Staff column: An angel dog goes home
On Monday my sister's dog passed away.
Her name was Dottie and she was an angel dog. She traversed the winding trail of doctors visits, hospital stays and chemotherapy trips my sister went through for almost a decade, while boosting my sister's spirits daily. She was there at my sister's side right to the end three years ago.
At almost 15 years old, Dottie had become a shadow of her former self. Thin, almost unable to get up once she laid down and half deaf she still roamed the halls of our house, being the boss of my two, much younger Siberian Huskies.
Besides being not too well physically, her mental state was also falling into disrepair. She got more grouchy as the end neared and always strong of mind, she almost became unmanageable.
But those last days of her life, as tough as they were for us to bear sometimes, was far outweighed by what she meant to my sister and what she had done in her sweet years on Earth. She helped my sister through three bouts of cancer with two near complete remissions. She was an angel dog.
I remember when my sister got her. She was this springy, jumping little white puppy with big black dots all over her. From the beginning she was fiercely loyal to my sister and only her. As much as I like dogs, and they usually like me, she was never much of a friend of mine when she was young. She was a one person dog.
Her energy was boundless, and I believe that is what is part of that which kept my sister alive through breast cancer, and then bone cancer. She'd drag my sister down the street on a walk, even when my sister didn't want to walk her. She'd want to play when my sister didn't have the strength to play, but my sister would still play with her. And she would give the kind of love only a treasured pet could give when my sister's spirits were down and her health was in jeopardy.
I only came to an understanding with Dottie a couple of years before my sister died when my sister and my brother-in-law decided to take a trip to Texas at Christmas time in 2003. Dottie came to stay with us, and we worried what the circus would be like in our house with our other dogs and her for two weeks. But she seemed to enjoy her time at my house, the rudeness of youth gone and replaced by the maturity of late middle age. Consequently we told my sister she could bring her to stay at our home anytime.
Two and a half years later, she became a permanent resident when my brother-in-law, whose health was also failing and my niece asked if Dottie could come live with us at our "retirement home for dogs."
We said yes, because after all she was an angel dog.
When she arrived she looked like a square foot stool, she was so heavy. We immediately put her on a diet and started her on thyroid medicine which she needed badly. Within a few months she was playing with our year old Siberian Husky as if she were a puppy again.
But things changed in the last four or five months of her life. She slowed down, became more obstinate and almost seemed angry when our two young dogs wanted to play. She would wander around the house for hours like she was looking for something she never could find. I think it was my sister. At the mention of my sisters name her ears would perk up and she would look out the window hoping to see her first and only love standing there waiting to play.
As the cold set in late last week, things got worse. She couldn't be outside because all she did was shake; she couldn't be inside all day, because she couldn't control her bladder or her colon. She became even more hard headed, one evening almost knocking my wife down a short set of stairs in our house, headed nowhere to look for nothing, but having to get there as quickly as she could on her thin legs that were often her undoing when she went too fast.
Somewhere in that dog brain I think she was still in her backyard in Salt Lake chasing down an intruding cat or looking for one of her toys that she had stashed behind a bush or planter.
Most of us have ideas about where people go when they die, but few of us think about animals. Well, being the innocents they are, I would like to think they go to the best place they experienced here on this planet.
And I'd also like to think that is where she, the angel dog, is today; tugging at my sister's grip with her pink leash, wandering down some street in heaven and chasing after a bright red ball.