My Gertie died Monday. It was the Ides of March. She was thirteen years, eight months and seventeen days old. We thought she was a cocker spaniel but the veterinarian said she was an English spaniel. She was blonde and her tail was a short stump that she wagged all day long, especially when I came home from work or when my children visited.
She was friendly and sweet. She seldom barked and when she did, it was because she heard a loud noise, otherwise, she would be the quietest dog I’ve ever had. As a puppy we had a cat named Scruffy when she arrived. With Scruffy she learned to do her toilette daily in the morning. As he, she would lick her front paws and pass them over her eyes and her face. She would lick her paws to keep them neat, as the cat used to do. He taught her to respect him and she learned to play with Scruffy without hurting him and stopped before he swatted her if she continued playing when he had enough and wanted to rest. He also taught her to look out the window sitting on the narrow back of our sofa. She would sit and stare out for long periods of time without falling off.
She liked to be held in a sitting position, as if she were a baby sitting up. She wasn’t a licker, but at times felt the urge to kiss me in the ear. I loved it.
She ate dry food almost her entire life, but when she turned nine, her teeth began to hurt, so I started her on softer dry food for seniors. The last two months all she could bite into was soft, canned dog food. She didn’t like lamb at all. Her favorite was chicken, although moist filet mignon in morsels followed close behind.
Every morning, she would wait for me to open her doggy door to run outside before coming back in for breakfast. She loved to be at my feet while I prepared breakfast, eager to grab anything that fell from the kitchen counter. It was comforting to know she was there.
She would follow me to the laundry room and watched me wash her water dish to refill it with fresh water every day. She was also at my side when I opened the cupboard to grab a can of her food to feed her. Her tail wagged as fast as she was able to manage.
She never yelped or barked or made careless noises even if she was hungry when I was preparing meals. She just sat there, watching intently and with her eyes letting me know she was ready for anything that splashed or fell to the ground. Needless to say, she was quick to lick or pick up anything that came her way.
I loved coming home because she was always happy to see me. She never held a grudge. She was always loyal and good-natured. Except once, when my granddaughter as a three-year old pushed on her stomach to get up and she snapped at her. Her teeth scratched Andrea’s face although it was visible that she immediately realized it wasn’t the right reaction, for after the initial scratch, she tried to lick her face, as if to undo the harm. Licking is how she showed her regrets over untoward behavior. But she never again even tried to bite anyone else.
She was a jovial little dog. She loved to jet out any carelessly left open gate or door and play catch me if you can when the gardener came to mow the lawn. It was her favorite mischief and she knew it was mischievous because when she was finally caught, she had that look little children have when they know they’ve done something that’s not allowed.
She began to show signs of hypoglycemia a few months ago. When the vet saw her, he couldn’t believe how low her glucose level was. It’s when he ventured a diagnosis of a pancreatic malignancy. She was already thirteen years old and undergoing expensive testing to be told she had a few months to live seemed like a waste of resources.
She began to show signs of her illness slowly, but as is apparently normal with the disease, her glucose would fluctuate from high to low several times during the day. Finally, last Thursday she couldn’t get her hind legs to hold her weight. She began to drag herself and I began to help her go for water, to try to eat. I carried her twice to our backyard where she liked to void.
My daughter Ana came with me to the vet. She cradled her gently while I drove. Ana was Gertie’s original mommy. When she moved from home she wanted her puppy with her, but my mother raised such a crying scene that she gave in and left Gertie with us.
While at the vet, she bought Gertie doggie pampers and colorful little pants to put over them. Although the vet dispensed some meds, they weren’t able to stall the inevitable. Life is precious and when it’s time, it’s time. However, the Toradol eased any pain she may have had at the end. The next day, Friday, her legs gave out completely and she couldn’t get up at all. She stopped eating and wouldn’t drink more than a lick or two of water when I begged her. The end was near.
Moments before I carried her to the vet on Monday, she must have slipped into a coma, for she began to move her legs as if she were running and roared with pleasure, as she used to roar when she played with my son who liked to play rough with her and she loved it. Her expression changed for an instant and it took a happy appearance one last time, but it was short-lived. She remained motionless when I carried her almost lifeless body to the car, when I wheeled her into the vet’s office, and when I placed her on the examination table.
When the vet came in, as he tried to find a vein in her left paw to draw blood, trying to decipher what exactly he could do to bring her back, she stopped breathing. Her heart stopped a couple of minutes later and she was gone. I was overwhelmed with grief, the sorrow of parting with a loved one, a painful and inconsolable loss. It’s a member of my immediate family who passed away.
Now when I wake up in the morning I catch myself walking to the doggie door and searching for her on the armchair outside my bedroom door, where she used to wait for me in the morning. Her absence is ubiquitous. It’s an anguish that weighs me down and manifests itself everywhere I look. Gertie’s absence is an emptiness that can’t find sating.
Rest in peace my dear friend. Sweet dreams. You were the best little doggie I could ever hope for. You’re intensely missed. I love you.