Thursday, December 10, 2009

#79 Unconditional Love

"So sad - wanted to cry, but held back the tears. I'm now onto dog number three."

The above was my email response to a blogger friend, who shared with the blogging world, the end of her dog's life. Her dog was old, in pain and infirm. My heart went out to her as only the mom of a four-legged family member can.

Zoe, our Doberman, was adopted at 8 weeks, a couple of months after Marc and I married. She was our baby. We left social engagements early and/or didn't go places because we didn't want to leave her for too long. When we chatted with other dog owners, we sounded like a bunch of proud parents one-upping each other with our "baby's" accomplishments. Zoe was with us at the beginning of our marriage, through the birth of our two children, and our moves from Washington DC to St. Louis, onto Philadelphia, and then out to the suburbs. Our first house was her first house too, and she loved roaming the 8 acres until the lots were sold and the new houses went up. Zoe died at the age of 8 from unknown causes. We came home from the movies one summer night and couldn't find her. She'd never left our property before, but I drove around the neighborhood calling her name. Meanwhile, Marc searched the property and finally found her "sleeping" in the pachysandra. I was hysterical - in the crying way. The next day we buried her; I felt empty. The day after that I came home from work forgetting that she was dead, and waited for her to run to the car. On day three post Zoe, I woke up and felt at peace. It was almost an exhilarating feeling. I can't explain it, but I felt that all would be ok.

We waited about a year before we adopted Hanna, our German Shepherd. We "saved" her through a group called Save A Shepherd. She was a sweet and wonderful dog - all 110 pounds of her. We never knew her real age or her history, but we had her for 9 years and loved every minute of it. Even her seasonal shedding and the stinky breath that came with age didn't bother me. The only problem with Hanna was that she was a true herder. When the neighborhood kids rode their bikes up our driveway, she would run next to them nipping their heels and waists while leaning into them. Sometimes those nips were closer to a good sized nibble. Needless to say, she wasn't popular with the neighborhood kids or their parents.

One day she started losing her nails. They just fell out. I googled "dogs losing finger nails" and came to a chat room where other dog owners talked about their dog's medical problems. There it was right in front of me. Hanna had all the symptoms of a neuropathic disease. Slowly over the months her back legs became numb and she started dragging her paws. We bought booties that helped her stabilize her back legs from slipping on our hardwood floors. I told Marc that the day she couldn't go to the bathroom alone would be the day we would have to say goodbye. That day came sooner than we expected. I happened to be looking out the window and saw her trying to squat, but her legs were shaking so badly she couldn't hold herself up. I ran outside and held her hind quarters while she did her business. I then helped her back into the house and called the vet to let them know that it was time. They too loved Hanna and were always telling me that she was the sweetest Shepherd they'd ever cared for.

Logan and Erica came with me that night. Erica chose to sit in the waiting room during the injection, but Logan wanted to be with Hanna and me. Putting Hanna down was a life- altering experience for me. As I sat on the floor petting her, the doctor injected the narcotics into a vein in her leg. I was looking into her eyes, telling her what a great lady she was and how we'll all miss her so much, when the light behind her eyes faded to dark. She was there one minute and poof, gone the next. With a broken heart, I watched her spark go out. It was, perhaps, the first time I wondered about the soul and questioned if the "light going out" is a chemico-physiological change or one's essence leaving the body. In my science classes, I had learned that energy just doesn't go away, it changes. Where did her energy go?

Now we're onto Iggy. He's our first boy dog, and I think if we ever get another dog, it will be a male. Females are great, but some are just too dominant and/or protective. In some dogs, the term "bitch" is truly descriptive of both personality and gender. Iggy was adopted. We saw him in a park with other dogs and cats trying to find new families. The other dogs were licking us, friendly and barking, but Iggy just stood or sat there letting us touch him, but not really responding. His ribs were sticking out and he had a terrible case of kennel cough. Somehow though, I knew he just needed love and nourishment to bring out his personality, two things we could give him in abundance. Well, let me tell you, he's just the best little guy. He's gentle and sweet and follows me all over just like the other two did, but he's mine -- I'm his alpha. He's got a little shepherd and a little golden retriever in him, so he's both smart and sweet.

Having an animal is a wonderful experience for everyone at any age. It teachers us to play when all we want is to put our feet up. Having a pet takes you... out of you. Their needs come first. I believe even Jewish law states that you must feed your animals before you feed yourself. People say I spoil my dogs. I don't think so. I give them what they want and need, and in return, they give me so much more.

Quote of the Day: "It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be" Paul Arden, author


Michael Rivers said...

I miss having a dog. Growing up we usually had one. One day I'll have a Yorkie. But that will have to wait until I am out of apartment living!

denise shardlow said...

thanks, Bobbie. This blog was pretty timely.
We just returned home from putting Glenn's parents dog down.
It's never easy, but it more about making the dog feel safe & loved.

Bobbie's Babbles said...

Both my brother and mom sent me email comments and they both said, "got a little choked up" reading. You can only imagine the tear-fest while writing.

Jeanie said...

So sad and so wonderful....a true dog owners story. Our family has lost two eleven year old dogs this year and we now have two wonderful new little guys to share our love with. Thank you for sharing your story.

Bobbie's Babbles said...

Facebook Comment from Jeffery Selzer: I looooved this babble! You have a flowing way with words that we all wish we had to convey sentiment and transport us to a different moment in time. I thought of all the dogs I have ever owned and their special story, then went home and spent quality time with the two I have now. Thanks for the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

I'm almost convinced to get a dog, especially since I have a good yard and hike so much. I have a tiny apt., though, and like my freedom to not have to rush home to walk a dog. Tempting, though.

Alix said...

Way to make me cry on Christmas Eve, Bobbie. Tears! Thanks.

I'm propped up in bed with my laptop drinking my coffee and my little Dachshund, Augie, is pressed up against me under the covers like always. Augie will be 16 on April 4th. Each birthday I wonder... will this be his last? Yet each year, God keeps giving him to me. His face is all sugar coated with white hair, his eyes both are cloudy with cataracts, he doesn't hear very well and sometimes gets lost in the house. His little joints are getting arthritic and rusty and he stumbles quite a bit. But you know what? The little guy is still pretty healthy and sometimes he gallops around like a peppy puppy. Oh, he's breaking down slowly and I know it is only a question of time before his body functions begin to fail. I know it's only a question of time before I will have to make the decision to free him from his pain and suffering. But for today... I will hug him extra close and love him a little bit more.

Iggy is just the sweetest thing. I love that you had faith in him and knew he was a diamond in the rough that just needed a bit of polishing. He's lucky to have found you and vice versa. Enjoy the sweet little guy.

Thank you for reminding me how precious and meaningful our animal friends lives are to us and to never take one moment of it for granted.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

♥ Casa Hice