Monday, August 01, 2005

In praise of Big Dog

The summer before my sophomore year of high school, my mom told me that my aunt and uncle were going to the animal shelter to look for a second dog. They (aunt & uncle) wanted my mom to come along so that she could help them decide which dog to get... and maybe see if she (my mom) wanted a second dog as well.

My reaction to this was unemotional and practical. "Mom, we don't need another dog. Things are great with Medium-Sized Dog. It's been nice having just the one dog."

My mom, appreciating my resolve, asked me to come along with her and my aunt & uncle to the shelter. My sole purpose was to keep my mom from getting a second dog.

I still tease my mom about the idiocy of her taking me--a known dog-lover--along to prevent us from getting a dog.

Big Dog was there, in one of the crates. I can't even remember now if anything stood out about her. She was big, and she was black, and she was hairy. She was very sweet. I had to have her. So we took her home. I got to name her. I named her after a character on a popular TV show of that time.

She was very good with Medium-Sized Dog. They played and played. They would chase each other in a circuit around the living room and dining room of the townhouse: around the dining room table and chairs, around the coffee table, up onto the sofa and back to the dining room. Around and around again. Sometimes my mom and I would come home and the sofa would be all the way against one wall, and the dining room table would be all the way against the other. These are the realities when furniture rests upon area rugs atop smooth hardwood floors: everything swooshes around when the force of two top-speed dogs is involved.

She also suffered from acute separation anxiety. Her anxiety would exhibit itself in wondrous ways. She ate... yes, ate, as in consumed a couch and my mother's bed. (Not all in the same day.) She also barked when we were gone, for hours and hours. I still feel bad for our neighbors at the time (who were very nice about it and didn't even tell us Big Dog barked until months after we first brought her home).

She was very smart. She did very well in her obedience classes. And that tripe about "can't teach an old dog new tricks"? When she was about 10, I taught her how to shake hands, and how to balance a treat on her nose.

She was the most empathetic dog I've ever known. I felt like I couldn't watch sad movies in her presence. I am a quiet crier, but the second I began to sniffle, she would be right there, licking my face with a concerned fervor.

Big Dog loved everyone. She loved my mom, Not So Angry Husband, my aunt, my uncle, my cousins. When we brought home Little Dog two years ago, she loved him. And when we brought home Angry Boy, she loved him, too.

Big Dog had been with me through high school, college, law school, pregnancy, and early mommyhood. She was my first baby, and she was the Best. Dog. Ever. And this morning, NSAH and I had to do the hardest thing we've ever had to do.

And I don't know how to end this post, which is already pretty long. I do believe in Dog Heaven, and I do believe she's there playing again with Medium-Sized Dog. I hope Dog Heaven has hardwood floors.


Blogger liz said...

I'm so sorry. That is the hardest thing to do.

Big, big hugs.

8:55 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger Suzanne said...

So sorry -- it's such a painful decision to make. I believe in dog heaven, too.

9:00 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger Running2Ks said...

I'm sorry. And my husband and I have 6 dogs for Big Dog to play with there. Running forever.

9:04 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger mc said...

That is such a hard decision, but I try to believe that those of us who make it are absolutely doing the right thing for our furry pals. Willya tell Big Dog to say hello to Sparky for me???

9:39 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger Blonde Justice said...

Aaaw, I'm actually sitting here crying. But of course there's a dog heaven, and that's something to look forward to.

Maybe you'll find some comfort in this post about heaven - about halfway down - (and the quotes about dogs) at Leslie's Omnibus.

I'm so sorry.

9:55 PM, August 01, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My best dog ever, Barnabas, a white lab/pit bull mutt, died 9 years ago having been hit by a train. I figure he was chasing it and when he caught it, he didn't quite know what to do next. Anyway, I know he's in Dog Heaven too and, in Dog Heaven, there are lots of squirrels and no trees. Wishing you peace on this trying day.

10:35 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger KLee said...

APL, I'm so sorry. It's hard enough losing a family member. Then, you have to contend with the people who will try and tell you it's only a pet, it's not like you lost a loved one. Yes, you *did* lose a loved one. I'm so sorry. Yes, there is Dog Heaven, and there are all the bed and couches to chew on, and no one ever says "Bad Dog!" There are treats as soon as you wish for them, and endless hands to stroke and pet doggie angels. Big Dog is no doubt there, romping happily, with a mattress tag fluttering along after...

10:56 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Oh, APL, I'm so sorry. Your poor baby.

I never had a dog, but if Dog Heaven is anywhere near Hamster Heaven, then Piglet the Hamster will keep Big Dog company, too.

11:11 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger Songbird said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. My heart goes out to both of you, and to AB. My big dogs are so dearly loved; there's nothing quite like them.

11:16 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger purple_kangaroo said...

Sending you some ((hugs))

11:57 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger RussianViolets said...

Oh, no! {{{{APL}}}}} I've been there, and it's enough to break your heart. Take good care!

12:36 AM, August 02, 2005  
Anonymous concretegodmother said...

We only had Posey, our gorgeous red Golden Retriever, for a little over two years, and when she left us almost three weeks ago (cancer), it induced a good week of crying over her absence. I feel your pain, APL. Big Dog knew your love and will be waiting for you over the "rainbow bridge."

1:34 AM, August 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The couple of things I'll add on Big Dog ...

- When we took our first trip together, only a couple of weeks after Big Dog had first met me, we stopped at a rest stop. I went inside. She refused to do anything until she saw that I'd returned safely. Somehow, she seemed to know from Day 1 that I was going to be around for a long time. (Probably well before APL realized it! :)

- She had a stroke a few years ago (before then, she'd been perfectly healthy, even in double digits). We didn't expect to her to survive, and it was clear that the vet didn't, either. Over a torturous weekend of separation in which she stayed at the vet's office, she found the determination to stand up, making the vet's office manager cry. We were able to take her home a few days later. The vet said she'd probably have another stroke in weeks, months, maybe a year or two. Never happened.

- She never attacked Evil Cat, as much as he deserved it. Evil Cat learned to share a bedroom with her and purred in my ear while Big Dog kept a respectful distance, and Big Dog showed some concern when Evil Cat got sick and eventually died.

- We had a basket of stuffed toys for her, though the toys needed frequent replacement. She would sometimes pounce at the basket, root around to make a selection, then pick up a toy in her mouth and fling it at us. Playtime.

We hadn't had playtime in a long time because her health eroded so gradually. But she was still funny and sweet, always.


9:02 AM, August 02, 2005  
Blogger halloweenlover said...

Oh APL, you know how I feel about dogs. I never ever knew how much you could love a dog, how they fill this spot in your heart and family. I am so sorry to hear about Big Dog, and I hope only happy memories remain for all three of you.

NSAH's stories made me cry even harder in my office.

I definitely believe in heaven, and I totally think that once we get there all our doggy (and human) friends are waiting to meet us.

You made the greatest sacrifice for Big Dog, I hope you are doing okay.

10:11 AM, August 02, 2005  
Blogger SuzanH said...

That is the hardest thing to do. I'm so sorry. And dog heaven is a given, isn't it?

11:25 AM, August 02, 2005  
Anonymous nutso-ranter said...

What a nice post. I'm so sorry for your loss, but I'm glad that you will remember all of the best things about Big Dog.

12:11 PM, August 02, 2005  
Blogger Yankee T said...

I am so so sorry. It is the hardest humane decision to make. Cyber hugs to all concerned.

12:26 PM, August 02, 2005  
Blogger Scrivener said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope you and NSAH and AB are doing ok.

3:25 PM, August 02, 2005  
Blogger Kathryn said...

Oh...I've not visited before but Songbird alerted me....My best dog ever was also a rescue girl,Maisie, who looked after all my children as they grew up....and her kidneys failed 18 months ago now, and we had to make that same impossible decision. So very sorry you've had to take that same miserable journey...but you were being the best parents ever to her, and she'll appreciate that and love you even more. But it hurts and hurts, doesn't it. Large hugs ((APL))

6:58 PM, August 02, 2005  
Blogger Mieke said...

My father and I cannot speak about Pep our black lab - she died when I was 15 -22 years ago. She was what a friend of ours described as a Soul Dog, I was lucky to have known her. She came to me when she was five and I was in fifth grade, she helped me through the horrid years of upheaval caused by my parents' divorce. I would not have survived without her. She never left my side. I adored her. I held her in my arms when she died, sobbing and loving her. I cry now as I write this. So silly isn't it; 22 years have gone by and I am still touched by the love of that friend. The feelings are so deep, to my core, the tears streaming now.

I am so sorry for your heartache. Big Dog was clearly a Soul Dog. Consider yourself lucky, there are so few of them. Celebrate your good fortune at having known such a good friend.

11:47 PM, August 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's taken me a whole day to post you. I'm so sorry for your hard choices and your enormous loss. Big Dog sounds like a wonderful guy, as does Dad. So nice to bring you pictures

I'm so sad for you, NSAH, AB, and small dog.


12:07 PM, August 03, 2005  
Blogger Jenevieve said...

I remember when my beloved horse, developed a twisted intestine and went into shock. The words, "Your horse is dying in our hands" were among the most painful I have ever experienced. It has been 6 years, and I have still not bought another horse. They all remind me of Chester. My heart goes out to you.

5:29 PM, August 03, 2005  
Blogger Mother in Chief said...

Last month we finally made the decision to get rid of our two samoyeds. Toddler in Chief has some serious health problems and it is dangerous for him to be around all those dog germs. And that's all he wanted to do was be with them. We're still mourning. They were our first babies and best friends.

6:31 PM, August 03, 2005  
Anonymous terrilynn said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. My beloved best dog ever has been gone for nearly 3 years and my six year old still cries for her sometimes.

9:45 PM, August 03, 2005  

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