In early 1998, my sister-in-law went away on vacation and asked us to look after her dog. She was a small dog, a Shih Tzu. We already had Kato, and the 2 dogs knew each other well, so it was no big deal.
But man, walking them was a pain in the ass. That little dog would snap at pant legs, and each time I’d turn red and say, “Oh my god, she’s never done that before.”
I distinctly remember saying to my husband that walking 2 dogs is just too much trouble, and that I’d never have 2 dogs at once.
That same day, I walked into the production office for the film I was working on, and as I made my way to my desk, I noticed a sign on the bulletin board advertising puppies for sale. It was the post-production coordinator’s sister’s dog, who lived on a farm, who’d had the puppies.
Without hesitating, I walked straight to her office and said, “I want a puppy.”
I went home that night and told my husband, then boyfriend, that we were getting a puppy. He thought I was insane, but was game for the ride.
Because I was in production, I couldn’t take any time off. So the sister brought all the puppies to the office, and we brought Kato in and figured we’d see who got along.
I had my heart set on the runt. That puppy was so small, and I figured all the others would get adopted for sure, but she needed us. But then, there was one other dog who kept chasing after Kato. I mean, they were all fumbling along after her, but this one dog was intent.
Tired of tripping herself up over her leash, she made a full stop, bent down and scooped it up between her teeth. And then took off after our dog.
We named her Trouble.
We figured, getting a second dog, we were asking for Trouble.
Over the years, she did many things to infuriate us, amuse us, baffle us, but most of all, make us love her. Wholeheartedly.
When we first brought her home, I refused to let her sleep on the bed. Kato had been given carte blanche as a puppy, and we’ve paid for it ever since. And I’ll never forget, in the weeks before we got Trouble a crate, she used to lie under our bed at night, whining and trying to claw her way up from underneath.
And then the cries in the morning when she woke up and realized she was stuck under the bed.
For the first bit of her life, she thought she was a cat. She used to walk along the back of our couch. It was sweet when she was 10 or 12 lbs, but when she grew to 40-45 lbs, it was just ridiculous – this almost full grown dog balancing along the edge of a sofa.
And then there was the time we were getting ready to eat in front of the TV. We were getting drinks in the kitchen and I said, “Hey – who’s watching our burgers?”
We raced to the living room and noticed that one of the burgers had it’s top bun slightly askew. We peered over the coffee table and caught her on the floor, gnawing away. At the onion.
She was left alone with a hamburger, and she swiped the onion.
When my son was born, that dog turned into an overprotective mother hen. She stood (or, more accurately, lay) guard in front of his crib or pack and play, making sure no strangers came near him. And when he cried, she would howl.
She loved that baby. I’m so glad she got to see him grow up a little bit, get a glimpse of the man he’ll become.
Her entire life, up until the past couple of years, when we took her on walks, she loved to chase the squirrels. For years, we had to walk her with one of those harnesses so she couldn’t pull us off on a chase. She was somehow able to double the mass of her 55 lbs when motivated.
It drove her nuts when the squirrels would scramble up a tree. She would try to climb each tree we passed, aching to get at that squirrel. It’s like she thought there was another level up there, where all the trees were connected and the squirrels just hung out.
I remember taking her on her first camping trip. We left Kato at home, a little unsure about how she’d take to the wild. That lucky dog. We had no idea what we were in for.
My husband doesn’t consider it camping unless it involves a minimum 45 minutes canoe ride away from civilization. So that’s me, him, a 55 lb dog, our coolers and our camping gear in a canoe. There was like, one inch of boat showing above the water.
And when we got to our little island, the skies opened up and the rain poured down on us for hours. We had to set up the tent in the rain, make a fire in the rain, load in all the gear – it was hell. When we were finally set up, I said, “How will we ever convince her to stay in the tent?”
My husband looked at me, opened the flap and man, that dog flew into that tent, curled up in a ball and shook the whole night long. But didn’t move an inch.
We really bonded on that trip; I was terrified, too. I kept wanting my husband to go outside and dig a deeper trench around the tent – I was certain we were going to be flooded out. What a scene – my husband snoring and the two of us, woman and dog, shaking and whimpering in the dark wilderness.
I remember how it seemed like she was always a puppy.
Until she wasn’t.
But she was at least 10 or 11 years old before she showed any signs of aging. She was prematurely grey, so I never worried about that, or used it as a gauge. But her spirit, her energy, her mastery at toppling over a full garbage can…
Man, she was something. That dog had heart.
When she was 2, she had kennel cough. I remember she used to leave the bedroom before a coughing fit. She was always good at never complaining. Never whining. Despite her sometimes flakiness, and the passion with which she lived up to her name, she was a really good dog.
And for the past 10 months, I’d been watching her die.
I didn’t realize how hard it was, how stressful, when I was going through it. It just was. She was getting older, her legs weren’t working like they once did. I remember the day in August, after a jaunt through the alleys, that she hard a hard time making it home.
I remember thinking, that’s the last time we’ll be in the alley.
We set markers for ourselves. We said, “As soon as she can’t make it around the block, we’ll put her down.” She stopped walking around the block.
“As soon as she can’t make it up the stairs, we’ll put her down.” She stopped coming upstairs at night.
“As soon as she has accidents in the house, we’ll put her down.” For months, we woke up in a minefield.
One time, about a year or so ago, I saw this guy in the vet’s office with a dog so old it could barely limp into the waiting area. I remember thinking, That poor bastard. He doesn’t even know it’s time to put his dog down.
I had become that bastard.
We would get up in the morning, clean up all the poop, help her stand up and then carry her outside. We walked at a snail’s pace, stumbling every few steps. I would carry her back into the house, help her up when she fell and fetch her a treat.
And this was normal.
I’m comforted by the fact that she wasn’t in pain. All feeling was gone from her back legs, so it wasn’t like she was in agony. There was just no muscle there anymore. And she had no clue what was going on – she still had lots of life, and lots of get up and go… she just couldn’t get up and go.
She would drag herself from room to room to follow the action. And about 3 weeks ago, she flew across the room to steal my husband’s steak and cheese sub off the ottoman.
She’d come a long way since her onion days.
But we got to a point where we couldn’t deny it any longer. She stopped wanting to go out. She stopped getting up. The accidents were getting worse and it was painful to watch her try to stumble around.
So last Monday, before taking the kids to school, I told them to say goodbye to Trouble. They knew the day was coming, and they knew what was involved. They had their moment with their dog, and I consoled them both on the way to school.
Then I came home and pet her for a bit. I carried her outside to our back alley, where she stood for a moment, not quite sure what to do. Then Kato came out, and just like old times, she trotted along the lane after her hero.
I wanted to give her a really great day. The weather was perfect for her – warm, but with a breeze and not too humid. I put her in the car and drove half a block to that old alley she loved. I carried her out and put her down on the packed dirt and dead leaves. She walked along, smelling everything in sight.
She stopped to sniff at all the dogs that crossed our paths. It was like an impromptu going away party. I felt bad I’d left Kato at home.
We spent about 25 minutes there, after which I saw she was really tired. So I picked her up, put her back in the car and drove home. I carried her into the house and grilled her a steak. Two actually, because I wasn’t sure if she’d prefer a rib steak or filet mignon.
In the meantime, she laid down on her favourite cushion, the one right by the sofa; the one Kato is constantly kicking her off of. So I cut up the steak, put it on a plate and brought it over to her. She devoured it in seconds.
And then I sat down next to her, and rubbed her neck. She fell asleep pretty quickly, but I stayed there, petting her and talking to her in a quiet voice, reminding her of all the stories I recorded here, in this post.
She didn’t even get up when the vet walked through the front door. She lay there calmly as he sedated her. We sat with her, holding her, petting her, telling her how much we loved her; thanking her for being such a good dog.
And then the second needle went in, and within seconds, she was gone.
I hope she went to find those squirrels.