Sometimes I think pets come into our lives for a reason. Like guardian angels, they arrive, give unconditional love, sense things happening with us, protect us, and genuinely become so much a part of our lives that it is hard to remember what life was like before they arrived, or for that matter, life without them. This I pondered just the other night as I worried about my not so spunky dog. She came into our lives not much different than most of our family pets. I used to joke that my house sits on a space-time continuum where all stray dogs and cats come to rest. Of course, my children always wanted to keep every single one. Luckily for me as well as the lost, most were happily reunited with their rightful owners. But, on that rare occasion the posted signs and knocking on doors led nowhere, my kids’ anticipation grew, hoping to adopt another member to our family. At one time we had two dogs, three cats, a hamster, two land crabs, and a couple of goldfish. We’ve had more cats come and go. My standard response when we had to put one down or its life came to an untimely end, “just wait, in a week or two another one will show up on our porch,” and sure enough like clockwork, another stray would appear.
Years have passed and so have most of those beloved pets. Our faithful family dog of seventeen years passed two years ago, representing an end of an era. My children now grown and have lives of their own. His death was hard on the kids and twice as hard on me as I cared for this blind and deaf bear-like lab husky mixed mutt while he meandered through his old age. His legs slow and unsteady, endless circling in order to sit on the wood floor only to have his paws slip and slide trying to get comfortable or get up. Stiff sore hips, walking into doors, tripping over his front paw on daily walks, that final year, I knew it would be his last. It wasn’t that he was sick or in continual pain. He still loved his daily walks; loved his dinner bones; loved to sit at my feet and get a belly rub. He still bathed us in kisses, and his tail always wagged in approval. I just sensed him winding down. The clock was ticking. Seventeen years for a dog is a long time, and he had a good life. He came to us a lost puppy, and we took him into our hearts and home with open arms.
And so it was another lost soul made her way into our lives just 6 months before our beloved Bear-Bear passed. At the time he was the longest and the last of a long list of the family pets. My husband and I spoke many times that after Bear is gone, no more pets. That is until this precious little thing caught my eye. She was darting out into a busy thoroughfare. Break lights lit up. Cars screeched to a halt or swerved to miss this clueless thing spastically running in the road. I pulled over, got out of my car, and yelled to the dog, clapping my hands to get her attention. She bolted to where I stood, tail wagging, excited, jumping up on my legs. I bent down to pet her. No collar on her, but she was clean and healthy-looking, friendly as can be. Someone surely missed this sweetie pie. So, I got her to follow me door to door along the road, as I tried to find her home. No luck at all, so I walked back to my car, opened the door, she hopped right in like she was ready to go for a ride. I brought her home.
It was apparent from the start that she and Bear would be best buddies. My husband’s first words were, “don’t get any ideas. We don’t need another dog.” Of course, I knew someone had to be missing her, so I started right away on my search by posting her picture on a local lost and found website. Then I printed pictures to place around the neighborhood, corner store, and gas station. Finally, with no response, I took her to our vet to get her checked out and make sure she wasn’t chipped, and she was not. Weeks went by and not one phone call. Each day that passed our hearts grew fonder of this precious little dog, especially Bear. I had not seen him that spirited and jovial in several years. Even though he was blind and his hind legs a little wobbly, he and this young gingersnap frolicked in the backyard. It was a comical sight. She ran circles around Bear often knocking him off his balance and down he went, rolling around on the ground. She playfully yipping on top of him. He’d finally get back to his feet only to go down again. Both would bolt through the door happy and wore out, settle down and nap beside each other. I was amazed at the vigor the old dog mustered those last months of his life. I totally forgot that nagging sense that this year might be his last.
Bear passed one spring morning, having a stroke. It was traumatic for me to see and deal with alone. Our Precious as she came to be named let out a strange cry that alerted me to Bear’s situation. Needless to say, I was in shock—a mess really. We had to put him down. I came home from the vet clinic and hugged little Precious and cried all day long. She never left my side. Strange how dogs sense our moods, our emotions. She was probably just as sad. Since that day, it is obvious Precious is a mama’s girl. Strange for me to have a shadow. Wherever I go, she is at me feet or by my side. She even sleeps on the bed at my feet, often trying to creep up between my husband and me.
A couple of days ago, I noticed Precious lying around a lot, more than usual, and she had difficulty jumping on the couch and would not even jump up on the bed. When I tried to help her on the couch, she let out a yelp. It seemed her hip or lower back area gave her discomfort. I made an appointment to see the vet. All the while, things ran in my head: she’s too young to have arthritis or hip dysplasia. What if she has a tumor? My mind wandered, fearing the worst. This little cutie has become a loyal and loving family member. I sometimes look at her human-like facial expressions and ask, “Were you a little girl in another life? Or “Are you an angel sent down from above taking the form of a dog to watch over us? Or “are you an alien shape-shifter, collecting information about human life?” Whatever the case may be, it has been two years, but seems so long ago the day she brightened our home with her spunk and kisses, and I couldn’t imagine life without her. And thankfully, the doctor thinks she either strained herself or may possibly have disc disease. I’m hoping it’s just a strain. Rest and relaxation and a little anti-inflammatory medication is her course of treatment at the moment. She seems to be making a full recovery. Only time will tell if this will be a chronic issue, but at least she is otherwise healthy and happy and will continue to our Precious.