Happy 13th birthday, Sasha!
I know you’re disappointed that I took the day off to be with you today because you hate it when I’m all over you. But I’m a selfish person, and I don’t know if this is the last time I’ll be able to put a party hat on you. So when the Doodle was sent last week to schedule a meeting, and today was the day when everyone else could make it, I said, fuck it, no.
Because you’re not ‘just a dog’ to me.
From the moment I held you, and you nibbled my ear, I was in love. I had read that puppies that struggle when you hold them will grow up to be stubborn and dominant, and that they are likely to give you grief. You struggled. But it was too late. I got your Ex-Daddy (henceforth: Mindf*cker) to call the landlord to see if he could make an exception on the lease, so that I could bring you home. That was on Friday, June 11th, 2004. We waited and waited and waited, and finally, we had to go home. Because, at that point, we were technically loitering.
The landlord finally got back to him late in the night, and I could hear Mindf*cker say, “listen, Brian… if you don’t let her get this puppy, she’s going to start talking about babies….” I could have taken that as an insult, but I didn’t care…. as long as that lame joke between men meant that Brian would waive the no-pets clause in the lease.
Saturday morning, I was up bright and early and made the coffee. I was giving Mindf*cker the evil eye because he was being sloth-like (but not cute), and told him to hustle it. We arrived early and my heart soared when I saw that you were still there, that nobody had taken you home already. You were loose and following one of the guys around as he prepared to open up, and it was as if time had slowed down. But you were there, and I would soon be bringing you home, so all was well with the world at that moment.
When we got you home, you were a little explorer, into everything. I remember the sun shining through onto the hardwood floors, and you just lay down and fell asleep. So I lay down next to you for a cuddle. And then you got up and moved away. I was crushed. That was the first indicator of just how independent you were.
You were my first little girl; all my other dogs had been boys. I naively thought that we would somehow be even closer because of it, but you had your own personality and your own ideas. Mindf*cker cruelly exploited this, knowing how much I loved you, teasing me by saying that you liked him more than me, knowing that would hurt me. He said that maybe if I tied a porkchop around my neck, you’d come to me. Jerk. He was the more ‘fun’ human (mostly because I’m pretty sure he had ADHD), I get that.
Soon, I learned to respect your space and let you come to me. And when I would scold you for being naughty, I’d threaten to hug and kiss you if you didn’t stop. You were so naughty! Despite telling Mindf*cker not to leave important things lying around on low surfaces, he did. And then he’d lose his shit because you chewed it. Like the $150 SD card (when SD cards were the new, revolutionary technology), the arm on his glasses, etc…. What I hadn’t counted on was that you’d chew the corners of walls. Hiding that from the landlord was trickier than when you peed on the floor just as he was walking into the flat to check on something – that fleece toy I bought you really came in handy that day.
For a couple of months, after you were able to jump on the bed, you would try to wake me up by nudging my head with your wet nose, and, when that didn’t work, you’d sit on my face. On. My. Face. It was quite a surprise at first, but it soon turned out to be my favourite way of waking up – because you made me laugh. As you started to get bigger and heavier, it suddenly stopped – maybe you instinctively knew not to smother the face of the hand that feeds you.
The mischief you got into!
There was the time we were moving into a new flat so that you could have a yard and you bolted up the back stairs into the landlady’s open kitchen, eating the hamburger out of the pan and the guest soaps in her bathroom. You stole her tomatoes and ran off with an adolescent pumpkin, small enough for you to run off with, yet heavy enough that it meant you were dragging it as you ran. You stole an entire quiche off the kitchen counter as it was cooling off… which resulted in having to clean projectile diarrhea at the end of the day. When we brought you to a lake in Magog to let you experience swimming, you went after the ball, dropped it at our feet, then bolted into someone’s cabin, stealing freshly made cookies off the counter – the wife found it funny, the husband… not so much.
And how can we forget the time that I thought you had escaped out the yard when the absent-minded landlady left the gate open, and I ran through the entire neighbourhood in tears, shaking a bag of baby carrots, shouting, “Bunny Luv! Sasha, come get your Bunny Luv!”… because that was the brand, and that’s what you usually responded to… only to come back, exhausted and red-eyed, to find that you had been hiding in the landlady’s compost box the entire time, eating fermented crap… which resulted in more projectile diarrhea.
There was one time when I let you down. We were invited to Mindf*cker’s father’s farm to see his dog’s new puppies. We only found out after getting there, that his dad said you couldn’t come into the house because his dog might see you as a threat to her pups and get aggressive. So Mindf*cker tied you outside. And then it started to rain. There was nothing more heartbreaking than seeing you sitting in the rain and having a house full of people say you were fine, that Labs are made for water. Eventually, Mindf*cker saw that I was really upset and he put you into the barn/garage to appease me. What I should have done was grab his car keys, and sit in the car with you until it was time to go. But I knew the grief I’d get for doing that – because he cared more about what his family would think, than about how I felt. So, I didn’t make a fuss… but the guilt of not having stood by you that day has stayed with me all these years.
Despite the fact that you’re not exceptionally cuddly with me, you’ve always been there for me when I’m upset. Always. While Henry runs away, uncomfortable (men, am I right?), you make a beeline towards me. You won’t necessarily let me hold you around your shoulders, but you will direct your bum towards me and let me cuddle and/or cry on it. A lot of tears have been shed on your bum, haven’t they little girl?
Even when you had your cancerous tumours removed, two years in a row, and you came back all stapled up, like Frankenpuppy, it was you who comforted me because the shock of seeing you like that made me weep. While Mindf*cker was freaking out about the vet bill, we were busy taking care of each other. And this time, I stood by you when Mindf*cker tried to bully me into going upstairs to bed, knowing full well that you’d try to follow despite the surgeon saying you shouldn’t climb or try to jump for a while. So we slept on the floor together – at a comfortable distance for you. And when he dumped me on the love seat, two days later, two days before Valentine’s Day, 2012, my first thought was: is he going to try to take the dogs away from me? That was mixed in with a lot of other toxic emotions that had built up over the nine years we were together, but the thought of losing you and Henry scared me (he never cared about the cat, so I knew I’d be keeping him). He ended up leaving to stay at a friend’s before he moved his stuff out because things were just really awkward. Once the agreement to transfer the deed of the house completely to me had been signed, and the cheque I cut to him to get him the fuck out was handed over… I was safe. I could fight back.
And then the conversation about you and Henry came up. He wanted shared custody. He wanted you on the weekends. Except for when he wanted to go away or something came up, then I could keep you. So, you know, he wanted you… when it suited him. I refused. He said he’d sue me. I called my notary and he said that because animals in this province were (at that time) still considered property, by leaving the dwelling, he abandoned his ‘property’, so he had no legal claim. And, legally, I could also throw all of his belongings to the curb, since that was now considered abandoned property as well. When I told him to go ahead and sue me for his ‘abandoned property’, he realized that maybe he hadn’t been dealing with a dumb woman all along, that maybe he just treated me like one. So you were mine. All mine. Still, the day he and his friends came to collect his things (I didn’t toss them, as much as he deserved it), I boarded you at the veterinarian’s – that’s how scared I was that he would just take you. Not because he really wanted you, but because he knew that that would be the one thing that would devastate me, one last kick while I was already down.
And the last five years we have spent, just the four of us, have been amazing. You’ve been there when I started dating again and making mistakes, you were there for me when mum died and I had to take care of everything myself because my sister is a self-absorbed, lazy coward. You’ve helped me to keep my shit together and, more importantly, you’ve helped me to FEEL something on those days when I sometimes feel dead inside.
You’ve made me laugh so much over the years, and you’ve recalibrated my priorities and my perspective in life. Because of you, I’m less selfish. Because of you, I have more courage. Because of you, my darling little scavenger, I see how much garbage people toss on the ground. And I’m writing this today because I know there will come a day when I won’t have you in my life- and I want to preserve this now, because I might not be able to later. I can never adequately express what you mean to me, and, there are so many more stories that I’ll remember later on that I wish I would have mentioned here.
When I think about not seeing your sweet face and wiggly bum when I come home from work, I feel a hollowness inside that echoes with sorrow. So I try not to think about it. Maybe I’ll wake up one morning and find you cold; maybe it will be when I come home from work. I’m hoping you’ll go on your own terms, peacefully. But I’m prepared to do the right thing by you if I have to, at home, where you can be in your familiar surroundings. Where Henry and Harley can also say good-bye. Where I can wail freely, and loudly. I’ll stay with you until the end, just as you’ve stayed with me all these years. You won’t be able to see me because of your failing eyesight, but you’ll sense me. And I hope that, as you drift away, you’ll somehow know that you were the first greatest joy of my adult life, that you have made my life so much better because you were in it.