We didn’t need a big dog, we already had two big dogs, but that big brown lab was the saddest animal I’d ever seen and I couldn’t walk away. I did, at first, I left the pet store where the rescue group had set up, drove home, but she wouldn’t leave me alone. Found at an abandoned house, she had been left with nothing, but a small pup from her last litter and she was pregnant again. Kept outdoors in a small crate, crippling her back and legs and she had obviously served as a source of income for her owners, producing litter after litter of pups. She also had heartworms. A rescuer had pulled her and her lone puppy from a shelter on the day they were to be euthanized, brought her home, and set up a place for her to have the new pups, all later adopted, including her older puppy, but not her. Another sad story like so many others, but this one followed me home, tapping me on the shoulder until finally I gave in and made a call.
She lumbered along, head and tail down, and she didn’t resist when I brought her in the house, she had long ago given up her spirit to other humans. This dog had no expectations of kindness or comfort and had simply resigned herself to whatever was next. When I led her to a huge soft bed, she stopped, lifted her head and looked at me, puzzled, and then with hesitation, stepped up on the bed. I sat down beside her, rubbed her head, and told her that her name was now Sadie and this was home and I left her alone to rest. When I came back in the room, she had gotten off the bed and was laying on the floor, I guess even good things take getting used to.
She was a beautiful dog, dark brown with a ridge of hair down her back like a Rhodesian Ridgeback, which was probably one of the reasons she was being bred, but her beautiful body was ravaged after so many years of breeding and neglect. Her heartworms were very severe, her teeth were ground down, probably from chewing on her kennel or fencing, her joints were stiff and muscles atrophied from a life of confinement, but with patience and time her sadness lightened and her eyes shone with intelligence and interest. The vet told us we should try the heartworm shots to stop the progressive destruction of her heart, but we needed to understand she was not going to survive the heartworms, the damage was already done. We tried one shot, but after witnessing the pain and adverse reaction it caused her we said, no more, and took her home to live out the rest of her life. And Sadie did live.
She decided early on that she was queen and our home, yard and pastures were her kingdom and made sure the rest of the pack understood this completely. She installed her throne (foam bed) in the foyer so she could look out the front door to keep an eye on the neighborhood and nothing escaped her notice. Our world was a far safer place when Sadie was on guard. The other dogs acknowledged her superiority and avoided her designated area in the foyer, any ball or toy that landed near her was lost, they would not cross the invisible boundary she had established so they waited until she went outside to make a dash to claim the errant item. Having raised many puppies, Sadie was quick to met out discipline in the form of a gentle nip to either human or canine should they get out of line. More than once have I been in her way or a little too slow and received a small nip as she passed, but she was also quick to show love by butting her head against our legs and holding her it there for just a moment, and then moving on.
Sadie loved to go for long walks by herself in the fields around our house and being that the property was fenced and she far too hefty to fit under or through the fence rails, we let her go. Every morning at about 5:00 am, she would stand outside our bedroom door and flap her jaws until one of us surrendered and got up to let her outside. She would wander around the fields and yards for about an hour and then bark at the back door to be let back in and you certainly better be ready to let her in or you were in for a nip. This routine would take place each morning until the day she died and nothing stood in her way, not anything or anyone. One morning, still half asleep, I missed a step and fell two steps to the tile, breaking my leg. Sadie stood at the top of the steps looking at me, obviously annoyed, then ambled down and flapped her jaws until I pulled myself over to the door and let her out, and then I yelled for my husband to take me to the emergency room.
Although her health deteriorated over the two years she was here, I believe she was happy with us. She knew what it was to lay her head down in comfort and safety, she knew the freedom of wandering and following scents on the wind, and she knew we loved her, of that I’m sure. That morning I knew something was up as she wandered from room to room as if looking for something and kept coming back to me. I followed her and she led me to her bed by the door and stood waiting for me to sit down. I sat on the floor and she climbed on her bed as the morning sun shone through the beveled glass of the front door. We stayed there together for some time while I rubbed her head and body, but her eyes didn’t leave me and when her breathing changed, I knew where we were going. I stretched out beside her on her big bed, put my arm across her softly body, held her close and whispered to her. She lifted her head to look at me a final time, gently sighed, laid her head back down, and then she left me. The other dogs lay near us, but still outside her invisible line until that last breath and then they silently moved closer and settled down again. We laid there awhile, all of us still and quiet, but when I finally got up and was walking away, I looked back and saw little Shasta crawl closer, put her two front paws on the bed, and lick Sadie’s face. Some mornings I look across the wet fields and I expect to see her plodding gait, brown nose to the wind as she follows the smells leading her back home. You take grace where you find it and sometimes it nips you on the leg as it passes by. I miss her still.
©2017 Rhonda Alford Owens All Rights Reserved