It’s funny how animals work their way into our hearts

Published 10:19 am Monday, March 2, 2015

For most of my life I’ve not been a real avid animal lover. I could take them or leave them but never really craved the companionship of a pet.

As a little girl, my cousin and I often played with the cats in my grandfather’s barn, wrapping them in blankets and pretending they were our babies — my first contact with pets.

Daddy always had hunting dogs, but they were kept in a pen except when they went out to hunt. We didn’t play with them as they were not pets.

My brother usually had a little dog trained for squirrel hunting who hung around the house, but I don’t remember any interaction for me. I do recall one that every time we pointed a camera, he would come running and pose. We have pictures to prove it.

After having a family of our own, there were various dogs the children claimed. The first dog I loved as my very own was a part cocker spaniel I named “Honey” as he was the exact color of that sweet syrupy liquid. For some reason, he claimed me as his own, and I sincerely grieved when he was killed on the highway in front of our house.

Then entered the “grand-dogs,” and they became special to our children and their children and, vicariously, to us.

Sassy came into our lives when our youngest daughter moved near us. Robin always had a dog — usually a black and white long-haired one. She had lost one called Eight Ball when she got Sassy, a tiny puppy just big enough to leave her mother.

Sassy was Miss Personality Plus, and besides her mistress, she also dearly loved her “Mamaw” — that’s me. She was truly a woman’s dog. When Robin died almost three years ago, Sassy and her other dog, a poodle named Lola, came to live with us. We already had a bond with these pups, and since that time they have become our own fur babies. We love them dearly.

That personable and mischievous little ball of fur named Sassy is now almost 16 years old. That’s over 100 in human years, despite a heart murmur which she has had since birth. She has led a beautiful life. Loved by many people and treated so well she never knew she was a dog.

But for all of us — pets and their humans — aging is a reality.

She developed the infirmities of old age, including blindness and deafness. She had arthritis and was experiencing mini seizures, staggering around trying to find her way. I watched her when she went outside to make sure she didn’t get lost, but apparently her sense of smell was still working. It was heart wrenching to watch, but she didn’t give up.

Then she developed some coughing. When it didn’t get better, we saw the vet, who said it was caused by fluid retention despite the Lasix she has been taking for a long time. More medication was given, and at first she is a little better and then she became very listless, stopped eating and did very little drinking. A foul odor from her mouth tells the vet it is kidney failure, and none of the medication has helped.

“If she was a human, she would be on dialysis” he said. She was so very sick, almost unresponsive and with no hope of getting better. We had her put to sleep. My last words to her were “Go to sleep baby. You are going to see Robin.”

For someone who hasn’t had a lot of experience with pets, it about broke my heart…but I couldn’t stand to see her in such distress any longer.

The Bible doesn’t directly tell us a lot about where our pets go when they die, but we can read between the lines. God placed these sweet creatures in our lives to give us much joy, and it is hard to believe we’ll never to see them again.

With the help of some young friends, we buried her behind her old home where she lived with Robin. We talked about what a good girl she was, giving her a loving send-off over the Rainbow Bridge.

And now there is only Lola…who will miss her “sister.”