Ugh… you guys.
It hasn’t even been a full two weeks since we said good-bye to our “Lady-baby” (her nickname). I still feel completely raw on the inside about this one… and I am still in the “waves-of-tears” stage. Some days are better than others…
We hadn’t even fully transitioned (for lack of a better word) from our last loss in December, before this one happened. And it came as more of a shock… because we expected to have YEARS left with her.
We’d gotten our first dog, Charlie, after about 5 months of marriage (May 2007). He was 8 weeks old, and neither of us had ever owned a puppy. It became apparent, when I went back to my teaching job in the fall, that Charlie needed a friend. Especially if he was going to be by himself for most of the workday.
So, when summer started (May 2008) we went to our local Dumb Friends League and brought Charlie to find a friend. We met with a chow-mix first. And they seemed to get along well enough, but mostly because the chow seemed more interested in the fence. (Turns out this dog had problems with escaping and jumping fences.) We decided to try one more match, just to see… and they brought out Lady.
She was named “Stacey” at the kennel. They thought she was about 1.5 years old. There was a brief moment of tension to see who would be the ‘alpha’… but they took to each other very quickly after that. (It was her, by the way. 🙂 ) She was VERY high energy, and the worker who brought her out said that their energy levels seemed to match… which was a good sign.
I don’t think we REALLY knew what we were getting into… but she had a really beautiful face, and was very friendly. Very hyper. But friendly. And she’d already been brought to the shelter twice… because people didn’t know what to do with her. Which completely tugged at my heartstrings.
We didn’t like the name Stacey for her. We were at Walmart typing in the name we’d chosen (I don’t remember what it was now…) and I told Darling Husband it didn’t seem right. Then I said, “What about ‘Lady’?” There had been a dog that lived next door for a few months (a rental property) when we’d first moved in. Charlie had loved that dog. At one point, a section of fence had fallen down, and for two days the dog (named Lady) and Charlie roamed the backyards together. His ears always perked up at her name…
Darling Husband liked it! So we deleted the other name and typed ‘Lady’.
We got her home and learned fairly quickly that she knew ZERO commands. Didn’t know how to sit, stay, lie down… NOTHING.
But she did know how to fetch a ball.
Like it was her JOB.
I don’t think we ever could have tired her out. She would have fetched that ball all day, every day, for FOREVER. She’d bring it back, drop it at my feet, and bark her much-too-high-pitched bark, until you threw it again. And out of our three dogs, she was the only one who understood the whole bring-the-ball-back-so-we-can-throw-it-again concept. Though, she would give herself small break now and then… if snow was available… for just a minute or two.
And she LOOOOVED that red ball. (It was the only indestructible thing we EVER had and still have to this day.) She’d get it in her mouth so that it would push her nose up like a pig… causing her to sound like a pig grunting.
The vet we took her to for her vaccines and first check-up, said Lady had the equivalent of doggy ADHD. We were going to need a lot of patience. And our first job was to work on her focus.
Eventually her focus got better and she was able to ‘sit’ and ‘chill’ (our ‘lie down’). ‘Stay’ always proved a bit difficult as she turned out to be QUITE the “velcro dog”. (which is basically a term applied to dogs that want to be with you all the time no matter what…) If I left the room to go to the bathroom, she would follow me in and sit so I could pet her. 🙂 If I was cooking, her favorite place was between my legs and the stove/cabinets. But “Lady, come!” was never a problem. (Unless she got out the front door… cause then she was off and down the street before you could blink.)
On walks, she did pretty well if she could walk beside Charlie, but if we ever separated them, she would constantly walk forwards and then backwards to make sure she wasn’t walking too far in front of us. Which sounds like something a dog on a leash SHOULD do… except the way Lady did it made it difficult to walk without tripping over her or the leash. Because the movements were erratic and sudden.
I still remember the first time I saw her tongue during a walk. It looked twice as wide and twice as long as what it SHOULD be. It was kinda freaky.
And she loved to give kisses… all the time.
Back, B.K. (before kids) we let the dogs sleep in our bedroom… and Lady’s favorite spot in the room was on the bed right between us! But that didn’t last long… we eventually got dog beds for the floor and insisted (quite repetitively) that all the dogs use them.
One year for Christmas I got her this sturdy dog-toy, pink dragon. We called it her baby. Her favorite game was for us to throw it down the stairs. Then she’d run down and back up with it, for us to do it again… and again… times infinity. 😉
She had the most soulful brown eyes, that seemed to have so much emotion.
She tolerated baths, loved water (like lakes, ponds, streams) and got so excited to play in the snow.
It also didn’t take too long to discover that Lady suffered from something called “Happy Tail”. (I had bruises on my legs to prove how hard her tail could wag.) It became problematic when the tip of her tail would connect with something hard, cause it to split open, and then stream blood anywhere and everywhere.
Seriously… it looked like a crime scene from CSI.
All over the house.
And then the cycle would begin. Because even once it scabbed… it would hit something, re-opening the wound… and cause it to bleed all over the place AGAIN. (Wash, rinse, repeat… for-e-ver.) So, it wasn’t uncommon to see her with one of those EPIC-sized band-aids on the tip of her tail.
Her exuberance for life was 100%. And that meant car-rides too. 🙂 She actually loved it so much, she’d bark at every car she saw… for however long we were on the road. (We discovered, even our 6 hour drive to Pagosa Springs was not long enough to cause her to get tired and go to sleep.) We actually had to drug her for our drives down to Texas… because we couldn’t handle the barking for 17 hours in a row. (And neither could the other two dogs.)
Lady went from “completely normal” to “not okay” in almost a day. I woke up with a cold on Sunday, February 21. Darling Husband informed me that Lady had peed all over the bed/rug the night before. That day, she needed to pee all the time, which caused her to drink way more water than normal. It was a warm day outside, so eventually, we put her cleaned/dried dog bed on the back patio for her to lie on between bathroom breaks. She suddenly looked very old…. and tired…. and not like herself at all.
We scheduled a vet appointment for the first thing the next morning.
That night, having had too much water, Lady threw up (what seemed like a GALLON) all over the floor. It was really frightening.
And it seemed like she was having a rough time walking.
I went to her at bedtime, made sure I gave her extra ear scratches, head pats, and belly rubs. My gut was starting to realize that it might be much worse than we thought… and she may not recover from this.
Everything I’d read seemed to point to kidney failure. But I didn’t know how extreme it was OR if it was treatable. But she hadn’t eaten all day, and wouldn’t take the treat I’d offered her at bedtime. (The same kind of treat she’d gobbled out of my hands 48 hours before.)
The next morning, I found myself saying my goodbyes and told Lady what a good dog she was… before Jared took her. (Just in case. I didn’t want her to have to suffer longer if a decision needed to be made.) I also told her that I hoped the vet had a way to make her feel better and that I hoped she would come home. The girls were both still sleeping, and I was on the worst day of my cold, so Darling Husband took her himself. Charlie had to go with them… because since we’d gotten Lady, if we separated them, Charlie would bark until Lady was with him again.
When it was time to go… Lady couldn’t walk anymore. Darling Husband gently picked up our 60 pound dog and carried her to the car… for what would be her last ride with Charlie.
I got a phone call about 30 minutes later. The vet wasn’t even concerned about the possible kidney failure. Instead, she was concerned about the lack of feeling in Lady’s back legs. She said it was either a blood clot or a tumor. But there was nothing they could do for her there. (We’d have to take her to a larger facility.) And the quote to get her an MRI was around $2000. Either way, the vet said surgery was necessary but she said having the surgery wouldn’t guarantee survival. And the recovery process would be very, very long.
It made me angry, in the middle of thinking about what to do, that it costs so much- just to find out what a problem is…. and then costs so much more to fix it. (And that just seems to be how all kinds of healthcare in this country works… but I digress.)
And it made me even more angry that money was a factor in our decision (no matter how small). It wasn’t the only factor… she was very sick… and old. And some black labs just don’t make it to the 10-12 year expectancy age. (Although, with her shelter background… she COULD have been and we’d never know.) But, when you have two small children, other pets, and one income from a brand new job that has ebbs and flows…. you have to make the best decision you can make. And quality of life is so important to me. I never want an animal to suffer longer and needlessly because I don’t want to say good-bye. So, we made the decision. And it was awful….
Girlie was up by then, and I had her tell Lady she loved her, that she was a good dog, and she’d miss her, over the phone. (Darling Husband said THAT made the vet tear up a bit.) He pet her and told her what a good girl she was… Charlie was there… eating tissues… but the vet seemed to think he “understood” what was happening.
And then she fell asleep…. and was gone.
Darling Husband came home after… with Charlie looking like he didn’t even have a clue…. and we both hugged and cried. And then I took some cold medicine and went to bed. It felt surreal. And I still have moments that I can’t believe it all happened so fast.
The next day, we had to drug Charlie with Lady’s car-trip meds. (The irony of that is not lost on me.) He thought we had her somewhere… and just kept barking, until his medicine kicked in. And then he just looked like a sad, droopy-eyed puppy.
He’s better now… but I think he misses her. I still catch him running into rooms like he’s expecting to see her. (It hits me right in the heart… every. single. time.)
Our family dynamic has changed so much. Lady had so much energy and desire to be with us… her missing presence has left a huge, gaping hole.
Darling Husband, Girlie, Little Sister, Charlie, and I went on a walk as a family the other night …. and I actually wondered out-loud, “Is this it? We are such a small group!”
It’s a smaller and calmer group now.
We THINK Lady’s birthday was in the fall sometime. Which would mean she was 9.5ish on February 22. (She was only 6 months older than Charlie.) And we would have adopted her 8 years ago this May. It was an incredibly large chunk of my life that I got to spend with her.
And I would do it all again… all of the ‘crazy’ that came with her personality. All of the hard work and time spent cleaning, teaching, petting, and loving her… all of the vet trips, and summer baths outside, and the games of fetch, and dog hair in my food, and scrubbing the blood off the walls, and getting her tail bandaged (which wasn’t easy).
It was all worth it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Lady, you were so loved…. we will remember you always….and our family will never be the same without you.