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.