Lydia loved to show. She never achieved her championship but a dog show meant she got to go for a car ride, get petted and fussed over by new people, and have special treats thrown at her over and over. What’s not to like about that? I clicker trained her to stand still and make eye contact with me. Later I almost regretted that--she could stare a hole through a brick wall.
She REALLY loved to race, and in that venue she excelled . . . at bringing home the Valiant Effort award at nearly every meet she entered. Some folks call that the Turtle Award, since it’s given to the dog who finishes last in the meet. But the Valiant Effort award netted her some pretty fabulous prizes over the years! She ran completely focused on the lure, and with her small size and rock-solid personality, she was a great training dog for youngsters just getting started on the track. (And racing meant more internet strangers. Who AM I??)
Lydia never met a dog or person she didn’t like. At home she was a dream girl . . . affectionate, well-behaved and quiet …except when she was quietly shredding something. Squeaky toys were eviscerated in seconds. She killed a few live “toys” in her day, including one Christmas Eve when the kids got home from church ahead of us and we got a phone call saying Lydia and Hayley had killed a bunny. (Merry Christmas, kids! Love, Best Parents Ever.) After she had a litter, she became everybody’s mama. I could never again clean another dog’s ears, grind nails, or do any kind of dog maintenance without her Personal Supervision.
Last year she had a bout of vestibular syndrome, and although she improved, it seemed she did not recover completely. This winter she began showing signs of anxiety and cognitive problems. Medication did not help. Her symptoms became more extreme by the day. She was miserable. Last week I had to make the hardest call a pet owner has to make. The only reason to keep her going would have been because I lacked the courage to let her go. She would have turned 14 on June 12.
It was the fourth time I’ve had to make that call. Each loss has taken a piece of my heart. Each time I ask myself why I have dogs. What was I thinking? Didn’t I see this day coming?
I guess it boils down to what I told my dog-allergic husband when I was trying to convince him to let me bring home yet another dog one time—he loves music. Loves it. Knows albums and the flip sides of 45s and who recorded on what label and who the studio artists were on a favorite album. He could live without music, but it adds something intangible to his life, and his life is richer for it.
And that’s why I have dogs. I have seen the face of a person who timidly asks, “Can I pet your dogs?” light up when the dogs greet them as though they’ve just found the most wonderful human on earth. And when that person says, “Look at this! They really like me!” I just smile and don’t say “They like everybody,” even though they do.
I am richer for the years—and the unconditional love, and the therapy/insanity and the internet strangers who can become incredible friends--they have given me.