NOTE: Long, self serving and purposely sad, with a happy ending. Read at your own decision.
When Girl died in January, that was the first time in over 20 years that I did not have a dog in the house. People talk about how freeing it is, not to have that responsibility and I can understand that; but for me, it was a gigantic hole.
That doesn't mean we didn't love Girl and were eager to replace her (sigh people look to your own before deciding why I'm doing what okay? Just saying). It means we understood that her time with us was done and that having loved her as we did, that love was available for another dogsoul.
It goes even further back to when Girl came to live with us. She was a stray around stock when my son brought her home because she had climbed into his truck at the first crack of thunder and refused to vacate from under the dash. At least it was on the passenger side ;). Alright I said, to his phone call, bring her and we'll take her to the shelter in the morning.
We had dogs when he found her. In fact we not only had our own dogs, we had his big moose of a mutt. However, when this bedraggled, thin and weary border collie with a smucked in eye and pads worn thin came into our house she went immediately to hubby and sat down, solemnly putting her paw upon his knee.
No fear. No notice of the other animals. Just manners and a silent plea.
Needless to say, she didn't go to the shelter the next day. Her muzzle was already mostly grey, her teeth worn down and a certain hesitant stiffness to her joints upon rising had us thinking that this poor old girl had had enough and could live out her days with us. How long could she have, we thought. Maybe she'd live out the year, maybe the winter but that's probably all that was left in her.
She moved with us the following September. That was in 2007. She became a constant companion to our elder daughter, especially after a bout of bullying had her become a home schooled student.
Ready at any time for a game of soccer or fetch she belied her gray muzzle with her exuberance and willing heart.
She baby sat kittens, her soft fur soaked up tears and her gentle snores as she lay at the door, always at the door lest someone try to enter, kept me company through many sleepless nights.
In 2010 she fled the housefire after the girls, her fear of loud trucks and fire overwhelming her. A neighbour caught her and returned her to my girls as they waited for me and watched the fire ;/ She stood beside them when I got there and when we checked into the motel later that day, she laid herself down at the door. Likewise at the rental home.
You just knew to open the door slowly because as she grew older she didn't always hear us and sometimes we had to give a little nudge of the door against her to get her to move. However that hearing loss wasn't apparent when a stranger knocked. She was as upright and alert as a young dog in her prime.
Slowly her age caught up with her. Soccer sessions grew shorter and fetch was only one or two tosses before eager as she was, her panting was too obvious to continue. Walks with my daughter grew shorter. Instead of walking her all the way to school she'd go midway and watch her till she got to the school yard before heading home. Likewise with her trips to the park to swing, once there Girl would flop on her side and wait, but if daughter took too long she'd get up and give her a look. "I'll meet you at home." Shake out her coat and amble home.
Seizures started to punctuate her days. Likely connected to the head injury that she had when found. The time had come. The decision was made. In January she had one that she didn't come out of and she ended her days with her head in my lap as I sat on the floor with my back against the door.
(Don't even begin to chastise me about not taking her to a vet, I tried, but they were far more interested in my method of payment than providing this final release to her. And yes, if you ask me I will tell you the names of the three vets I called begging them to let me bring her right in).
We adjusted, or at least tried to. At night, I could hear her toenails on the kitchen floor as she patrolled the house, checking the doors before settling down for the night. At least, I imagined I could.
Coming home had a different flavor to it; there was no bacon in the house and no spontaneous trips to DQ for ice cream because not getting her a small dish of it was just too sad.
Years before we'd felt this sort of loss, when our boxers, Bop and Keys left us, the same as how they came, six months apart. Over the years we'd broached the idea of another boxer, but the timing never seemed right. Yes, we all wanted a boxer but couldn't quite face the idea of a replacement because that's how we would have viewed any boxer coming into our lives at that time.
"So get this. I got offered a boxer for free. 2 issues..." the text from my daughter in ON started. Thus began a series of events that simply clicked into place, culminating with the arrival of Bronx in our life.
Normally deciding to take in an adult dog would be a much harder decision for me. I love that people rescue animals and obviously, Girl's rescue was a success. There's always this niggling thought for me, someone's habits, bad or good are involved.
There was none of that. My response to this text was an expression of sadness for the owner and the circumstances involved and a question. "So should I tell D to pick him up?"
Many texts and phone calls later, Bronx arrived a little over a week ago. A lovely mannered, happy boxer who manages to "look a little like Keys and a little like Bop all at once" -- as expressed by nearly everyone who knew them and has now met him; while all the while being his own dog.
So hell yes.... LIFE IS BETTER WHEN YOU HAVE A DOG!