Before leaving the subject of old dogs, I’m glad that my Aunt Susie in Syracuse brought this timely news article to my attention. I’m going to share it here in its entirety, because Mike told me I could not trust a Newhouse company to keep its articles available on the Internet for free and in perpetuity. In my humble opinion,this story deserves to be told and retold.
Ruthie the dachshund dies at 20; a lesson in never giving up
By James T. Mulder
After surviving two bouts of cancer, blindness, back problems and other infirmities, Ruthie Von Muggles died June 19 at age 20.
The miniature dachshund owned by Ron Lagoe, of Camillus, would have been 21 in November.
“She never took no for an answer,” said Lagoe, who nicknamed her “the boss.” He took the dog to work with him every day at the Hospital Executive Council, a planning agency that serves Syracuse’s three hospitals.
It is extremely unusual for a dog to live that long, said Erin Corrigan, a veterinarian at Fairmount Animal Hospital in Camillus who cared for Ruthie. Corrigan said she’s only seen one other dog that old in her practice. Most dogs don’t live beyond 12 or 13, she said.
The world record for the oldest dog is 29, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Cheryl Balkman, a veterinarian and cancer specialist at the Cornell University Animal Hospital, who also cared for Ruthie, said the dog was the oldest canine she’s ever seen.
The Ithaca hospital is naming an exam room in her honor. Balkman credits Ruthie’s longevity to the dog’s spirit of perseverance and Lagoe’s diligent care.
Lagoe is establishing a foundation in Ruthie’s honorto educate people about elderly pets and provide financial assistance to help care for them. Many owners have old dogs euthanized because they cannot afford medications and other expenses, he said.
“There are elderly dogs that can live for several more years if you manage them,” Lagoe said. He has two other dachshunds, ages 9 and 10.
Corrigan said Ruthie taught her more about being a veterinarian than anything she learned in school. The most important lesson she learned from the canine was never give up.
Ruthie was 12 ½ when she became Corrigan’s patient. She had developed a benign tumor on her spleen. “A lot of dogs at that point and their owners would be throwing in the towel,” she said.
Instead Ruthie had surgery to remove the spleen. She bounced back from the operation and began what Corrigan called her second life.
Shortly after that she began losing her eyesight and eventuallywent blind. When she was in an unfamiliar room, the dog would walk in expanding concentric circles to determine what objects were in her path. “She was figuring out how to navigate her environment. It was remarkable,” Corrigan said.
At age 17, Ruthie survived anaphylactic shock, a serious allergic reaction to a rabies vaccination.
Last March the dog was diagnosed with mast cell tumor, a common type of skin cancer in dogs. To manage the disease, she was given steroids, which caused a decline in some of her body’s other functions. Corrigan said she does not know for sure what caused Ruthie’s death.
“Eventually her heart stopped,” she said. “The steroids can do that.”
Whether to euthanize an elderly dog with health problems is a decision veterinarians and pet owners do not take lightly, she said. “It can be a financial decision in some cases,” she said.
Lagoe said one of the goals of his foundation is to get pet owners to consider the other option.
“We share the world with these animals,” he said. “Maybe they deserve a little more respect.”
Anyone interested in supporting Ruthie’s Foundation can call Ron Lagoe at 315-488-7649.
Pictured below are Ron Lagoe and Ruthie, who died June 19, five months short of her 21st birthday.