My companion of 12 years is no longer with me.
My dog Faith could no longer get up and move around or even just stand. She had stopped eating and drinking, in what was her way of saying it was time to let her go.
It hadn’t really occurred to me over the years how omni-present she had become in my life, how she had inserted herself in to each piece of daily minutia.
From the first waking moment in the morning she would either be nearby on her bed, or lying next to mine, or if it were a colder night, and she thought she could get away with it, on the foot of my bed. She’d follow me to the kitchen for breakfast, and I would follow her to the door for her use of the yard. My work the last few years allowed me to work from my home for at least part of most days, so while I would be at my desk, Faith would watch over the street from her spot at the door where she could look through the window.
When I did have to leave, I would make sure she was set for the rest of the day with water and a small amount of food. Sometimes she would leave it untouched the whole time I was away, yet she would seem hungry, and eat right away, when I returned. I always thought this seemed a little strange, but perhaps it has to do with pack hierarchy.
No matter the status of the the days food though, we would always have a moment at the end of my own evening meal, when a small scrap – no more than a bite or two – of whatever dinner was that night, was left for her. Faith knew this too, for she would take note that I had stopped eating, and shortly after she would be at my feet, nose pointed up in the air to capture a whiff of whatever it was that was left on my plate. Now, for the most part, I allow no begging in my house. I think training a dog to beg is rather unbecoming, and I discourage it. Still, after waiting patiently and silently for me to finish my meal, Faith would give me a look, and a nudge with her nose, as if to insist that it was now her turn, and to “make with the scraps already! “ These one or two morsels of people food would go in her bowl with the kibble, and she would then have her fill while I put things away in the kitchen.
Even weekend chores, such as laundry, ended up with Faith’s touch. My laundry is in my garage, and the garage is normally not a place we would go very often. So when it came time to do the laundry and the door to the garage was opened, Faith would use the opportunity to investigate the garage, smelling the far corners by the overhead door while I loaded the washer.
We had some other weekend routines, too. Most Sunday evenings, we would go “Go for a ride!” to the off-leash dog park to mingle with other dogs and their owners. Oh yes, this place is where the dogs come first. If their owners happen to get along with each other, that’s fine, but it is secondary. And dogs are remarkably able to figure out how to get along with each other. There may be some brief scuffling for social status, but it’s usually worked out quickly, and then things move on. People could learn a lot from dogs social interactions.
The ride to and from the park, and for that matter, anywhere we needed to go, was remarkably organized. Many dogs try to climb all over inside a car, but Faith was always content to ride in the passenger seat, and stick her nose out the passenger window if it were open. Unless she spotted a cat – then all bets were off, including the chance of her jumping out of the moving car! That happened once, and luckily for all involved, it was right by the driveway to the house. The cat quickly went up a tree, the dog landed on lawn and wasn’t hurt, and I was able to quickly stop and get out to retrieve her. I have no idea how long the cat stayed in the tree. It looked sort of frazzled as I put the dog back in the car.
We both love the outdoors and the woods, so we would try to go camping at least once every summer. There was always a battle of wills over who got the sleeping bag. I always won out, but not without getting some paw prints on the sleeping bag first.
My last words to Faith were “find me a bunny!” This used to be my indication to her that it was OK to run and chase whatever she saw. I hope that it was a pleasant thing for her to hear as she passed on.
I miss my friend a lot. I have found myself still saving those small scraps at the end of a meal, only to remember that there’s no longer anyone to finish them off. The house seems kind of empty without her. I logically know that time will ease these feelings, but it’s hard to get there, when the emotion of the loss is still heavy around the heart.
For now, may she rest in peace.