"I don't want another dog."
New empty nesters, and with our beloved German Shepherd Jennifer having passed at seventeen, I wasn't interested in being tied down. Except, my husband wouldn't give it up.
"Okay. Okay." I agreed at last. "But only if one finds you. I don't want to go the puppy route another time."
Never again will I underestimate his networking abilities. In just a few short weeks, he made sure that 'one found him'.
"It's us or they're going to put her down."
What's the proper response to that?
We got Heidi when she was two. "She's a good dog," the vet said. "She's too much for me to handle," said the lady who was letting her go.
It turned out both of them were right. Heidi certainly did have issues. Aside from being very, very timid, her right shoulder was out of joint, but you wouldn't know it to watch her run. X-rays showed the leg had healed that way and didn't seem to bother her. She'd been abused from birth, as near as we could tell. For the next seven years, we tried to make it up to her. From the very first, my husband had to use the treat system to teach her how to fetch. It was something she'd never experienced. Once she caught on though, fetch became her favorite game.
Despite her rocky beginning, she was a gentle and loving soul. From the very beginning, she followed me everywhere. Trusted me from day one. Somehow, I always found that amazing.
Then something was going on with her eyes. Pannus, we were told, a disease unique to the breed. We used the eye drops the vet gave us on a daily basis, but still Heidi pretty much went blind. Perpetual antibiotics came next for some teeth issues. "If she was a human, she'd be in assisted living." That's what we were told at her next yearly vet appointment. "Keep her comfortable as best you can."
"Okay. We will."
We did too. For the next couple of years.
Finally, it was becoming a matter of time, as they say. She'd have good days and not so good days.
"We need to do something," my husband said.
"I can't yet," was my stock reply.
After all, she trusted me, and I vowed to never betray her. As it turns out I did. We were out of town when she died. Thankfully, my son was with her, but I wasn't.
My husband swears Heidi's in a much better place now. Running and jumping and playing. Having a good time. Which made me wonder, did I do enough for her, or too much? Did I keep her going for her sake or mine?
My daughter-in-law sent me the following as we were driving home from vacation to bury Heidi in the back yard. That's the point when I, well, fell to pieces.
So this is where we part, My Friend. And you'll run on, around the bend. Gone from sight, but not from mind, new pleasures there you'll surely find. I will go on; I'll find the strength. Life measures quality, not its length. One long embrace before you leave. Share one last look before I grieve. There are others, that much is true. But they be they, and they aren't you. And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought. Will remember you well all you've taught. Your place I'll hold, you will be missed. The fur I stroked, the nose I kissed. And as you journey to your final rest. Take with you this...I loved you best.
Take care, Heidi. You did so much more for us than we ever did for you.