Monday, November 06, 2006

dear abby

this past weekend, i traveled to ohio to be with my parents and my sister as we said goodbye to our beloved family dog, abby. she had been a part of our family for the last twelve years and was diagnosed two weeks ago with several tumors on different parts of her lungs. there was also something else troubling her as she lost the use of her legs, her eyes were pretty bad too, she had had bad cataracts for some time now, and we wondered if she could see at all. her breathing was labored, she was unable to go outside without my father carrying her in and out and it got the point where she was suffering so much that there was really only one decision we could make for her.

we were all there with her as she passed, it was heart wrenching, but i think we all took a little comfort knowing that she was no longer in pain.

we adopted abby when i was sixteen, shortly after we moved to ohio. we had adopted a german shepard/yellow lab puppy, named braeburn, and had him for over a year, but he had horrible epilepsy and it got to the point where the medication was no longer working... after braeburn, my parents told us that we would have to wait a while before we looked for another dog. i think this decree lasted about a month and a half before we went back to the little house that served as a dog shelter and started our search. we had also went to the big fancy aspca building and had our eye on a little puppy, who was adorably cute, but it was at the little house that we found abby. she was the house dog. so sweet and gentle that she was allowed to roam freely, made her bed under the front desk and was loved by all who worked there. she was a sight to see- part dalmation, part border collie, part god knows what (beagle it seemed as she aged, her legs got shorter and her belly began to hang just like a beagle's). she had some spots, some black patches, some white patches, a long snout and the loveliest eyes you ever did see. i remember thinking she was probably the ugliest dog, but boy was she sweet (my opinion changed in no time short as we all fell under her spell). when we decided to adopt her, i remember the teenage boy who volunteered at the shelter had tears in his eyes as he said goodbye to her. we knew we had picked the right dog.
they told us she had been found wandering at the side of i-270, someone had dumped her on the side of the highway and abandoned her. it was apparent that she had just had a litter of puppies, even though the vet didn't think she was much older than a year. she had been horribly abused and was so afraid of everyone, especially men. whenever my father raised his voice and she was in the room, she would role over on her back in a submissive position. it was heartbreaking. she soon grew to trust us all and lived up to her reputation of being the sweetest most loving dog.

she greeted everyone who walked into our home with a wagging tail and an insistent snout that demanded she receive proper attention. if you were sitting down, she would come up to you, put her nose on your knee and just look at you with eyes that said "my ears sure do need a good scratch." there was nothing you could do but oblige her and the second you stopped scratching the nose would return, more nudgingly insistent this time "you didn't think you were done, did you?" she was beloved by everyone- my friends from high school would visit even after i went away to college, all to hang out with abby (and my family too, i guess).

abby was the neighborhood dog, the little kids who live on our street would often knock on the door and ask if abby could come out and play. she loved nothing more than holding court in the backyard where all the kids would crowd around her and rub her tummy and her ears and then run off to play ball. she would sit contentedly under her tree, keeping an eye on them all as they roughed about, coming back now and then to check in with her, give her another treat and another good scratch. most of those kids knew abby their whole life. it was hard when the boys next door came over to say goodbye to her, i had to escape to the kitchen and then upstairs while they were with her, because it broke my heart to witness it. abby used to go over to their house and wander about. they had their own stash of treats, just for her.

she soon solidified her role in the household as the 'queen.' my parents set up the biggest, most lush bed in their room for her to sleep on. she was afraid of thunderstorms and would insist that one of my parents lay on the sofa downstairs and pet her until she fell asleep. she kept my father active, with daily walks down to the schoolyard. she was a constant companion to my mother and was very protective of her after her surgeries on her feet. this past summer, the house next door to my parents was broken into and robbed. luckily no one was at home at the time. my mother was doing some gardening a few days later and discovered that our screen facing that house, had been cut as well. my parents filed a police report and they surmised that abby had scared the robbers off (although if anyone had broken into the house, she would have greeted them with tail wagging and insisted they pet her a while before getting down to business).

she would come running anytime the pantry door was open, hoping for a treat. she was always there with her tail wagging when you walked in the door, and gave the best kisses. she had the deepest, most beautiful brown eyes, the softest ears and i miss her so.

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