photo by Sheri Dixon

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Perfect Dog

"Please? She's really no trouble- she's the perfect dog".

That's what our son Jordan told me when he asked if we could take Kate- the last pet he had to place before leaving on an extended trip to India. I was skeptical.

Kate was a border collie- known barkers, and she was elderly with seizure issues.

On the one hand, we're full-up with critters. Horse, sheep, goats, dogs, cat, poultry of all varieties, and more guinea pigs than you can shake a carrot at.

On the other hand, once you pass 100, does one more really matter?

So Kate came home to us.

Alec immediately fell in love, being my child who unwaveringly falls in love with the old, the odd, the infirm- guaranteeing him a lifetime of constant broken-heartedness.

At first, Kate didn't notice since she camped out on the rug in front of the door Jordan had left through...waiting for him to come back for her.

After about a week, she deigned to move into Alec's room since it was right next to the front hall and she could still sleep with her nose pointed towards the magical door that would bring her master home to her.

After about 2 weeks, she decided that while she loved Jordan, she'd never been able to sleep on one bed (ours) all day, and another bed (Alec's) all night with only the interference of breakfast and dinner in between.

Being a realist, Kate shifted alliances.

Jordan had told us "She's the perfect dog- I've never even heard her bark". What we found out was that Jordan's other dog, Sissy, had never LET Kate bark. One day the UPS truck rumbled past our bedroom window and without thinking, Kate's head came up and a sudden "Woof!" came out.

Instantly she flattened on the bed, waiting for the Wrath of Sissy...but Sissy wasn't there. She glanced at me sideways, hesitant, cautious.

"GOOD DOG, KATE! S'KIT 'EM, KATE!" I told her.

And at age 10+, Kate started barking at stuff. Not incessantly or constantly, just when there was something to bark at, something that made it worth her while, for she appreciated every single unrestricted vocalization, and was not about to have it taken away.

One "woof", a satisfied tail wag and smiling eyes. Then back to sleep.

When Jordan came home, Alec informed him that Kate was HIS dog now.

Our old house didn't have air conditioning, and summers were cooler under the tree in the shade, so Kate camped out in the summertime and came in by the fire in the wintertime. She barked at the UPS truck, doted on her Boy, and held a tense truce with the ducks.

Once we moved to the new house, she stopped barking- way off the road there was nothing to bark at, and she had her dog bed inside and her own covered porch outside, and it was enough. She'd grown too arthritic to jump up onto the bed anymore, so Alec started sleeping on the loveseat in his study- to be as close to Kate on her bed as possible. The boy had 3 places to sleep- top bunk, bottom bunk and perch mattress, and he'd sleep on the sofa with his stork-legs gangling up over the arms...but within petting distance at his fingertips. He said even the bottom bunk was too high for her to see him without lifting her head.

Visitors to the house were greeted with our spastic little housedogs Fizzgig and Smigeon and were always surprised to have to step over Kate sleeping at Alec's feet. The standard family joke was "This is Kate- she's very lifelike".

This last six months Kate started coughing- congestive heart failure. And she found it increasingly difficult to get up to go outside, so we only asked that of her twice daily. In all the time we had her, Kate pottied in the house exactly once- in the initial panic after Jordan left her.

Kate's seizures seemed to be stimulus-related, since things like thunder or gunshots were triggers- we were happy when the seizures became few and far between until we realized it was because she'd gone mostly deaf.

Kate demanded nothing and was grateful for everything- the closest she ever came to being pushy was a gentle "Please- just a bit more" nose under a hand that had stopped petting her.

Three times in the weeks before we left for vacation I'd gone to take Kate outside and thought she'd left us- she was sleeping that soundly and deafly, breathing ever so slightly Kate spent her life making no waves, ruffling no feathers.

When we left I told Kate and Oz (our 16 year old barn cat) the same thing I tell all our geriatric pets before we leave- "Don't die while we're gone".

But she did.

For the first time ever, one of our oldsters slipped quietly away while we were gone.

Alec is heartbroken- he's sure she'd died thinking we were never coming home, he feels guilty that he wasn't here to pet her while she left- we came home to No Kate but with no transition for his feelings- she was here when we she's gone.

He has her collar and has hoarded as much shed fur as we could find outside in a baggie, but I'm afraid that it's going to take much longer for us to stop looking for her than the other old pets we've witnessed leaving...and yet.

Kate died as she lived- not making a fuss or racket, really no trouble at all.

We miss you, Kate- you were the perfect dog.

1 comment:

  1. what a beautiful tribute to your sweet girl. They sure have a way of getting under our skin don't they...God speed sweet Kate.