Fifteen years ago, my Grandma Mary died, leaving my family her 5 month old Yorkshire Terrier puppy - a little black and brown hyper, untrained and frankly obnoxious, cutie. The first night she stayed with us, my mom put her cage in my room and tucked her into my arms, where she slept perfectly all night. Not that that good behavior was normal - or would reappear for 12 more years.
Grandma Mary had insisted that a yorkie must have a proper, fancy name, but we could all tell she was not a little lady, so that lead us to call her Anastasia, or Anya for short. Or Anastasia Marie, when she was in trouble (which was often).
She barked. She peed on the carpets. She pooped in the closet. She chewed up American Girl toys. She ran away. She didn't listen. And I was obsessed with her, as any 10 year old would be. She drove our other dog, Sally, insane - always following her around. But Anya was a sweetie at heart. She used to climb on top of Sally and clean her ears and eyes, which Sally loved.
And then Sally died. She was my mom's first baby and the most well-behaved dog to ever roam the planet. 17 years is a long time to get attached to a dog, but Nonnie was there to help us through. Just like she's always been the for me: Grandma's death, Sally's death, Josh and Carl moving away, middle school, a 12 year old wanting to run away, high school, bad breakups, sleepovers, college, and marriage.
No one could deny that that dog was mine and I was hers. We were meant for each other. I was never her mommy - I was her pack mate. When she was young, we used to rough house and fight and she'd bite me and attack me and we'd chase each other around the house and it was so. much. fun. I teased her, she jumped on me to wake me up, she used to stand by the couch and stare at Stephen and just bark at him until he payed attention to her - it was hilarious.
She would wonder off to some part of the house, and you'd call to her, she'd turn and look at you, and then keep going. That damn independent yorkie. She'd get so cranky when we'd stay up late and have friends over, watching movies, or TV, or listening to music. She would clamber out of her bed, give us the nastiest, dirtiest look ever, and then climb back in her bed in a huff.
She loved scrambled eggs, tater tots, saltines, and ice cream. She'd eat anything - lemons, raw onions, herbs, pasta, or anything else that fell onto the floor. Including fuzz.
So when she was diagnosed with kidney failure in January, I thought I would die. What do you mean there's nothing we can do? I was scared, and really, really upset. Just thinking about Anya being gone sent me into a major panic attack. But we switched her diet, lowered her stress levels, and that little butthead bounced back, making it easy to forget she wouldn't be around forever.
She used to climb into bed with me after Stephen went to work, and bury herself under the covers and stay there for hours, snoozing. She loved to give kisses, and I was the only one who didn't mind her stinky breath. I'm shamed to admit it, but I always kind of liked it - it was her.
About a month ago, she started getting really picky about food, and sleeping most of the day and night. We tried everything, but she started losing weight, and eventually we took her to the vet. He gave her fluids and anti-nausea medicine, but it didn't matter. 15 years and her body was shutting down. I should be more grateful, because as a dog who darted out in front of cars, flung herself off furniture without a thought, at an 8oz chocolate bunny at age 3, and once jumped off my parents' 17-foot deck after a lizard and landed without a care, it was truly amazing she lived as long as she did. She was happy, and healthy, and vigorous until the very end. Sturdy. Very sturdy for a yorkie - is what everyone always said. And she was, so to watch her decay was incredibly painful. And her trying to stay strong for me was sweet and sad.
|June 6, 2013|
The last two days - it's hard to think about. But the weather was perfect and we got to lay outside and enjoy the breeze, and everyone came to visit her and give her love. And she and I cuddled more in those last 48 hours than we had ever done and it was lovely. She was sweet, and tired, and peaceful.
We took a tour of the house, because she kept trying to walk around, and then we sat in our room, and I held her while she pressed her nose into my neck and relaxed. And I don't know what your spiritual beliefs are, and I don't really care, all I know is that she looked up at me with the clearest, most youthful, happy look I have ever seen from her. It was so vibrant that I was surprised, smiled and said 'Hey!' and then she was gone. I can't think past that point, because it was the most terrible moment of my entire life. But in that brief second, I know she was looking at me with all the love I have for her.
I dont' know how to cope with grief, I don't know how I'm supposed to go on day-by-day without my best friend. I miss her snoring, I miss her licking my toes, I miss her barking at the windows, trying to get 3 tennis balls in her mouth, eating every bit of food that dropped to the floor, begging for treats, and chasing after squirrels. I miss the way she checked on everybody, I miss her scruffy hair, the little white scar on her nose, her boogery eyes and soft little padded toes. And I will miss her every day for the rest of my life.
There are two ways I've been able to keep going day-by-day.
The first is the discussions I had with Stephen and James and Anya (our little family) towards the end. Telling Anya about the awesome place she was going to go - she would feel so much better and she could have tater tots, saltines, and steak any time she wanted, play in rivers, in the grass, play with Sally, Athena, Blaze, and Hershey, and roll in all sorts of stinky stuff, like cat poop, without it sticking to her. It's like Magic Cat Poop.
The other is the popular Rainbow Bridge Poem, which I felt combined well with my little family's discussions:
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....