My friend died a week ago. Her name was Abby. I'm certain that she was the prettiest Golden Retriever that ever lived. And she was such a kind soul. She was meant to be mine. Ours. I bet God smiled the day she was born because He knew she would be ours, and He could see every moment that we would share with her.
I can't believe she's gone.
Almost 14 years ago, I found an ad in the paper for Golden Retriever puppies. Yes, the actual paper newspaper. We recently had our first child, Isaiah, then we bought a house, and so naturally the next step was to get our first dog! It was a surprise for Seth. I got cash from the bank and told Seth to meet me in Salem, and then I drove us to the house where the puppies were. She was the only girl pup left so we didn't even have to choose.
God chose for us.
Well...it turned out that the Reality of having a dog didn't live up to the Dream. She was a PAIN in the freakin' rear. I suddenly had two babies instead of one.
She chewed Isaiah's baby toys. She pooped in the house. She dug holes in the yard. Her fur was EVERYWHERE. She tracked mud inside. She bit Isaiah's fleshy baby arms, playfully yes, but it made me seething mad.
I regretted getting her.
She definitely wasn't Mine yet. Cute enough to make your head explode, yes. But WAY more trouble than I needed. I tolerated her and dealt with her. The kids and Seth all loved her. Of course! It was just me that was heartless. But in my defense, I was just a tired mama.
A couple years later, after Ivy was born, I was determined to get rid of Abby. I made a lengthy list of all the reasons to give her away, and a very short list of reasons to keep her.
Reasons to Keep: The kids love her, she's pretty, we've already spent money on her. That's about it.
I researched how to surrender a dog to the Humane Society. (Do you hate me right about now? I'm sorry, but it just felt like too much). I filled out a questionnaire about problems with my dog. ...OK, so, guess what? It made me realize she was actually a really good dog.
Does your dog bark excessively? NO.
Does your dog get jealous/possessive/anxious, etc.? NO.
Is your dog aggressive? NO.
Is your dog hostile towards children? NO.
Does your dog act out to show displeasure when you leave him/her home alone? NO.
I answered NO to all the questions. "No, she's not a terrible dog, okay?! She's just...a dog. She's hairy and smelly and she digs holes and chews the hose and has vet bills. I just don't have ENERGY for her, okay? Stop making me feel like a horrible person for not loving her! I've got these two little kids who get all of my love and who suck the life out of me and I have nothing left to give to the dumb dog!"
Seth never even considered letting me get rid of her. "No way. She's part of the family." So she stayed.
Lord, thank You for not letting me give her away!
Abby. My beautiful girl. My heart is deeper and truer and lovelier and richer and ALL THE GOOD THINGS because you stayed. And because you eventually became Mine.
Many years later, I tried to pinpoint when it was that I started loving her instead of resenting her. I think it was when she needed me.
She had ear surgery. Some sort of allergy made her ears incredibly itchy and she'd drag her head against the ground like a psycho. The floppy part of her ear filled up with blood like a giant blister, so it needed to be drained and stapled back together. Poor girl. I think having to care for her and give her medicine and soothe her and sit with her made her become Mine.
Maybe love creeps in quietly during acts of service. Maybe choosing kindness leads to feeling kindness.
Over the years she had two more ear surgeries and once she almost died from salmon poisoning! Did you know that raw fish can kill dogs?? She must have gotten one in the creek. And we almost lost her then.
See her bandaged ear? The vet tied it back towards her head after surgery.
I have thousands of happy memories with Abby. Swimming is my favorite memory of her. She loved it! She went nuts over it. She would keep swimming even when she was exhausted and shivering. She would bite at her own water splashes that her paddling paws made! It was so funny. She loved to retrieve sticks that we tossed into the water. If we weren't careful, she'd scratch us underwater with her claws, so we learned to turn her whole body around mid-swim as she approached us.
And camping. She'd run on the beach. Chase us. Chew seaweed and sticks. Play in the surf. She'd sleep in the tent with us. She'd shiver by the fire after swimming all afternoon.
She slept in Isaiah's bed for several years.
She loved jumping up on the trampoline with us.
She loved riding in the car. We'd take her along when we went to look at Christmas lights so that the "whole family" was there.
She would follow us around at home and lay right near us. We gave her treats in her Christmas stocking. She liked to wrestle on the floor. I bathed her and brushed her fur (SO MUCH FURRRR), and she looked so pretty. She had the cutest reddish eyelashes and her eyebrows moved around to make adorable expressions. She used to get hyper when we would run in the backyard with her. It's like it flipped a switch and she'd start to ZOOM around the yard, unable to stop. It was hilarious. A couple of years ago she grew this weird, disgusting mole on her chin. It got so big that we gave it a name: Fernando! We tied it off and it eventually fell off. I told Isaiah I hoped it wasn't in his bed somewhere!
When we got our kitten I only had to scold her one time for chasing him and she never bothered him again.
She was such a gentle, humble soul. The older she got, the more tenderness we all felt for her. Not only was she the prettiest dog to ever walk the planet, she was also the sweetest. You can't tell me different.
In the last few months we could tell our Abby was nearing the end. One front leg started quaking and she didn't want to put weight on it. The vet couldn't figure out what was wrong. So we just made her comfortable and let her lay and rest all day, every day. We'd help her get up to walk out to the backyard each morning and each night and then help her walk back in. She stopped being able to jump up on the deck. So I carried her. She stopped being able to stand or sit properly to reach her food bowl. So I held a plate in front of her on her bed. Ivy and I prayed every night that she wouldn't be in pain and that she would slip away quietly when it was her time. I didn't want to have to make that awful decision to put her down.
On her last day, I carried her out to the grass in the morning. She wouldn't stand. She just kept falling over onto the grass. I started to cry. I went and got Seth. I asked him to take her picture. I knew it was her last day.
I can't look at this one without crying. Beautiful Girl. I think she was ready to go.
When I could stop crying long enough to speak, I called the vet. I told him we needed an appointment and I whispered through the tears, "She can't stand up anymore. She won't go potty. She won't drink." He was so kind on the phone.
While we waited for the appointment time, we each spent time loving on her and cuddling her. We reminisced about some of our favorite memories. Seth looked at my tears and said, "YOU wanted to get rid of her." I smiled. Oh, what I would have missed. I'm certain that in the end I loved her most of all. ;)
This might sound silly, but on her last day, I was glad I had bathed her earlier that week. I had Googled how to bathe a paralyzed dog, since she could no longer stand for any length of time. So I put an old towel in the tub to cushion it, filled it with a few inches of water and laid her in it. It wasn't easy! I stood in the tub with her and washed her as I held her head up out of the water with my foot. I moved her soaking wet to some towels on the bathroom floor, then I moved her to her bed where I blow dried her. She calmly endured the whole thing. The next day my legs and back were sore. But it was worth it. I'd have done anything for her. And when it was her time to go, I was glad she was clean and soft and pretty.
We put her blankets in the car and carefully laid her on them. Seth carried her into the vet's office in his arms and they ushered us into the room. The vet was so gentle with us. He said that over the last few days she had been letting us know it was time, and that this was the last kind and loving thing we could do for her. He explained what would happen. He told us to gather near her head and soothe her and love on her as she left us.
And then she was gone. Her face changed instantly. My girl. Oh, Abby.
The vet said we could stay in the room as long as we wanted and then slip out without even saying anything. We all petted her. We all cried. Seth choked out, "Thank You, God, for Abby." Our hearts all broke together. She was one of us. How could we leave without her?
When we were ready, we walked out quietly with our puffy, red eyes and our empty arms.
When we got home I threw away the blankets she'd been using for the last few weeks. I knew they'd remind me of the end. I laid in bed all evening watching Netflix and crying. I was thankful we all got to be there with her, together to say goodbye as she slipped away. I was thankful that she never seemed to be in pain in her last days. But most of all, I was just sad.
I don't know if we get to see our pets in Heaven. I hope so. I love the idea of the Rainbow Bridge. My friend sent me the poem that day. I cried. I told my family about it and saw Seth tear up on the part where the dog sees her loved one coming and runs to them. That's the part that got me too.
I've been sad all week. Grief pops up unexpectedly. There's an empty spot where her bed used to be. And there's an emptiness in the air. She's not there to greet us when we come in the door. She doesn't need to be fed at dinnertime. I don't get to hear the kids say, "Goodbye, sweet girl," as they leave for school in the mornings.
She's just gone.
But what she did for me lives on. She changed my stubborn heart and made me love her.
"'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
-Alfred Lord Tennyson
My children and Abby grew up together. I even grew up quite a bit in all the years Abby spent with us. She brought us Laughter. Comfort. Frustration. Worry. And Love. So much Love. She was one of us.