Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One Less Dog, But So Many Stories

We finally took Blackie to her final veterinary appointment yesterday. Well, not "we", because I did not go on this trip. That was something I couldn't do. Mark and Jon took her, and she was as cheerful as ever. We will all miss her so very much; she was a wonderful, wonderful dog.

But she had her days...

Her favorite activity used to be to sneak through a barely-open door and go streaking out of the yard to the neighbor's horse pasture. Guess what was in that horse pasture? Blackie's favorite scent -- eu de peeeeeeew! She would roll and roll in fresh horse poo, check out the neighborhood a bit, and come trotting home in all her glory. She hated baths.

One time when the boys were much younger, they left a lovely pizza cooling on the kitchen table while they ran outside to check out a friend's new bike. When they came in ten minutes later, the pizza was gone. The whole thing. Gone. She didn't mind a little indigestion.

When I had mono a few years ago, Blackie loved having me at home, taking a couple of naps a day with her on my bed. She was always patient and gentle, and was old enough to enjoy all the naps we could get. Finally, my schedule matched hers! She hoped I was turning into a dog.

We are going to miss her terribly, but Rufus is here to help take the edge off our grief. In fact, when Andy saw Ruf at the pet store four and a half years ago, it struck me that it might help us to have another dog in the house because Blackie was getting old. Not that Rufus would ever replace her, but he could help our hearts. After all, that's what Blackie did for us many years ago. Our first dog, Pepper, was struck by a car and taken from us too quickly. Although Mark and I thought we should take time to heal, a friend encouraged us to go ahead and get a dog immediately. We knew we were a "dog family" now, so why wait?

Blackie was something over two years old, and had been at the pound for almost a week. The staff recognized her sweet temperament, and tied a bandanna around her neck as well as posting a hand-written note on her cage. They kept hoping someone would adopt her, so they delayed her timetable well beyond the normal stay.

When we first brought her home, she wouldn't eat. I think she went at least two full days without taking a kibble. But she was gentle, she seemed to like us, and she was fully housebroken. We stuck with her, she stuck with us, and we all got to like each other.

On one of Blackie's neighborhood excursions, she met someone who didn't think she was "all that." Although we didn't notice anything at first, after a few days there was an awful smell and a bad abscess on the back of her neck. The vet said she had been bitten, and they had to do extensive work to get rid of the infection. We brought her back home with a tube in her neck and instructions to irrigate the wound twice a day. Blackie disliked the antibiotic pills, but she really hated those irrigation sessions. But, being Blackie, she came into the bathroom with me every morning and evening and let me take care of things. That experience was the seal on our relationship. Although we were already quite fond of each other, those days of careful nursing care allowed our mutual trust to deepen.

In the early days of my novel, Blackie would climb up on the bed with me while I wrote on my laptop. Her quiet spirit encouraged me to sit there for at least an hour and write. After all, it would have been rude to get up when she was settled so comfortably! It was easy to imagine her being a wise muse, and that's how this blog got its name. If she could talk, if I knew what was happening in her dog-versations with Rufus, surely there would be glimmers of insight into the human perspective.

I wrote to some friends yesterday that I can't believe that dogs have eternal souls, so I don't expect to see Blackie in heaven. However, the God who created such diverse, affectionate creatures wouldn't just abandon His wonderful work. Somehow, I think He's got a place in His plan for dogs -- and horses and aardvarks and skunks and all the rest. And someday, I'll get to enjoy these creatures in a new way.

Sorry if I made you cry. It was nice to remember dear Blackie, and Pepper, and Frisca. Good doggas all. And now there's Rufus. Oh, my. Oh, my.


The Williams Five said...

I am so sorry to hear about Blackie. I know how hard that is having gone down that road myself a couple of times. My parents just went down that road again a couple of months ago. It is a very sad thing.

Anonymous said...

Katharine. I totally understand. Our best-dog-ever, Akela, an Australian shepherd, died two years ago, and I still think I've caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye, before I remember that she isn't here any more. That's the price we pay for having the opportunity to be loved by a pet -- we usually have to let them go. But, it was worth it, wasn't it?

I don't know what happens to them when they die, but I do know that they can be such a gift from God while they live!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to read about Blackie. Having loved and lost many pets myself over the years, I understand.

Katharine said...

Thank you so much, Erin, Sandy, and Tommie Lyn. I have moved past relief to loneliness, missing Blackie. Rufie is a sweet dog, but he's not Blackie. (She'd be pleased with that statement!)