We said a heartbreaking good-bye to our sweet dog, Piper, yesterday.
One might think this wouldn’t hurt so much since we only had Piper since September 1, 2014. But if so, one would be wrong.
We adopted her from a rescue organization. She’d been found a month before wandering around a Home Depot parking lot – clearly she was destined to come to lesbians. When we first met her, she was completely disinterested in anyone to the point that I even asked the adoption official whether Piper ever got excited about anything. A question that now seems humorous. We met three dogs that day and came this close to leaving without one but at the last minute, we asked to see Piper again and I told Jodi I felt like we should give this sad dog a home. Thank god.
I don’t know what Piper’s life was like before she was with us but I know how skittish she was when she first got here. Two days after we brought her home, I moved quickly to reach for something near her and she cowered back quickly and turned her head, clearly expecting to be hit. It broke my heart.
The first time we gave her a chew treat, she acted like she wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it. For several months when she got one, she’d run around to every person in the house so excited to have it and show it to them. I don’t think she’d had many treats.
We showered her with love and affection and it didn’t take long for her to become secure and trusting. She accompanied me to and from the office every day, greeted everyone who came in. We dubbed her our office mascot.
At home, her favorite thing was chasing her bear. We have mostly wooden floors except in our bedrooms. We’d toss her bear down the hall and into our bedroom. She’d go get it and come running back full speed, hit the wood and slide right into us so we could “catch” her.
If she was home without us, her little face would usually appear in the window after we pulled into the driveway. When we walked in, she’d greet us at the top of the stairs with her signature snarl. I think she was trying to mimic a person’s smile. Her tail would wag so fast and her mouth would draw up on the right side like she was snarling. She looked like she wanted to bite our face off, but was wiggly happy about it!
Another favorite thing was to take walks along one of the many creeks in Boulder County so she could play in the water. She seemed quite affronted, however, that we would not let her chase the ducks.
One rare thing about her, she hardly ever barked. In fact, we never heard Piper bark at all until Christmas morning when she barked at the cat who was trying to share in Piper’s special holiday dinner. A Christmas miracle, we joked at the time. Three of her four barks we ever heard were actually directed at the cat. Not surprisingly, our cat, the Mogwai, also adored her, which Piper tolerated by mostly ignoring her as much as possible.
Piper was the first Golden Retriever I ever had so maybe her mellow and loyal personality is common. I’ve never known a dog so completely and totally interested in her people to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. Perhaps all Goldens are as laid-back and sweet tempered as she and like to snuggle with their people like a teddy bear. I don’t know. I’ve only ever had her.
It’s astounding to me that I only knew her 338 days. On the 326th day, after ever-worsening digestive problems we couldn’t seem to figure out and lots of tests, they told us our sweet girl had cancer, GI lymphoma. We tried some treatments but it only seemed to make her worse and her doctors were compassionately honest about her prognosis. She was putting up a good fight but it just wasn’t fair to keep trying. So, yesterday evening, we let her go, while we held her and petted her and told her that it was going to be okay now.
She wormed her way into my heart in a very short amount of time. Her absence at our house is deafening, made louder by the cat who keeps pacing and meowing incessantly. I wonder if it’s normal to hurt this much after losing a pet. There have been a couple of times today I’d swear for a second I heard her panting beside me, which sounds like something dramatic crazy people say. When I woke up this morning, there wasn’t a dog laying beside my bed or paws pushing on my mattress wanting to go out. My ride to the office was quiet and the back seat was agonizingly empty. There’s no head to reach down and absently stroke while I’m working, no-one that needs to be taken outside, no bear to throw, no-one to so easily make happy.
I know someday we’ll get another dog. We feel too strongly about giving rescue dogs a home and I know Piper would want us to do that. My brother-in-law, who has a giant though occasionally well-hidden heart, told me once that every dog comes with their own personality and that you will love the next one, even if it feels like you won’t. I know logically he is right but it will be a while before I can go down that road. We don’t want “a dog” right now, we want Piper.
It didn’t seem as if her life before us was a good one. Yet, even with that, as soon as we loved her, she loved us wholeheartedly right back. Dogs have an amazing capacity to give, as Jodi has reminded me. I don’t know why we could only have her less than a year but even as awful as this feels, I wouldn’t change anything. Without question, she deserved a better life than she had but I know her last year was happy. That will have to be enough.