Sunday, August 1, 2010

Precious Moments

Death found our house again last night.  This time it was not a surprise, and arguably, perhaps, over due, but we still sit here tonight minus a member of our family, and I want to give her her due at long last because she lived much of her life in the shadow of stronger personalities and was often overlooked as a result.

Precious came to live with us on the Saturday before the AFC and NFC championship games in early 1996.  At the time she was a year old and had been loved deeply by a family who lived around the corner from us.  The man was a state trooper who was being assigned to a canine unit, and they were not allowed to keep a family pet along with their assigned police dog.  The man had been very close to Precious, and it was hard for him to give her up.  I never met him.  I met with his mother and wife to meet her initially and pick her up a few days later.  He could not bring himself to come out to say goodbye to her. And she was clearly close to him, a strong male figure.  Greg wasn't home yet from his newspaper job when we picked her up, and she was terrified of me and my daughters.  She ran to a side corner of the back yard and refused to come out until Greg finally came home.  She immediately warmed up to him, and for the rest of her life it was clear he was the main star of the show.  She loved him best.  And I never bonded as closely with her as I have with my other dogs.  She came to our home only a few months after I had lost my Daphne, a collie mix that I loved utterly.  Precious was roughly the same size and coloring, so the comparisons were inevitable, and she wasn't my Daphne.  As a result I've always cautioned people who have lost pets from getting a new one too soon.  But, before long, she would become a member of the whole family, and I did love her.

She was a quiet dog, not easily excited nor quick to anger (although Noelle got on her nerves often - when she had enough she would put her mouth over Noelle's muzzle and apply some pressure as if to say, "Stop it now!"), but she was always a little timid.  That timidity was part of the reason I remember the day we got her so clearly.   The next day the Steelers beat the Chargers for the right to go to Super Bowl XXX.  I watched the game with my friend Suwan - Greg went to a friend's house for the NFC game - and I lost it when we pulled it out, jumping up and down and screaming.  Precious was so freaked out, she broke out of the yard and ran two doors down to the neighbor's house, cowering next to their dog until I came to retrieve her.  Later in her life that would become a problem and make it hard for me to keep her healthy.  She wasn't a high energy dog, so walking her was the only way to get her ample exercise.  But, as she began to age, she wouldn't walk past our property line without Greg along.  She would walk just fine until we hit that line, as though she could sniff it out, then she would lock her legs and pull back.  As the drama with my children increased, I didn't even try any longer.  She began to lose muscle mass in her back legs as a result a number of years ago.  And keeping her weight under control was not something I was very good at.  I don't think any of that particularly bothered her, but the vets who treated her over the years were constantly aggravated with me over how I neglected her (my words, not theirs, they veiled their terminology).  They were right, I think.  As our family dramas unfolded, causing the other dogs to act out or fight, she remained sweet and calm, but that made her easy to overlook.  Mother would comment on it occasionally, saying how Precious was always so sweet and no one paid attention to her.  There was some unfortunate truth to that.

Her name, however, is part of the Veldman Lore.  The family who originally adopted her from a local shelter had somewhat accidentally named her that.  The shelter, as often happens in those kinds of institutions, had spayed her way too early and probably not done a good job to boot, so when they went to pick up their new puppy, she was extremely ill.  They told me that it was touch and go for weeks; she wore a scare on her right front leg all her life from the IV she had been treated with in the fight to save her.  Thinking that she was sure to die, they hesitated to invest a name on her, so they used the term "precious" when referring to her.  When she pulled through, the name just stuck.  As touching as that story is, I hated the name for a large dog and figured she was young enough that we could change it without confusing her too much.  The Steelers and the Cowboys (Greg's team) were set to face one another in Super Bowl XXX, so a wager was born:  which ever of us emerged victorious from the Super Bowl got to rename the dog.  I was supremely confident that it would be me, and I didn't think to put additional restrictions on the bet at the time.  As we all know, I in fact lost.  And Greg kept coming up with the most purposefully horrific names for the new dog:  Deiondra (for Deion Sanders), Prime Time (also for Sanders), Emmett (for Smith)...  I vetoed them all and Precious retained her original name.  And Greg was left with a story about how I welch on my bets.  He loved to tell that story and continues to tell it often.  A couple of years ago it gained another dimension when we met a man in line at the movie concessions, me wearing my typical evening attire of Steeler shirt and Steeler purse.  He looked me up and down and then said to Greg in utter sincerity, "You are so lucky to have a wife who likes sports."  Greg responded, "No, I'm not.  She welches on her bets." He related his version of the naming episode, at the end of which the man says, "Oh, you're right then."  Men.

But whatever inappropriate name she remained hampered with all her life, she was rock solid.  A good and patient dog.  I said my final goodbye to her last night.  I was glad I had the power to order an end to her suffering.  Greg thought we had waited too long to see it through, allowing her to suffer longer than she needed to.  Maybe he's right.  I hesitated over the last year, as she became increasingly senile and incontinent, because I had seen enough of Death.  Finally, when the emergency vet was reviewing our options last night, I looked at her poor suffering face and knew it was time to put aside my concerns and do what was right for her.  I wish I had given her a better life when I could have.  She deserved it.  I hope she and Myrna are somewhere together now, keeping Kelsey good and constant company.

1 comment:

  1. that picture brought tears to my eyes. Miss my 2nd family. love you guys. xoxo Kara