Monday, December 10, 2012

On the Homefront: Remembering Diamond (2004-2012)

Diamond (2004-2012)

To my Diamond:

I remember that day in late January 2007 when we first met.  I had just lost my old Dalmatian, Dottie, in early December.  For almost two months I was without dogs, and that was one of the saddest and most depressing periods of my entire life.  Our house was no longer a home, merely an empty shell, forlornly waiting to be filled with canine companions again.  When we first saw you, you had only been back with your foster mother for a week.  Your previous owners had no time for you, locking you outside on their apartment balcony while they were at work and finally abandoning you at a local shelter when they decided they no longer wanted you.  Luckily your foster mom went to pick you up, and found you howling frantically, confused as to why you were no longer wanted.  Much as Liz loved you, she had far too many dogs and knew you needed a home of your own.  You and your best Dalmatian friend, Gia, were together at the adoption site.  Gia, always full of self-confidence, was immediately comfortable with us and ready to take charge, but you were not so sure.  I was afraid you were not going to want to become our dog, especially when you started to whimper as we drove away from Liz.

Your first two weeks were tough.  You became quite ill and refused to eat, but our vet put you on a bland diet and I began to try to win your trust.  We were told you were both crate-trained and you, Diamond, were indeed accepting of the crate -- I think it made you feel secure to have your own space.  Gia, on the other hand, was outraged, fighting to get out every time, and eventually I decided both of you could be trusted in the house (I am not a big fan of crates either).  Both of you blossomed almost immediately.  You were perfectly willing to accept limits on where you could and could not roam (Gia was not), and could be trusted off-leash on walks (again, Gia could not).  Your health recovered completely, and the happy, playful Diamond we grew to love so much became evident.  Occasionally Gia would get you into trouble on the rare occasions she managed to escape -- your bond to Gia was still stronger than the one to us in those early days, and you always dutifully followed wherever she led.  Twice I was sure we had lost you forever, but you always managed to find help from someone and I was able to get you back home.

We soon settled into a comfortable and happy routine of walks, playtimes, and feedings.  I loved the way you would roll on the floor when you were happy, just asking for a belly rub.  You also enjoyed a good ear rub.  Tennis balls were your favorite toy, and when I got you one shaped like a football that squeaked, you knew you had found your perfect match.  Whenever I came home you would grab that toy and squeak away joyfully -- it was your way of telling me that you were glad I was back.  Of course, you would do the same thing every time I was on the phone, forcing me to take it away from you so I could carry on a conversation, but you never minded, because you had gotten my attention.  You were never happier than when your people surrounded you, and while you were not much of a snuggler, every once in a while you would join us on the couch and roll around happily, nudging us with your nose to tell us how glad you were to be with us.  Your coat was the softest I ever felt on a dog.  I loved to stroke your soft, velvety head.  And how you loved to watch me cook!  Even if you never got a morsel, just the smell of food cooking made you roll about on the floor with joy.  And if I did relent and let you and Gia have a taste, you just knew that life did not get much better.  At first you were not enthusiastic when the little stray we named Ruby followed us home one morning, but after about a week she managed to wriggle her way into your affections, and the two of you became playmates, probably one of the few times in your life that you actually got to act like a carefree puppy.

Life was so idyllic until that day a little over two years ago when a thoughtless owner let her aggressive off-leash dog attack you.  Your injured leg required surgery which was not as successful as it should have been.  Yet you still managed to recover, only to end up with renal disease from the process.  How I hoped against hope that your condition was one that could be managed indefinitely.  For a while you did quite well with the prescription diet and some medication, showing no signs of the disease at all.  Your leg healed so well you could even go for long walks and jump on the couch again, and life seemed to return to normal.

Then, early this year, your health began to decline.  It was subtle at first, and a short stay at the vet hospital for IV fluids was all you needed.  But more and more medications were soon needed, and then subcutaneous fluids, and then you began to lose your appetite.  We fought so hard, you and I, to get you feeling comfortable again, but, far more quickly than I could have believed possible, your condition worsened.  Your last stay at the vet hospital was a disaster.  I was so afraid I would lose you there, but you rallied enough to come home.  It was a relief for both of us just to have you here, even though you were not well and required so much care.  Finally, it just became too much for you.  I almost lost you when you stopped breathing, but you managed to revive somehow and we kept you comfortable until the kind and caring vet could come and let you leave us gently and without pain.

My poor sweet girl, your suffering was mercifully short and is over now, but my pain and sorrow at losing you continues.  December 2nd, the day we lost you, was the same day we lost our Dottie six years ago.  There will be no Christmas at our house this year -- I just can't face a holiday that should be all about joy and celebration.  Instead I will mourn your loss, and will miss all of my dear sweet departed dogs.  But I will also remember the good times, and what a wonderful, beautiful, sweet, good dog you were, and be thankful that I had you in my life, even if the time was far too short.  This letter is long, but still cannot even begin to touch on all of the wonderful moments we had together, or express just how much you mean to me.  I love you so much, Diamond, and will keep you in my heart forever.  Please wait for me with my other girls, and one day I will be with you again.

With tears and kisses for my sweetest little girl,
   from your Forever Mom


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