Warning: People sensitive to stories about dogs dying, you might want to skip this one.
I wouldn’t call myself a dog person, I don’t have (or want) a calendar with dogs on it or a picture of a dog on a mug, but I do love being around a cool dog. My sister’s family has a dog, Pepper, who unfortunately is pretty neglected now that S and J have two toddlers. So, I’ve been spending a lot of time with the dog and giving the dog a lot of love. It’s fun, but I also think it’s partly out of guilt.
See, when I was in third grade, my dad got the family a puppy. Sunny was a lot like Pepper, a black mutt, mostly lab, a runt. And I really liked playing with Sunny and having her around, but unfortunately, she was not an inside dog. And as a result, my time spent with her was limited and eventually became none. And there’s two reasons why I feel really terrible about leaving my dog outside to weather the storm so to speak.
1. Because I was still perfectly content to go over to my friends’ houses and play with their dogs. My friend M, had two amazing, pure-bred golden retrievers. And I remember once, we were just hanging out sewing and watching t.v. and I had literally just sat petting the dog for 40 minutes. To the point that my hand was covered in a thin film of dust and oil, not to insinuate that her dogs were dirty, hardly, but rather to just point out that I was really petting that dog. Oh that sounds terrible. But ya know what I mean? I was just content to sit and hang with the dog. And in high school or college (?), I even dog-sat my friend J’s dogs for a week while her family was out of town. I walked them twice a day, fed them, etc. They were awesome dogs, I don’t know what breed, but J would call them Korean fighting dogs. They were lean and mean and pure white. Oh, here’s a photo – thanks Wikipedia – they were Korean Jindo dogs.
And I would love to get a dog like this in the future. But see the guilt? Here I am hanging out with dogs, even taking care of them at the most inconvenient times, and I don’t even go outside to play with my own dog.
2. My final encounter with Sunny was very strange. I went home to my parent’s house and when I got out of my car, Sunny barked at me, which is weird, because I’m not a stranger, and I couldn’t remember the last time she barked at me. So, I stood there for a second wondering if she was going to keep barking, maybe it wasn’t me. But we have a big pine tree in our yard, so it was blocking my view to Sunny’s dog house. I thought whatever and went inside.
A little while later, my dad came inside and we talk for a bit, then he asks me if I noticed anything different. “Like what?” I said all puzzled. And goes on to tell me how last week he had Sunny put down. (Yup, he’s telling me this a week after the fact.) He tells me that he took her to the vet and the vet said she was in a lot of pain, and by this point she was pretty old, etc. etc. My dad went into the waiting room, paced around, and gave it a lot of thought. He went back in and told the vet okay.
My dad tells me that they laid Sunny on a thick comfortable blanket, that all the women in the office came in and petted her. My dad said it was the most attention Sunny had gotten in years, and her tail was just a-wagging. They all stayed with her, rubbing her belly and neck and behind the ears, until Sunny took her last breath and the light in her cataract-ridden eyes went out. He brought her home and buried in that blanket in the field next to our house.
My dad’s telling me this, getting a little worked up himself. My dad’s a hunter and has always had a good relationship with dogs. Dogs being a hunter’s natural assistant. But it hasn’t always been roses. Some of you may have read the short story I wrote about my dad, when he was in his early thirties, having to shoot his dog Lady because he couldn’t get her out of neighbor’s chicken house. Yup, true story. Heartbreaking right?
I’m blown away when my dad tells me all this. Mainly because I swear on all things I could possibly swear on, that when I went home that day, Sunny barked at me. I believe this like there is nothing else to believe in. And I can’t believe that he waited a week to tell me. He could have called me up that day. I’m only like 10 minutes from the vet’s. But in retrospect, I understand why he didn’t. Quite frankly, for 5+ years, I acted like I didn’t give a damn about that dog.
Hence, why when I see Pepper spending all day locked inside, ignored, I can’t help but try to rub her head and scratch her neck whenever I can. Sunny, to a certain extent, had a lame existence with only momentary bursts of happiness and fun. I hate the idea of another dog going through that. It’s the one reason why I can’t get a dog while I’m still living in an apartment, no matter how much I want to. I just think it would terribly unfair to the dog. I even considered asking S and J if I could take her on my road trip but that would probably be more than I could handle. Pepper’s a good dog, I’ll miss her. That’s her below.