This post is my entry into the BlogPaws Blog Carnival Contest sponsored by BISSELL Homecare, Inc.
A house is not a home without a dog.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live one more week without a dog.
I convinced my coworker, Haleigh, to visit the SPCA during our lunch break. Reconnaissance, I told myself. I’m just looking.
While Haleigh visited a playful pit mix, my husband’s words echoed in my head, “I want a dog that’s calm. We’re not used to young, energetic dogs.”
And as the nurse to a pair of geriatric dogs for the past five years, I wanted a young healthy dog to love for years to come.
Then I saw her. The tag said she was a hound mix. But she had the dense, luscious coat of a German Shepherd and the expressive eyebrows of a Bernese Mountain Dog. Jackie–that was the name on the door tag–looked placidly at me through the plexiglass. I entered the room and greeted her.
Jackie sniffed my hand. She sniffed my purse. And then Jackie settled in for lovies and scratchies.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Haleigh trying to wrestle her purse out of the pittie’s jaws. The dog was winning. And he was having the time of his life.
In contrast, Jackie was interested without being nervous or excited. “Well,” I said to myself, “she’s certainly calm. Serene even.”
How old is she? Turning to the tag on the door again, I saw she was nine years old. Oh my. I’d have to think about this. Jackie was no young pup.
After returning to my office I called my husband to tell him about Jackie. I wasn’t sure about adopting an older dog but I thought he should meet her.
Later that afternoon, Mike found Jackie as beautiful and enchanting as I had. It was obvious I couldn’t reject her based on her age. Jackie looked healthy and active. If she came home with us, we’d probably have seven years together based on my experience with past dogs.
I made one last attempt to resist Jackie’s charms. “Ok, let’s take her for a walk. Hopefully she’ll be just as calm outside. I don’t want another dog that pulls.”
Jackie was such a gentle girl. I was sure she wouldn’t pull.
With the leash on, Jackie found her reason for being. Leading with her nose (now I knew what part of her to attribute to the hound in her mix) Jackie pulled me out onto the lawn. She pulled me across the road. She pulled me down the furrowed field.
It was soon obvious Jackie had no experience with loose-leash walking.
But by this time I couldn’t let her go. She was ours.
While filling out the adoption paperwork, we learned that Jackie had been surrendered by her family after their doctor advised them to find a new home for her. A family member was having a kidney transplant and the doctor felt a dog in the house would be a problem for someone with a suppressed immune system.
Someone must have loved Jackie very much. They drove nearly an hour from their home to get to our local shelter, passing at least three others on the way. But ours was the only no-kill facility.
On the ride home, we learned that Jackie wasn’t any better at riding politely in the car than she was at walking calmly on a leash. Oh, and her calm detachment about other dogs? That disappeared within days of her leaving the shelter.
But we also learned that Jackie was instantly trustworthy in the house–no accidents, no chewing, no counter-surfing. And, although she wasn’t the brightest dog I knew, she soon figured out that watching me even when squirrels, cats, and other dogs were beckoning for her attention led to an abundance of yummy treats.
When the house was silent and I wondered where Jackie had gone, I looked down to find her nose at the back of my knee. It was inevitable that we would rename her “Shadow.”
A few months after adopting Shadow, we found out she had cancer in her jaw. She had no symptoms. Our vet discovered it during a routine tooth cleaning.
During a consultation at the local vet college we found out that surgery to remove her jaw followed by weeks of radiation might extend her life expectancy by a few months but would not cure her. Shadow had been so unhappy in the crowded waiting room that I couldn’t imagine forcing her to do that week after week. And this only after relearning how to eat with a missing jaw.
It didn’t take us long to decide to make the most of our time with Shadow, however many weeks or months we would have together.
Knowing she would eventually have trouble getting around, we bought Shadow a Doggy Ride bicycle cart so she could join us on rides. Shadow didn’t know she was sick and preferred to run alongside.
We took her camping, kayaking, and canoeing. Shadow went with us everywhere. Time was precious and every resource we had told us to expect her to live for only a few months.
We were lucky to have her with us for nearly two years.
Saying good bye was hard. But I would never have given up Shadow to free myself from the pain of losing her.
Shadow taught me about the nose. She showed me how to be patient and consistent. And she made me ever-conscious of the precious, present moment.
Honey, my current pup, benefits every day from what Shadow taught me. Her legacy continues, like a long, cool shadow on a hot summer’s afternoon.