Last week, our dog passed away while we were at work. Talking to people about it on more than a superficial level is hard because it's difficult to talk about without getting emotional. I was resigned to leaving my feelings bottled up until a friend sent me a link to a blog post by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. Neil lost his dog recently as well. His eloquent words resonated so strongly with me that I decided to try to take a stab at giving a voice to my feelings.
We got Sandy almost 12 years ago. My stepdaughter was in her freshman year of college which left my wife with a bad case of empty nest syndrome. That was bad enough but our old dog, a friendly little Cockapoo named Biscuit, died making the house seem even emptier. To make matters still worse, I was working for a startup company which was keeping me away from home 60-70 hours per week.
So my wife called my stepdaughter home from college to help pick out a new dog. They went to an adoption event given by the Rappahannock Animal Welfare League. At the event, they discovered a 7 month old Siberian Husky - German Shepherd mix. Apparently most people want to adopt puppies so the League had almost given up on getting Sandy adopted out because she was very close to full grown by that time. My wife insists Sandy chose them as family. She jumped up on her back legs and put her front legs on my wife's shoulders, something she was easily capable of as such a long bodied dog. Once they met her, Sandy ignored the rest of her surroundings including an open bag of dog food ending any doubt that she was the perfect dog for us.
Sandy came home with them and while it would be nice to say I loved her immediately, the truth is the long hours were making me kind of cranky. So Sandy whining at night in her new surroundings while I was trying to sleep didn't instantly ingratiate her to me. However within a few days, Sandy's friendly enthusiasm and loving nature started winning me over.
From the first my wife was without a doubt the alpha member of Sandy's pack. Whenever we returned home, Sandy made a beeline to greet my wife. Only after she'd paid homage to the alpha would she seek me out. Lest you think I'm bemoaning my beta status, life as Sandy's second fiddle was still pretty great. Her energy and enthusiasm was infectious and she'd easily lure us into a game of keep away with her favorite stuffed hedgehog. Thinking about her running up and down the stairs while squeaking her "Hedge" still brings a smile to my face.
My favorite times with Sandy were walking in the snow. She loved bounding through deep snow drifts. She also was determined to investigate any small indentation in the snow's surface, as if convinced there were some small animal burrowed in the snow. I had to stifle laughter while watching her, something exceptionally hard to do when she'd look up at me with her muzzle covered with snow.
Sandy had several nicknames. Since our parents had always included our middle names calling us when we were in trouble, I decided Sandy needed a middle and last name. So her full name became Sandra Day O'Connor. To tell you the truth, even on the rare occasion when she'd done something to warrant the use of her full name, a sad face from her usually turned our thoughts from scolding to laughing and playing.
Since she was a herding breed, she instinctually nudged us with her nose to get us to do things. It's quite hard to type on a computer when your arm gets suddenly flung up into the air by a dog nose. That habit got her christened "The Beak". The sound of her toenails when she ran on hard floors invited the name "Trotsky". That one was a bit unfair as I don't believe she had a revolutionary bone in her body.
It's been almost a week since she's been gone and I still find myself looking down at the floor next to the bed before I get up in the morning so I don't step on her. She'd usually go to sleep on my wife's side of the bed but would move to my side at some point during the night. She had very distinct ideas on who to stay next to when my wife and I were both at home. If one of us were sick, she'd stay next to the sick one. She also guarded whoever was the last person to get up each morning (usually me).
Seeing her toys laying around the house still brings a pang of sadness followed by memories of her playing without abandon. I hope she could sense how much we loved her. She certainly made our lives much richer with her presence.