An Ode to Spirit

This is probably one of the hardest blog entries that I have ever written. I needed to wait six months before I was ready. I will still probably be a sobbing mess by the end, but I need to tell her story.

I was talking to a volunteer from Canadian Dachshund Rescue about the possibility of adoption. She saw you. She abruptly halted our conversation and called out “is that Spirit?” She rushed to you, and you lapped up the attention with your tail wagging, as you were with, who was supposed to be, your forever mummy. I came over to say hello to you. You were so sweet. When you left, she continued our conversation, apologizing that she used to foster you. I told her how a beagle dachshund cross would be the absolute perfect dog for our family, as I had Barney the beagle growing up, and Brenda had Schatzy the doxy. She said “well, we get beagle doxy mixes in from time to time, so just email me, and tell me that you want a dog like Spirit, and I’ll know what you mean.” I walked away, thinking of you, and hoped that I could find a dog just as wonderful.

I applied to CDR. They did a thorough check- interviewing my landlord, neighbours, and personal references. They did a house check. I had stairs. That may be a problem because 1 in 4 doxies have back issues, so stairs can be hard. And I had Naomi, age 5. I got an email back saying that, any dog who came to live with me would have won the jackpot, many of the rescues were not good with children, so I was declined. I felt discouraged, and gave up on the idea of rescuing.

A few weeks later, I got an email from CDR again. She said “We have actual Spirit up for adoption again”. Your “forever mum” was unable to keep up due to health problems. They said you were great with kids, and had no problem with stairs. We set up a time for Naomi to meet you. You were so amazing! You loved to run and sniff. We knew you were the dog for us.

Grandpa agreed to come pick you up. We met you half way in Woodstock. Oh, he loved you so much, too! You came home with us, and you were both nervous and scared. You came with so little- a studded Harley Davidson collar, a tattered blanket and a leash. I learned about your history- how you were found on a farm in Michigan, and left in a crate to starve to death. How you were found and brought to the pound, and they called CDR saying you were a pure bred wiener dog, and they were to come pick you up. When they got there, ready to take you to Canada, they saw that you were a mix, but they took you in anyways, made you an honourary doxy. Though I always saw far more beagle in you.

When you got home, you would not leave my side. You were so confused. You were so scared. You would not be left alone, or you would get so upset. Though you had a bed, you slept by my side, glued to me. You saw Naomi as a threat, and once growled at her when she tried to come near me. I had to let you know right away that she was in this family too, and we were a pack. You were so afraid that you would never be fed again. You would sneak food from Naomi when she wasn’t looking. You would hide it in couch cushions, or in piles of laundry. I was continuously finding your treasures- a half a hot dog here, a slice of pizza there. And I found the most scary thing- you would hide your poop- because there was a time when you had nothing else to eat. That broke my heart, and made me so angry towards the people on the farm that did that to you.

Slowly and surely, you relaxed and were tucked into our little family. You and Naomi would play for hours. You loved going for walks. You loved other kids. When I would leave for school, you would snuggle in on the couch. But when I got home, you were so happy to see me. You were my best friend. You got into a pattern at meal times. You would go out for your morning pee, and when you got in, your food dish would be full, and you would have your breakfast while Naomi and I got ready. You came to feel safe, and stopped hoarding your poop. You would still save your biscuits for later.

There were good times, but there were also dark times. I endured, and eventually lost, a nasty custody battle. It broke me. I could not live without my daughter. I hung a belt from the rafters in the basement, and was ready to end my life. I didn’t want to leave you alone though. How long would it take before they found my rotting corpse? How long would you go before someone found you? I needed a dog sitter. “Just for one night” I posted on Facebook, not revealing my true plans. But no one would take her. I took down the belt, went to bed, held you, and cried. That night, you rescued me.

We settled into the rest of our lives. I finally got a job with benefits and could afford medication. You were so fantastic, so sweet, and so loving. I could not imagine life without you. But I could see you were getting older. Your muzzle started to grey, and coming up the stairs was not as easy.  You had cataracts in both eyes.  Sometimes you wouldn’t answer when I called your name.  I wasn’t sure if your hearing was going, or if you were just ignoring me in your old age.  There was less pep in your step. And you would never let me brush your teeth. They started to get infected. At the age of 16, you went for dental surgery. They took half your teeth. But you recovered nicely, and didn’t let it bother you.

But your mouth never did get fully better. We moved from the yard you loved so much, to an apartment. You were so unhappy. You just laid on the floor. There was a sore in your mouth, and it was getting bigger. You were short of breath on walks. You just didn’t have energy. I took you back to the vet. The vet said that is was most likely cancer, and an aggressive one at that. She gave me the option of doing a chest x-ray to see if the cancer had spread to your lungs, and she could have your lip surgically removed. I decided, as the words “aggressive cancer” that at the age of 16, I would not put you through more. I loved you enough to let you go before you really suffered. The vet gave us some pain medication, and we made an appointment for the following week.

You had a week left, and I wanted to make sure that it was your best ever. I took the week off work. We went for hikes and walks every day. David rented a car and came down to visit. We had a great walk in Sifton Bog. When we came back to the car, you did not want to get in. It was like you knew that this was going to be your last time in one of your favourite places. I had to pick you up to bring you back in the car. Cat came over and did a photo shoot with us. Naomi and Grandpa came to say goodbye.

On September 26th, I gave you scrambled eggs for breakfast. I gave you the rest of your pain medication. We went for a long walk. A lady and her dog stopped to say hello, and I told her that it was your last day. She hugged me, and we both cried. Grandpa took us to the vet. I gave you chocolate ice cream for dinner as we waited for the vet to be available (this was 20 minutes until the end of her life, so please do not tell me how toxic chocolate is for dogs). I played Annie Lennox’s “Into the West”. I sang to you and held you as the vet put the needle in you. You took your last breath in my arms. I held your lifeless body and cried. My father did not hug me or comfort me in any way. He said instead “This is why I never wanted another dog, because it’s just too sad.”. But I don’t regret a second that I had with you.

We rescued each other. We were there for each other when we both had no one. I have not received your ashes yet, but when I do, I will scatter some of them at Sifton Bog, so I know that I can visit you. I have ordered an urn for you, with your paw print on it. The rest will have a place of honour on my altar. I miss you every day. I have paintings of you in the bathroom. I also know, that you still have never left my side. Your sweet kind soul is still with me. I was at a psychic fair in January, and a man came up to me and said “I have a message from ‘Spirit’ for you”. Though I know he was referring to his god, I still had to inwardly chuckle because your messages of love could never be put into words.

The beagle sized hole that you left in my life will soon be filled. I am making plans to adopt a little boy whom I have named “Merlin”. I know that you would love him and care for him as if he was your own. You always had so much love to give, and I have love to give another dog.

But you will always be my sweet Spirit. I will never forget you. My rescue rescued me.

Special thanks to David Brideau, Cat Mira, Lisa Whitehead, and Jennifer Jayde for their support during her passing. Any donations in her memory can be made to Canadian Dachshund Rescue who connected Spirit and my family, or to East Village Animal Hospital, for their compassionate and stellar care of Spirit in her last days.

photo by CatzMax Photography

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