Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.


Posted on | January 11, 2012 | 13 Comments

I have already mentioned this.  Life can get ugly in a New York minute.  Which I believe is a very short amount of time.

I already know this fact.  I live this fact.  So I although I was upset when the Other Half called me in the midst of a delightful pedicure to say I was needed at home, I was not too surprised.  Although I was horrified when he told me that Tasha, our 9 year old Rottweiler, was not breathing well and her tongue was turning blue, I was not exactly shocked.  I was worried when I found her laying upstairs amidst our family, gulping for air, and I trembled as I felt in her mouth and throat for an obstruction.  I gasped upon examining her extremely bloated abdomen and was frantic as I searched for simethicone in a form or dosage that might be effective.  I began to cry as I dialed the after hours vet for directions and called out her name desperately as we bundled her into a sheet and rushed her to the car.

But even when I held my head against hers and stroked her side for the final time, I was not entirely astonished.  Tasha, like most barrel-chested dog breeds, had struggled with bloat in the past.  Bloat can be sudden, unexpected, difficult to detect in its early stages, and deadly. Whether or not a dog will recover is totally unpredictable.  Just like life.

And despite the fact that I missed her before they even took her body away, I knew there was some grace in this abrupt turn of events.  A kindness in this cruelty.  At 9 years old, Tasha had already entered the stage of doghood that mostly entailed sleeping on the couch, rising for breakfast, taking a morning nap on the bed, waking to threaten the mailman, and then taking a well-earned doze on the sun-warmed floor underneath the picture window.  She always greeted the children after school, snored through homework time, and spent the rest of the evening positioning her tummy exactly where someone had their feet.  Just in case they were inclined to give her a belly massage with their toes.  She was a living breathing Life is Good t-shirt.

And now she had passed without ever knowing the pain the sets into a dog’s hips, making her hobble down the stairs.  The cataracts that form over the eyes, making a dog glance at her people in a confused, blurry stare.  No hearing loss or bad teeth.  No tumors or cancer.

Of course, this was of little solace to the children who rode with her that day.  Leaning over her limp body, begging her to hold on as we raced toward the vet.  Of little comfort as they stood in the waiting room, their arms wrapped around each other, sniffling and weeping, hoping for good news, but already knowing in their hearts that there would be no happy ending.  Of little consolation as they woke at night wondering “what if?”  What if she hadn’t had those last 2 biscuits?  What if we had noticed sooner that she was struggling?  What if we had left for the vet earlier or driven just a little bit faster?

So we held their hands.  Shared their tears.  Let them sneak into our bed and wrapped our arms around them.  Told them it would be all right.  Because they will have to learn themselves that you don’t always get a do-over.  That you cannot always go back and make a different decision.  And that sometimes, no matter what you change, you can’t avoid the difficult choice, the troubled ending.  No, they will need a lot more years and a lot more life before they know these truths.  Better to wipe their faces, hold them tight, and whisper the stories of their dog into their listening ears.

Stories of that little puppy that nibbled fingers and noses.  Memories of the first time she walked on a leash without trying to simultaneously chew on it.  When she managed to pee on every variety of household surface in one 12 hour period (carpet, upholstery, linoleum, concrete, and even Formica kitchen counter). When she learned to sit for a biscuit.  When she ran out the front door and didn’t come home for 6 gut-wrenching hours.  When she wagged her stubby tail so hard that the wiggles started in her waist.  When she spread the contents of the trash can out all over the kitchen floor.  At least once a week.  The way she always got up in the middle of the night to investigate scary noises and came back with kisses to give the all-clear.  Too many stories and too many good memories to be overcome by one frightening and heartbreaking Sunday afternoon.

After all, the knowledge that our furry friends have a shorter time on this earth than we do is always with us.  That is why we cuddle with them on the furniture even though we swore on the day when they arrived in our homes that we would not.  Not with this dog.  Not on this couch.  Not in this bed.

That is why we take them to professional photographers.  Or dress them up for silly pictures.  Or take snapshots of their heart shaped butts on Valentine’s Day, which no one can appreciate (or even wants to see) other than us.

That is why otherwise law-abiding citizens take them for walks in the woods.  Off the leash!  Or to parks to meet their doggie friends.  Or even through neighborhoods where we will have to carry little baggies to dispose of their poop.

That is why we take them for rides in the car.  Just to go for a ride.  And why we have an emergency water bowl stashed under the car seat. That is why we have dog treats in the glove compartment.  Slobber marks on the windows and dog fur on the seat cushions.

That is why we dance with them in the kitchen while making dinner (and sometimes forget to wash our hands).  That is why we let them kiss us on the face.  And even kiss them back.  That is why we refuse to move when they fall asleep with their heads in our laps.  Even when our legs are going numb.  Or we really, really, need to go pee.  That is why we can be reading a book or surfing the web or watching TV or even having our breakfast and yet always have one hand free to be scratching behind the ears of that furry head beside us.

That is why everything that is human is us clings tightly to everything that is soft, and fluffy, and velvety-eared, and wet-nosed in them.

That is why when they are gone from us, by a choice to end their suffering or by a lost attempt to save them, we will save their collars and keep their dog beds.  We will put their photos in fancy picture frames and use their names as our computer passwords.  We will search for the perfect place for their bodies or their ashes and we will mark it with an expensive headstone or a carefully chosen rock, a luminous bronze plaque or a flowering bush that reminds us of them every time that it blooms.

We will swear when we kneel over them for the last time, that we will never forget them.

And we never will.

Goodbye, Tasha.  Thank you for walking part of our journey with us. Thank you for tolerating everything 4 kids could dish out.  For usually choosing the Other Half’s shoes to chew instead of mine.  For sleeping in on the weekends instead of insisting on going out at 5:00am.  For chasing squirrels, but never chickens.  For always having the common courtesy to puke in front of the door to the backyard instead of at the top of the stairs.

For teaching the “puppies” all they need to know.  To watch carefully.  To listen all night long.  To never back down from a man in a brown uniform carrying a package.   To be true, fierce, and brave protectors and guardians of the family.

We love you.  Someday we’ll see you on the other side.  But I bet you have an old friend already waiting to greet you.  Tell her we say hello.

Rest in peace.

Taylors’ Tasha January 14th, 2003-January 8th, 2012.

Do you have a special pet that has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge?  Send me an email with your pet’s picture, any caption you would like, and I will add it to this blog post.  As a tribute to Tasha, and to all those pets who have left our lives, but never left our hearts.

Miss Kitty. She wandered into our lives as someone's discarded pet and left this world as the best friend of two humans who are still heart-broken after 8 years. She led the furry path for our four love-bugs. She is gone, ashes in the office, never far from our thoughts especially at Christmas, because she could always find a way to lay up in the tree. She showed us how unconditional love by a pet can change your life forever.


13 Responses to “Tasha”

  1. sheila
    January 11th, 2012 @ 9:22 am

    Taylor Family, I am so so sorry for your loss. Reading and weeping, as I can relate to every word. I myself had to make that dreaded decision for my beloved Max days before Christmas. I find myself often feeling closer to my furry family than to my human relatives, and missing them more when they are gone.

  2. Di
    January 11th, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

    We have had the delight of owning four rottweilers over the past 14 years and have one by one had to sadly say goodbye to each of them. Diabetes, old age, and two with cancer. I’m so very sorry to hear that you lost your Tasha as I loved those big headed, gentle giants of ours too. Thinking of you and your family today. :-((

  3. Terry
    January 11th, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

    So sorry about the loss of your good Rottie. She lived in a dog heaven on earth (chicken poop! children!) I have too many beloved animals that are no longer keeping me company to send any photos.

  4. Tanya
    January 11th, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

    So sorry to hear about Tasha. I will call you tomorrow

  5. Lana C
    January 11th, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

    As a dog lover and one who has lost several dear connected furry family members, I had to bawl like a baby while reading your post. It makes me so incredibly sad when we lose one of our dogs that have been by our side, no matter what, and to know that we too are loved beyond measure. It’s priceless.

    I am very sorry for your loss.


  6. katherine
    January 12th, 2012 @ 3:45 am

    (((((((huge hugs))))))))

  7. Erin C
    January 12th, 2012 @ 4:26 am

    I am so sorry for your loss! Tasha surely had a wonderful life with you and your family!

  8. Jill
    January 12th, 2012 @ 5:22 am

    God bless Miss Kitty and her new friend Tasha. These must be heart-breaking days. I’m so sorry.

  9. Sherry Herry
    January 12th, 2012 @ 5:37 am

    I can relate to how you feel about your dog. I have had many special pets over the years. Each time one of them passes on I cry like my heart is broken and it will never heal. I think about all the good times and the times that maybe I treated them like they were just a dog or cat, and then I feel even worse. I am so sorry for your loss. Time will help but never completely heal.

  10. Kim
    January 12th, 2012 @ 8:42 am

    So sorry for your loss. When we lost our bouvier, Oskar, back in 2005 we started a working k9 cemetery at our ranch. Unfortunately over the next 6 yrs the population of the cemetery has grown to include Sophie, Solo (the happiest Tervuren I’ve ever seen), Tootsie, my precious bloodhound partner, Amos and last but most beloved of all, Maybelline. I miss them everyday. Nothing can take the place of your missing “family” member but I’m so glad for you that you have wonderful memories of her to recall as you cry for the vacancy they leave in our lives. Rest in peace, Tasha. She was loved well and that is all a dog asks of us.

  11. Sheri
    January 12th, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful friend!

  12. lin
    January 15th, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

    Awww, damn. I’m sorry that you lost her. And that loss is magnified a thousand times because of the kids–it’s heart-breaking to hold them while they cry for their dog.

    This was a beautiful post and tribute to Tasha. I don’t know how you found the words to write such lovely thoughts while hurting so badly. But you did so and eloquently–she must have been a great dog to inspire you so in your grief.

    Love and hugs to you all in such a sad time. Been there–it hurts like heck.

  13. Kim
    January 30th, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss, it made me gulp and pretend I had something in my eye!
    We have an old cat that appeared in our garden 5 years ago and moved in. She has old rheumaticky legs, cataracts in her eyes and is a pensioner but we both love her dearly. She hates the chickens but will still bring in mice – if they dont run too fast!
    My thoughts are with you and your family, remember the life she had with you and talk of her often.


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