(Brandy and Stitch playing in the living room)
One late night, six years ago, I was driving Taylor and his buddies home from one of their first gigs, when suddenly a big dog ran in front of my car and laid down in the street. We pulled over and called to her. She was timid, and at first she hid in the bushes, but finally she ran to me, collapsing at my feet. She was emaciated and filthy and very weak. Her legs had deep cuts- possibly coyote attack. Troy picked her up and carried her to our car and we took her home. When we fed her, she devoured the food like a wild animal. In the morning I took her to the vet. They dressed her leg wounds. She had a bad upper respiratory infection, so we got her on antibiotics and within a few days, our mellow rescue dog was a wild out of control lunatic who demolished everything in the house.
It took time, but eventually we housetrained her, taught her to sit, stay and walk on a leash. And we taught her how to high-five, a trick she loved to show off to little kids.
Life with Brandy wasn’t always easy. She was a scrappy thing, our street dog. She was an alpha, and although she never hurt another dog, she would let them know who was boss. She often drove us crazy with her need to dominate everything and everybody. If she wanted to be pet, she didn’t just sit at your feet, she got inches away from your face and would put her head under your hand repeatedly until you got the clue. She and Stitch used to tear through the living room chasing each other, adding to the chaos of our already turbulent household.
It’s funny how the things that annoy you will one day be the things you miss the most. How I wished in these last few weeks that she would push up against me and beg for attention, or go tearing through the living room.
Early July is when I noticed her panting hard in the middle of the night. Although we did extensive tests on her, nothing showed up. She still hiked with us, and played with Stitch, and ate heartily every day, but she was losing weight rapidly. In four months, she had lost 30 pounds. A few weeks ago I put my palm up to her for a high five, and she couldn’t muster up the strength. That’s when I knew we were in real trouble.
She stopped hiking with us, which was her favorite daily activity. She’d just lay down in the field and quit. Then she stopped eating a couple days ago. And by yesterday, she couldn’t get up at all. Her breathing was labored, her heart pounding erratically.
Panicked, we took her back to the vet, and he told us there was nothing he could do. It seemed her organs were shutting down. They still didn’t know what had gotten her, but with that weight loss, he felt sure it was some form of cancer. He said the kindest thing we could do was to help her cross over.
Although we wanted her suffering to end, it is the still most counterintuitive thing in the world to make the decision to end your pet’s life. Saying goodbye was so hard. I swear she knew what was happening, and it broke my heart. I told her she’d be with Sky now, our black lab who we lost three years ago. Evan said goodbye and I took him out of the room. Troy stayed with her until she was gone. When he came out of the room sobbing, I knew it was over. We walked to the car in silence, Evan dragging her leash, telling us he was walking his invisible dog.
I woke up this morning before the sun and walked through the house. Her leash hung by the front door. Her dog dish sat empty. Brandy is gone.
Good bye friend. Thanks for protecting us, and making us laugh, and making sure we got out to hike every day. I hope we did right by you, Brandy. You sure did annoy us sometimes and we did get mad at you, but we loved you. I hope you are having fun romping through fields with Sky, your best buddy. You were the best high-fiver on four paws, and we will always cherish the memories we had with you.
You may be gone, but the love we had for you is still here. I hope you took that with you when you left us last night.