When they sold him to me they said he was supposed to top out at six pounds upon maturity. As I held him in my hands he weighed two pounds. I could actually hold him in one hand, but didn’t, because I didn’t want to drop him. Nor did I ever want him to feel deprived. Or low energy. Or bored. Or underdressed. That is why when they finally rang up all my purchases for him, it took extra help to get it all to my car.
A stroller. A rain coat. A football uniform. Leashes and collars that he might grow into. Toy chews. Vitamins. A puppy bed. Two sleeping blankets. A mobile to place over his bed so his intellect and eye coordination would develop more rapidly. The next day the owner called, I thought to congratulate me. Instead she kind of laughed and said “Ms. Jones, I have to apologize. We used so much paper ringing up your purchases we forgot to charge you for the actual puppy.”
All my life I have had rescue dogs, at one time fostering four of them before finding them homes. They were always large…Labradors, Shepherds, Dalmatians, at one time a Wolf hybrid. But at this stage in my life I wanted a specific, non shedding, hypoallergic, small dog that I could take with me on the plane. One that I could raise and train from the very beginning.
My research showed that the Bichon Frisée was cuddly yet playful, but might be too big. The Yorkshire Terrier would require extra grooming, and was known to be “yappy.’ But I wanted a quiet dog for my “lappy”, so when they brought out this puppy as a mixture of both breeds, I fell in love instantly. He was it. I named him Roo, because he could literally fit in my pouch, like a kangaroo.
Fourteen years, five months, four days, eight hours and twenty two minutes later, I held him once again—this time as the vet injected the anesthesia that would cause him to go to sleep forever. Roo leaned his head into my hand as I whispered and sobbed “I love you, Roo. I love you.” He made a deeply relaxed snoring sound for a second, and then he was gone.
8:22 pm. Feb 3, 2020. I will never forget it.
Roo wasn’t just my dog. He was also Shelly’s. And Corrie’s. And Dominique’s. And Sonya’s. and Angelo’s and Jaxon’s and Leslie’s, and Linda’s, and Sally’s, and Liz’s and Janet’s and Wyatt’s and Madeline’s, and Jonesie’s and Little Rhett’s, and Siena’s. And Kathy and Joe and Barbara’s dog too. His little wheat colored golden haired body with its wagging stub of a tail touched so many people over the years. Dominique called him “my son.” My friend Catherine said “He should have gone to Hollywood.” He had the look of a Paddington Bear—so much so that people would stop us at the park to comment on the resemblance.
So this grief is not mine alone. Condolences have been flooding in—each one helping to lighten the burden. Those who have loved and lost pets know this feeling. But pet is such an inadequate word. One man I saw at the emergency room with a German Shepherd commented “He is not My service dog. I am His service human.” That made me laugh.
I have so many memories, photos and videos of Roo. Like him jumping onto the boogie board placed at the edge of the pool and riding on it alone until the force of it finally slowed down in the water. Then him would leap off, searching around until he found the floating ankle attachment in his teeth and he would tow it back to the steps, where he would get out, shake off, and then jump back on it again.
Neither Bichons nor Yorkies are supposed to love water. But Roo was water crazy. The first time I took him to the ocean he ran and jumped into a wave, kind of riding it back in with his long leash and harness still attached, turning around and wanting to do it again.
Bath time was his favorite. The hotter the water, the better. Corey who babysat him frequently tells this story. “I was taking a bubble bath and Roo sat outside the tub watching me, whining and wanting to get in. I said ‘No, Roo, this is Mommy time. I do not want to take a bath with you.” She said he left for a minute or two and then came back with a pair of her pink underwear dangling from his mouth, and sat there, as if this was his offering. She said “Yes, you are adorable but I mean it. I want to take a bath by myself.” She said he watched her for a moment, letting her final “no” sink in. Then he turned and took off running through the house. She could hear him making the turn when he barreled around the corner and just leaped into the bath tub with her, bubbles flying everywhere. “At that point,” she said “I was laughing so hard I had to let him stay.”
When I would take a bath with him he would wait until I got settled, and then he would stretch his little body out on my reclining form, his head relaxed just under my chin, his little golden hairs fanning out from him in the water. Both of us would kind of doze off, and I could hear him snore.
There is something about having another heart beat calibrate with yours that is among the most comforting feelings in the world. He would do that at nap time too—cuddling in just so until his head rested on my shoulder and I draped my arm across him, and we would take a deep breath and sigh together, falling asleep in the middle of the day. Because we could.
About a month ago I heard a song by Roberta Flack come on the radio, and got tears in my eyes because I realized it was how I felt about Roo. “The first time ever I saw your face…I thought the sun rose in your eyes..and the moon and the stars where the gifts you gave to the dark and the endless skies My Love…” (You dog lovers out there—Listen to that song, and think of your dog, and try not to weep.)
He slept beside my computer on the desk when I was working on a manuscript. He sat beside me with his front paws on the table when I was playing cards with friends, his eyes watching everyone’s hand as they were dealt. He stood beside me during a neighborhood prayer circle, getting so still and quiet as everyone took communion, seeming to understand it was a holy moment.
Head resting and paw on leg touching were his signature moves. In fact, he had to have his paw touching me wherever we were. If I sat down in a rocking chair he would snuggle in, sitting up, and lay his right paw on my thigh. We would watch TV that way, him sitting up like a human. He was my buddy, and I was his.
Until one day several years ago when I wasn’t his buddy anymore. And he let me know it.
What happened was he somehow ate a bunch of saw grass that he couldn’t throw up or expel otherwise. He was heaving and heaving and I of course took him to the emergency room.
The vet did not want to do surgery to remove it, but if Roo couldn’t expel it naturally there would be nothing else to do. So we waited. One day became two. I went to visit Roo but couldn’t take him home. He was howling in upset. Finally, on the third day they decided to do an endoscopy and remove each blade of grass one by one through his throat. When I finally came to pick him up he would not look at me, or wag his tail. I let him out in the yard and he went running up to the yard man and howlingly told him his whole ordeal. As soon as he saw Shelly he also informed her, using whines and howls of varying pitch for what seemed like two or three minutes. She too had to know what had happened to him.
Yet he would not look at me, still. This went on for three days. Finally, he jumped up to sit beside me, but would neither make eye contact or place his paw on my leg. I held my breath the next afternoon on the front porch when I saw him slowly, slowly lift his paw and lay it on my leg. There was no forgiveness visually through his eyes, but his paw gave him away. I was forgiven, at last.
I will miss him shopping with me at Home Depot. He would sit up in the shopping cart, eyes forward, body alert, knowing that we were on an important mission.
He would sniff and inspect every piece of lumber, floor tile sample, can of paint.
I will miss him watching me put on my makeup, him curled up in the sink. I will miss him sniffing my eyelids when I changed mascara brands. I will miss how he seemed to notice everything about me, including my moods.
I will miss him prancing along in front of me in Living Spaces. He loved that store especially. As he did airports. Something about the shining floors and people bending down to greet him energized him. He was an ambassador of joy. After the third person greeted him he would have to tuck his tail and do the Bichon buzz, much to the delight of those standing around.
I will miss him getting up and running to stand beside me whenever I opened the refrigerator door. His eyes would stare at the drawer with carrots in them, willing them to come directly into his mouth, as they inevitably did.
I will miss the sight and the sound of him chewing carrots, his head tilting this way on one crunch, another way on the next. It never failed to make me smile. I don’t know why. It was just carrots. And he was just a dog, after all.
But oh, he was so much more than that. He was a reason to come home in time to get to the park. He was a reason to want to take a nap, on a couch or on the floor, getting drowsy together. He was a reason to take a road trip, as we did last Saturday, neither one of us knowing that would be the last one that we would take together.
I had just gotten a new picnic blanket for us to sit on at the park. I had just purchased CBD oil to help him with his discomfort. “One drop for you, one drop for me” I joked as I showed him the bottle.
Yes, I knew he was getting old, was going blind and was already deaf. Yes, I saw when his hind legs sort of slid out from under him, telling myself “Maybe he just slipped.” Yes, I got up with him when he paced around in the middle of the night, unable to get his bearings. And yes I felt him shudder and whimper a bit Sunday afternoon when he sat beside me. But then he settled in like he always does, and I told myself we were ok.
So I was not prepared for his final collapse, which came suddenly on Monday afternoon, and was so irreversible. Thanks to pet insurance, I was able to buy an extra 24 hours to prepare my heart to say goodbye….Sobbing until I hyper ventilated. Walking in circles outside the emergency room, howling to the sky. Feeling disoriented. Half blind with grief. Calling friends but being unable to speak…unable to hear words of a better time yet ahead. Perhaps another dog in the future.
There will never be another Roo. Of this I am sure.
Loss is the price we pay for Love. And today, that price seems too high.
A few images of Roo shared here.
Live. Breathe. Joy ~ Laurie Beth
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