Thursday, December 20, 2007

RIP, Princess Doggie

My dog has died.

Little Sasha, known affectionately as "Empty Doggie," our dainty little princess dog, breathed her last today. She was about 11, and we were her third family.

Sasha came to us about a year or so ago. She was a littermate to our little Doggie-Boy, Nash, and had been raised with him until they were about 6 years old. Their family moved to the UK and, rather than take the dogs with them, put them out for adoption. At that time, Nash and Sasha were separated, Sasha going to one family, Nash coming to us.

Nash had a problem that made him difficult to place...when he was left alone, he howled nonstop until someone came home. The person who placed Nash with us did not tell us that he had a sister who had been taken from him after six years of living together, and so we could not find a solution to his misery. After a year, Hubby added a second dog to the household, Candy, and after a short time the howling permanently stopped.

Last year, the rescue lady called us asking if we would like another dog. It was then that we learned about Sasha...and finally understood Nashie's mournful howling when left alone: he'd never been alone...he had always had his sister. Now the rescue lady wanted us to give Sasha a home, too...but we had Candy, and she tended to be a bit aggressive towards other dogs. We agreed to take Sasha for a week to see how things went.

Her owners brought her over and from the moment he entered the room, Nash knew who it was. He was so excited, he turned around and around in a tight light circle, his tail stiff, little whimpering sounds coming out of his mouth. When we put Sasha on the floor, he was all over her, sniffing, licking, whining...he recognized her there was no way we could refuse to keep her now.

I asked the owners about Sasha's things...she had none. She had been with them for three years and she didn't have so much as a collar and ID tag! Within 24 hours she had a pink jersey (short haircut + cold weather = miserable doggie), a red collar, and a heart-shaped brass tag with her name on one side and my cell number on the other. Each night we would have to pick her up off the cold patio tiles and carry her inside to the dog bed...they had made this dainty little Maltese sleep outside in all weather. It took weeks for her to get the idea that she could sleep indoors with the other dogs.

From the beginning, she was delicate, almost frail. She cried out when we picked her up and whimpered piteously when we touched her ears when petting her. And she didn't like to be held. She did sit still for Nash to groom her...he would sit on the patio and lick her face and her ears as she patiently allowed it.

Slowly, she began to integrate into the family. She was always a little aloof, a little fearful, a little unsure...but finally she started acting like our dog instead of an outsider. She cautiously began to be a little playful, to take her place in the little pack when treats were being passed out. She began wagging her tail when we came home and stopped acting fearful when we paid attention to her.

But she had problems. Sometimes she would stagger around like she was drunk, or stagger in a circle, looking confused. At first we thought she was having a seizure, but we soon discovered rigid muscles along her lower spine which, when Hubby massaged her, would release. She would have these attacks from time to time, trembling in pain and looking confused, but always recovered within a day.

On Tuesday morning I put her into the groomer's van, along with her three companions, and sent her off to be groomed. She seemed normal when she left, but was not too happy when she returned home, holding herself aloof from me. We attributed this to her being annoyed with me for handing her off to the groomers...she was not terribly fond of being dunked, sudsed, shorn, and blow-dried. She lined up with the other doggies for treats, though, just not terribly thrilled with my presence.

But she hadn't perked up by the next morning, and seemed listless and disinterested. She didn't seem to have a temperature, and she was drinking water, but midday she was refusing treats. By evening she was trembling either in pain or cold...or both...and I found that the muscles along her spine were rigid. So Hubby gave her a massage and I tucked her into bed with me where she relaxed and fell to sleep.

This morning she seemed to feel better and although she wasn't interested in eating, she stiffly waddled out to the water bowl and took a good drink. She then went to the doggie bed on the patio and took her customary place in the the cushions there. Hubby and I took his mother and grandmother shopping, as planned, returning home in the early afternoon. As Hubby carried in the purchases, I went straight to the doggie bed to check on Sasha, only to find her stiff and trembling. I picked her up and she looked at me piteously, and she was immediately whisked off to the vet.

In 48 hours she had gone from her normal self to alarmingly ill. The vet gave her a cursory examination, drew some blood, and said the prognosis was not good...she seemed to be jaundiced...he suspected liver failure. He put a drip in, with some medication to relax her and relieve her discomfort, and said he would call later after the blood tests were in.

And so she slipped gently into her next incarnation, swaddled in a fuzzy dark blue blanket like the one she slept on in my study. As we sat down to dinner the call came, and Hubby and I hurried to the vet's office to see her one last time, collect her little red collar and heart-shaped ID tag.

Thus she left us, naked as the day she came into our lives, but now loved and terribly, terribly missed.

Rest in peace, little Sasha. We will miss you very, very much.

1 comment:

  1. My sympathies...
    Rudyard Kipling said it for me when I said goodbye to my faithful companion.

    The Power of the Dog

    THERE is sorrow enough in the natural way
    From men and women to fill our day;
    And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
    Why do we always arrange for more?
    Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

    Buy a pup and your money will buy
    Love unflinching that cannot lie--
    Perfect passion and worship fed
    By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
    Nevertheless it is hardly fair
    To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

    When the fourteen years which Nature permits
    Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
    And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
    To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
    Then you will find--it's your own affair--'ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

    When the body that lived at your single will,
    With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
    When the spirit that answered your every mood
    Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
    You will discover how much you care,
    And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

    We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
    When it comes to burying Christian clay.
    Our loves are not given, but only lent,
    At compound interest of cent per cent.
    Though it is not always the case, I believe,
    That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
    For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
    A short-time loan is as bad as a long--
    So why in Heaven (before we are there)
    Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

    Rudyard Kipling



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