Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

Farewell, Little Girl

on October 24, 2013

sweetaphiSeven years ago, I read Marley, a tale about the world’s worst dog. The next thing I knew, I was at the Humane Society, looking at dogs. “I’d like one smaller than a border collie,” I said. “One that’s 4-5 years old.” I reasoned that an older dog would already be trained, an activity I was loathe to take on. The one thing I DIDN’T want was a puppy.

They brought me a lab mix. ‘Lizzie’ was a bit larger than a border collie. “She’s two years old.” Huh. A little bigger and a little younger than I wanted.

She’d been on the streets for a while. She was captured in Bend and brought to the Humane Society in Salem, because her chances of adoption were better here.

She was obviously well trained. Lizzie sat when I said ‘sit’. She extended her hand for ‘shake’. She knew ‘fetch’. She was gentle. She laid her head in my lap, and looked up at me with her beautiful brown eyes. I was smitten.

“We aren’t calling her Lizzie,” announced my son when I brought her home. “We’re going to call her Aphrodite, the goddess of luh-huv.” Aphrodite it was – a fitting name, because she was a lover. She craved attention, and we were happy to provide it.

Aphi was a little dog trapped in a big dog’s body – she would have loved to climb in my lap and curl up. She occasionally tried, and I had to discourage her. “No, Aphi, you’re too big,” I would say. So she’d lay her huge head in my lap and look at me with mournful eyes.

Aphrodite was an escape artist. We built new gates after we found her clinging to the top of an ivy concrete wall adjacent to our home. She found all the weak places in our six-foot fence. She annoyed all our neighbors by running in their yards. She annoyed me with her propensity for finding deer poop and rolling in it.

She was SO energetic. Every day, I took her to the (fenced) playground next door, where she tore around like a crazy woman – er, dog. I’d had her about a month when it struck me. She wasn’t running, she was galomphing. Like a puppy. Not only that, but I’d swear she was getting larger! I called my friend, Neil, who’d been a strong advocate for adopting Aphi.”Neil, is Aphi getting BIGGER?” I demanded.

“Well,” he replied in a sheepish voice, “I didn’t want to SAY anything…”

I took her to a dog-expert friend. She looked Aphi over. “Oh, Cherie, this dog isn’t even a year old!”

Like it or not, I had a puppy.

Over the next four years, she was the delight of my life. Yes, she was big (and got bigger) but that meant I could take walks after dark. I could hike in the park. I could go many places because my Aphrodite was there to protect me.

Life changed in those years. I started traveling more and more. I had less time to walk her, and our small back yard didn’t provide enough bounding room. I realized I was not providing her the quality of life she deserved.

Enter the Haugens. My friends had an eight-and-a-half acre property outside of Salem, one Aphi loved to visit and run around. Would they? Could they?

They could. Aphi became part of their family. She was a willing 4H project for their son, Lars. The property wasn’t fenced, so Aphi occasionally visited the local school yard, bounding up and barking her big-chested woof! But the children and the police (mostly) understood, and Neil & Miriam did their best to keep her from wandering.

Last month, Bryan & I joined the Haugens on ‘the farm’, as we call it.Their big house seemed empty after their older children left, so we rented the lower level and had a joyful reunion with Aphi. Introduced her to our new puppy, Tali, a (tiny) poodle mix.Tali immediately asserted dominance over Aphi, insisting that she lay down so he could leap on her head and be king of the mountain. She loved it. He loved it.  I envisioned years of happy romping.

But a week ago, I went upstairs to find Neil in distress. “Something’s wrong with Aphi,” he said. “I’m taking her to the vet.”

I looked at my girl. She was breathing hard and noisily.

The verdict was congestive heart failure, possibly caused by a bacterial infection. They treated the infection, and for a couple of days, all seemed well. But yesterday, the labored breathing returned. She refused to eat. The verdict from the vet: there was nothing more to be done.

So we spent last night and this morning saying our goodbyes, as Aphi lay on her side and panted. It would have been cruel to wait any longer, so we loaded her in the car. The rest of the family took her for her last ride. I stayed home with Tali, because I couldn’t bear to watch her very last breath. I’m waiting here, to help put her to rest next to Synch and Katie, two other beloved family doggies.

Those two lived to ripe old ages, well past fifteen. Aphi was only eight. It doesn’t seem fair. She was gentle, beautiful, loving. She – and we – deserved a longer stay.

Her short life reminds me to slow down and enjoy the NOW. I have a bad habit of not being ‘present’. Instead, I gaze about three steps ahead or ruminate about ideas/plans or (more rarely – I’ve gotten much better about this) poke old memories.

Today, though, I think I’ll give myself permission – for a short while – to freely roam about in Aphi memories. Be at peace, little girl.

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2 responses to “Farewell, Little Girl

  1. Lesli says:

    Beautiful. And I’m sorry for your loss. ❤

  2. Jodi Oneil (classmate of Neil) says:

    I, too, am very sorry for the loss of your dearly loved Aphi.

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