My Loyal Shadow

I have been wanting to write about this subject for quite some time, but every now and again, the subject matter means so much to you it seems overwhelming to do it justice. I have a chronic illness & my closest companion is my dog, Daisy. A close member of my family suddenly lost their dog yesterday so I decided to write about Daisy while my heart is filled with love and not with loss.

I have lived with a dog most of my life. While quite young, my family had a very protective German Shepherd who was sweet to us but would rip the pants right off the oil man when he came to fill the tank. When she grew old and sick, my mom and older brother took her to the vet to be put down. My brother has been and is a stoic person. My mother said it was the first time she had seen him cry. We all loved that dog and my brothers’ expression of sadness was a dedication of what a great dog we had growing up.

Next, while I was a late a teen, our family had a Beagle, who loved to chew my text books and eye glasses, even when left high on a table. My mom would ask me, why do you leave things where he can get at them? As I gawked at her in disbelief, a part of me was still impressed this pot bellied stubborn dog would do anything just because he could. He was treasured by my younger brother and I will admit, even though the dog cost me a mint to replace university books, I had a soft spot for him.

When I moved out, I was never quite settled long enough to commit to a dog relationship. I believe once you make a commitment to an animal, they are yours for life. However long that may be. When my husband and I weren’t quite ready for children, I begged him for a dog. We were living in an apartment, so not the best of circumstances, but with love and a good home, dogs adjust. We bought the dog from a pet store, after I had visited the store and fell in love. She was a hound dog and beautiful. Being a first time owner, I made all the classic mistakes. Treated her like a baby (we even had a toy bag we would bring for her everywhere we went). And she did go with us everywhere. She also spent a lot of time alone as my husband and I worked full time. She would destroy things from boredom and attention. She actually managed to rip apart our loveseat right down to the springs.

Eventually, I became pregnant with my first child. We moved to a townhouse and our hound had a lot more room. Unfortunately, our actual baby took her spot in the “pack” and she was not happy about it. Our well trained dog, peed and pooped all over the carpet where our baby played. She would growl if our daughter came near her. Was terrible to walk, or should I say she took me for a drag ! But we made the commitment so we put up with her antics hoping she would grow out of it as our daughter became older.

Then I became pregnant with our second child. At this point I was a stay at home mom and with a two year girl and a baby on the way, had little time or energy to devote to our hound. She acted out even more. Tearing up dirty diapers and smearing them across the carpet. Lunging at anyone coming in our door. She escaped once and nearly ripped into a man crossing the street. We found out around this time we were having a boy. My daughter was very mild and gentle but I heard that boys were much more energetic, curious and hands on. We decided at that point it was time to re-home our hound. It was and still is one of the most heartbreaking decisions I have had to make. I loved her but had become afraid of her. I knew we were not meeting her needs plus I had serious concerns about the dog around my daughter and my son.

My husband found a friend from work who lived in the country who was willing to take her and bring her into his family. He had a large property, his children were older and it seemed like a good fit. I was seven months pregnant when I said good bye to her. I wasn’t strong enough to go with my husband to her new home. Which was selfish. And I have never seen or heard about her again as my husband switched jobs. A number of years went by and although I still felt an absence in my life without a dog, I felt after giving away our hound I didn’t deserve a dog. I had done the one thing I promised myself I would never do. I still feel the heart ache for our hound and wonder if she had a good life.

I did want my children to grow up knowing what it is like to have a dog in their life. And I missed the companionship. So behind my husband’s back I secretly started searching for a dog that needed rescuing. After many months, the local Humane Society had an ad for collie/retriever pups. My best friend and I went to check them out. When we got there, only two pups were left – a male and a female. So they put me in the room with both dogs and I felt drawn to the male dog. As I sat on the floor he ran over and bite my mouth. And puppy teeth are damn sharp ! The female came to me, crawled on my lap and almost immediately feel asleep. Her name was Dottie. And she picked me. We had to go through some formalities and I made many promises to my husband but the four of us brought her home that night. My son was still quite young and kept calling her Daisy. And that name seemed to suit her better.

I did follow through on my promises. I took her to puppy kindergarden. She was taught how to eat while the kids touched her bowl and her food. Because I was her main trainer and spent the most time with her, she became “my” dog. As she grew she resembled a border collie and had many traits of that breed. She loves to fetch, loves to swim, loves the kids, even likes our cats. She had her puppy destructive period, but hey, we needed a new floor in our hallway anyways.

As she grew and matured she has become a lovely dog. I learned from my earlier mistakes and am proud of the part I played to help her become a truly wonderful pet. She had it in her all the time, it just took proper training for her to learn. And she is smart !

Cue my chronic illness. Because my illness is in my lungs I became unable to walk her. I had trouble getting in and out of bed so the walks which helped to manage her energy slowly came to a stop. I was worried that at this point she might start acting out. My husband, daughter & best friend all attempted to walk her but she would struggle off the leash and head straight to our front door and bark until I let her in. At first I thought she just wasn’t used to being walked my anyone but me. I soon realized it was much more than that. As I struggled to do anything in the house, she was my shadow. Watching me, comforting me, even urging me to keep trying. When I could do no more, I rested on the couch and she lay on the floor right in front of me. Only moving when I did.

When we began to see doctors to find out what was going on, I became very anxious. I was scared and because they knew the cause of my illness but not how to treat it, the uncertainty was frightening to say the least. My kids were 10 & 7 when this began. I was worried for them and my husband. But Daisy would stay by my side, put her head on my legs as I cried, laid beside me as I slept – which was and still is a lot. The doctors put me on prednisone & oxygen so I was stuck with a tube in my nose everywhere I went & thanks to the meds,  the mood swings were anywhere from OCD, to depression, to anxiety … Not too many good ones. Daisy managed to side step the tube as she followed me. Sensed anxiety so would sit near but make no demands from me. I never had to ask for anything from her, she seemed to know what I needed from instinct.

As the years have gone by, Daisy has been a constant comfort to me. Not able to work any longer, she is my company during the day. She lies with me and never gets out of bed until I do. She is extraordinarily protective and sounds like Cujo if we are alone and someone rings the door bell. Even as I am writing this, she is lying beside me, patiently letting me type my heart away without a peep. I can’t imagine my life without her. She is so much more than a pet. And I deeply love her, bad breath and all. I hope I have added to her life as she has added to mine, but I don’t think that’s possible. I understand that not everyone is a dog person, or even an animal person but everyone knows a true & loyal friend is very hard to come by. Well, this is what Daisy is to me. The most loyal, loving, true friend I have ever had. I am thankful for everyday we have together. She is my best friend.
This post is dedicated to Cosmo who will be greatly missed by his “pack”.