Readers from my last blog may remember I was sharing my domicile with various critters, two of which were dogs. Elder and Younger Hounds shed their fur in my home for over 16 years, and I consider myself blessed to be loved by such silly dogs.
Elder Hound came to us when my daughter, Spawn, turned 10. She’s turning 28 on her next birthday. That crazy canine wreaked such havoc in her puppy-hood, more than once I threatened to give her to the next door-to-door evangelist. She tormented our big dog until said big dog dished the trouble right back and nearly broke the puppy in the process. Later, Elder Hound (who was still the younger dog) escaped the yard and got hit by a car.
She was fine, but the car had a nasty dent in it.
When her older sister, Big Dog, was struck and killed by a car in 2001, I was devastated and vowed to never get another dog.
Three weeks later, Spawn told me of a poor beast who was on her third family and they had grown weary of her and were going to have her put down.
I was incensed. So incensed, I brought her home the next day.
Once Younger Hound discovered we were good people, she blossomed into an energetic bundle of goofiness that was hard to keep up with on a daily basis. We always joked that the two dogs would leave us in very different ways: Elder Hound would probably sleep her way across the Rainbow Bridge, and Younger Hound would most likely keel over, years later, in the middle of a wild romp around the back yard.
Elder Hound developed a strange lump that was proven to be a benign mass of fatty tissue. It didn’t bother her, and we didn’t worry about it. When Younger Hound developed the same thing, we didn’t worry either.
Fast forward a year and Younger Hound was starting to slow down. Not too surprising, since she was standing on the threshold of being 16 years old. I attributed a lot of her decline to age and the big changes in our lives, especially since her boy, Thing, had moved away.
Both dogs were moving slower, in fact, neither of them did much once the dinner hour was over. Getting Either dog to move was a difficult undertaking, because they were both mostly deaf. Sometimes the only thing that could get Elder Hound off the couch was Younger Hound’s piercing bark.
Then one night I heard a thump and a whimper. When I went to check, I found Younger Hound had collapsed on the floor and could not move. Thinking she was going to leave us, I spent most of that night on the floor next to her, but when I went to check on her in the morning, she was still with us. She wasn’t doing well, but she was still there.
I called Thing and Spawn, telling them it was time to come say good-bye. It was a sad time, and I felt so helpless. Finally, I could no longer wait for her to pass on her own and the next day, I took her to the vet to be put down.
I’ve never had to do anything like that before, and had no idea what to expect. The vet was so gentle and caring to both of us. He explained what to expect, and he was right. Nothing was a surprise. Heartbreaking, yes, but not surprising. Afterward, he said we (Tam and I) could stay with Younger Hound for as long as we wanted, then he left us alone.
It took a long time to stop thinking I was hearing her wander around the house. I missed the way she would keep her older “sister” from getting too lost in the back yard, by herding her toward the door when it was opened. I had her cremated, and her cremains returned. They came back in a lovely wooden box with a brass plaque on the lid with her name misspelled. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and cried for days whenever I saw it.
Elder Hound misses her sister. Even though she sleeps 22 – 23 hours a day, she’s still very much a big part of our family, and is still spoiled rotten. But I see a marked difference on a weekly basis, and the dog who never missed a meal in her younger days, has slept through more than one.
I keep thinking I’ll wake up one morning and it will all be over. Tam will be the one to find her, because she’s the first one into the living room for her morning smoke. Neither of us is relishing that day, but you know, I can rest assured that I did my best to make those dogs’ lives as good and happy as possible.
Just as they have done for me.