By Lynne Phillips
Lights and sirens are not an uncommon sight or sound in the village of New London and neither is the sight of Tammy Montgomery with her two labrador retrievers, Lights and Siren.
Montgomery is probably most recognized as one of the employees of Firelands Ambulance Service and a volunteer firefighter with the New London Fire Department.
Missing from Montgomery’s dog family is that familiar black lab, Siren.
Most recently Siren could be seen enjoying his daily walks in a bright red dog stroller.
The stroller came into Siren’s life after he was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, Montgomery explained.
“He started dragging his back leg, making his toenails bloody,” Montgomery said. “I took him to the vet and she said he had degenerative myelopathy. Explaining she said, “It is similar to Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease in humans. The disease while complicating Siren’s life wasn’t what he died from. He died from two tumors, one that was crowding his lungs and heart and the other crowding his stomach and colon. With tears in her eyes she said, “The vet told me not to wait too long to have him put down because it would be really painful for him.”
For the final two days of his life Siren did what he liked best. Take walks with his friends and Lights. He also was also treated to cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets.
Siren was 14 and a half when he died and his companion, Lights is a 13 year old yellow lab.
Both dogs were ‘locals’ from a woman in New London. “They got along from day one, but they did have their moments as all dogs do,” Montgomery said with a smile. “They went on walks everyday of their lives together, no matter what the weather. People would see us out in blizzards or rain, the weather just didn’t matter. The dogs wanted their walks so we went.
“In 2010 Siren had to have both of his back knees replaced,” she recalled. “Not at the same time of course.
“As a matter of fact,” Montgomery said, “my living room isn’t that big and for nine months after his surgeries my king sized mattress was on the floor of the living room so he could still get in the bed and he could walk from the bed to the couch to look out the window. He wasn’t allowed to jump.
“Lights has been fortunate, he hasn’t had to have any surgeries,” she commented.
Both Lights and Siren enjoy birthday celebrations with a cupcake complete with candle, party hats and presents.
Grinning she told when the dogs were little they each had a kennel in the living room. Whenever the tones (for ems or fire) would go off they were placed in them. The pair got to the point that when the tones went off they just went in on their own. As they got older and no longer needed the kennels they were put away, but when the tones went off the dogs would still go to the spot where kennels used to be and just sit there. “It was hilarious to see,” she said.
Siren was a friendly soul and according to his owner, never met a stranger. “He liked everybody and at bedtime, Siren always grabbed a toy before heading to the bedroom.
“The only bad part of Siren’s illness was the dragging of his toenails and they would bleed all the time. I put double socks on him and then I finally found ‘the boot’ on the internet.
The boot is made from a material like welding materials are made from. “He went through four of them,” she commented. “He never fought having them on his paws. At first he didn’t like it, but he always let me put it on.”
According to Siren’s vet, his brain stopped sending signals that he even had that back leg. “His left hind leg was no longer registering with his brain.” Montgomery said the vet also said eventually he would lose that leg and the myelopathy would go to his right hind leg. It was a little over a year when it hit his other hind leg. That is when we went to the rear end harness. We used that for three weeks to a month.
Dealing with the loss of beloved pet is just as difficult as losing a loved one, she said. “Other people have children, I have dogs and the loss of Siren has been very hard. Something makes me think of him everyday. I found a bone necklace online that holds some of his ashes so he is with me all the time and some of his ashes are buried in the yard with a memorial.” Wistfully she said, “There will never be another one like him.”