For the past few years I've been making a morbid list of things I wanted to write about Sydney when she died. Her barking at the moon and sun and air. Her trembling fear of thunder. Her joy at a good butt rub. Her inability to ever conclude if she were black or brown. I contemplated her quick death and where I would bury her garbage loving soul. She was going to be the first to go- at 12.
But no, life has a way of always reminding you that you can't control it.
My Mother's Day started the way any mother's day should. Breakfast in bed, flowers, home-made cards, home-made puzzles, a dog resting its head on my tray begging for pieces of egg. I had ruminated about Liebe's illness all morning. I brought myself back to the very beginning, a year ago, when the signs showed something going wrong with her salivary glands. I shot up in bed and turned on the computer and plugged in salivary gland issues in dogs. Boom. I figured it out. She had a salivary gland stone. It all made sense. These stones are brought on by chewing bones, which is what she was doing when she started to get sick. I had been feeding her raw chicken backs. Some of the symptoms are ulcers in her mouth and large amounts of bloody drool. She also had a lump on her salivary gland. I Skyped with my parents, clapping into the camera like a young school girl, excited at the prospect of Liebe recovering fully after her 'stone' was removed with a simple surgery. I pointed the camera at my sickly dog lying next to me. But I think they knew.
Liebe lay on her bed most of the day, even though we were out and about in the yard. She ate her two fried eggs I've been making her for her midday snack. And at 3 we left the house to go for a family bike ride. When we returned at 5:30 she didn't get up to greet us. She walked out to the pond, took a long drink, and sat down in Sydney's spot on the bank. Sydney went out there and barked. I called them in to dinner and Sydney came running. Liebe sauntered over but for the first time in her short 8 and a half years, she wouldn't eat.
We got into the car to go to the Emergency Vet. I had no idea she was this close to death. On the way her breathing slowed, her lower jaw hung open, her eyes were at half mast. She was hanging on and I was imploring her to keep trying, to make it a little longer, we're almost there, we're gonna get some biscuits, you can do it love. I carried her into the vet and left an hour later without her.
She had cancer in her heart. And probably all throughout. But her heart? Really? She was my LOVE. Why did it have to attack her there? We got Liebe on Valentine's Day in 2003. She was destined to be ours. The breeder told me that she was supposed to have someone come buy her earlier that day. But that person never showed. And Lucky Lady's Miss Liebe was ours. She came with no pedigree papers- just a promise to be a good dog. We named her Liebe, which means love in German, because it was Valentine's Day and because that's what I needed. After two miscarriages, I needed something to love and to love me back. And that's all, in the end, she ever did give.
Liebe should not be remembered for her sledding etiquette. She would dig her sharpened canines into my hand and not let go, running down the hill next to us, sometimes pulling us across flat areas at the mercy of my hand. She should also not be remembered for pulling things off the counter, in particular butter. I think she learned this from Sydney, so I'm not sure she's fully to blame. But she was a lab, after all. She should also not be remembered for tipping over trash cans and filtering through their contents. If we lived in Puritan times she would have worn a scarlet TE on her chest for 'Trash Eater' and I would have made her walk around town in complete and utter shame. She should not be remembered for pulling on Sydney's collar every time we went for a walk, almost choking her to death before we set off. We probably shouldn't recall how great of a beggar she was because that only implies we let her, making us irresponsible pet owners. But this also may be the fault of her genetic makeup as a lab. I'd also like to forget her fondness for cat shit.
I would love to remember her for her quick kisses. She found a way to plant one on you, right on your lips, when you were least expecting it. The kids learned to deal with this. And Paul Bunyan learned to love how she would lick his bald head. And because she listened so well she rarely was on a leash and never had a collar on, so I'd like to remember her as a naked dog. I'd love to remember how polite she was. For in the morning she would ask to join me in bed, always waiting for my hand to slap the covers to invite her to snuggle. And then when the alarm sounded she would flip to her back and ask for a belly rub. On mornings she didn't want to snuggle she would come up the stairs and ask for a back rub while I peed. She always, always said "Good Morning."
She wasn't aggressive. She wasn't dominant. She wasn't a 'bad' puppy. She wasn't a loner. She wouldn't take off. She always came when you called her. She was always sweet. Always full of love. Always by my side. Always by my side.
As I filtered through photos I rarely came across a photo of just Liebe. That's just the product of being a second dog, a life form arriving in the middle of toddlers, and part of every day life. So the photos I did find are filled with pieces of Liebe and sometimes she's in the foreground and sometimes in the background. You might have to look for her but she's there. She was always there...my copilot in life, helping me navigate through all of it.
My Little Liebawitz, I will love you and cherish you until I die. I believe in some way that you were put into my life in order to help me through it. But you were also there to celebrate life and love with everyone and every dog whoever came to know you. Pop Pop and Gramma loved you dearly, as did all my friends. And all the dogs from Kozy, Boon, Moses, Zola, Sadi, Georgia, Mazie, Ty and all the other dogs who you let smell your ass, you will be missed. And as for Sydney, she still pretends to be aloof but I'll tell you a little secret, she was looking for you this morning. You're going to come back to me in a few weeks and I'll put you snugly at the base of my bed, where you'll always and forever keep my feet warm. My sweet sweet thing, I love you.