Seven Weeks, Two Days, and a Piece of My Heart

So there we were.

In November, I saw a couple of orphaned dogs on the local Facebook page for animal rescue. Their owner had died, and the two senior dogs went straightaway to the pound.

After work, I went to the shelter – just to check things out, you understand. Shortly before I got there, one of the two dogs had been adopted. I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned that the adoptee was not the dog I had come to see.

The officer took me back to see the remaining dog, and she looked so lost and sad. Imagine – the owner she had known all her 14 years was gone. Just gone. She didn’t know why. She and her little friend were in a strange place, with strange people, not a cozy home but a noisy place with concrete walls and floors. Then…. they took her friend away.

There weren’t even any other dogs at the shelter at that time. All the cats were in another room. I wanted to bring her home right then and there, but my husband and I have an inclusion rule where we consult on big decisions like a new pet. He was unable to meet me there before the shelter closed for the day.

I left, and I cried my way home. She was such a compatible spirit, even in her distress, I only wanted to comfort her. I was distressed to think of her in strange surroundings, and so alone without any other creature to comfort her overnight – human or animal.

My husband, bless him, was already on board to bring this senior girl into our home. She was mellow, and no dominant threat to our other dog. She was clearly in need, her nails far too long and making it hard for her to walk. Her ears were infected, her teeth in bad condition. Here was a creature who needed some TLC. We had the time. We had the will. We were ready.

That evening, we researched and ordered a good senior dog food. We were already using a dental formula on our first dog, so we were covered there. Nails would just have to be trimmed repeatedly until the quicks receded.

When the shelter opened the following afternoon, we were waiting in the parking lot. We paid her fee, and took Sammi home – as she made a low moan inside the truck. We had no way to know it would be one of the few sounds she would make.

At home, Gary brought her into the yard while I brought our other dog out through the house. You expect some barking, some touseling around when dogs meet. There was none.

Our other dog saw the new one in “his” yard, and said nothing. Did nothing. Eventually, they did some sniffing and circling each other. They walked a little. That was it! He seemed to accept her from the outset. Whether it was their personalities, or his respect for the new dog’s senior status, we’ll never know.

Christmas Eve 2020

We had to wait three weeks for a vet appointment, thanks to Covid precautions. By then, we’d trimmed her nails twice and she could almost walk normally. We learned that her bloodwork was great. The vet said you wouldn’t really know she was a senior dog by her lab tests. We were overjoyed! She was healthy.

With careful feeding, new treats to ease her joints, and mental stimulation of new surroundings, Sammi started coming along. She learned where to eat and where to sleep. We all went for trips to the State Park to walk around and explore new sights and smells.

On a rare occasion when we ordered pizza delivery, our sweet girl threw back her head and barked at the pizza guy. He was the trespasser, and this was her home. Life was good.

Then one day when I was at work, Gary called to tell me Sammi had fallen down inside the house. Her feet were tangled painfully underneath her and she didn’t have to strength or coordination to fix it herself.

When I got home, she was a little better, but very tentative. She struggled to get around, and by the next day we made an emergency vet visit. Her need was too great to wait for the appointment we already had scheduled for the next day.

We expected to put her down on that trip. But the vet said her trouble getting around might be eased by pain medication. Poor old joints. We had to try.

By the next day, the course was clear. The several pain medications made no positive difference. If anything, our poor Sammi just spiraled steadily in spite of the meds. We lost her the next day.

We’d enjoyed her for seven weeks and two days. She was woven into our lives as completely as anyone could be. And she left as big a hole.

When we came home, we started the sad but steady chores of picking up her dishes, her blankets, easing ourselves back into being a one dog household. And as we went around the house collecting her things, we found our remaining dog, lying in her bed. He wasn’t ready, either, to let her go.

(c) 2021, J. Cools

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