Seriously. Farmer. We had her put down Tuesday morning and every emotion known to man was in play around here. There were weepy tears, sad, resigned smiles, inappropriate laughter, so much gratitude for this animal that graced our family for 14 years and witnessed – oh, everything that happens in a family in 14 years.
How many times over the years – 5? 8? had we gravely agreed that she wouldn’t be with us much longer? From the thousands of dollars and hours of filling her with fluids from her (misdiagnosed) kidney failure, to her countless escapes (always drawn to the busiest streets) her tens of pounds of chocolate she’s consumed over the years (2 pounds of Godivas 2 Christmases ago) her run-ins with various toothy woodland creatures, her monstrous tumors.
But then I remember where I found her, banked up against the cage bars in the city pound on the south side of Chicago. I would go check out the dogs when I was supposed to be buying props for the photo studio. We joke about her days living on the streets of the south side- flashing gang signals and chasing other dogs off her corner. That dog was tough as nails and wasn’t about to let any random outside forces take her down.
I didn’t want her. I was looking for a cuter dog, a mutt, yes, but one with a goofy face and perhaps a little smaller. I was trying to get a duplicate of the dog I had just lost to Anemia.
But I kept returning to the cage of this dog who would curiously fling herself against the bars for some petting, and once that was underway, would practically melt into the pleasure of human contact and attention. She didn’t bark like the other dogs, she showed me what she needed and waited until I delivered.
That first night after bringing her home, I sat on one couch, staring at her across from me on the other couch. She was soaking through the blanket I had placed under her after 3 baths that removed maybe half the grime and pee and residue from her cage. She ravaged a rawhide, nothing like the funny, dainty skittish dog I was replacing with this new beast. I was intimidated by her.
I cried. I called Christian in tears (we weren’t yet married; I think he was freshly separated at this point). “I don’t think I love this dog” I wailed. He told me to bring her to his apartment, and she promptly peed all over his carpet. He was obviously smitten with such a brazen beast.
We acclimated to Farmer and quickly discovered her obsession with fetch, and her quirky way of snapping at us to communicate. She would repeatedly dunk her entire head in her water cooler when we took her to the dog park, and she was anything but graceful. We grew with her and she melded into our weird blended family.
At the end she was our version of the demented grandpa who paces around the house farting and getting underfoot, snapping at us randomly, disappearing from home, only to be returned by the police (twice!), yelling at strangers one minute and trembling uncontrollably the next, a ball of vulnerable, helpless, nerves.
I think maybe the single thing that won me over was her ability to love us, unconditionally. Her excitement at seeing us, her tail spinning around like a helicopter, her banking into us, resting her chin on our feet in bed. But especially her tolerance and nurturing of the kids. She’s been a plaything, a bed, a chair, a ball-fetching partner, a canvas. Always without complaint.