Sunday, May 11, 2008

Goodbye to a Friend

One bright Spring day in 1994 my big sister came home from school with a puppy. She and a friend had been driving along one of the country roads that ran near the high school when they saw a "free puppies" sign that they could not ignore. They swung into the farmhouse's drive and walked over to see the puppies in the barn.

They were adorable. There were several left, and my sister and her friend both fell in love with them all instantly. As they were playing with them, the owner of the dogs came over and asked, "So, do you want one?"

Of course my sister wanted one. But she knew my Dad would be furious. He did not like us to bring home pets, and we already had a dog at home. He would not allow it to stay if she did bring it back with her.

The owner continued as the girls mulled things over, "...'cause if you don't want 'em, we're just going to drown 'em."

Horrified, each of them grabbed a puppy and thought about grabbing more. How could anyone want to kill such sweet innocent creatures!? They took the two puppies and rushed back to the car.

No sooner had my sister sat down than the feelings of dread began. How was she going to spin this one? There was no foreseeable way that our Dad was going to relent and allow a second dog - especially one that would grow as big as this husky/collie mix was going to. No, she'd just have to beg. He'd see the light, he'd see they were saving her from certain death, he'd give in this time.

Yeah, right.

I was thrilled when she brought the little girl home. She was a sweet, wriggly little thing with beautiful coloring and bright eyes. We all loved her immediately. But, then my Dad came home and the arguments began. We tried our best, but we knew he was right... we couldn't keep her. There were a lot of solid reasons, chief among them was the fact that half our family is horribly allergic to shedding animals. We were all well aware of the fact that we could not have anything more than our wonderful, hypoallergenic poodle, Buffy. My Dad laid down the law: Find it another home within 24 hours, or I'll take it to the shelter.

After our tears ended and our feelings mended a bit, the phone calls began. Unfortunately for us, and for our sweet little puppy, it didn't seem that any of our friends were in the market for a big shedding dog either. We started losing hope.

And then my Mom stepped forward and grabbed the phone.

And called our Granny.

In all her years, my Granny had never paid one red cent for any of her pets. All animals that lived at Chez West were strays who were lucky enough to wander onto her yard. Her dog, Harry "Harrison Ford" West, had just passed on, and she only had Tweeter, her bob-tailed cat in the house, so my Mom thought that she just might be in the market for a new challenge.

She said yes. :)

She named her Heidi Savannah, and it was at this moment that little Heidi officially joined our clan. She was a challenging dog. She was highly spirited, and there were many years where she was so out of control, that we could barely walk her without running. But we loved her very much. She had this very long, very proud nose. And she had the darkest, most intelligent eyes. She was a beauty. And she'd communicate with little howls that would shape her big mouth into the tiniest little O. She was good-natured and lovely. And my Granny just adored her.

Many of you know from past posts that my Granny now lives in a nursing home. When we had to move her there, she was allowed to take her cat, but she was not allowed to take Heidi. This was really hard for all of us, especially my Granny. The hardest part was that, for a moment, Heidi was homeless again. We still couldn't have shedding animals, and now the sanctuary that my Granny had provided for close to ten years, was no longer available.

We spent a couple of days making the calls to the usual suspects, dog-lovers and people with other large pets, but no dice. My Mom had automatically begun to rehearse her speech to my Dad in her head where she somehow convinced him to let her stay with us, but it turned out, she didn't need it.

In a highly unlikely turn of events, my mom received a phone call from my Granny's only living sister. In the call, my Great Aunt said, "I know you're looking for a place to put my sister's dog. Well, I think I'd like to take her. She'd have to stay mostly in the garage and backyard, but I think it'd be alright." My Mom's jaw just dropped. My Great Aunt had not only never had a pet of any sort, but she was the white carpet type. The type with plastic pathways through her house. They type that did not have anything that would cause a mess. The type that was ALL WRONG to have a big shedding dog.

But our options were all tapped. This was the best offer we could get. And so it was that our Heidi girl moved into her new residence: My Great Aunt's garage.

It did not take long for the boundaries to weaken and expand. "Just the garage" became "Just the garage and kitchen." "Just the garage and kitchen" turned even more quickly into "Just the garage, kitchen, and living room." Pretty soon there were no boundaries, and my Great Aunt was hooked. She was head over heels for our gal Heidi.

What was most amazing to all of us were the changes we saw happening in our Aunt. She was becoming more sensitive and loving. She began expressing feelings and communicating more effectively with all of us. Our relationships with her began to grow. And it was no secret to anyone that Heidi was the reason. She had brought joy into her life. And it was so infectious that she couldn't help but share it. It was wonderful. And we all felt blessed by it.

I spoke to my Mom today, and she told me that our Heidi girl is gone. She was 15, which is a very long life for a dog her size, and it was time for her to go. My great Aunt couldn't make the call on her own. She didn't want to lose her. But our gal could barely stand anymore, and previous to that she had lost control of her bowels which caused her to look and feel ashamed. It broke both of their hearts, but they took her to the vet to explain the symptoms.

He agreed that it was time for her to leave us.

So my Mom and Aunt held hands and watched as our beautiful and loving Heidi finally laid her proud head down to rest. It was very fast and painless, of course. But my great Aunt and my Mom were just heartbroken. They both hugged her and kissed her sweet nose. And then they quietly said their goodbyes.

I'm trying not to be too sad about it. Heidi led a very full and wonderful life. I guess more than anything, I just wanted to pay her some tribute here. She brought joy to two old women who didn't have much before, and she brought our family together. She was a binding force in our hearts, and she is missed and loved immensely by many people and always will be.

I love you so much, and I'll miss you a lot, old gal.

Goodbye my Heidi girl, goodbye.


flutter said...

oh, honey.

Elaine said...

Ok, just I know this is an old post, but I'm catching up and I just sobbed reading this. I am 100% head over heels in love and weak for all dogs. This was such a special story. And of course it makes me think of my Duchess and how hard it was to lose her, even if she was a bitchy, heel nipping diva. :)

My grandma used to sing me this sad song about a dog called "Old Shep" and I always like to remind myself of the last line.
"If dogs have a heaven, there's one thing I know, Old Shep has a wonderful home." I'm sure Heidi does, too.

Sensitiva McFeelingsly said...

Elaine: Heel nipping diva or not, Duchess was a special girl. Even though I don't think I ever actually touched her :) I know how loving and wonderful she was to your family. You're right about the heaven for animals...I am confident that all of God's innocent and loving creatures are admitted with no questions asked. :)