Tuesday, December 4, 2012

So Long Good Friend - 2012 Blogging Advent Calendar Day 2

It’s inevitable when you buy a pet. You’re supposed to know it in the pet shop: it’s going to end badly. You’re purchasing a small tragedy.” - George Carlin

It is a sad day at the Melgarejo household. While sleeping on the love-seat (where she is not supposed to be) our dog Sadie fell to the ground crying and clearly in distress. She knocked into furniture, knocked over speakers and toys and was hitting her head really hard on the floor and wall until she crumpled up in a twisted heap by the front door. Sofie and Bianca were in the living room too. Bianca was in an opposite corner pretend playing with her Backyardigans, but Sofie was watching TV and saw the whole thing. I told her to go upstairs while I called for my wife for help.

Sadie was in bad shape, she was frothing at the mouth, whimpering, her eyes were moving back and forth erratically and her breathing was irregular and labored. I was so upset I couldn't think straight. I tried to direct my wife to call the vet but could barely form a sentence. The vet was closed on Sunday, so then my wife was scrambling to find a pet hospital.

By the time we figured it out, got Sadie in the man-van and I drove the 20 minutes to the nearest open facility, Sadie was not doing well. Sadie was almost 9 and a shepherd mix that we adopted from a rescue. I knew she was getting older, but I was seriously not prepared for this. She had no health issues whatsoever. She had barely even slowed down.

Without the guarantee that Sadie could be herself again, and her situation deteriorating rapidly, I made the decision that we needed to stop her suffering and pain and put her to sleep. I talked to her the whole time, I held her paw, I told her how much I loved and appreciated everything that she had done for my family… and in particular what she had done for me.

Then I said goodbye.

Sadie always had a great smile on her face.
As I sat in the room with her crying my eyes out and scratching her ears, I wished that I could have explained to her in some way how valuable she was to me.

She provided me such judgmental free friendship that it was easy to take for granted. And I did. She was still relatively young, so although we had talked about her slowing down her death was not even close to being on my mind.

It stings. It hurts. It is unfair.

When I was coming to grips with Bianca’s autism and working through the whole process of understanding, acceptance, anger and fear that comes with it, I isolated myself a lot. I stopped talking to every person in my life. My four legged friend on the other hand. She was different. She would listen. She would sit there with that goofy look on her face and her tongue hanging out as I spilled every angry thought I had in me. And no matter what I said… it was met with that same smile, that same bad breath and a couple of licks to the face.

When I would have trouble in my marriage… I would tell the dog. Sadie (albeit female) seemed to always take my side. Yes, it could have been because I was holding an apple and there has never been a dog that liked apples like Sadie liked apples, but I like to think that it was because as “Man’s Best Friend” she was the ultimate wing-man… or wing-dog.

Sadie was great to watch with the kids. They would climb all over her, tug at every tuft of fur or whiskers or tail or ear they could grab. They would ride her like a horse, often times giving her the “spurs” and there she was. Smiling and tongue out.

Before Bianca’s regression, she would hug Sadie and pet her. She would get on all fours next to Sadie and “Bow wow”. After the regression, Bianca barely paid any attention to her but still Sadie would come up to her and lick her in the face.

Sadie with Bianca.
The only times I ever saw Sadie snip at the kids was if they woke her up out of a dead sleep. No sooner would she instinctively protect herself that she would realize what was going on and look with horror at what she could have done. This usually resulted in her then licking the kid into a wet, stinky mess.

My kids all fed Sadie whatever food they were eating. Particularly Luis, who loved to let Sadie have a bite of his baby carrot before finishing it off himself. With Sadie around, the need to vacuum was not so great. If it fell to the floor and it was edible… she was going to eat it.

Sadie was family. Sadie was a friend. Sadie was an innocent.

Over these last few years, quality time with Sadie had taken a hit. Now with three kids, and lots of advocacy work to do, long walks were way too few and far between and a game of catch was a rarity.

I would do anything to toss a ball with her right now. I can hear her playful growl and see that streak of brown and black fur fly by as I write this.

If you are thinking about getting a pet, for Sadie’s sake please adopt a dog from a rescue and support no-kill shelters. I rescued Sadie after she came on a morning news show in Chicago that I was working as an audio engineer. She was the “show dog” for McDonald’s as they were doing an adoption drive. She chose me that morning… and I could never thank her enough.

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