I’d just gotten caught up after my trip to Tucson when my geriatric dog Sadie took ill. That was last Friday, and it scared the hell out of me.
Sadie will be 15 on July 4. At least we call that her birthday. Unlike other dogs I’ve owned, Sadie was not a planned adoption. Rather, I came upon her the day before Christmas 1999 when I drove to the Newberg Fred Meyer to purchase a pint of whipping cream. It was pouring rain, and as I searched for a parking spot I saw a smallish dog, tail between her legs, racing around the parking lot, clearly lost and terrified, dodging cars driven by people in a hurry just like I was.
I parked the car, made a mad dash for the dog, and tackled her. She smelled like puke. What’s worse, she was covered in puke. But since I already was custodian for two dog who loved to roll in unspeakably nasty things, I was prepared. Dog tucked under one arm, I opened the car trunk, grabbed my trusty towel, and dried her off. Then I deposited her in the back seat and bought the whipping cream.
When I emerged from the supermarket, I was surprised to see that nobody was looking for a lost dog. The rain was pouring down, the cars were flitting right and left, and I had in my back seat one very smelly half grown mutt. She was pathetic. The veterinary hospital where my family had invested enough money to build its new wing was in sight. I drove us over there and walked in. My vet stood at the counter. I explained our predicament. He said, “I think you’ve got yourself a dog.” He told me she looked to be about six months old and that she was a blue heeler/pitbull mix. He wormed her and gave me a bag of puppy food. (Merry Christmas!) The dog and I returned home. She puked all the way. And then I further traumatized her with a bath!
My Christmas gift from the Universe slept through Christmas Day. She was catatonic. Her second night in the crate she cried pathetically so I let her join me and the other dogs on the bed. She’s been there ever since. She’s outlived the other two dogs plus three cats. I’ve nursed her through a Round-Up poisoning, a broken foreleg, years of psychotic terror brought about by severe abuse in her former life. After her first full day in my home, she wouldn’t let anyone else touch her for months. Our Dalmatian, Dot, taught Sadie how to play; I taught her to ride in the car without puking by taking her and Dot up to the vineyard every day after work until she finally figured out how much fun car rides could be!
It took years, but Sadie eventually socialized. She even came to like and trust men. She is still a timid soul, but she overcame her worst fears. She’s complete, and we are, more than ever, a unit. Two years ago when a boyfriend whined that I liked her more than I did him, I realized he was right and kicked him out.
We took another trip to the vet yesterday. Sadie seems better today, but I know I won’t have her forever. She’s not been an easy dog, but the best things in life are not necessarily easy. I think about losing her, but only in the abstract. Yesterday, when I took her to the vet again, I wondered “What if?” It suddenly wasn’t abstract anymore, and it socked me in the gut. I’m not ready. And I can’t shake the horrible feeling of premature loss.
Silly me. I’ve put a very important dog in each of my first two novels. It’s a tradition now to somehow honor our best friends. Meanwhile, I’m doing everything I can to keep Sadie healthy and happy for as long as I possibly can.