On Friday, we said goodbye to the sweetest dog ever, and it hurts so badly I feel like my heart is being crushed by an iron hand.
Monday she was a little less spazzy than usual. Tuesday, she didn’t greet Loki at the door like she did every damn day. Wednesday I took her to the vet, who was alarmed. Thursday we took her to a specialist for an ultrasound. Friday evening, she was exhausted, the treatments weren’t working, her liver was failing and we had to face the very worst thing a parent can ever confront.
I’d love to think that there is not a single blessed thing she did that I will not remember until my dying day, but we all know my memory is going. These are some of the things I will miss the most:
When she was happy, her ears went back, her eyes half=shut, and her wee nubbin of a tail wagged so hard you could have harnessed it for a power source.
When she was really happy, she pranced like a circus dog, jumping around on her hind legs.
Every morning, she waited on the landing for me to come downstairs. She’d stretch, smile at me, and if I was too slow to open the gate, she’d put her front paws on it and dance around.
Her protective bark was a huge, deep, growly, “I’M A BIG DOG SO YOU’D BETTER STAY AWAY” sort of bark. It took people by surprise.
The way she’d lay on the couch as Loki sat on the floor, her head on his shoulder.
The way she’d lick his legs, his head, my hand, my feet, Fenris’ ears and eyes.
She’d spend hours napping under the coffee table. It was Her Spot.
She had to be a part of everything. Fenris getting loves? She’s there, demanding her own. I’m picking out a book to read? She’s with me by the shelves. Loki in the bathroom? She’s waiting by the door.
She was solar-powered. Any day that did not include at least one good nap in the sun was a day wasted.
I will never, ever get used to going outside by myself. Did not matter what time, or if she was asleep, or if she’d just been out, she’d follow me out, take a few sniffs around the yard, then curl up and keep watch for me.
She stood and sat on feet all the time. It was sort of her schtick.
Obstacles were to be jumped, not run around. The chaise part of the couch was perfect for her Duke-boys slide-across-the-car-hood move.
She learned from the cats how to flip her nose under my hand to induce the pets. I could never resist that move.
The face she made when we turned on the hose and let her bite the water. The way she rolled in the grass to dry off after.
The way she sneezed when she was excited.
The way she’d lean against you.
The little ball of Freya. She’d curl up tight, and sometimes bury her nose under her paws.
Her love of The Smells. Any smell, anywhere, she wanted to smell it. It made training her a pain, because she was far, far less interested in treats than in whatever scent she was pursuing.
The way she’d sit on the rug by the stove whenever anyone was cooking.
Her deep and abiding love of the hot dog.
The way she had to herd everything and everyone. She was convinced we did not know how to get to the kitchen, or the living room, or the front door, and would nudge us in the right direction.
The way her eyes lit up when we reached for the leashes. The way she could hardly sit still for the leash to be put on. The way she’d rub her face on the soft, poofy bushes along our street.
She was a tough nut to crack, our Freya-pants.
We got her from Maricopa County Animal Control, and there was just something about her eyes …
She was fierce, I tell you. Still drugged from the spay surgery, she told Fenris in no uncertain terms that she was having none of his spazziness just then.
We took her through three levels of dog training, and she was whip-smart — when she could be arsed to pay attention. She earned her Canine Good Citizen certificate and was better-behaved every day, but she was still all about the herding. She started to try to discipline the cats for doing things they shouldn’t, and got so aggressive that we had to bring in an animal behaviorist.
It took a lot of work and love, but we finally got her to realize she wasn’t the pack leader, to the point where she was trying to make friends with all the cats, whether they wanted it or not. Her smile and waggy tail when she was able to slowly get close to a cat was priceless.
All the little victories, all the tiny steps to winning her heart, every single day of our four too-short years with this beautiful dog — all gifts.
“She’s given up,” the vet said. “She doesn’t lift her head, she doesn’t respond. I would not be practicing ethical medicine if I pressured you to continue treatment. It’s up to you. I want you to come see her, and then I want you to tell me what you want me to do.”
We followed her to the back, to the kennels, and the minute she opened the door, Freya saw us and her head came up. She tried to stand, but was so weak she just sort of slithered and fell into my lap, and I held her and held her and held her as her head drooped and her eyes blinked slowly as she looked at Loki. I scritched her butt — her favorite — and there was no answering wag.
I don’t know how long we sat there on the floor, sobbing and stroking her golden coat and not looking at each other, but eventually Loki choked out, “She’s so tired … she’s exhausted,” and I couldn’t speak, but I knew he was right.
See, they had no idea what was wrong with her. There were no obstructions or masses on the ultrasound, so they were guessing. Was it an autoimmune disease, attacking her organs and making her weak? Or maybe leptospirosis? Had she been poisoned by something? The blood tests showed horrifying numbers but no answers, and the more detailed tests would cost hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, but most likely would not come back in time, and may not have answers.
The vet recommended the balls-to-the-wall treatment option, and we agreed. They tried steroids in case it was autoimmune and antibiotics in case it wasn’t. She was on huge amounts of fluids, and puppy pepcid, and something to coat her stomach and intestines, to reduce her nausea.
And in spite of that, everything was failing. She’d been peeing blood for days. Her skin was yellowing, as were her eyes. She showed no response when the vet gently touched her cornea. She stared blankly into space.
Until she saw us, and with probably her last spark of energy, crawled into my lap, to spend the last moments of her life near the people she loved, loved by them, held tightly and hearing words of love.
Loki signed some papers — “yes, we want her ashes” — and the vet sat next to us on the floor.
“She may pee on you.”
“I don’t care.”
I held my baby tighter. Loki cradled her head in his lap, stroking her ears as I pet her beautiful body and whispered how much I loved her, and who was my good Little Miss, and told her she was brave and wonderful and perfect, just trying to make sure the last words she heard were gentle sounds of love.
I felt her grow still, and there is no worse thing in the world than feeling the life leave something that had been so vital, so alive, so fierce.
And since then it’s been tears, and racking sobs, and more tears, and sitting quietly staring into space, because I can’t yet wrap my mind around a world without our Freya-boo, our Freya-pants, our Little Miss.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.
— from The Power of a Dog, by Rudyard Kipling