Ah, where to begin. She was a bad dog. From the start.
The first few years of her life she was confined to a fenced backyard. When Paul Bunyan was at nursing school and I was teaching she was lucky enough to have a laundry room to herself and a dog door to meander in and out of as she pleased. There were days I'd come home from work and find my iron out on the grass chewed to bits. Sometimes it was her bed. Sometimes my laundry. Everyday I was expecting to see the washer or dryer parts twisted and bent from her trying to squeeze them through the dog door. She was bored. And maybe that's where it all began.
She and I would walk the sidewalks of our suburban neighborhoods in the early morning darkness before school. She loved these walks; me, not so much. I would try to take her off the leash at a nearby school- fields to romp in. But she wold lurk away to the dark borders and find an escape, which was too dangerous for busy morning commuters who wouldn't be able to see a dark dog on dark streets.
In the afternoons Paul Bunyan would take her to Wissahickon Park and let her run free, illegally, on the many trails that run up and down the Schuylkill River. She loved these walks and the human feces she would find there too. We wanted her to be free. She wanted to be freer. On one particular walk she ran across the river and stole a gosling from a nest. With it in her mouth, she shook her head, like a birding dog does, and then proceeded to run up and down through a group of school children who all screeched like she was a dead corpse, not the one carrying one. Paul hid on the other side of the river, pretending she wasn't his, and called to her as inconspicuously as he could. This was all very bad for her reputation and information that was later used to prosecute her for killing our neighbor's chickens up the road- two weeks after the twins were born, three months after we moved here.
So, as much as we wanted her to be able to run free Sydney spent most of her life on a leash or behind a fence, the latter of which would later become electric. Paul Bunyan and I have spent HOURS laying, relaying, digging up, trying to find, patching the places that were split by the tractor, and generally maintaining two separate electric fences at out last two houses. These fences worked until lightning would blow out the system or her collar wouldn't/couldn't recharge. Irregardless, she continued to "break out" and find garbage, carcasses, compost, WHATEVER she could find that was edible or semi-edible. I generally was the one to be nervous about her gone so I can't even begin to add up the hours I've spent in the car looking for her. She generally always made it back, usually with a tummy so full of stuff that shouldn't fit. Which brings us to the next problem she caused us.
The first bout of pancreatitis came when we were at my folk's place in upstate NY. My brother, fortuitously, was dating a vet at the time. Because when Sydney started climbing under trees to die a slow death from eating a fatty carcass, it was my brother's girlfriend who was able to procure some fluids on Thanksgiving day, none-the-less, in order to save her life. There was a New Year's Eve pancreatic attack too. And I'm sure a Christmas one, Saint Patty's Day too, probably fourth of July too. I can't remember. By the fourth or fifth one we just decided we couldn't afford the $1,000 vet bill and we (I'm sorry to admit) let her suffer through it or die because of it. We learned, too, that if we poured hydrogen peroxide down her throat when she returned with a big belly she would immediately throw up what she ingested. This was great fun, as I remember having to remove the vomit from the premises or she would EAT IT AGAIN!! Great fun.
Towards the second half of her life she started to bark. Not at you. Not at me. Not at them. At no one. It was hard for us to figure out. We would be standing right next to her and she would get her whole body into it and bark. She would sometimes bark when she was underneath her favorite spot on the side porch. She would bonk her head every time she barked and this didn't phase her. She could do it for an hour. This spot under the porch became "her" spot. She marked it in a very canine way. My mother once wrote a funny piece from Sydney's perspective on how to go about doing this:
How to Make a Dog Bed in the Dirt
Today I made a perfect dog bed under the picnic table down by the lake. It was so great that I thought I should write the instructions down for anyone who wants to make one.
First thing is to dig in the dirt in every direction so that there is a circle of damp moist dirt about two inches deep. If you happen to get it on everyone sitting near you don’t worry about it - they can brush it off. Once the hole is the perfect shape and depth (be aware that this might take some time), go to one side and pee in the indentation. Then use your nose to cover it up with dirt. After the pee has had a few minutes to soak into the dirt, use your nose or your paws to spread the dirt and urine mixture evenly across the circle. This will ensure that no one else will ever lie in your dirt bed other than yourself.
Finally, turn around three times inside the circle with your body and plop down into the fabulous cool ground bed. There may be a few earthworms that don’t appreciate the invasion, but just ignore them, or bark until they go away.
August 11, 2010
I have to say thank you to my parents who were always the only ones who could put up with her stinkiness and barking. She was one of the best counter surfers I know- the stealth dog that she was. So, Mom and Dad Sydney is grateful you "liked" her anyway even though her faults made her hard to take care of. And Paul Bunyan and I appreciate how well you took care of her for those first two weeks of August every year when we always retreat to Minnesota. Sydney will repay you in some way, in her own way, some day. I promise.
Sydney was not the kind of dog who jumped up to greet you at the door or come running out if she heard a car drive up the driveway. Her aloofness proved to be good for the two crazy puppies she "trained" in her life. She was always generally calm and her demeanor washed over Liebe and Bee well. She wasn't super jumpy or excited or hard to calm and for this I was grateful. She didn't ask for too much love, and neither did she give it. She learned to come around in the evenings, after the kids went to bed, and ask for a butt rub or a neck massage. She liked, too, to have her ears rubbed.
I have felt some guilt over the last year having introduced a puppy, a generally gregarious puppy, during Sydney's last year. But I think it proved to be good. It got her up and out and excited again about bones and balls. It was hard to watch Bee side tackle her or almost drown her in the pond but they were generally excited to see each other and I do believe it made Sydney last a little longer. But towards the end there she started to be very confused about everything...pooping and peeing where she shouldn't. She struggled to get up and down the stairs and would run into things that she shouldn't run into, like her water dish. I'd like not to remember her this way- lying in the mornings in her own urine, but that's just what happens to old dogs. I'd also like not to remember the anger I felt every time she pulled a plate or bowl off the counter, having it crash down and splinter into a million tiny pieces. I'd like not to remember the countless times I had to pick up the garbage she spread all over the basement stairs after she managed to push over the garbage can and rip open its contents. I'd like not to remember the miles I covered searching for her in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I'd like to forget the resentment I felt when she started to wake every 3 hours in the night to go out to pee.
I'll probably remember all these things. She was a bad dog. But she was our bad dog. Paul Bunyan's and my bad dog. And through the tears two days ago that's what Paul Bunyan said, "if you've done anything Sydney, it's that you brought us closer together." So thank you for that dear girl...you old stinky bitch.