Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More About My Smiling Dog

After reading, Happy To Me, a reader requested, "Tell us the story of how you found him/he found you." Thanks Reader! Be happy to...

I look forward to Fall and the holidays it brings. One of my favorite is Halloween. I don't know...I guess it's that the kids' excitement is contagious. I've made it a practice to sit outside on the front porch in my witch's hat, hand out candy, and talk with all the little spooks and goblins who creep up the stairs. Love it!

Back in my younger days, I'd sit with my candy bowl on the porch of our tiny row home on Falkirk Road. Row home communities are fun on Halloween night. So many houses packed into such a small area means that the streams of children twist up and down and back and forth across the narrow street. It's quite a show.

This particular Halloween Night was almost over. It was late into the evening, all that remained were straggling ghosts and lazy teenagers who put on a hoody, drag around their mother's perfectly-good-pillow-case and mumble they're a gangsta, looking for a hand out...no effort or imagination. I hate that.

Roseanne was sweeping her porch as we talked, (If you're not familiar with my neighbor Ro, you can learn about her need for order here.) we decided it was about time to turn off the porch lights and go in. Just then, two of the cutest little Princess Jasmines, wobbled up my steep stairs. Eyes wide and excitement just sparking out of them. Says, Jasmine Number One, "Miss, does you know whose dawg this is?" Looking at her, I think she must be playing a trick....I don't see a dog.

Then Jasmine Number Two clears up the mystery. "No Miss, dat dog. He ain't ours, but he thinks he iz." And with that, clearing them on the stairs to come and say hello is a pretty large, but friendly looking dog. Tail wagging, nose sniffin'.

Witch Holly says, "No, Princesses, I don't know this dog. Ro, do you recognize him?" Negative. "Where did you find the dog?"

Princess Jasmine Number Two, clears up my foolishness, "WE didn't find him! He started following us all over. We got yelled at because he come up on the porches with us and some people yelled at us."

Princess Number One takes over the story,"Yeah! Like we didn't do anything and they yelled,'get your dawg off our porch,' and I said, 'he idn't our dawg and we don't know how to make him go away!' We don't know what to do. We can't take him home cause our Doberman will eat him."

A Doberman eating a dog? That just seems wrong. By now, Ro has stopped sweeping to get all the drama as it unfolds. I'm not certain what to do with the troublesome dog, who by now has come up on the porch and is smiling at me.

"Okay, girls, here's what I'll do. Mr. Mike and I will take the dog and put him in our kitchen. My dogs will be all right with that. We'll take him around the neighborhood tomorrow and see who's lost their dog. Sound good to you?"

Princess Number One looks at Princess Jasmine Number Two, they nod to each other..."Okay," says Number Two, "Dat's a good plan. Thank you Miss. Can we still have some candy?" Candy delivered, good nights exchanged, they walk away into the dark. And, Smiling Dog? He just stands there watching them go. We, the smiling dog and I, say goodnight to Roseanne and walk into the living room.

To be met by three confused Cairn Terriers and Doog. "Who's this? And, what the heck is going on, Hol?" I explain to all four. Michael says, "Well, what are we going to do with him?" I share the plan. He runs his hand across his forehead, agreeing, "Sure, we can't leave him out so we'll make it work. I'll walk him around tomorrow and see who's missing him."

The Cairn Terriers were Jamie, the gentleman; Meggie, the princess; and Fagan, my neurotic dog all the way from Scotland. Fagan would be a blog all his own. Let's put it this way...Fagan probably was emotionally ruined by making the trans-Atlantic flight at a very young age. Or, he was just born nervous and jerky and never got better.

I was the only Human he trusted, which is why the breeder, rather than destroy him gifted him to me, absorbing a pretty big financial loss. I sighed most days over Fagan as he was a difficult dog to have as a pet. Additionally, for several years we'd been struggling with his Cushing's Disease and other medical issues. Still, a spirit who loves you, is a spirit you'll work to keep with you.

What I didn't expect was the behaviors. I was positive that sweet Jamie would be friendly. Meggie was a wee pup so I thought for sure, she'd take to the visitor. Fagan, I was fairly certain would pee on a chair leg and disappear under the sofa in a nervous pique. Exactly the opposite happened; Jamie and Meggie stared at Smiling Dog with Cairn Terrier eyes rolling in distress. You could almost hear the, "Ewwww!" They wanted nothing to do with him.

It was Fagan who wagged his straggly tail in greeting. And, then began to tour him through the place. We followed as they stopped various places. Imagining the highlights, "Okay, this is our food bowl; this is where the water is. Treats are kept in here. These are toys, but we don't play with them. You can have them if you want."

Thinking the visitor and our kids might need to pee, Mike opened the back door. Jamie and Meg refused to go out. Fagan lead the way with Smiling Dog around the backyard. Reminding one of a Disney movie, Lady & The Tramp- big dog looking down on little dog; little dog looking up in response as they walked about.

The next day, a Friday, when I'm home from work, Doog says, "I walked the damn dog all over the place. No one has seen him, knows him, or has lost their dog. I don't know what else to do. I decided to run an ad in The Sun. And, I posted flyers. We'll just have to hope someone calls. If not, I'll take him to the pound on Monday."

I agree, "Looks as if we'll have a house guest for the weekend." Meggie sniffs as if to say, "Yuky. Make him go away." I tell her to be nice. Not possible.

From the moment he arrived, Fagan and Smiling Dog stuck together. Jamie and Meggie fell into a groove of avoidance. Remarkably, having four dogs in our tiny house seemed to be working all right.

But, on Sunday morning, after years of fighting the good fight, Fagan wasn't all right. In fact, he was terribly wrong. We had taken him to the vet's earlier in the week because of a rapidly growing gum abscess. The vet confirmed that it would need surgery the following week. We were conservative about all treatments because we knew that the Cushing's was going to take an eventual toll. But, I thought we'd have more time.

Sunday, time ran out. We kept him close all day. A vigil you hope to avoid. He failed more and more during the passing hours...his light slowly fading.

Laying back on the sofa, I cradled him. I looked at him, he looked up at me with a peaceful look. I cried. "Hey, it's up to the Humans to pick a dog replacement...it's not the dog's place to do it for them." He just looked closer at me. And, with that, he took a deep dog sigh. Closing his eyes for a nap.

That's the moment when I understood it all. Fagan had somehow made certain that his replacement was in place and shown around before he had to go. He picked the dog for us. And, died at home that evening.

We were distraught. It is a very difficult thing to sit with an animal while it struggles to take its last few breaths. There is fear involved. And uncertainty and panic. It is not peaceful as it is with a vet to assist with the process. I will never again allow a pet of mine to struggle through its passing.

We sat there for a long time, in shock, following his final breath. We cleaned him and wrapped him in a blanket. Walked upstairs. Numb. Jamie and Meggie hid. Smiling Dog stood close. We were shattered in tears. Smiling Dog, tried to turn around in a tight spot to leave the room. In the attempt, he whacked his head on the coffee table and hopped back with a startled look that clearly conveyed to the table, "What the heck did you go and do that for??!"

I couldn't help it...I started to laugh. And, as Humans can do in emotionally charged states, the laugh turned into a laughing jag. Doog eventually catching up to me in the process of holding our sides. Smiling Dog just stands looking back and forth between us wagging his tail.

And, in the quiet that followed I whisper, "Heyoka. We'll call him Heyoka." Michael agreed..."Perfect." The Lakota Indians have a group of very powerful medicine people- The Heyoka. Often called The Contraries, their job is to keep the tribe's energetic balance in place. They ride horses backward. Paint their faces and bodies in odd designs. Say 'yes' when the answer is clearly, 'no.' In times of great happiness, they do something harsh to bring the energy down. In times of great sorrow, they play the clown and act silly to make the tribe laugh, raising up the spirit.

Smiling Dog acted the clown in our time of overwhelming sorrow. And, that's how he became Heyoka; Yoki for short.

In the morning, we took Fagan's body to the vet. We were there when the doors opened. The tech looked down at the blanketed bundle saying quietly, "I'm so sorry. He was a brave little guy." The vet came out right away offering condolences and told us what to expect. Because he had worked with Fagan throughout the entire process from diagnosis to death, and treating Cushing's was just becoming possible, he opted for an autopsy; no charge to us.

Several days later, we took Yoki for a check-up and post conference about Fagan. The vet said, "This guy is only about three months old. Someone most likely drove into a neighborhood, and kicked him out of the car knowing there'd be lots of people around. He's lucky he didn't get killed. Luckier still to have found you guys." Giving the pup a big hug, he said, You're one lucky guy!" Yoki grinned back at him.

He then shared what Fagan's autopsy revealed. "He was absolutely eaten up with cancer. Holly, I'm amazed that he was alive as long as he was. Upon examination, I can't really understand how he was still here! He's a miracle in an odd way. I'll tell you what, as nervous as he was, he was a fighter and didn't want to leave you. Maybe he found this pup because he didn't want you to miss him too badly."

That made me cry. Hard. I can't know if it's possible for an animal to do that, but I believe that's exactly what happened. Fagan really loved me. So, now you know the story of how I found the dog. Or, more exactly, how the dog found me.

Yoki kept me company for 15 years. And, he truly adored me in the same manner as Fagan. I'm sure that when he crossed over into strange lands, it was Fagan who met him to show him around once again.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka LadyThing


Caroline & Co. said...

What a beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing.

Toni said...

Call Disney, forget Lady and the Tramp (much as I loved that one) ... if only Natasha Richardson were still with us to play YOU!

Surely you weren't really surprised that Fagan called Yoki to your family? Although I thought it was maybe only cats who did that (found their own replacements, I mean) ...

Yoki had ears to die for ... how could you ever keep your hands off those listeners?!!

jan said...

I think there is a dog wisdom that in our civilized lives we know nothing about. We are so removed from the old ways.

Beautiful story.

cinner said...

What a wonderful story, i am sitting here blubbering like a fool. I can tell you have an awesome heart. One of the hardest things is losing a pet. Toni is right, call Disney. My dog Kula knows when I am having a severe cataplexy episode. He makes me know I will be okay. We gotta love them. Fagan and Yoki will be there to meet kula.

Eileen said...

If Woman Who Owns No Animals comes back as one, I will find you!

melissa said...

I miss the Yo.

Thanks for reminding me of one very important thing:

"Still, a spirit who loves you, is a spirit you'll work to keep with you.

For all the dogs.

jkc said...

My absolute favorite story so far...told by an incredible storyteller.

Life With Dogs said...

I am partial to this entry as well, and for obvious reasons.

I can only imagine the stories you must have from fifteen years together. I'd wager that you could pepper this blog with said stories for a year and just scratch the surface. I'm certain you were a good shepherd, and that's all a dog needs.

Now wouldn't you like a couple more? I have a particular chocolate Lab in mind...

Life with dogs rules, does it not? ;)

Cam@Journey Wildly said...

"Or, he was just born nervous and jerky and never got better." that describes my little Clementine perfectly. I will have to do a post about my little Clem, so that you can see her. She is a Chinese Crested, but she is either really small for the breed or she is half-Chihuahua. Either way, she is a little twitching ball of love and energy, and she makes me deliriously happy.

Thank you for telling of Fagan. I can see him running thru fields of gold right now.

Anonymous said...

So much better than I remember it as it all unfolded. Fagan did a great job; Yoki was such a sweetie. Has there ever been a happier dawg?

Helpful Buckeye said...

I really enjoyed reading your account of how "Smiling Dog" came into your life! Sometimes, it's better if we don't know why something has happened...that way, all possibilities are "on the table."
It's hard to decide whether Smiling Dog or you was the bigger winner. I choose to believe you both were awarded 15 bonus years the moment he walked up onto your porch. His arrival did help you deal a little better with the loss of Fagan, although losses like his always seemed to stick with me longer.
Would you be OK (taken from your posting about English usage) with me using part of this story in one of my upcoming issues on the loss of a pet? I have discussed pet loss in several previous issues, but a personal story is always a welcome addition.

Helpful Buckeye
Flagstaff, AZ

Erin said...

so touching!!!

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