Most of the great loves of my life have been dogs.
Big, little, smooth, wiry, I’ve been blessed to have shared my life with a number of exceptional pups. I love cats, too, but they just can’t melt my heart like a smile from a dog can.
Ten and a half years ago, I was living by myself in an apartment in a new town, trolling the internet one night, when I saw the sweetest face. Her worried look broke my heart. I wanted to find this pup and fill her life with smiles. Was it kismet that she was in a shelter just half an hour from my parents? I think it was.
I got my arms around the little fireball and named her Tempest – an apt name for a pup whose eyes never seemed to shut.
I’m not going to lie – our time together wasn’t always perfect. We got off to a rather rocky start. I’d belonged to a couple of wire haired fox terriers growing up. I knew terriers had strong personalities and a ton of energy, I love that about them, but this wiry, tall Jack Russell was a handful. She was completely feral. We had to start from scratch, from sit to stay to please keep your over-sized fangs off my face.
I called my parents, locked in a bathroom, bleeding and crying, more than once. I Googled options for getting an exorcism performed on a dog a few times. But with time, effort, a ton of exercise and a tube of Neosporin, we grew to understand each other, and my little Tasmanian Devil became the most affectionate pup I’ve every met. She’d give kisses for hours if your skin could take it.
We adopted a brother for her, and later, a husband, who we shared (My name might be on the marriage license, but he proposed to her years before me. Not that I blame him. 😉 ).
I was incredibly lucky – I’ve never seen two dogs love each other more than she and Sullivan, and ‘our’ husband absolutely adored her and gladly accepted hours of kisses every night.
If you’ve noticed that my blog has been silent for a while, it’s because I was focusing my efforts on caring for her. She was the strongest, bravest, toughest dog I’ve ever known, living each day to the fullest, filling the hours with kisses and playing despite the tumor that had absorbed her cerebellum and continued to take over her brain.
I would have gladly cared for her forever. The time to say goodbye came much too soon. Every day I wonder if we should have waited longer, if I should have waited until there was a second bad day instead of making the decision the first one, but one morning she refused food, had no energy, didn’t want to move, showed signs of pain, didn’t smile and avoided eye contact.
I knew what the sudden, drastic change in behavior meant. There was no chance of her getting better. And as much as I second guess myself, I know that the best way I could show my love for her was to sacrifice the time I could have kept her going by setting her free instead of forcing her to endure pain, suffering, and an increasing lack of independence, torturing her for my own selfishness.
I’d like to think that, for the most part, we succeeded in giving her the life she deserved. She had the most beautiful smile. She was so full of life. She had endless love to give. She would laugh both at you and with you, she loved showing off, she liked being silly. She was sassy, demanding, difficult, and shed like nothing I’ve ever seen before – she was wonderful.
Missing her is hard, but loving her was so incredibly easy – and worth every second.