in the house.
“We have to turn him over,” Maida said. “We have devised a system. We have a tag team.”
Why do they do it? “It’s unconditional love,” she said. “He trusts us to take care of him.”
In March, they ordered a custom-built dog wheelchair from Eddie’s Wheels, a company in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, that specializes in engineering lightweight aluminum wheelchairs for disabled dogs. (Watch Scout’s video at www.macon.com.)
Maida uses the wheelchair to walk Scout twice a day, even if it’s just to the end of the cul-de-sac. The walk takes a toll on his energy, she said, but it’s important that he get his exercise.
He also has lost his ability to bark. Maida believes his lungs have weakened.
The other dogs are attentive. They don’t ignore him. Buddy and Rivoli hang out with Scout on his bed in the garage. Buddy affectionately licks Scout’s ears.
In a recent post on Facebook, folks were asked to describe their dogs in one word.
Loyal. Precious. Spastic. Amazing. Sweet. Beautiful. Hyper. Irreplaceable. Loving.
Those were just a few of the responses.
I did not have to ask Baxter and Maida for their one word to describe Scout.
I already knew the answer.
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