I have had 3 dogs during my 40 years of life. We had one named "Butchie" who was a black mop with curly bangs and although I had always been told he was a toy poodle, knowing now what I know about breeds and dogs he was definitely a mutt. We got Butchie when I was maybe 3 years old and my brother and I could not say Bushy so it came out Butchie. I also had a dog named Lucky. Lucky was a cross between a shetland sheep dog and a collie. He was a rescue from the pound and we named him Lucky because we saved him from being euthanized. He was a beautiful dog. My whole childhood contains memories of these two with thoughts of playing in the snow, sneaking lima beans under the table and other kid stuff.
Lucky would chase and bite my ankles when I ran, it was only me but he did it every time. Lucky also saved my life when a huge neighborhood dog attacked me landing him in the vet barely alive himself. Butchie would let us put bows in his hair and literally drag both he and Lucky with pretend leashes (they were not leash dogs, we had several acres and never needed to walk them on a leash) to the local park for Park and Rec dog shows. Many times we would find them on the playground at the school waiting for us because they had followed us "walkers" in the morning. At least once a week I would have to leave class to bring them home again. I can't even imagine a school allowing a kid to walk their dog's back home. They were great dogs. But one day Lucky just disappeared and Butchie started to climb on top of the dining room table to relieve himself causing us to bring him to the vet where he was ultimately put to sleep. I remember like it was yesterday the look on Mom's face when she told me that he did not come home with her from the vet. I hated her for it at the time but I have a different perspective now.
The third dog I had was truly mine and he was named Dale. He was named after Dale Earnhardt Sr. because he was black and white and he had three white dots on his paw as a puppy. We were given him one week before we moved into our current house in 2001. He was another mutt that was a mix between a beagle and a springer spaniel but he looked like a black lab "perma" puppy. For almost 11 years he never grew out of being that puppy. I remember being very upset with my husband for bringing him home. He showed up in the kids bedroom that I was packing for the move and asked the kids which one of 3 available they wanted. I said NONE!! But the kids saw the three pups and picked. One was missing a leg, one was passing horrible gas and then there was our Dale. Being that I was the stay at home mom, I became his mom too. With every breath he took and every move he made, I was his mama and he made me know how much he adored me every day since. I was the one that ran out and gathered all the things needed for a dog. I trained him how to bark on command, not bark when not needed and how to stay in the yard when doing his business. I trained him to shake is paw, sit, lay and roll over all by hand commands. I taught him to fetch.
This dog could fetch like no other. He caught frisbees in the air, he would run after a foot ball thrown to the other side of the yard and bring it back and before you could throw it again he was back out to the middle of the yard waiting. He would let our son Drake hit golf balls out into the yard staying out of harms way and then he would run out and get the ball so Drake could hit it again. He always dropped the ball right back in front of his golf club every time. The most impressive trick with fetch was when my husband would spit on a golf ball, rub it with his hands to make sure it had his scent and then while we held Dale still he would throw it to a random place in the back yard. Dale was always able to find it, even when he did not see where it went. He was an amazingly talented dog.
He followed me everywhere I went, I mean EVERYWHERE. I could go to the bathroom and he was there, I would take a shower and he was there. I would walk in circles for ha ha's through all the rooms and he would be right be hind me the entire time. He would kiss our first bird Kiwi, he would sit still while our cat cleaned his ears. He was not allowed on the couches (not that we wouldn't find a few black hairs here and there on said couches when we would return from a long day out) but he had his own chair which only he sat in. We could always just say,"Dale, go sit in your chair" and no matter what he was doing, he would stop and go over to make himself comfortable in his special chair. Sometimes he would leave the pillow up and curl in front of it, sometimes he would paw it down so he could sleep on top of it. It was his chair, he knew it, the cat knew it and so did everyone who visited. We burned his chair in a funeral pyre to honor him two days ago.
It is so hard to lose a pet as a mom. I have buried fish, birds and hamsters. We have lost several rabbits and 3 cats. Losing my dog has certainly been the hardest of them all. As a mom I was the one that he trusted. I was the one that took care of him. I was the one that bathed him in tomato juice 3 times in one night because he was sprayed by the same skunk. I was 9 months pregnant at the time but I was the mom so I was the one that took care of him. I was the one that clipped his nails because I was the only one that could. I was the one that cleaned up after his trash can adventures. I was the one to re-decorate the Christmas tree after he tried to eat the candy canes off of it. I was also the one that carpet cleaned the dining room over and over again when in the last months where he would relieve himself. I was the one that tried to settle his recent sick stomach with chicken broth and I was also the one that threw him pieces of chicken breast which caused his last bout of vomiting which ended it all. I was also the one that brought him into the vet where we were told that he had a mass on his liver, advanced jaundice and that he would not be coming home. I was my own mother in that moment.
It has been a long weekend. It has been a sad weekend. My children do not blame me for leaving with their friend and not returning and for that I am grateful. We have never lived in this house without him. It feels different here now. Through all of the tears and the hurt and loss. I am also remembering Butchie and Lucky and the love I also had for them. As I try and talk to the kids I am keeping in mind the heartbreak that I too had felt at their ages. And I am keeping in mind what my own mother must have felt as she stood in the dining room doorway telling me that my first dog was too sick to come home.
To make that decision to bring him to the vet was so difficult for me because I knew what that would mean. It meant that this was our last day with him and that tomorrow he would not follow me downstairs to start his day. It meant that I couldn't fix it this time. Being his mama wasn't going to be enough this time. I said goodbye to him all alone. I stroked his face with my finger until he closed his eye. He didn't flinch or move and he didn't acknowledge that I was even there. He was already leaving us. The last thing I did was kiss him on the nose and told him that I loved him, he made his mama proud and to chase the golf balls for the angels. They would love that.