Farewell Old Girl

For over eleven years, my Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Dusty, has been at my side – or sitting on my foot as I write – but this morning I came down the stairs and no one was waiting for me. I went to run errands and came home to empty silence. The welcoming bark is no longer a part of coming home.

After a year of declining health, Dusty suddenly went downhill in less than 36 hours. She was too sick to be given a grand last meal or a nice long ride in the car. All I could do was sit by her in the very early hours of yesterday morning and talk to her. She let me know it was time. She was ready to go home. I woke up my boys so they could come down to say goodbye. Forever devoted to her ‘puppies’, after they bent down to kiss her, she bravely forced herself to her feet, shook herself and trotted to the back door to go outside in the yard one last time. She walked down into the yard, then looked for me to come get her. She had walked her last steps.

My boys decided to come with me to the emergency vet, all of us knowing that it was Dusty’s last ride. We reached the decision to let her go as a family and stayed with Dusty until she was peacefully snoring from the sedatives. We went home with an empty collar and her paw print set in clay. We’ve been looking at old pictures, laughing and crying over a dog that was so different from any I’d ever know.

She brought unquestioning, unconditional love into our home. When life got really rough, her floppy ears heard many whispered fears and confessions and her fur absorbed many tears. For this human, she was the right dog at the right time and we had some long talks about faith, trust, steps and staircases. Her alpha dog, terrier badass personality never changed but as her health failed, she reluctantly learned to trust our help and finally surrendered to being held and carried when she was weak and in pain.

We humans aren’t real good at accepting what we can’t see so God sent us dogs. Dogs are a sort of sneaky gift, almost a Trojan horse, full of other gifts like love, trust, forgiveness, and acceptance. Their big eyes and playful antics mask the many lessons we learn from them over the years when we thought we were just playing fetch. They never see our faults. They only see the goodness in us, even on our worst days. Their only mission here is to show us what unconditional love looks and feels like.

Well done Old Girl. Well done.


An Old Dog And A Staircase


I have an aging dog. My Dusty is ten now. She’s a feisty one, always has been. She doesn’t trust most men. She doesn’t like to be picked up. She’s definitely not a lapdog. It took me a long time to get her to trust me and I’ve had her since she was 8 weeks old. She’s a neurotic, skittish, fiercely territorial alpha dog.

They say a dog reflects the personality of their owner. I’ve got nothing to add there. Let’s just say I get where this crazy dog is coming from most of the time. Her age is starting to really show. Her pepper coat has gotten much lighter. Her big brown eyes have grown cloudy. She moves a lot slower on rainy days. I get that too. My hair is streaking gray now. My eyes don’t always cooperate. I love rainy days but my body most certainly does not.

In the past year, she’s fallen down our back porch steps a few times. She’s also come up the stairs at exactly the wrong time and run face first into the edge of door as I’m opening it. Now she’s far more cautious. Lately, she lets me go down the stairs and she waits until I stand next to the steps, ready to catch her if she slips, before she’ll even attempt to go down. When it’s time to come in, she waits at the bottom of the stairs, refusing to budge until I open the door all the way. Then she looks at the stairs and looks at the door at least three times before coming up.

Yeah I get where she’s coming from there too. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” But if you miss the step it’s also a great way to bounce down said staircase and land on your face. Been there. Done that. It hurts. By the same token, charging up a staircase blindly is a great way to run smack into a door that’s only half-opened or worse, one that is still closed. Done that too. Also hurts. So yes, that tends to make me a little skittish on staircases. Like my aging dog, I need to know that Someone is standing next to the blasted staircase in case I slip. That takes trust.

Yup. I’m sitting on the staircase for awhile.