A Tribute to Phoebe

03/24/1994 to 01/26/2009
Phoebe 1
She was old and had to hop when she ran, but she never complained and was faithful to the end.

Phoebe came to me and my girlfriend at the time, Marcia, on December 9, 1995.  We acquired her from a co-worker in the Attorney General's Office, Camille Nohe.  Camille only had her three days, and Phoebe was too high-strung for Camille to handle.  Her name was Charlie at the time.

Phoebe was skittish as hell when we got her.  She had only been around women for most of her young life, and had no use for men.  I wondered if she was abused by a man.  For about the first three or four weeks we had her, she would constantly bark at me for no apparent reason.  She was so flaky, when we picked out a new name for her, it was really "Phobia."  However, the t.v. show "Friends" was popular at the time, and Marcia and I thought "Charlie" was somewhat flaky like the Phoebe character on friends, so her name became Phobia Vandyke Tacha-Knoll (Phoebe).

After Phoebe got over her fear of me, we had some great times together.  I would take her on long walks, and after she learned to mind me, I would let her off her leash to run free in the nearby school yard.  She would dash away at top speed, but was very obedient and would stop dead in her tracks and come back if I told her too.  She was too smart for her own good.  I'll never forget the day she opened a door with a doorknob.  She also got so good about getting out of any enclosure we tried to contain her in that she earned the nickname "Houdini."

After Phoebe grazed on my prized corn and tomatoes in the garden one year, I decided to try to pen her up.  I bought one of those electric fences you bury in the ground with an audible and shock collar that was supposed to keep her inside the boundary.  I put up the little flags where the fence would go, and walked Phoebe around it for three weeks or so.  She was very obedient about staying in the boundary, so I commenced to burying the fence.  I dug a little trench with my gas edger and was about halfway through burying the wire when I turned around and saw Phoebe running across the yard with the end of the wire.  She had dug up all the wire I buried, so I had to put her in the house and start over.  Once I got it buried and tested it, it was time to try to test it on Phoebe.  As she neared the boundary she would blow right past it.  I could hear the audible warning going off, but Phoebe's thick coat keep the shock probes at bay, so the fence had no effect on her.  Rather than shave her neck every few weeks, I came up with another plan - chain link.

I dug up the electric wire, and replaced it with a four foot chain link fence.  I poured a concrete pad in the corner and built Phoebe a nice, insulated doghouse painted to match the house and placed it on the pad.  Of course, she wouldn't go in the house.  She would lay on top of it Snoopy like, or use it to jump over the fence and raid the garden.  An electric fence wire one foot higher than the fence finally managed to keep her in.

Phoebe seemed lonely, so we got her a playmate, Molly, a Golden Retriever.  The day Molly arrived (October 20, 1996), we had a freak thunder snow storm dumping 12 inches of snow.  A large tree overhanging the dog pen still had its leaves on it, and a large branch fell onto the pen and doghouse.  I don't know if Phoebe was on top at the time, but she seemed no worse for the wear.  Molly however, was in the doghouse shaking like a leaf.  They both got to sleep inside the house that night.  I still remember Molly and Phoebe running back and forth in their pen pushing their stainless steel dog bowls around like hockey pucks.   They had a great time together.

After Phoebe and Molly moved with me to the Knoll acre in October 2000, other dogs started arriving and filling out the pack. With Phoebe clearly in charge as the alpha female, she started showing some aggression I hadn't seen before.  Once a Schwan's man stepped towards me with a pen in his hand.  Phoebe stopped him with two paws to his chest and a vicious growl.  She didn't bite him, but I'm sure he had to clean his drawers afterwards.  Phoebe and the others also started attacking Molly for no apparent reason.  Molly has always been very docile, and she didn't fit in well with the pack.  My wife Kim and I started having to keep Molly separated from the pack.

As Phoebe got older, she developed hip displaysia and the vet also advised that she had torn a ligament in one or both back legs in the past.  It didn't slow her down much.  She still ran with the pack, but it looked more like she was hopping than running.  Around the time she turned twelve, I kept thinking she wouldn't last much longer.  I would get sad around the holidays, thinking it would be Phoebe's last Christmas.  Amazingly, she kept on going.

After Christmas 2008, she seemed to start slowing down a little.  She would come in the house and lay on her bed, fighting to get comfortable.  Once she did get comfortable, she would zonk out and almost nothing, not even nature calling, would wake her up.  She must have lost most of her hearing because yelling wouldn't wake her up.  Once you laid a hand on her, though, she would instantly wake up, very startled.

On her last night, I woke her up and she went out in the back yard for about 10 minutes.  It was a cold night, with temperatures in the low teens and wind chills in the low 10s.  When I opened the back door, she came running from across the yard.  As I sat reading my email, she came into the office and stuck her head in the corner of the room, whining.  She had the dry heaves and I wondered if she had eaten something she shouldn't have.  We tried to comfort her and get her to lay down, but she kept getting up, wandering around the house and taking small drinks of water.  I called the vet at about 2 a.m., and he suggested some cottage cheese.  We did not have any, so she got a small piece of cheese with some pepto-bismol in it.  That seemed to bring her some relief.  She laid down and went to sleep after a while.  The next morning I headed out at about 0645.  She seemed fine, and raised her head and looked at me.  I petted her, and headed to work.  About the time I got to Kansas City, Kim called my cell phone and told me Phoebe was dead.  Kim said she seemed fine when she got in the shower, but when she got out, Phoebe had her legs straight out and had labored breathing.  Kim laid down with her, and Phoebe died in her arms.

I know that she is now running like her old self, with no pain and no hopping, pushing her dog bowl around like a hockey puck.  She will be sorely missed. God Bless you, Phoebe.  Say hello to Willy and Sally for me.

Phoebe 4Phoebe and Molly

Phoebe 2  Phoebe 3

Sally 3 

If you think the world is being rough on you, read this .