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Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Tribute To A Loyal Companion

Phoebe and the boy sharing the couch

We put Phoebe down on Thursday.  It was a tough decision but it was time.  Our loyal friend and companion isn’t with us anymore except in photos, memories, and stories.  Here’s the story of Phoebe. . .

On a Sunday afternoon in October 2001, the husband and I ventured to our local animal shelter to “look.”  We had just had lunch at his mom’s house which was the tradition at the time.  The husband had grown up in a house full of pets—dogs and cats.  We had been living in our home since March and he continued to return to his mother’s home almost daily to walk Daisy, the current canine companion.

Our “looking” turned into adopting a quiet, soulful blue heeler, but not on that day.  The husband returned to the shelter on Tuesday to finalize the adoption.  I was at work.  It was a running burr in our relationship that he didn’t put my name on the adoption paperwork, just his.  Phoebe was HIS dog, not mine.  We owned a house together, but by golly, he was going to get the dog if anything ever happened.  I digress. . .On Wednesday of that same week, the husband took his mother to meet Phoebe at the shelter.  We weren’t going to bring her home until the week-end as we needed to prepare for her arrival. 

Turns out the Phoebe was about 18 months old and had already been adopted once and returned to the shelter as she had killed a chicken.  She had had other names, too, including Rascal.  To us, she was Phoebe.  And when we brought her home she sat in the front seat of the car between the husband and I looking expectantly over the dashboard. 

After a bath and tour of the house and neighborhood, it was time to say good-night.  That first night, we had planned to keep her in the kitchen with a doggie bed and baby gate blocking the entrance. When I turned in, she barked down the hallway as if to say, “What about me?”  When we were home, she had free reign of the house, but when we were gone, the baby gate was used to keep her in the kitchen.  That didn’t last long.  She figured out how to knock down the gate, so we reinforced it with chairs.  I spent one night sleeping on the couch with her next to me, just to make sure she was okay.  On Friday of the first week she was home, I came home from work to find her on the other side of a chair-enforced baby gate.  Upon further investigation, it turned out that she had somehow gone over the kitchen counter.  That was the end of the baby gate.  She roamed free throughout the house day or night.  And, that was the end of the doggie bed even though it stayed put for several weeks as Phoebe liked sleeping on the couch or in our bed. 

Phoebe on our bed.  A pile of pillows was just right!
 Part of the adoption agreement with the shelter is that owners agree to have their pet spayed or neutered.  I remember calling the vet to check on her after the surgery.  The vet laughed as the husband was calling on the other line at the same time.  Turns out, Phoebe had already been spayed but her fur was so thick that it was difficult to see the scar.  We were able to bring her home sooner--no overnight stay.  Poor girl!

Almost a year after we brought Phoebe home, we brought the boy home.  I remember bringing blankets from the hospital home for her to smell before the squirming bundle of noise appeared.  Phoebe was his guardian right from the start and provided him with much love and kisses.  The husband’s mother would brace herself a bit when Phoebe went for the licks, but I attribute much of the boy’s healthy immune system to living with a dog he liked giving and getting kisses from.

During those sleepless infant nights, Phoebe would look up at us as if to say, “Why are all the lights on?  And, why isn’t anyone sleeping?” 

Phoebe’s love for the boy deepened during the highchair years when goodies were dropped for her enjoyment.  I recommend having a dog during the toddler years.  It makes clean-up so much easier.  On Thursday I reminded the husband that we were going to have to be much more careful in the kitchen now as there was no more quicker picker upper to come along and take care of any spills.

Phoebe with her friend Hunter
Phoebe was there when the boy learned to roll, crawl, walk, talk, and even take care of her on days he was the first one home from school.  He can’t remember a time when she wasn’t around to share the couch with him.  Until now.

Phoebe’s decay became evident late last summer.  And by winter, her appetite had changed.  On Monday of this week, as I watched the strong wind almost blow her over, I once again approached the husband about his plan.  He wanted to wait until school was out.  I supported his decision. 

Then, early Thursday morning, he came to me and said, “It’s time.”  He had planned to call the vet later in the morning to make the appointment. 

We waited a bit to tell the boy.  When we did, there were wails and sobs, only stopping to ask questions.  We reassured him that Phoebe would not experience pain. 

Our morning was full of “lasts.”  Visiting the neighbors one last time, going for one last walk.  The boy even played his trombone for her so she could hear him play one last time.
Three loves!
 What got me was the boy’s loyalty for Phoebe. . . and our family.  In his grief he said that we wouldn’t be the Williams Family anymore without her.  I reassured him that we would always be the Williams Family.  He wanted her cremated so he could keep the urn and that the urn would be in “the family home.” 

All of us were there at the vet’s saying our good-bye’s and loving our faithful companion one last time.  The boy called for one more family hug over Phoebe.  He brought home some of her fur in an envelope that the vet shaved off her leg to find a vein for the injection along with her collar.  He awaits the urn with the engraved name plate to add to his collection.

And what about the chicken killing?  We never saw a ferocious Phoebe.  She was kind and gentle and loved being loved.  Even when we brought Georgie, our cat, home when she was a bit older than a kitten, Phoebe was patient and friendly.  Turns out that they, too, became good friends. 

Georgie the cat.
 Phoebe loved treats, walks, and watching Survivor with all of us in bed as she would get a popcorn treat every now and then.  She liked napping in the sun in front of the door or in the backyard.  She did not like baths, swimming, getting her nails trimmed, or the sound of fireworks.  She would hide in the bathroom during thunderstorms.

So no more early morning barking or scratching of her neck that made the tags on her collar jingle to tell us to wake-up that it is time to go out.  No more evening walks. . . with her.  The husband and I did go for a walk on Friday and I held his hand so it wouldn’t feel so empty without holding the end of Phoebe’s leash.  He took my hand to his lips and kissed it.  He misses her. . .his good friend. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry to hear about losing your sweet girl Phoebe! We lost our 13 year old lab Cupcake last February, the vet came to our house to put her to sleep. She had been in our life for over 10 years, and I even knew her longer than I knew my husband. She had a lobster stuffed animal she always loved that I now keep on our dresser.

    We have a 14 year old shepherd/chow mix named Baine that is starting to show his age, we got him from the shelter 8 years ago and I'm trying to come to terms with knowing we're at our last year or so with him most likely.

    What's especially difficult (and this is something only animal lovers will understand) is knowing that Cupcake and Baine are my last two fur babies that I had before my son was born. They were my babies in a way no other pet can ever be now. Perhaps it sounds silly, but as much as I love animals, the bond with them does seem a different after having human babies. :-)