My girl. My sidekick. My teacher. My heart.
March 2006-Jan 30, 2017
I received a card in the mail today. I don’t get mail much that doesn’t ask for money or announce a sale. Such is the modern communication system of texts, emails and social media that the tactile surprise of a real card is a pleasant change.
When I saw the return address, my heart made a funny little jump and a familiar feeling of tingly burning popped up between my eyes… it was from the mobile veterinary service. They had sent me a ‘thinking of you’ card on the anniversary of them coming to my home and helping me say goodbye peacefully to my ten-and-a-half-year-old dog. What a lovely, painful and touching gesture. Damn it. I hated it and I loved it all at once.
I didn’t want a dog, really, all those years ago.
I worked with animals at Veterinary Clinic for 8 years and walked dogs for 6 without acquiring any canine roommates and that suited me. It was like having a whole bunch of dogs I could love and then give back, like a permanent doggy Auntie. It enabled me to remain somewhat detached, I guess. I had two cats I loved dearly but I kept telling myself I didn’t need a dog. Too much work, too much responsibility, too much financial stress.
Then a friend and neighbour, who worked at the Toronto Humane Society, started talking about dogs that she met there that I should “go get”. I managed to duck the pressure for a little bit, but she was wearing me down…and then I finally admitted to myself why I was avoiding going to see these dogs.
D.D. Named after Duran Duran my favourite pop band in High School. I was sixteen and a friend had a puppy to give away. I begged my mother for this puppy, saying I would train it, walk it and take care of it. She said yes, and I went to pick up this 3-month-old black labby type pup.
I had her for about a month when I returned home from school to find the pup gone.
“Too much work”. “Gone to the country”
Gone. Just like that. No further explanation and years later I learned that “gone to the country” was a common euphemism for dead. I have no idea whether my mother delivered that pup to a farm or not.
I didn’t want a dog. The thought was traumatic to me. Which pissed me off. I, of course, went to THS and I got a puppy. Because if you are going to jump a trauma chasm you need to go big. I REALLY didn’t want a puppy.
Just like that.
Four and half months of age, a hound mix of some sort, inexplicably labeled as a Rottweiler mix. Hello, she was YELLOW. She sat on my lap in my friend’s car looking at me and then outside and then back to me. She chose me. I was her person. She walked into my tiny apartment, took at look at the cats, found a carpet and just settled in like she’d lived there her whole life.
Ten years later, she and I had weathered a lot. Separation anxiety, reactivity, cruciate ligament injury, rehab, chronic renal disease, a dislocated hip in the fall of 2016. Oh, and the chronic poo eating. Obsessive even. Ugh.
She had been my “learning” dog, where I learned exactly WHY punishment-based methods and being a “leader” was contraindicated. She learned clicker training and was a decoy dog. She went to seminars with me. She went on trips down east to see family. She was an EXCELLENT dog with puppies.
She had the softest ears, lab size, not like a hound but so, so soft. She had eyes that looked like there was a universe behind them. She was too long in the body and too short in the legs. She was an inveterate squirrel chaser. She loved to swim at Cherry Beach. She had the most wonderful Aroooo when she was happy and when she saw someone she really liked. You know who you are.
Her chronic kidney disease was well managed and the summer of 2016 at OVC I was told that it was unlikely that she would die of kidney disease. I was hoping to get to 13 or 14 with her. She was fit and happy. It was good news.
In late September she fell down the stairs at a client’s and suffered a traumatic dislocation of her left hip. It took them three tries to put it back into it’s socket. Ten days of being “hobbled” with her hind legs tied together and a couple of months of rehab and we were back at Cherry Beach running and playing. She had lost weight during her injury rehab…mostly muscle.
In mid January of 2017 Cracker’s kidneys went into acute kidney failure. She had contracted a severe E -Coli infection, likely from the lake water or from the puddles of poop water during a thaw. We managed to partially stabilize Cracker, so I could take her home for a few days and then I made the appointment for the mobile vet to come to my house. I was not going to have my separation anxious dog at the vet for weeks to try and save her when I knew that no matter if we get through this crisis the next one is right around the corner.
We went to Staples for biscuits and the cashiers fawned over her. We went to Cherry Beach one more time to see all our dog and people buddies and to have pictures taken by a friend. We visited my long-term walking client and Cracker’s best doggy friend, Flint. It was a good day.
The next day, my good friend and colleague, Bev, came to be with us. The veterinarian arrived. She was lovely and kind. It was too slow and over too soon at the same time. The sedation took quickly and with my head on her body I told her over and over again what a good dog she was. Her breathing deep and slow, so relaxed. The injection was given and then one, two, three quick breaths and she was gone. That sound of those quick breaths echoed in head for months after.
The end. No going back now. She was so still and warm. I touched her silky ears and kissed the spots on her nose. I managed to hang on until she was gone and then sobbed heavily into the thick hair on her neck until I couldn’t anymore.
I wanted her back. I wanted to do all the things I hadn’t done and say all the things I hadn’t said. I knew it was the right decision and yet it felt all too wrong. It is wrong to lose your best friend. It is wrong to lose them early, late, for good reason or for bad. Wrong. There is no other way to say it.
My suffering began so hers could end. Repeated like a mantra. Letting her go was not wrong. It is never wrong to end suffering. I miss you my Sweet Girl.