She was eight weeks old when Scott got her. A runt of a Weimaraner pup, out of the entire litter she came over to him to say hi. Love at first sight.
The breeder was an older man in a poor South Seattle neighborhood, near Boeing field. The dogs were outside dogs, the pups born and reared under the house. No wonder she always did her business under our deck. Old habits die hard.
Scott would put her inside his jacket and take her to the grocery store with him. She was so proud when she was able to climb up on the couch by herself, climb over the baby gate, climb up the stairs. Still small as she grew up, she was sleek, fast, athletic. She would catch birds in mid-flight in the back yard, leave them on the back step. I love you, I hunted for you.
And such a cuddler. She would burrow under the covers with us. Get up on the pillows behind our heads, get behind them, get under them. Lick our hands, our faces, our noses.
She loved going camping, splashing in the river, smelling the air. She ran like a bunny - hopping, scampering, ears perched back, smile on her face.
She survived learning to live with our next dog, Kitty. And later, with Kali. A once proud alpha dog, she became relegated to the back of the pack. But we were her companions, her masters, her gods. Once we were in her sight, all was right with the world.
We lost Kitty over a year ago. Suddenly we realized they were buddies, she missed her, something was gone from her life.
Four months ago, over fourteen years old, she lost the use of one of her hind legs. Degenerative spinal issues. On with the medications - anti-inflammatory, pain pills, incontinence pills. Then the digestive issues. For four months I cooked chicken and rice for her for every meal - she loved it. Inhaled it. Got use of her leg back, got herself up and down the stairs, smiled and sniffed the air. We had her longer than we thought we would be able to.
She went on vaction with us to the coast, to the mountains on the peninsula. She smelled new things, met new people, laid by the fireplace in our cabin.
And then she started to slow down. Her legs stiffened more. She wasn't as hungry, or as energetic. She'd rather go back up to her bed in the guest room and lay down, please.
Yesterday morning I took her outside before Scott got up. She roamed a little, but mostly just stood in one spot. She didn't want her breakfast. She laid in the living with Scott and watched a movie. She vomited a little. She was listless and unengaged.
Scott was tearing up a bit, I asked him if he wanted to go up to the emergency clinic. We decided to call and see if we could take her to her regular vet, a lovely warm caring woman. He called them, they said they could take her that afternoon.
She was ready. More ready than we were. We knew it was the right thing to do, she was in pain, she didn't feel well. But here we were making an appointment to end her life.
The next few hours were torture. We petted her and kissed her and told her how much we loved her. And then we drove to the vet.
We sat with her while we waited, they gave us an almost-empty bag of cat treats which whe loved. We brought her into that room, with the warm soft blanket on the floor, and cried while we tried to tell her how much she was loved, how we were always with her. She knew, she was ready.
They injected a heavy sedative, and she was out pretty soon. Some twitches, deep breathing, eyes still open but cloudy and tired. The vet and her assistant came in, we had to move to give them some room. Another injection, stroking her muzzle, kissing her face, telling her it was okay to leave, we loved her, we will always love her.
The vet moved the stethoscope around ... and asked her assistant for another dose. She was still with us. We cried ... please just let go. Let go. It's okay.
And then, before another injection, she said "She's gone".
They left us with our baby, our furry lovely beautiful baby with her grey muzzle and skinny body and no more pain, no more pain. Our beautiful, adorable, gorgeous girl who made our lives what they could never, in a million years, be without her there. We left with her collar and our vet and her assistant hugging us, knowing what we were feeling, leaving the only place that we could have let her go knowing she was cared for so humanely, so lovingly.
We came home and dug a hole by the big rhododrendon bush that she had so happily pruned as a puppy, making it grow way over our heads. We burned the receipt, and buried her collar and the cheap plastic shiny mettalic beads we had put around her neck that made her happy. We buried it all, buried her there, buried a part of us both. Stopped ourselves, sobbing, from wanting to dig it all back up, open the grave, have our young sleek athletic puppy jump out from the ground and lick our faces and jump into our arms and burrow behind our pillows forever.
And now we wake up and see the door to the guest room is left open, not having to keep her inside during the night. I go into the kitchen and almost methodically start cooking chicken and rice before I realize there isn't a reason to. See her raised food dishes that I can't even fathom putting away, see the hundreds of dollars of medicines that I just bought two days earlier, that won't do any good, that I don't know what to do with. See her bed in the washing machine that I have to dry and then ... do something with.
I took Kali for a walk this afternoon. I needed to feel life and energy. And we came home and Kali drank out of Stoli's water bowl and then sat out on the porch with me and I gave her Stoli's bone to chew on. Our unbelievable, loving, sweet sweet Stoli girl - she's still here. She has to be. We've lost too much, this past year or so. We all cling to each other and love each other and hope that, please please please, we find a way to go on and not sob at everything we see and think and hear.
Our lives will go one, but never as gorgeously.
This I know - Stoli is still somewhere, never gone. Be at peace, little girl. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.