I honestly started blogging so I could post house updates, and recipes, and projects. But it seems to be the heartfelt things I share that resonate the most with everyone.
So strap yourselves in,
We put Harley Davidson down last week.
She started coughing over the weekend, and when antibiotics didn’t help – she stopped eating and lost all her energy – the vet took some chest X-rays and discovered the worst; she had an enlarged heart pressing on her infected lungs…… Imagine that, her heart was too big.
There’s no cure. Not really any treatment. And the vet said that she probably only had days left. We didn’t want her to suffer any longer than she already had been. So we made the shittiest decision we had to make – and agreed that it was time to let her go.
I’m not sure if City Vet was expecting two big men sobbing and crying that much, but someone produced a fresh box of Kleenex about every 10 minutes.
I sat there on the floor with her, rubbed her behind the ears like she liked, and told her what a good girl she was and how much Daddy and I loved her. She closed her eyes, and our short time with her was all over.
She was loved so very, very much.
We found Harley almost exactly 8 years ago online through D.A.S.H. Dog Rescue, an Australian Shepard rescue society. They didn’t know much about her. She was about two or three years old, had been a breeding dog for a while, and lived in a cramped apartment with a few other dogs and a baby. That’s about it. She had a single tag that read “HARLEY” and directly under that, “baby girl”.
We drove to Addison to meet her on a brite October Saturday and fell in love at first sight. (That one floppy ear did it for me. Her “wabisabi” – the natural imperfection that made her perfect.) Well, Jamie and I fell in love…..Harley didn’t want anything to do with us. She’d already attached herself to her foster mother’s son and cried at the door when he left. I’m pretty sure we had to drag her into the car.
We needed to take her home and spoil her.
I bought her a dog collar engraved with her name and pearls to wear at Christmas that made her look like Lisa Simpson.
Jamie showered her with hard rubber chew toys, tennis balls, and noise-making stuffed animals – the fluffy polyester entrails of which were usually strewn all over the house.
Jamie spent every day – all day – with her. He works from home and his office is what we called “her room”. She lay under his desk farting through all of his conference calls. He walked her, he fed her, dealt her medications, took her to doggy daycare 3 days a week (she knew it as “school”), gave her treats and did most of the disciplining. And me? I’m the weekend Daddy ….. who happened to have a lot of rules; no barking, no “people food”, no dogs on the furniture, especially the bed – like I couldn’t tell there was a Doberman shaped impression on my side of the bed every time I returned from a trip.
I came home from work one day to an empty house and Harley met me at the door. When she saw it was me, and not the “good Daddy”, she let out a huge sigh and turned back to her room. I didn’t take it personally. I’d rather hang with the guy who feed me peanut butter and let me sleep on the sofa too.
People who tell you that dogs don’t understand what we say are so wrong. Anyone who has ever had a close relationship with one knows that they most certainly do. Harley understood everything we said to her. To the point where she was learning to spell. She even knew hand signals.
Harley, like all Dobermans, was smart as a whip. She quickly learned that she could open the doors at doggy daycare, but she wouldn’t dare pass through them. She’d just open the door for other dogs. Much like the way I used to write my brother’s name in the dust on the piano in the living room.
It only took me a weekend to teach her to ring a bell on the back door when she wanted to go outside. I though she would associate the noise with “needing to poop”. But she saw it as her opportunity to see what the neighbor dogs were doing, or the squirrels, or where those gunshots were coming from, or how close that fire engine was, or just to patrol her domain. Usually, around 2 am every morning she’d ring the bell. We’d both lay in bed, trying to ignore her continuous jingling, until one of us would give in and open the door for her…just so she could make sure our backyard was still there.
The picture of her lounging on her bed is from my pipe project book. Of all the pictures we took of her……it’s my favorite. Although it wasn’t much of a struggle to decide to put it on the cover, taking that photo was. I kept yelling at her to “LOOK AT ME!” ….. ”LOOK AT DADDY!” to the point where she just bowed her head in shame. I eventually got Jamie to stand behind me holding a fresh, stuffing-filled squeaky toy….and that did it.
She’s looking right at him; her good ear at attention, paws dangling delicately over the edge – Jamie photo shopped out her pink nail polish that one of the girls at daycare had given her – of the dog bed that I handcrafted for her.
It may look like it’s just her…..but I can see all three of us in that picture.
We repeated this modeling scenario at Christmas when I thought it would be “fun” to stick a wreath around her neck and use it for our Christmas card. Harley didn’t see the fun in it at all. But after about an hour of the three of us wrestling on the garage floor, even the promise of a squeaky toy didn’t help this time, she finally perked her head up and looked directly at the camera.
And with an expression that seems to say, “See what I have to put up with?”
I had my masterpiece; literally, that one shot in a thousand. Not only was it our Christmas card that year, but I also printed an 8 x 10 and framed it….
Harley had a great life. And we, without a doubt, had a better life with her in it.
It’s been a hard couple of days. Jamie and I have tried to keep ourselves busy, but it’s just so obvious that something is missing.
The three of us were so lucky to have found each other.
Now there’s a huge hole in our hearts without her.
She was, after all, our “baby girl”.
and we miss her so very much,