Saturday, December 5, 2009
Twelve years ago, we drove to an animal shelter in the sticks of North Carolina and paid $10 for a puppy. We had been married one month, and we were starry eyed young newlyweds. When we first saw Verona, she was the size of a kitten and four weeks old. We picked her because she was eating solid food. I was glad to get her out of that dirty animal shelter. Cats were roaming everywhere, and the animal worker had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth as he gave her deworming medicine. I only learned later that she never should have been seperated from her mother at such a young age. I remember tucking her into my overalls to cuddle her on the way home, and I put a ticking clock in one of my coats for her to sleep with at night. We quickly learned responsibility and also all the ways a puppy can damage an apartment and everything in it. I don't remember all the things that were ruined, but I do remember getting really good at spackling and hiding damage. Verona quickly grew into a giant. Her mother was a black labrador, but we soon began to suspect that her father was a rottweiler. We told people doberman lab mix, so they wouldn't be scared of her. She was such a sweet, timid, obedient dog, and she didn't deserve to be thought of as a rottweiler. She was my constant companion, and for the six months that my husband was away on float, she was my only companion. She was very good company on the twelve hour car trips to and from Florida to visit my family. She was like our only child, but after five years, we had our first real child, then a second, and a third. Verona would let those kids do anything to her and she would still follow them around. I think it was because of all the food they dropped off the table at mealtimes. She has been with us in the five houses we have lived in together. She has been there for all the remodeling that we did ourselves. She has been there during the stress of my second child's health problems. There is not a memory of our marriage that she is not a part of. She is in all the Christmas and birthday photos, laying in the background as the presents are opened. So yeah, she's twelve years old, and she had some joint problems. But, up until two months ago, she still used the stairs twice a day or more, and she still had a full set of healthy teeth. So why shouldn't she be around for another five years? I don't know. She had a stroke in October, and that was my first shock. She changed overnight, and we thought she would have to be put to sleep. She slowly came out of it, and she seemed to be herself again. There have been signs though, that all was not well. Sure, she was right there every night while I made dinner, waiting for me to drop something, and she was under the table during every meal to clean up the kids clumsiness. She was still going upstairs every night, up until Friday. That was when she had another stroke, and it was like she just gave up. By the time Isaac brought her in today, she couldn't walk, and she was barely coherent. Now she is gone. I know nobody besides us will shed a tear, and with the exception of my mom, nobody will really care, but that crooked eyed mutt was the most loyal and loving dog that ever lived. I am heartbroken. Her absence is louder than anything tonight. I keep noticing something missing. Her food bowl, her glucosimine pills that she should have about now, her dark, furry body in the middle of the floor waiting to trip me in the middle of the night. A piece of me.