Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Running with the wild Shelties...

It's been a difficult few days, what with traveling, readjusting to our time zone, getting resettled at home, returning to work, and worrying about a very old puppy (and yes, I realize "puppy" is generally reserved for young dogs, but to us, Echo was always a puppy...). We waited one more day to take her in to the vet, since she ate a tiny little bit on Sunday night... I guess we were hopeful that she'd start to devour all the food we could fit into her bowl. Unfortunately, she wouldn't eat anything else. And by yesterday afternoon, she could hardly even stand to drink water. It was just too heartbreaking to watch that. So we finally made the decision to have her put to sleep. NOT an easy thing to do...

I was "okay" (more or less) at the vet until one of the vet techs came into the room crying, saying how much everyone there loved Echo and how they'd all miss her. Which made ME start crying, and then it was hard to stop. Echo had become quite the regular around the vet's office, as I suppose is wont to happen when an animal gets older. When we went on our cruise last year, we boarded her there at the vet, because we figured if anything bad happened, she'd be right where she needed to be. And the first few days we were gone, she nervously refused to eat much (she often stopped eating for a day or two when we boarded her -- or even when we left her with Rick's parents, which, when possible, was her home away from home). So everyone in the vet's office took turns hand-feeding her bites of food, and they brought her out of her little boarding cage and allowed her to hang out at the front desk. For two weeks, she was the office mascot. 

There's so much I could say about my Echo -- she was such a sweetheart, so smart, and so unbelievably well-behaved, that I wonder if it's even possible to ever find another dog that amazing...

She loved pizza -- it might've been her favorite food in the world -- and when we'd share a scrap of crust or a bite of cheese, she suddenly turned into an athletic soccer goalie, blocking anything we tossed in the air and making it vanish almost instantly. 

When she was younger and wanted to play, all you had to do was say "go find your ball!" and she would systematically search the house for her favorite tennis ball. She'd even jump up on chairs and couches and stick her nose behind pillows until she found it...

One time we accidentally left our back gate open, when Echo was in the backyard while we were at work. I got home from work that day, saw the gate swinging wide open, and panicked -- I jumped out of my car, ran into the backyard, and there was Echo, walking toward me (and quite startled by my crazy behavior). That was the day we learned that Shelties are very territorial, and love to be HOME. We never worried about her running off.

When she was a puppy, we thought it was adorable when she barked her cute little bark, so we foolishly encouraged it. The cute little bark, of course, turned into a very loud adult dog bark, which she would unleash at the slightest sign of anything amiss. And while I can't count the number of times I must've said, "Echo, quiet!" I greatly missed the cacophony when she went deaf and no longer heard all those noises that used to prompt her barks. And this last year, she stopped barking altogether, even when strangers came to the house or she saw another dog through a window...

She used to bury her head in the crook of my arm or leg or wherever she could find a place, when she wanted to be scratched behind the ears and petted... and if I stopped, she'd nudge me with her head to get me to start again. 

She used to jump on the side of her food bowl and send it skidding across the floor, which was her way of telling me she was hungry -- it would make me laugh so much to see her jump up and plant her feet just right, so that they didn't land IN the bowl, but rather just OUTSIDE it, so the bowl would fly off to the side. And then she would give me a gruff little "woof," just in case I hadn't gotten the point with the flying bowl...

When she could still hear, she HATED loud noises, which made her not unlike me. :) She would attack the vacuum cleaner with fervor, apparently convinced it was an evil presence in the house that needed to be eradicated. She barked at the blender, she hated thunder, and she was not exactly fond of crying, screaming children.

She had a stuffed animal that I dubbed "Workout Bear," because every time I would work out -- whether it was walking on the treadmill or following an aerobics DVD or just jumping rope -- she would grab Workout Bear and toss it around while I worked out. (That dog would actually work out while I was working out!!)

And she never once complained -- we're sure she must've been in pain the last few months of her life. But sweet little Echo was stoic and brave as ever, never once complaining about what we're sure she must've been feeling. Which is probably why it was so hard to finally make our decision...

What's funny is that this morning I just happened to glance at some of the mail that Rick's parents collected for us while we were in Hawaii, and one of the things that came was a new Guideposts magazine. On the cover, where it lists a few teasers for the stories inside, my eyes went straight to a line that said, "Yes! Your Pets DO Go to Heaven." This is something I've always believed... I know some people believe that when animals die they just die and vanish into nothingness -- but I could never believe that. There's no way I could look into Echo's intelligent eyes and NOT believe there was a soul behind them. In the Guideposts story, the author wrote about how his old dog used to have dreams where his paws moved back and forth like he was running... it was, the author believed, a way for his dog to have a preview of that place where he'd once again be able to run and play, just as he had as a young dog.

Echo had those same kinds of dreams -- even when she was old, and could no longer jump up the step on the back porch and had to be carried, she would have dreams where she appeared to be running... maybe she was searching for her favorite tennis ball, or playing with Workout Bear, or perhaps even vanquishing the Evil Vacuum. But Rick and I have a different vision of where she is today: the sun is shining on a huge, grassy, green field that goes on for miles... and Echo, young and agile and barking her loudest bark, is running... running to meet up with the herd of wild Shelties. They bark joyfully and loudly... and Echo, with silky, fluffy fur, stretches her legs, free from arthritis and pain, and joins them, running her fastest run...   
 
 

4 comments:

G said...

A wonderful and beautiful tribute to Echo.

Again, my sincerest condolences and yes, I too do believe that all dogs go to heaven.

Peace.

Rick said...

Miss you so much Echo... but recollecting the memories found on this page makes me smile!! :)

Lisa said...

G -- thanks so much! There have been lots of tears over the last couple of days, but it makes me smile to think of her happy and running and playing somewhere... so I'm going to hold on to that belief...

Rick -- I'm glad we have lots of good memories of her... it's hard to imagine ever finding another dog quite as special as she was... :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa, So sorry to hear about Echo. I bet my malamute "Smokey" and mixed mutt "Bailey" and your Echo will make a good 3 musketeers team in doggie heaven : )