This is a guest post by Lala, who still has not fixed her own blog.
It was love at first sight when I met Harriet. I got her the weekend after my honeymoon – not the one with The Knitter, the first one, with Aura (aka The Late Mrs. Smartyboots). We’d been talking about getting a dog, and I wanted a weiner dog. I woke up that Saturday and said “Let’s go see if Milo Foundation has a weiner dog for us today!” And they did! Well, a dachshund-cocker spaniel mix. (She had the best qualities of both breeds – the dachshund trait of having one person who is THEIRS, and also the cocker spaniel trait of loving everyone. They sound like they don’t go together, but they did.) All the volunteers were so happy that she found a home because they all loved her (in fact Milo volunteers continued to recognize her for years after she came to live with me) and it’s hard to find a home for an older dog. At the time I had estimates of her age as anything from 9 to 12 years old, but I decided she was 9 because she acted like a puppy.
About six months later, Aura died of skin cancer at age 24. There’s no way I can convey how devastated I was. Harriet had taken great care of Aura when she was sick, matching her energy level and being such a sympathetic companion, and she did the same for me. Walking with her was the only bright spot in my days back then. Watching her get so much joy rolling in the same damn patch of grass in the park across the street every day would always make me smile. She used to go to my grief support group with me, and inevitably cheered everyone up, at least a little.
We went through so many things together in the last eight years and a month. So many moves, so many couches slept on, a new puppy (who I thought she would hate, but since I liked Miss Idaho I guess that meant Harriet could tolerate her), girlfriends, cats, hairstyles, another new dog (Clara added years to her life, I’m certain of it), her own backyard. Once she gallantly protected me from a big mean pit bull in west Oakland. She was my unfailing companion at social events where I would have otherwise been too shy to talk to anyone. When I met The Knitter, Harriet took to her immediately – she even rated Harriet’s trademarked Ecstatic Greeting, which made you feel like a combination movie star and ice cream truck and whatever the other most awesome thing you can think of is. For her part, Rachael immediately started letting Harriet spend the night at her house with me, and discovered the joys of having a dog.
Harriet was no spring chicken when we met, so of course she slowed down over the years, but up until the last year or so I was able to point at her tell people at the dog park “She’s 12 years old!” (and 13, 14, etc) and see a look of amazement on their faces. And hope – everyone wants their dog to live a long and active life like Harriet’s. In the last year she started Getting Old. She was incontinent, or at least wasn’t remembering where the right place to pee was, so she couldn’t sleep on the bed with us anymore. I knitted her a special blanket for her dog bed in the living room. Cleaning up after her was a pain, but it was the least I could do after everything she’d done for me. She was deaf, and would sometimes wander away and get lost at the dog park, so I’d find myself running after, waving my arms and calling her name till she saw me and trotted back.
When I got laid off one of the upsides was that I would get to spend more time with Harriet, because I knew she wasn’t going to live forever (even though it was starting to seem like she might). In the last month or so I started to wonder about her quality of life – her trademark joie de vivre was ebbing. She slept a lot and sometimes had to be coaxed to eat her nasty prescription dog food. Then last week we couldn’t get her to eat at all. We took her to the vet hoping they would find something that could be treated easily with antibiotics or something, but no. She’d lost 5 pounds, too. The vet said we could hospitalize her and hydrate her, but there’s no way I was going to put an 18 year old dog who hates the vet through that, so we took her home. I finally got her to eat by offering her awesome stuff (and she somehow managed to find some chicken bones on the sidewalk, which is unusual in our neighborhood – I think the universe sent them for her). She bounced back a little but not much. She was already suffering enough, and I didn’t want to wait until she was in acute pain – The Knitter and I have both already seen that with humans, and we weren’t about to put Harriet through that. On her last day she got cat food for breakfast, and we shared some smoked salmon and laid on the bed and read for a while. Then we went to the dog park and she got some of my bagel with cream cheese. Everyone complimented her. I had to carry her back to the car, but I think she enjoyed it. Then she got her own special raw tri-tip, and we went to the vet and said goodbye. That may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I was so lucky to have Harriet. When I got her I wanted a dog because the people I saw at the dog park on the way to work seemed to be having a lot more fun than I was – I had no idea how much I would love having a dog. Harriet was a dog who made everyone smile and got along with everyone (unless you were a cat or wanted to keep her from eating something she found on the sidewalk). I know your dog is nice, but Harriet was the best little dog in the whole world. I got to live with her a lot longer than I expected and I’m supremely grateful for that. I’ll always miss her.
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