Today marks a very important day in my life, and because you’ve been through so much of my blog journey with me, I hope you’ll take this time to get to know someone special who has had a great
hand paw in shaping me to be the person I am today.
Today, my baby dog will have turned 15. Even at 14, she had the energy and curiosity of a puppy. If extraneous factors had been eliminated, she could have been an immortal dog goddess.
But life is seldom fair, even to those who deserve it. On April 22, 2015 at approximately 6:00pm, I gave my authorization to put down my dog. Two days ago, she was completely fine. Then disease hit and everything snowballed drastically from there, resulting in a 4-digit dollar emergency surgery as the only possible remedy – but even surgery didn’t guarantee her life (and according to research, there was also a small chance of the disease re-surfacing even post-surgery). She had an unnaturally large-sized heart with a slight heart murmur, and although that wasn’t serious enough to be of any risk on a normal day, the enlarged heart meant a high possibility of heart failure during anesthesia procedures. After a tearful phone conversation with my parents, where it was mostly them asking questions and me sobbing incoherently into the phone (thank goodness my best friend was there with me to translate), the decision was reached.
Three months later, I’m still coming to terms with it all. It was easily the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do, and it didn’t help that everything was so sudden. She had been ripped away from my life, and signing that authorization paper was such an out-of-body experience… in a very negative, very painful way. My heart knew what was right, but every other fiber in my body had vehemently struggled and screamed as I moved pen and ink over paper. But time does heal – perhaps never fully, but just enough. The power of the enduring love between girl and dog can transcend even death but that pain of loss will never fully dissipate, because when you love someone that deeply, you never really “get over it.”
But today, I don’t wish to dwell on death and lamentation. Not only are birthdays meant to be festive, but I also want her remember her as the happy-go-lucky girl who had the biggest heart (literally and metaphorically) anyone could ever dream to have and who, to my surprise, taught me more than I ever thought was capable. Today, it’s all about her, and it’s one heck of a story.
“Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time when you thought they would be here forever? If so, then you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.”
Her name was Beets (long story), and she came into my care in January 2014 with a host of problems. Her history is complicated, but in January, I found her holed up dirty and scared in the infirmary ward at one of the high-kill Los Angeles County Shelters. Her matted hair reeked of pee, her eyes were crusted with tear stains, her belly was marred by mammary masses, and her eyes were clouded by nuclear sclerosis. She was also deaf. Upon taking her home, she was given a well-deserved clean-up at the groomers, and because her hair was matted to a ridiculous extent, it all had to be completely shaved off. By the time I picked her up from the groomers’, she resembled a naked mole rat (with a diaper).
The next few months were not easy, I’ll admit, and there were brief moments when I considered giving her up to someone who was more capable and patient. She refused to sleep at night and cried into the early hours (it was almost like I had a newborn with me). She also initially rejected all types of food but eventually decided she liked my roommate’s dog’s Blue Buffalo Chicken & Brown Rice Dry Food. After much experimentation, she also fell in love with what became her favorite snacks – Buddy Biscuits Peanut Butter Cookies, broken down into tiny pieces. During those months, I happened to be in-between jobs so that left me much freedom to constantly stay home with her, and those hours allowed us to learn from each other in ways I can’t even begin explain. She adapted easily, made such an astounding recovery (you would never guess this was the same girl from the shelter!) and soon became one of the most carefree, happiest dogs I ever met with the funniest quirks.
Beets wasn’t the most photogenic of dogs…
And she also had an affinity for photobombing “flat-lay” Instagram photos.
She also loved to step on things, literally…
…which naturally led to quite a number of “oops” moments.
But I never had to worry much about any separation anxiety from her when I had to leave the house – she would just wander about (she LOVED to walk around by herself) until she got bored, and then she’d take a nap until she felt my return. It was always such a joy seeing her happily trot into my room once she realized I had returned from wherever I had been.
In addition to walking around by herself, she had this crazy obsession with running up and down (sometimes to chase me, but most of the time by herself) my long hallway that leads from bedroom to living room. A few times she would trip from over-excitement and fall flat on her face, but she would just get up immediately and happily continue her run as if nothing had happened.
She also had a mild curiosity about everything – unlike most dogs, she wouldn’t get particularly excited about anything. She’d just walk up and stare with that mildly curious look that I love so much. And when she wagged her tail, it would be in a flurry of tiny movements. Also unlike most dogs, she didn’t play – she didn’t play with other dogs, nor did she play with any toys. But she thoroughly enjoyed her great hobby of strolling around alone.
The stories are endless, but time and space are short. I love talking about Beets though, and I feel like I barely scratched the surface here today, so find me anytime if you ever want to know more. Sharing stories of those we’ve lost is one way of making sure we never really lose them. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t feel a pang of grief. It’s still surreal that I’ll never get to turn around and see her snoring peacefully by my bed, or hear her clatter into her water bowl and soak the floor. When I picked up her cremains from the emergency clinic, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to remember her by (and everything I found on the internet was either too tacky or downright unattractive to do her memory justice). But then I came across The Colors of Heaven. Dainty, tasteful jewelry pieces that mix cremains with delicate micah powder and a photo of your choice on the other side – I had found the best way to keep Beets close to my heart forever. Dr. Byland of The Colors of Heaven not only helped me reach some closure with her eloquent words, but she also did a wonderful job putting together a breathtaking pendant for me, and when I received it, I knew it was meant to be. The micah powder had mixed beautifully with Beets’ cremains, resulting in an eponymous reddish hue that matched her memory in every way.
Needless to say, Beets was my rock. It’s normal for waves of exasperation to wash over sometimes, but at the end of my day, I was the lucky one. Caring for her, nursing her back to health, and following her everyday quirks broadened my horizons and expanded empathy for others. It’s because of Beets that my goals in adoption have changed somewhat. It is my dream to be able to take in the less fortunate dogs (similar to Beets’ condition when I first found her) and offer them the best final years of their life. Sometimes, I feel a surge of guilt in that I didn’t do enough for Beets, especially since she’s inspired me so much, but I know I can carry on her legacy by working hard to ensure other unwanted dogs – especially the seniors and the sickly – can live out the rest of their years in happy, loving homes.
If there’s one thing I hope you take away from this story, it’s to never judge a dog by his/her appearance. Just like us, they’re all struggling in their own ways, and some of them have experienced torments we can’t even imagine and because of their past, they can probably even feel more deeply than we do. If you have the power to adopt, please do. Even just visiting your local shelter is such a humbling experience. Life becomes so different with a dog (or any pet!), and you’d be surprised at the beautiful impact a pet can have on your outlook in everything.
Love is forever. Love doesn’t die.
July 14, 2000 – April 22, 2015
A big, heartfelt thank you to the amazing Dr. Byland for helping me keep Beets’ memory alive and inspirational every day.