Yesterday I told you a little about my dogs. I adopted them one fateful day fifteen years ago and I believe there was a reason that these two dogs came into my life for a reason.
Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed that one day I would own either a cocker spaniel or a poodle, perhaps even both. What I didn't know was that I wouldn't get my cocker spaniel until I was thirty-six.
My youngest son wanted a dog and I was going to adopt one at the local shelter. What I didn't realize was that I would also be walking away with a dog of my very own, a cocker spaniel no less. When I saw him curled up in the far end of his cage I knew I wanted him for my very own. I asked the shelter attendant if I could see if we were meant for one another. Once out of his cage I immediately realized that there was something wrong. I had never seen a dog whose body sloped before and when he hobbled over towards me I knew something was wrong.
I asked the attendant what was wrong with him and he pointed out that he was missing his front paw. I hadn't noticed it at first because his thick fur covered the small stump. His owner's family had brought him to the pound when his owner had been placed in a nursing home. I knew right then and there that we were meant to be together and I told the attendant I'd take him then looked around for my son who had head over to the puppy area of the shelter.
My son was none to happy about the idea of bringing this "girlie dog" home. As I mentioned before he wanted a dog who would run and play with him and who could blame him. I agreed to getting two dogs despite the fact that I realized that the major responsibility for both dogs would fall upon me. After christening one dog Big Dog I named the other dog Little Dog which morphed into Liddy Dog as I often spoke to them as though they were indeed babies.
Liddy Dog's first walk was a memorable one. Since he obviously seemed to have some difficulty walking I decided to take him to the end of the block and back. At most this walk should have taken five minutes. This would be the longest "five minutes" I'd ever experience. He seemed excited about the possibility but enthusiasm does not always equal ability. He'd walk five or six steps and then stop so he could sniff everything around him. My Liddy Dog was always a dog who immersed himself in things he loved. He'd sniff so loud I thought you could hear him blocks away. When I gave the leash a slight tug and encouraged him to come he plopped down and began rolling around in the grass trying to bring all the scents home with him. This scene was to be repeated again and again and again causing our five minute jaunt to last forty-five minutes. As time went by he got much better at going for walks but he never lost the need for stopping and smelling the flowers and anything else that he happened across.
Liddy Dog's often reminded me of Mr. Kesuke Miyagi (the handyman/martial arts master in the movie The Karate Kid). He loved to sit back and observe everything and was not one to let things bother him. He didn't warm up to new animals very easily, he tried to pretend they didn't exist, but anytime a new person walked into the house he immediately set about to make a new friend.
One of the things I loved so much about my Liddy Boy was how his whole body exuded joy in the things he loved. He didn't so much wag his tail as much as he would wag his whole body. When I would hold a treat in my hand or grab his leash he'd lift himself up on his back feet trying to balance his chubby self in a begging dance. His joy was infectious and it almost always served to brighten my most miserable of days.
Liddy Dog was a lover not a fighter. He loved to jump up on my bed and snuggle up close. In his little world, Liddy Dog never met a person who didn't want to pet him and he was not one to deny anyone this pleasure. He seemed to be able to read me better than some humans and would jump up on my lap and lick my face when he felt I needed it most.
Of my two dogs, Liddy Dog was the one who had more health issues but none of them seemed insurmountable until the last two years of his life. He was like a Timex watch because he could take a licking and keep on ticking this despite the fact that he eventually lost his hearing as well as his sight in both eyes.
Last winter we began to really see Liddy's downward slide. He caught a couple of respiratory infections and his eyes no longer made tears causing a dry crust to build up on his eyes. His vet told me that he also had cataracts and glaucoma. At times he would wander aimlessly throughout the house bumping into things, even though no furniture has been moved acting as though he were lost in his own home. Just three months ago he walked straight into the pool as though he'd forgotten it was there. He was living in a totally dark world, void of any hearing and it made me so sad.
Although never a fast moving dog he really began to slow down and seemed to tire easily. Liddy slept away most of the day waking only to eat or greet me at the door. He began developing a bladder infection that seemed to resist treatment. He was incontinent regardless of the frequency he was brought outside and I was constantly running behind him to wipe up his accidents.
I also noticed that he would sometimes tremble or shake when he was lying down. When I mentioned it to my husband he felt that he was probably having a dream about chasing a rabbit and I was quick to accept that explaination.
I realized that at the age of nineteen he was slipping away from me but as with Big Dog it was easier for me turn a blind eye to what was wrong with him and focus more on the things he still enjoyed like treats and curling up with me.
As I slowly came around to the realization that I needed to have Big Dog put down I began to honestly wonder if Liddy Dog was also ready to leave us. I would have given anything not to have had to make such a decision about the two dogs that had been my babies for so long. I prayed. I cried. I argued with my husband. I breathed the question aloud and regretted having put the question to words. Finally the decision was made and my husband and I decided that it was time but that does not mean that it was going to be easy.
The last morning I spent time with each dog. They curled up beside me and I wanted cancel the appointment again but I knew we had made the right decision. Why then did it hurt so bad?
In a way it was ironic that these two boys who joined my family on the same day would leave me on the same day. They had been almost inseparable from the moment they arrived in my home and now even in death they would not be alone.
Coming home to a house that no longer held my boys left a huge whole in my heart and I stuffed my hurt with food and tears. I can only hope that the confusion and pain I feel will eventually find peace. My heart empty without you Liddy Dog.