A dog lover’s lament

Having a dog will bless you with the happiest days of your life, and one of the worst days.

She came into our lives through a gap in the fence. We began noticing that our golden lab was receiving a visitor, a little dog that would come and lie with her in the back yard. Our Jasmine was a hospitable sort, sharing her food and water with this newcomer.

I decided that if I was going to feed this little dog, she was going to be ours. So one day when she came to visit, I patched that gap in the fence, preventing her escape. Princess, as we came to call her, didn’t mind a bit. In fact, she was quite grateful to have been received into the family.

Little did we know that she had brought a family with her. As skinny as this stray was, we didn’t recognize that she was “great with puppies.” Soon there were five little ones running around the back yard, making Jasmine’s life miserable. (She was hospitable toward Princess, but apparently didn’t like kids.)

Princess was easily the most grateful dog I’ve ever seen. She had been rescued from a hard life, having known hunger and abuse. She would run from me if I had a tool in my hand and was fearful of being kicked. She didn’t play; if you threw a ball, she took it as an attack; if you tried to play chase, she hid in terror. She spent most of the day watching the windows and doors, hoping that someone from the family could come out so that she could demonstrate her gratitude and affection.

About a year after rescuing Princess and her pups, we moved from Stockdale to Abilene. Where our back yard in Stockdale was a bit bare, the new one had trees, shade, and … squirrels! Everything that a dog needs to entertain herself.

Or so we thought. Princess proved once again that she believed fences to be obstacles to a better life; the grass was always greener through that hole in the fence. I patched, blocked, repaired, mended, and everything else I could think of… Princess would still find a way to get out and roam the neighborhood.

When we moved to our current house, I took measures to make sure that Princess wouldn’t wander this neighborhood, especially since we lived close to two busy streets. But the escape artist wasn’t to be thwarted, and Princess found ways to get to know the area. Metal edging, chicken wire, concrete, and bricks… we finally got her slowed down. The last weak point to be fixed received a cinder block, and Princess was in to stay.

Though what really slowed her down was cancer. Once when she got out, Princess was rescued by a college student who took her to the vet to be checked out. (We did vaccinations… we didn’t do physicals) The vet found some tumors in Princess’ mammaries. She lasted a couple of years after that (living to be about 14), but eventually gave in to the disease.

Jasmine, our golden lab, died as she had lived, oblivious to what was coming, passing suddenly and unexpectedly. Hershey, one of Princess’ pups that we kept, died as she had lived, cuddled and petted as she was put to sleep in the vets office (killed by cancer, like her mom).

Princess also went in a fitting way. I was going to take her to the vet on Monday. Life had gotten too hard, and she was no longer eating well. On Saturday, with the cold (she hated the cold), we brought Princess inside. But in the afternoon, she insisted on going out. When I got up today (Sunday), she wasn’t to be seen. I went out to the shed where she slept and could hear her, but not see her. I finally realized that she had worked her way under the shed.

It was her last escape, her last move to freedom. She wouldn’t die inside, nor pass on the cold table of a vet’s office. She went through one last gap, somehow struggling deep under that utility building. She was alive when we got home from church, then passed sometime during the afternoon.

I pulled that cinder block out of the hole in the fence and dug a small grave next to it. I placed her head near the hole, leaving her poised for one last romp through the neighborhood.

Goodbye Princess. Good girl!

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