The pain is so raw; worse than I ever imagined it would be. She is nowhere when she was everywhere just two days ago. Laying behind my chair as I work, sniffing under my feet in the kitchen and certainly begging for every bite of food that I prepared. My precious Abbie, given to my daughter Lauren as a Christmas gift over 15 years ago but once Lauren left for college it was just Abbie and I. Lauren even conceded just this week that yes, Abbie was MY dog. Although I would probably call her my youngest daughter, we love our dogs that way.
As I often did with my girls once they became teens; Christmas typically included some sort of homemade gift certificate, preferring with some requests to let them make choices and circumvent me spending a lot of time making a big decision that might not be exactly what they wanted. The time I put into making a certificate and trying to package it creatively always felt more special than just handing them money. Lauren had been begging for a puppy; we had an older rescue dog but she had never had a new puppy so I decided to surprise her for Christmas but wanted her to be able to choose her own pup. Enter the decorated gift certificate; that year it was for a dollar amount, enough for the fees for a Denver Dumb Friends rescue puppy, food, bed, dishes and whatever other accoutrements I thought necessary to get us started.
We were both excited and started looking at the Dumb Friends website immediately. None of the available dogs were in line with what either of us wanted; many were just too big or breeds I did not want to take a risk on. So, two weeks after Christmas I made an executive decision to let her look through the Classified Ads in the paper for a puppy. I had to up the ante to cover most that were listed but she found a family that had some Cocker Spaniel pups for sale within my price guidelines. I called to make an appointment, hoping to find a female was available and was a bit crushed that their only female was spoken for but the owner convinced me the boys were adorable and there was Lauren, with her beautiful sweet face saying, ‘Please Mom?’ Hey if she was OK with a boy, how could I refuse?
We drove across town and found their home in a comfortable neighborhood with tree lined streets and bungalow houses; this was no breeding facility but instead a family with two Cockers; one I think they ‘thought’ had been fixed so this litter was a surprise. We walked into the living room where the puppies were contained within a mesh enclosure and were greeted with a tumble of three tan puppies anxious for our attention. Sleeping across the way a bit was a grayish colored dog that I have to admit we didn’t pay much attention to.
I’m sure I must have lamented at some point that we had hoped for a female but that the boys were cute and I’m sure we would find one to connect with. It was then that I was told that the female wasn’t going to be taken after all and she was available; that little gray dog we hadn’t really seen who was snoozing through her brother’s mayhem. The color was a turnoff but before I could object, the lady of the house said, ‘Before you decide you just have to see her face.’ She went and picked up the tiny bundle and brought her over to us and what can I say? She was right, it was love at first sight and watching her wake and snuggle into Lauren’s arms did not hurt her chances one tiny bit. The deed was done; we had our dog and the rest was history. Oh, except for one tiny thing of note. We decided to give her a bath when we got her home and I’m not even sure why but what a revelation. Seems the newsprint the family had shredded for bedding had worn off on her beautiful white coat. The gray washed down the drain and our duckling instantly turned into a swan. A gorgeous white Cocker Spaniel pup with some brown spots, brown ears and those big beautiful eyes.
Abbie always loved people far more than other dogs; she didn’t dislike dogs or get into tussles with them, she was just clearly more fond of people. I’m recalling how Lauren and I socialized Abbie. We discovered all the places we could take her inside and she accompanied us to them whenever we ventured out for errands. Home Depot was a favorite; I’ve always been a fixer upper and Abbie was a constant in our cart. Container Store too and of course PetSmart. Everyone had to stop and pet the adorable white cocker pup and she ate up all of that attention. Summer found us making a weekly run to Dairy Queen drive-thru; the girls and I for an ice cream but I think mostly because they always had dog cookies at the counter for Abbie. She knew it too and soon every drive-thru elicited the same measure of excitement. Amazing how many people were swayed by her sweet face and even if not prepared, on more than one occasion we were presented with a couple of French fries or a kids hamburger just for the dog. Lauren made a special trip to get her a last treat from Good Times; a Pawbender sundae with vanilla custard, doggie biscuits and peanut butter that made Abbie especially happy.
Abbie did not have terminal cancer or a stroke or any type of medical emergency that had brought pain into her sweet life. No, she simply was reaching the end and the signs were numerous. Deaf and half blind, she was recently diagnosed with dementia and it was obvious to everyone that Abbie was different; that she was somehow not quite with us. What brought me to tears was her losing bearing of her surroundings. She got loose a couple of weeks ago in the middle of a bone chilling night when the temperature was -15 and she woke me to let her out. She started to just amble off; seemingly unaware of the dangers around us or the bitter cold. Ice and snow were just a small part of it; there were houses in various stages of construction and I was scared to death she would go inside one without stairs built to the basement and slip and fall. I was frantic but luckily had a good flashlight and an hour later I found her walking in a daze coming out of an open home. Grateful yes but even more aware of how much she was declining. She was freezing cold and yet had not made one move to come back home; I’m not sure she could have found home if she had wanted to.
She no longer let me know she had to go outside and I was trying to circumvent problems by taking her out every fifteen minutes, all day long. That was exhausting for both of us but I was somehow managing that effort and the mishaps that came with it. What I just could no longer bear for her was the fear she felt every time she woke up in her kennel; obviously not sure where she was. The cries were heart wrenching and I’ve described it as sounding as if wolves were at her heels. She might not have been in pain from a medical condition more evident, but I had always vowed that I would do the right thing and that I would NEVER let her suffer and my girl was suffering. She was not going to get better; we could only anticipate it getting worse and I’m most grateful for the counsel of our long time vet who agreed the time had come and urged me not to wait for a more catastrophic event which was surely bound to happen soon. Even Lauren agreed and we made peace with our decision and Abbie left this earth in our arms with a cookie being the very last thing she would remember. Even our vet cried; he knew she was a very special little dog.
Making the right decision for your dog is hard; I’ve known too many people who keep dogs going because they can not let go. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but I’m so grateful that she and I got to spend some time together again, just us, in our new home. She was happier and more settled in these surroundings; she just knew we were home again. I’ve cried a river of tears and though our last days had become increasingly difficult; those aren’t the days you remember. You remember parks and tennis balls and that sweet, sweet face that was always happy to greet you or ANYONE who came to the door. I always said instead of guarding our home, Abbie would help a burglar get in if it meant her head would be patted or her belly rubbed. Have cookies? She would give you a set of keys. She was everything you could hope for in a dog. A companion, a clown, a baby to snuggle with and just a constant source of love and joy. When she would be gone to the groomers I would miss her being underfoot even if it annoyed me when she was here. I will always miss her. But I know this. She left this earth peaceful, without pain and in the arms of people who loved her so very much. Safe travels Abbie; I hope you are surrounded by squirrels you can’t catch and tennis balls you can. That would be dog heaven for sure. We will love you forever.
I don’t think I’ve ever posted anything without a recipe and today I thought would be a first. Abbie loved all human food so of course I could have found a way to tie in anything from a salad to burgers to cake; heck she once ate a whole, RAW jalapeno so obviously was not too fussy but I was not in the mood to think or make something and doing so would have been so contrived. So I decided to just write this post because I needed to and accept that a recipe was not going to happen. Then I remembered the homemade dog cookies Abbie loved and how appropriate it would be for me to include a dog cookie on a post about our Abbie. We used to take her on outings to a place on Downing Street called Remingtons and buy her the best homemade dog cookies but one day I thought to make our own and these were a favorite. I don’t have a photo because this post was really about Abs; but make them for your dog. They so deserve it.