Monday, September 19, 2005

When You Love a Dog

My twin brother and our dog Taffy, 1959
When I was growing up we had a sweet cocker spaniel named Taffy. She was a funny girl, the kind who peed on the floor when she was happy, hid from firecrackers on the 4th of July, could eat a whole bowl of leftover spaghetti and tomato sauce, and carefully leave behind every piece of onion no matter how small. She was quite a companion when we romped in the winter snows, which she seemed to love. We had her for 15 years, from the time I was two until I was 17. That year, Taffy went into serious decline. She could hardly walk and became so feeble that we had to carry her outside so that she could go to the bathroom. On the last night of her life, she was downstairs in the guest bedroom. We each took turns checking in on her and saying our heartfelt farewells, petting her golden hair, and hugging her. She could only look up at us with those sad brown eyes. By morning, she was gone.
In all the years since then I have never really had a dog for any length of time, and certainly never long enough to let my heart be broken by their comings and goings. This is not true of my sister. She's had dogs ever since she moved out of our parents' home. She is particularly fond of Great Danes, and has had many in past thirty years: Sagus, Sam, Pepper (who she saved with an experimental doggie pacemaker), Harley, and Sadie. My sister simply loves dogs, and though she may not raise the most obedient, she does raise the most lovable. And in that, Sadie has been the sweetest. She's 180 pounds of lean-on-you, kiss-your-face doggie love. A playful, sweet-natured spirit wrapped up in a dog that can look in you square in the eyes when you're sitting at the kitchen table. And despite her fabulous size, she let a lightweight kitty cat named Snowflake absolutely boss her around. Always the best part of Sadie's charm; she has no concept of her size. She's got a lapdog soul in the body of a beast!
Today my sister received the news that her 11 year old Sadie has an inoperable tumor on her leg which has been causing her to fall down these past few days. The vet is recommending that Sadie be put to sleep. She's lived longer than most Great Danes, and really, her life has been good, but now she is suffering. It's one of those decisions we humans get to make about the animals we let into our homes and hearts. Can you love something enough to help it die? It's one of the reasons I will never get a dog, and won't get another cat after Bonsai. I'm going to stick with the birds we feed outside. They don't have names. They don't come when I call. I won't notice if one disappears. They will never break my heart.
My sister just called. Sadie can't move, so she's going to have her put down tonight. Tears all around.
Sweet dreams to you, Sadie-girl, sweet dreams.

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