Our friend, Angie, lost her beloved best friend last week and it affected me deeply because it brought back the loss of our dear, sweet, unique and very naughty Abby.
Abby was not a rescue dog from a shelter, but it transpires that we actually DID rescue her from, what we later discovered, a puppy mill.
She was the runt of the litter, and was so cute, she really chose herself. She was a shih tzu/yorkie cross and we were smitten, as you are, with her puppy antics.
Seven years later, she still entertained us with her puppy antics. She was incredibly playful and had a vast collection of toys: the squeakier they were the better.
She loved water and it didn’t matter what the season or the weather: if we were BY the water, she wanted IN the water. She could swim like a champ and had no fear. We called her Log Dog because when she was tiny, we took her to the Okanagan and she would just RUN into the water and start bringing in the debris. She would navigate very large logs into shore for hours at a time and because she was so tiny, ended up with an audience. One fellow ran off to get his wife to bring her to watch Abby swim out to get “her” log.
Abby loved people and other animals and again her fearlessness terrified us because she would run up to the biggest dogs ever and give them a wee peck on the nose. “Hi Mr Pitbull, I’m Abby Goodwin…”
She loved puppy play times and when Craig and Stace would bring their pup, Tucker, to visit, Josie would sit on the sofa out of harm’s way while Tucker chased and chewed on Abby for hours on end, like she was his chew toy. After one of their marathon sessions, her fur would be stiff and curly with Tucker-drool and we’d have to chuck her in the bathtub.
Abby loved chasing birds and would take on a flock of Canada Geese. No problem. She was, after all, Abby Goodwin.
There was one thing she really feared though, and that was small children. Mainly boys, and anyone under 3 feet tall. It was uncanny. She would run to one of us and literally throw herself into our arms, and at the first opportunity would run upstairs to her safe place in our bedroom.
Abby was a spinner. She would do crazy whirly spins to get a treat and she could twirl her way up 2 flights of stairs, and did, several time daily.
Josie hated her at first. She’d had 2 years of being top dog, the only child. Jim only agreed to get Abby because Josie needed a playmate and it couldn’t be us 24/7.
The minute Josie saw Abby she started drooling. Not a little bit of spit but a whole Niagara Falls effect…a blanket of drool that just kept on coming. We were wiping her little black face for about a week. She wouldn’t look at the puppy and she wouldn’t look at the TRAITORS either.
We started second guessing ourselves: had we had made a big mistake getting Abby? I told the “Breeder” (now aka puppy mill bastard) that our Josie hated our Abby and he told us we had to make “the miracle” happen.
Making “the miracle” happen meant, according to Mr Puppy Mill, NOT paying any attention to the puppy and paying LOTS of attention to Josie, and especially using her name all the time.
Then, he said we had to leave Josie and the puppy together in a confined space for 6-8 hours at a time. At first, when the puppy fusses, he told us, Josie would continue to ignore it and think “Mum and Dad will be home soon, and they will take care of this thing”.
After a long time, she would start to get concerned but would stubbornly wait for the return of the parents.
When we got home, we had to ignore the puppy and make a fuss of Josie.
And we had to repeat this until Josie started taking responsibility for the puppy…she had to think of it as HERS, not ours. And, according to the “Breeder” this would mean that when we petted the new puppy, after about a week of leaving them together alone, Josie would wag her tail approvingly and think “Oh thank goodness they don’t hate my puppy”.
Honestly, I have no clue what happened when we left them alone and I have no clue what really went through Josie’s mind, but after a couple of weeks the actual miracle did occur when they slept together on a cushion at Jim’s feet and we both cried.
The girls were inseparable and pined when they weren’t together. Abby was a great communicator and she would come and twirl at me to tell me she needed to go outside. And sometimes she would twirl at me and take me to the front door when Josie would be waiting like a great, silent lump wanting to go outside.
The girls loved the river. Well, that’s not quite true, because Abby LOVED the river and Josie loved being with us. The river meant walking and that isn’t Josie’s favourite pastime. Eating is.
So it was on a pretty spring afternoon early this year that we took the girls down to the river for a walk. The mighty Fraser River was as low as I had ever seen it and we could walk for miles. There were a group of young girls setting up for a fire and picnic and Abby was very interested in their site, because there was a chance of food.
There were also a bunch of hoodlums on ATVs and Quads making a hell of a noise. We kept “losing” Abby – she was such an intrepid explorer. We would holler, and she would come tearing towards us, ears back, and that cute little face. Ahhhhhhhhh. Shit. It still hurts.
I bathed them when we got home, and we settled in for the evening. The next morning Abby wouldn’t eat her breakfast. She had always been a fussy eater, and for several years we had her to the vet every few months with gastro problems. After antibiotics she would always bounce back.
When she was about 4 she became terrible picky with her food, and would turn her nose up at pretty much anything we put in front of her, other than “people food”, especially chicken.
We were “NO PEOPLE FOOD FOR DOGS” people, because that is what we had been told and we hated the dogs begging at the table. Having a B&B meant that there were always a lot of people to beg from, so we put a stop to that and the girls were absolutely forbidden to be in the dining room. Jim taught them to “scoot” to a special “scoot place” in the living room. And they would stay there until we released them.
The rule was they had to be fully on the carpet to be scooted, but Abby invariably would wriggle her front legs and sometimes half of her body into the dining room. Little brat!
After trying a dozen different foods, I was discussing her pickiness with my vet, and said how she’d eat chicken every meal if she could and he told me to feed her chicken then.
I started making their food. Brown rice, vegetables, meat and egg. I found a nutritionally balanced recipe and the girls loved it. LOVED it. The great thing was that Josie lost weight (no fillers) and Abby ate her food. And the even greater thing was that as soon as I started making their food, Abby did not have a single gastro complaint and we got to the point of only going to the vet for their shots.
Until that weekend.
We were concerned by her lack of appetite but then she was restless. Couldn’t settle. She was not playful, and she wouldn’t drink. I started syringing water into her and she was listless: she didn’t care about her toys – didn’t even respond when we squeaked them for her….
We took her to the vet and she had a slight temperature, so he gave her a bunch of antibiotic shots and we were all working on the assumption that it was gastro-related.
She seemed to perk up slightly that day and we were sure we were on the right track. But she seemed to get worse the following day. And the day after that. We were having to carry her everywhere. She couldn’t go up and down the stairs on her own. So, we called the vet again and he gave her some more shots and we took our floppy, miserable wee girl home again.
I took her out on the front lawn for a pee. I carried her down the stairs and placed her on the grass. She just lay down. And then after a while she stood up to pee and it was like her back end gave out on her and she sat back down again. That night she just seemed to go downhill, and we were both beside ourselves. I called the vet at his home and he met us at his surgery. He examined her, and her temperature was still only slightly high. I told him I was worried about her kidneys, and he said he could do a test there and then for kidney function. He drew some blood and chatted as he smeared some of it on the test paper. He was explaining how he expected Abby’s result to be “down here” in the light colours. “Some older dogs come in and their results are way up here in the dark colours” he was telling us as we all three of us looked in horror at the deep dark colour our baby girl’s blood was turning on the test paper.
“Oh dear, dear. I was NOT expecting this” he said.
Clearly, we needed to do a full blood panel, but all the air was sucked out of the room at that moment and we knew that the outcome of this was not going to be what we wanted.
This was Tuesday night and the vet told us we would know the results by Thursday.
Poor wee Abby lay at my feet, and she was clearly restless and uncomfortable with zero energy and no appetite. I kept syringing water into her, and she put up less resistance to that, even. When Jim got home from work, she didn’t even open her eyes, let alone acknowledge his arrival. It was devastating.
We were sitting with her between us when the phone rang, and we saw it was the vet. He told us that she was in complete kidney failure and that the rest of her organs were shutting down too and there was really no hope for her. The only explanation for this was, especially the sudden-ness, was probably poison and probably antifreeze.
He said we could think about it and make an appointment when we were “ready”. We could call him back. He was going to be there for a couple of hours doing paperwork. We didn’t even need to talk about it.
Jim had her on his chest wrapped in a blanket. “You drive” he said, and we just left the house, with our wee girl, on her final journey.
Our vet is so kind. So very compassionate. We said our tearful, gut-wrenching, heart-wrecking goodbyes and she went to sleep. That brave, feisty little creature. Our endlessly amusing little hellion. Gone.
We didn’t sleep that night. Not a wink. All we could think about and obsess about is HOW? What happened? How did our 7-year-old dog get so sick so fast and DIE?
The next morning, I schlepped downstairs to make coffee and stopped dead in my tracks. On my birdfeeder was a bird I had never seen before. I knew what it was – it was a Pileated Woodpecker and it was amazing, and beautiful. It was too big for our railing, and it couldn’t actually manage to eat anything from any of my feeders, but it hung about for ages.
I called Jim: “Look what Abby sent me…a new bird”. That was just like her.
That night, exhausted from lack of sleep and crying, I lay down in bed and had the most beautiful vision. It was not a dream, it was a visit:
Mum and Dad, sitting on a park bench in a beautiful garden, with Abby at their feet. She was twirling for treats and Dad was laughing gleefully at her antics. “She’s fine, love, she’s with us” Mum told me. Dad was just laughing at her and playing with her.
I was so happy and relieved. I hear Mum’s voice ALL the time and I talk to her, and think of her, but it is the first time that I’ve ever SEEN them. They looked so well and so happy, and they were together. And they ARE taking care of Abby. I know it. She is with them and they love her. She is getting endless treats from my Dad.
RIP all of you.