Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Remembering Daisy

It's only Tuesday, but it's been a tough week under the Roof. On Monday afternoon we had Daisy put to sleep.

Relaxing in the kitchen. Posted by Hello

Daisy first came to live with us at Christmas time in 1989. We were celebrating our first Christmas in a new home in Memphis. The kids were all in school, and Mary and I spent several days searching all over West Tennessee for a cocker spaniel puppy.

After what seemed like an endless string of fruitless phone calls, we got connected with a family 50 miles outside of Memphis who had an 8 week old parti-colored female. I agreed to buy her sight unseen, and to meet them in the parking lot of a McDonald's at a specified time on Sunday evening. This coincided with the annual Christmas Eve service at our church, and we concocted an elaborate story involving a family friend, a flat tire, and an immediate need for help that would allow me to excuse myself from the family for a couple of hours. I drove to the rendezvous point in my MGB convertible with a failing clutch and weak headlights. At one point I got pulled over by the state police for going too slow on the Interstate.

I found the seller in the parking lot, as agreed, and quickly made the transaction. It was completed quickly, under the street lamp, with few words and a swift exchange of cash and small furry bundle. It seemed more like a drug deal than buying a pet. I could tell I was buying a dog, but little else. The sellers promised to send the AKC papers later. Being young and anxious, I believed them.

The puppy slept soundly during the cold ride home, bundled up in a blanket on the passenger seat. I arrived home after the rest of the family, and tucked the sleeping puppy under my coat. I entered the house and answered the questions about our stranded friend, then told the kids to come into the den. I can't recall what exactly I said, but remember lots of delighted screaming as the puppy emerged from my coat.

Daisy grew up with our kids, especially Will. She ran with him in the yard and around the neighborhood. If there was a pack of kids racing through the yard, Daisy would be in the middle of it, happily nipping at Will's heels.

She was the third, and smartest, cocker spaniel we have owned. Mary delighted in teaching her new tricks. Daisy could balance a dog biscuit on her nose, pensively waiting for the command "SIC IT!" that allowed her to flip it in the air and catch it on the way down. She could roll over, shake hands, and "speak" on command. The most elaborate trick they learned was a political joke. Mary would point a finger, like a gun, at Daisy and ask loudly, "Would you rather be a dead dog or a Republican?" Daisy would flatten herself on the floor, in her best Democratic pose.

In her later years, Daisy endured Mary's interest in costuming.

Do I have to wear this silly outfit? Posted by Hello

As smart as she was, Daisy was a mediocre watchdog. A stranger could come into the house unannounced, and she would just as likely wag her tail and pee on the floor as bark at him. But every afternoon when I arrived home from work, she would howl and bark like she had never seen me. I suppose she was just greeting me enthusiastically.

The years since have flown by. The kids are grown. Two have graduated from college and moved on. Will is now 18 and college-bound in the fall. Daisy grew up with them, and grew old before them. She lost her hearing about two years ago. We noticed it gradually. At first, we would be inside the house for several minutes before she would hear us and come out of whatever room she was sleeping in, looking slightly embarrassed. Later, we would have to wake her to let her know we were home.

In the last year and a half, her health declined even further. First her eyes went, becoming increasingly cloudy. Her sense of smell seemed to decrease, making it harder to find the biscuits dropped at her feet. She slept most of the day, and emerged ever more slowly and unsteadily. Her kidneys failed her.

Sadly, it was time. We made one appointment at the vet, then cancelled it when we thought there was improvement. We went another two months, then found her sitting disoriented in the dining room one afternoon. We made another appointment, and agreed that we would not cancel again.

Monday noon came and our appetites waned. The appointment was for 1:30pm. Mary fed Daisy some extra treats - a hamburger for breakfast, some ham at lunch, extra biscuits. We drove to the vet's office, Daisy in Mary's car with all the windows down, the spring air blowing across her nose stuck prominently out of the rear window. They walked around the yard outside the office while I attended to the paperwork. Then it was time.

It was mercifully quick for Daisy, but interminable for us. We swung at opposite ends of the spectrum - Mary weeping quietly until the final moment, while I stood stoic. Me dissolving in tears as I saw her lifeless on the table, while Mary felt a wash of relief. (We have lived together for nearly 30 years and have managed a dynamic balance - only one of us gets to be crazy at a time.)

Today the house feels empty. We are happy that Daisy is out of her misery, and was able to go out with some dignity. But we miss our puppy. I trust that soon the empty spot will slowly be filled with good memories, of a happy dog chasing dirt clods pitched in the garden and kids in the front yard.

Two Old Pals:

Two old pals. Posted by Hello

Cowgirl Daisy:

Cowgirl Daisy in full costume. Posted by Hello