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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Missing My Girl

Her pirate name was Miss Dampier.

Not her real name.  Obviously, my son's real name isn't Pirate Baby.

She was a great dog.

Overly protective of her family, seriously neurotic, easily depressed, and spoiled to death by her family who loved her fiercely.

She was only 5 years old when we had to make one of the hardest decisions ever.

We'd already had a really crummy holiday season.  Surfer Pirate had had some scary medical issues and was in the hospital just before Christmas.  We had spent almost every moment of the day at the hospital with him, even sleeping there.

It happened the day before Surfer Pirate got to go home.

We were home, getting some snacks and things to keep the kids entertained at the hospital.  I had let the dogs out.  They'd been so good about all the time they were having to spend in the house without their family.  I was really busy getting things together and had lost track of time.  I wasn't fully sure how long they had been out, but they were always good about barking at the door when they were ready to come in.

I went out to start the truck so it could warm up for a few minutes before we left.  What I saw will haunt me for a long, long time.

Major Stede was on the porch.  Miss Dampier was on the ground in front of the porch, rolling oddly on her back, with blood in the snow by her.

She couldn't use her back legs.

The next hour or so are kind of a blur now.  I remember half dragging her 65 pound body into the house and laying her on the floor in the living room.  We wrapped her in a blanket.  I didn't know what to do because the nearest vet was an hour away and it was after hours.  I called a family friend in Montana who is a vet.  His opinion was that I should get her in right away.

I called the vet nearest to us, and he said he would be waiting for us there.

Instead of going to the hospital to be with my husband, I found myself driving on icy winter roads in dangerously cold winds to take my dog to a different kind of hospital.  The drive was traumatic as I worried about her and tried to keep her from thrashing around.  She fell off the seat of the truck once, and I'd had to stop to readjust her.  It was terrifying and heartbreaking all at the same time.

The vet was wonderful.  With his thick white beard, I'm convinced he's the real Santa Claus.  We had the kids wait in the front of the office while he crawled around on the floor assessing what was wrong with my sweet girl's legs.

"She's been shot," he finally said.

He shaved the fur from her left thigh and showed me the entry wound.  You could clearly see the angle of the hole, leading directly to her spine.  Her spinal cord was severed.

I alternated between speaking softly to my dog and nodding as he told me our options.

Many dogs live with spinal cord injuries.  She could be fitted with a wheelchair.  We would need to decide if we could handle the commitment of taking care of a dog who couldn't even handle her own bodily functions.  At the time, I was willing to do anything for her.  She'd been such a good girl, and she was my husband's best friend.

The other option was of course, having her put to sleep.  The more I thought about it, and after discussing it with Surfer Pirate the next day, that really was our only option.  While there was no question whether or not we loved her enough to take care of that kind of major commitment, we knew we couldn't do that to her.

You see, she was an athlete.  Watching her run was a thing of beauty.  It was like watching a champion horse racer, all muscle and grace.  And she loved to swim.  She was one of those dogs who if she was near water, she would automatically start paddling with her feet - even if she wasn't touching the water.  Surfer Pirate would hold her up out of the water and her feet would still be going.

We couldn't take running and swimming away from her.

Surfer Pirate couldn't handle going with me to sign the official papers.  It would break his heart to have to give her up, and I knew seeing her struggling to stand on her then-useless legs would devastate him.  I took Major Stede with me as I drove back there on that cold and dreary day.

She was calm when I entered the room.  I hurried to her because she tried to get up and come to me when she saw I was there.  I sat on the floor next to her, talking softly to her, stroking her face and letting her kiss me as much as she wanted.  I told her what a good girl she was.  I told her how sorry I was that she couldn't walk, but that she was going to sleep soon and when she woke up, she would be in heaven.  I told her that she would be able to run and swim whenever she wanted.  She wouldn't be sad or scared anymore.  I told her we would be there to join her before she knew it.

When my heart couldn't take it anymore, I got up to leave.  I told her I loved her and I left the room.  Santa Claus was out at a farm checking on some cows, but the other vet asked me if I wanted to be there when they did the procedure.  I couldn't take it.  I had to leave.  She had tried to follow me out of the room and I could still hear her crying for me.  I signed the papers and left before I could break down into tears.

I cried into Major Stede's neck when I got back in the truck, until I could pull myself together enough to drive home.  I'm glad I brought him with me.

That was about a month ago.  We still have no idea who shot our dog and left her to die - or why they did it.  I had walked the trail she had left in the snow that horrible night.  I'll spare you the drama left in those tracks., but I stood out there in the middle of the road where she had first fallen and screamed obscenities into the wind.  I told the person who did it that they are going to find themselves in a special place in hell for what they did to our sweet, loving girl.

We've had so much going on that I've been too busy to really mourn her.  Until today.  I've thought about her a lot and shed many tears.  Things are just so different without her.


Joan said...

I am so sorry for your loss. She was a good dog and so patient with the kids.

Sending you much love.