I wrote about my dog Tucker the other day (and thank you to everyone who responded, those who know him and those who don’t). No sooner had that blog hit than I started to hear this familiar whiny grumble in the back of my mind.
“What about ME?”
So, in all fairness, I should talk about Bella. Bella was Tucker’s sister; supposedly his litter-mate. (Go ahead; compare the photos. I didn’t believe it, either.) Whether they are full siblings, half-siblings (because bitches can whelp a litter fathered by more than one dog), or just thrown together by circumstance, I know they were together at least from the age of six weeks or so. For all intents and purposes, they were brother and sister.
Right from the beginning, Bella was a plethora of issues wrapped in a little 10 pound, round-bellied mound of dog-love. We started with the hernia, that little popped button on her belly. Had that taken care of when she was spayed. Not a big deal. Silly us for thinking that would be the worst of it.
As I mentioned in Tucker’s blog, they came from a lousy situation. While it turned Tucker into a quiet, compliant sort of dog, it instilled in Bella some fear/aggression. We were poorly prepared to deal with it. I know we got angry too often, which didn’t help matters and only served to exacerbate her condition. Ed finally threw up his hands and, in essence, abdicated his responsibility to her, which left me to deal with it.
I didn’t always do very well.
I could shame myself right down to the ground if I wanted to, but it’s pointless. Sometimes I was great with her. Sometimes I was good; and sometimes I stank like dead fish at low tide.
She got hit by a car at age 8 months. Got away from me, dashed into the street, and it happened right before my eyes (an image that does not fade). It was a Sunday. Mother’s Day, if you can believe it. No vets were open and few had emergency numbers. We found one (finally!) who would take her in and make her comfortable (she could not walk), but I would have to come get her in the morning and “remove her” to our regular vet. Did so. Our own vet, seeing the x-rays of a cracked spine, refused to touch her. Referred me to Rowley Animal Hospital in Springfield, MA. Said they’d call to say I was on my way. (They either didn’t, or someone didn’t bother to tell the intake people.) Bella and I waited in an examining room for an HOUR before someone finally showed up to see us (by which time, my poor girl had peed and pooped all over herself because she didn’t know she was doing it). Cut to the chase: They planned to do a mylogram (where they shoot dye into the spine), but Bella’s spine “miraculously” (the doctor’s word) realigned itself. So they put her in a cast and waited to see what would happen. After a week, I got a phone call: “She wagged her tail this morning. If she can do that, she can walk again.” And she did. They built her a little crash cart and she tooled around that hospital all day long, dragging her little stocking-clad feet behind her. We brought her home 3 weeks later, Tucker began her physical therapy, and she never looked back.
I could focus on all the other shit with Bella — the unexpected hound-like baying (usually in the middle of the night) that frightened the crap out of us; her moaning; her growling (growls of joy, when she greeted someone; growls of fear/aggression when her brother looked at her). Her stubbornness (which, in hindsight, maybe wasn’t such a bad thing). Her propensity for breaking out from the yard and wandering the neighborhood (once disappearing on Christmas Eve in a snowstorm — which is how I met one of our distant neighbors, out looking for HIS dog in the same storm). Her unending love of the cats’ litter box.
There were great things about her, too. The above-mentioned stubbornness. Her bravery. Her joy in life and running. The light in her eyes when she was delighted with a toy or a playmate or the sun on her face. Her happiness when people came to visit. Her love of everyone, especially Ripley the cat, who became her “mother.” The way she would sit shoulder to shoulder with me on the ground, the two of us leaning into each other, just being companions. The way she greeted us when we came home. Her desire to be with us all the time…
Bella died on November 23, 2009. Complications of old age. Her arthritis was very bad and the nerves to her rear end (never great; I cleaned up dog poop almost daily for 11 years) finally gave up to the degree that she couldn’t flip her feet pad-down to walk. I miss the Little Black Dog, the Growly-Girl. I miss that jolly personality greeting me first thing in the morning, her waggly body, and the shoe/sock/underwear she would bring as a gift. I miss her sweet face and kindly eyes. Bella was a better person than I’ll probably ever me and I owe her a debt of thanks. She showed me where I was lacking as an individual and she has ultimately made me a better animal caretaker. It’s impossible not to feel regrets, wishing I could do certain things over, but I will go into the future doing things better because of her.