Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Dog Was Part of It

Her name is Angel, named that way because she was all white as a pup. An Australian Shepherd from inbred parents, she was born deaf, blue-eyed, and pink around the edges.

We wanted a puppy for the kids. We didn't want to go to a puppy mill, but to get a dog no one else wanted. A deaf albino seemed a good choice to fill the billet.

She was the family dog when the kids were growing up. We let her sleep inside at first. This dog, however, was a biochemical weapon, able to release a stench so strong it could bubble paint. My father-in-law fashioned a corner of the shed for her.

We taught her American Sign Language= signs for come/dog, go, sit, stay, lay down, stand up, potty, out, toy/play, eat, speak and no. It was easier to teach her these signs than I would have thought, and it made communicating with her straightforward.

An outside dog, she always wanted to see her people. "She just wants to be part of it," we said.

She loved to run in her yard, and wore paths in the grass around the perimeter, and later, between the trees as they grew. All summer long, she would run a lap or two at top speed, then collapse into her kiddie pool, lapping at the water as she lay in it. Cooling off, the process would repeat until, her pool empty, she would find someplace cool for a nap.

She chased a squirrel into the neighbor's yard one day, so I walked the perimeter of her yard with her, telling her "No" and pounding on the ground around her boundary. As a result, I lost my wedding ring, which was a lesson for me.

She has always been there, in good times and bad, quietly filling the niche between living accessory and trusted friend.

Over the last year she's developed an intermittent cough that the veterinarians could not diagnose. After a summer filled with her usual routine, this fall she developed a limp, and lost her appetite for the brand of dog food she's enjoyed for years. We thought it was old age, and began adding liquid to her food.

The limp worsened and it was hard to watch her walk. A blood test revealed the likely culprit. She has cancer.

The poor old girl isn't eating much now, and spends most of her time sleeping. Though her eyes have dimmed, she still wants to see her people, to be part of it again for just a little while.