Monday, April 9, 2012

Bon Voyage, Mon Amie


Sometimes we get lucky, and we are blessed and befriended by a being who is truly able to be unconditional. Such was my luck for the last fifteen years ... and such is my misfortune to have her leave my life.

In 1997, when Deus Ex Machina and I drove across the country from Texas to Maine, she was with us. Our little 1989 Honda Civic was stuffed to the gills with all of the things we thought we'd need for the next few months (at least until September, we hoped) until we found a house of our own.

Big Little Sister and the iguana were in the backseat with everything we could shove around them and under them filling every inch of air space, and so the dog had to sit on the floor of the passenger side of the car at my feet ... on my feet, really. It wasn't comfortable for either of us. She never complained, not once, during the whole trip, but I did ... loudly and incessantly ... for 2000 miles.

It was July. It was hot. She was very furry, and she panted, and drooled ... a lot ... and she had bad breath.

We left Texas during the evening rush hour and by the time we'd made it halfway through Arkansas, we knew we needed to stop for a rest. It was July. Did I mention that it was hot?

I saw this postcard once. On the front was a cartoon picture of a huge mosquito, and the caption was "Arkansas State Bird", and like all bloodsuckers, mosquitoes prefer the night.

We pulled into the rest stop, but soon realized we had a real problem. We couldn't have the windows down, because the mosquitos were horrible, and we couldn't have the windows up, because the dog was panting so hard, it was like being in a sauna. Fifteen minutes after we stopped for the night, we were back on the road.

We bumped into Kentucky sometime after sunrise. Zombies are more alive than we felt.

After a couple days' rest, we were back on the road, heading to Maine. Somewhere between hither and yon, we stopped at a rest stop. I was out of the car and halfway to the bathroom before Deus Ex Machina had even pulled into the parking space. Big Little Sister had been caterwauling her displeasure (for the last ten miles) that her lunch was in the front seat while she was stuck in the back. Deus Ex Machina had just gotten her out of the car, when a van pulled into the spot next to us.

It was at that moment that we truly learned something about the personality of the furry friend we'd just adopted. She hated dogs - all other dogs. As Deus Ex Machina let the rear door shut, YooHoo jumped up on the closed driver's side door. Her foot hit the lock, which caused all of the locks on all four doors to simultaneous engage.

I came out of the bathroom. Deus Ex Machina asked me for my key. I pointed to car. Deus Ex Machina's keys were still in the ignition. Inside the car, she barked and panted, and looked at us as if to say, "Hey, are you going to let me out?"

Luckily, I hadn't closed my door all the way, and the people in the van had a knack for getting into locked cars. We didn't ask questions, but we did thank them profusely for their assistance in gaining entrance into our car.

It was a bumpy start for me and YooHoo. I couldn't understand why she couldn't get the whole potty-outside thing straight, but it wasn't a failure on her part, I (finally) learned. It was a failure on mine to understand her messages. She always told me when she needed to go out, and if I ignored her or tried to make her wait, she would do what needed to be done ... and I'd clean it up later.

I know she never set out to be my teacher, and I'm not even sure she knew that she was. She was never condescending to me, and she never took on that patient superiority that those who deem themselves our mentors often take. She allowed me to believe that I was the Alpha female. She deferred to my authority, but at the same time, she would do what needed to be done.

Like when other dogs came too close to her yard or her family, she would put them right in their place ... no matter how much bigger than she they might have been. She was fearless.

When people came into the house, especially people she didn't know, she didn't bark incessantly at them (like some other dogs we know), but she would position herself between me and them, and give a low warning every so often.

She was completely loyal and cautious. If someone smelled funny to her, she wouldn't let them touch her. I kept an eye on those people. I figured she knew something I didn't know.

When it came to the other animals in our household, she knew exactly what her job with them was, too. The chickens and rabbits were her job to guard. The other cats and dogs were her charges to instruct, and she kept them in their place. If the beagle seemed too interested in one of the chickens, YooHoo let him know that the chicken wasn't for him to munch, and he needed to back off.

She was often smarter than I gave her credit for being.

YooHoo had a personality.

She had thoughts and feelings.

She worried about things, sometimes. Like over the past few years, as her body grew older and she got more tired, she didn't have as much control over things. It mortified her, when she would wake from a particularly sound sleep and realize that she had, essentially, wet the bed. I caught her, once, cleaning up the mess, and cried as I tried to get her to stop, and let me do it for her. I could only imagine what was going through her mind.

She had a consciousness and an awareness of who she was and her unique place in our lives ... perhaps in this world.

I've had dog and cat companions for most of my life, even when I should never have taken on the responsibility of a pet, and I think of all of the lessons she taught me it was that dogs aren't disposable. They aren't transferable, either, and before we take on the responsibility of care giver, we should really be aware of what we're doing.

I hope she knew that she belonged with us and that we valued her and her role as a member of our family.

I know that I will never be lucky enough to have a companion quite like she was. She was as much a part of my life here in Maine as the house I live in, and it will always hold the memory of her within its walls.

I don't think the realization has hit me, completely, that I will never again hear her clicking toenails on the linoleum or her yippy bark when she wants a treat or her growl-bark when she tries, and fails, to howl (which was actually kind of funny, because I could see how much she really wanted to howl, but she couldn't, quite, get her vocal cords to work that way).

She will never again gaze at me with those deep brown eyes or nudge me when she needs to go out.

And she won't be there, lying across the kitchen floor, keeping me company while I'm cooking or washing dishes, because her only desire in the world was to be near her people.

We knew that she was nearing the end of her physical life with us, and we talked about what we thought she'd want. We decided that she should die here at home, with us, rather than at a vet's office, and she did, quietly in her sleep.

I am grateful that she entrusted her spirit to our care, and I am truly blessed to have known her.

Thank you, YooHoo. You are a beautiful spirit. I wish you well on your journey.


  1. What a beautiful eulogy - and such a lovely spirit YooHoo had. How comforting to know she was able to pass at home, surrounded by loved ones and feeling safe.

  2. She sounds wonderful - and your tribute to her is wonderful as well.

    *bawling my eyes out now*

  3. Sorry to hear your friend is gone, those sounded like good years

  4. You've got me crying. My little Du dog has been with me seven years now, and I don't know what I'll do when he's gone. You're right. Once, they're yours, they're yours to raise.

    brenda from ar

  5. This is a beautiful tribute, such as only you could write. I know that we will all miss her.

  6. Beautiful! It is so hard to loose a loved pet who was your companion for a long time. I am so sorry for your loss.

    I am too nearing that dreaded moment with our beloved brown labrador Chip.

    love, Ellen

  7. A beautifully written and moving account of your YooHoo....I feel as if I got to know her, too. So sorry for your loss, I know it will be a huge adjustment to not have her around (we lost a family pet after only 7 years who was very special - she died the same year as my mother).

    Sweet journeys, YooHoo...

  8. Thank you, all.

    I did a very poor job of talking about all of the things she was to us. This post didn't even come close to describing how special and wonderful she was - and how much she gave to us.

  9. So sorry for your loss. Since hubs retired from the AF and has been unable to find a job, it would be so much easier not to have his dog. But that just isn't an option. In some ways they complicate everything...but so do my girls. Wouldn't have it any other way.

  10. Sending thoughts of comfort to you and your family. Having just lost a beloved pet myself recently, I am keenly aware in this very moment how bittersweet these moments of reflection on our beloved furry family members are for us.

  11. I woke up this morning reading your blog with a smile on my face as I could see your adventure to Maine as if it was taking place right then, then I hd tears rolling down my face as I could feel your pain and loss with the loss of your furry companion. May all those memories and her spirt keep her alive for many years to come within you all.

  12. I'm chuckling because we had a similar experience with our cat that passed on last summer and our journey TO Texas. Bad breath and panting and all!

    I'm sorry for your's never easy even when they're old and it's not unexpected.

  13. Sweet pup.

    Sorry for your loss Wendy.They really are a member of the family and their absence leaves a whole that only good memories can fill.

    Be well, Karin

  14. Wendy, I am not a dog person, but your post had me in tears. Such a tribute! I'm so sorry for your loss. God Bless!

  15. I met YooHoo once and indeed, she gave me that exact look as she positioned herself between me and thee. Oh, what a beautiful tribute, Wendy. I sobbed. These furry beings, they capture us, don't they? And isn't that a fine, fine thing. My condolences to all. Tania

  16. I'm very sorry to read about your loss. Sounds as though she had a wonderful life with ya'll. :)

  17. Oh, Wendy. I'm so sorry to hear this. I know when my Trooper left me, I heard his nails on the floor for about two weeks. What a beautiful ode to YooHoo this was. Thanks for making me cry like a baby on an otherwise perfectly lovely day... :) I'd write more but I'm afraid I need to go outside and harrass the Hailey dog with pestery attention and smooches now.
    Hugs to you and the family,