Yesterday I said goodbye to the most wonderful dog in the world. My heart is heavy, the house lonely and I feel as if I have lost my best friend.
My daughter and I adopted Belle, a small Rat Terrier, from the local Humane Society in Virginia (the town where we now live). Belle had been previously adopted, but was returned since she was unable to be housebroken. I learned she preferred a schedule and with that she learned quickly.
Driving to Pennsylvania the first time with Belle was quite the event. She barked at every tractor-trailer during the entire eight-hour trip. Belle settled in nicely and we quickly bonded. She was a happy dog and full of energy. She loved the wildlife and kept ‘predators’ from entering the yard. She loved chasing squirrels, chipmunks and playing with our neighbor’s dog Jade. She loved being in the middle of things. She slept with me every night…burrowing at the foot of the bed by my feet. She was a great companion, watchdog and foot warmer. She followed me wherever I would go, waited at the door for me to return home, loved walks and was quite the entertainer. She loved removing labels off of plastic bottles and chasing balls…the bigger the better! I am so thankful we videotaped her playtime.
During her younger years, Belle swallowed a mouse (whole). I called the vet immediately and was told, “No worries, she will eliminate it properly,” which she did (whole). A few years later my daughter’s babysitter called informing me Belle had eaten an entire bag of Hersey’s Kisses, including the wrappers. I called the vet and was told to give her hydrogen peroxide every 15 minutes so she would throw up. I was an hour from home so the responsibility fell to our babysitter. I was quickly informed that I didn’t pay her enough money to deal with situations like this. Needless to say, her Christmas check was a bit larger (thank you Kim for all your extra effort!).
Belle mellowed, as she got older, but still a constant companion and never a dull moment. She was happiest when she was with people. At 13 pounds, she was easy to carry and loved going places. She loved my husband and accepted him into our family. She had a few medical problems as she aged, but thankfully nothing that couldn’t be treated with medication. She didn’t exactly welcome our new rescue dog with open paws, but she tolerated him. When no humans were around he was her best friend.
Following my spinal cord injury, Belle knew something was wrong and never left my side. When I was at my lowest point, she laid next to me wagging her tail and letting me know she needed me…injury and all. I am grateful she was there when others turned their backs. Belle showed unconditional love every day and gave me a reason to get out of bed and get better.
When our family relocated to Virginia three years ago, she adjusted nicely. However, her body began to give her problems. Two years ago we purchased a ‘wheelchair’ to help her get around. She wasn’t a big fan, but she knew it helped. As time passed, she wasn’t strong enough to use the assistive device, so we carried her when needed and she was grateful for the help. She required a lot of attention, but no one complained (especially Belle). She accepted her disabilities better than I did. She worked hard and I encouraged her as she did me following my injury. She walked laps around the yard on her good days; and on the not so good days, she rested. There were times when she would show a bit of spunk – chasing our other dog or just wanting to play. She continued to follow me everywhere! She could be in a deep sleep and as soon as I moved, she did too. Even at age 18, she amazed us with her fighting spirit. As she became frail, I always told Belle to let me know when it was her time to go. I said this to her since I knew making this decision would be difficult.
Yesterday my husband woke up and Belle wasn’t acting like herself. He took her outside and she immediately fell down in the grass. She began crying out and was losing control of her bodily functions. She could no longer see and was working hard to breathe.
We left immediately for the vet, whom she saw monthly. The tearful veterinarian entered the room; she knew why we were there. She examined Belle and said her vital organs were shutting down and she wouldn’t make it through the day. Belle continued to cry out, which I knew was the sign I had asked for. None of us wanted her to suffer any longer. She was surrounded by those who loved her as she took her last breath and quietly slipped away.
I miss Belle more than I could ever explain; my heart is heavy. As a Christian, I know she is in a better place…running freely and no longer in pain. The hard part is everywhere I turn I keep expecting to see her or hear her bark. There is an emptiness, sadness and a longing for my friend. It’s as if my shadow has disappeared.
A special thanks to Tina Hicks, 39 Design, for the wonderful professional photos of Belle. I treasure them now more than ever.
©My Unplanned Life and http://www.shakinguplife.wordpress.com, 2013.