“It’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew” —Sara Baralles
In this song by Sara Baralles “She Used to be Mine” we see the mirror telling the truth that hurts. Looking into the mirror and seeing ourselves as we really are is hard sometimes. This week as we said goodbye to our old rescue Eva lots of emotions took root and many were a surprise bubbling up from the deep.
Eva was one of those bulldozer type doggies. She was a trash compactor that never understood her time for puppy-hood had long passed her by. As a breeder’s mama she was the leader of her pack many times over. We never knew her as a mama puppy. Her favorite come call was “Come Puppy Come!” But as a retired breeding mother we saw the puppy that she never got to be.
“Good girl” is not the most common thing we said the first year of her retirement here. She was such a thief. Gloves, buckets, mittens, Tupperware’s, dishes, and any thing else misplaced would be found in her stash in the window well of the old house. Tennis balls were the fastest to disappear in her presence. I do not know how quickly she could take what was not hers. So yeah, she tested out her welcome something terrible.
Eva tested her welcome for the first year or so. She came to us at nine or ten years old. No longer cycling, she was of no USE to her owner any more. It was sad to see that this old mama had bonded with so many puppies and kids through the years. All that left her. She learned not to give her affection to readily to people because everyone always left her. Her puppies all left her. All the little kids that came to pick up her puppies all left her. We left her home frequently, too. And sometimes I get sad just thinking how her little tail barely ever wagged with great delight.
Eva would grow so attached to our “company” that for several days after someone’s visit she would refuse food. It was always a challenge to convince her with some good vitals that we were still here for her. Bone broth, chew bones, or a good stair step visit would help some. She did try to keep up with Honey in a game of fetch and was the best retriever I’ve ever known. Old mama Eva was so happy whenever our daughter’s “puppy” came to visit. But He grew up too fast.
There is a new song by Courtney Hadwin called “Breakable” (Now you know my guilty pleasure music listening list.). Knowing that each person is easily hurt or broken hearted is key to understanding relationships. We are all so vulnerable. Seeing each dog that I have owned as a personality that is easily hurt and sometimes lonely for companionship is key to diving into what makes him or her tick. Eva simply did not have those strong bonding cues. Yes, she loved food. Yes she was good at fetch. One of the best in fact. She just never had that soul piercing eye contact. Until the last few days.
When she decided to refuse good food and start barking at the door so frequently. I knew she was either getting done with her solitude outdoor living or something was wrong. We had a number of wild critter move through the acreage this spring. Eva did not even try to chase anything away this winter. She spent her time circling the house rather than chewing on the bones we offered to her. How much longer could she keep up this incessant circling? Was she looking for me to fix something?
How to bring back the fire in her eyes? That lady in the mirror does not look like me. Where has she gone? The person that I use to be is still in there, right? That woman that I see now is lonely most of the time. It was not until Eva hit the last week that she began to look into my eyes with that soul searching gaze.
Old dogs can seem like such a bag of bones. We have lost several dogs from old age. The first was our little black lab lady. She also was much of a bulldozer personality and had the “mothering” instinct in her. Lady never had any puppies. She was our dog when the girls were little kids and she became the protector of us all. She hunted on her own the bad ones and left the smelly ones alone. Lady took out coyote puppies, woodchucks, squirrels and raccoons. And blessing be, she taught our collie Dolly how to do the same. Dolly is the one we had in mine during Eva’s last days.
Dolly bonded with our second daughter most. She learned her lessons well from Lady and could sound like a pack of hounds when she took off after a stray coyote. They did not try to venture by our property very often. Even if they were far north in the property line a quarter mile distant, Dolly would let them know she was fierce and bold. In reality she had such a timid nature with us it has hard to get her to listen to our commands. Diabetes was her old age enemy. We saw so much of Dolly in Eva the last month or so. We just could not let the disease take Eva the same way.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There were a lot of people that Eva quite ugly. She did not look so bad when she first arrived. Honey took her ear in a doorstep scrap right off the beginning of her stay here. And the vet refused to do surgery because Eva was so old. So the pigskin ear did not help her short little stature to be satisfying to the eyes. Being bathed in the beutiful past, left her mammary membrane quite the saggy baggy. Some children simple could not handle the visual effect.
Eva did have an unlikely buddy for her last winter. She never grew up with cats and was kin to like them until she came here. One of the old cats let her know who was boss the first day she arrived. She had a way of completely ignoring their existence. However, Tabitha was an orange tabby that is now on life number five or six and understood Eva needed a Buddy. Though Company the calico had the right to eat with Eva, Tabitha was the one that slept with her in the hut.
Short, stout Eva never liked the stairs. Perhaps it was her stature. She was so short. Poor thing. She would look at the top step and try to leap all of the steps at once. Because she rarely took the stairs, I knew something was not right when she began to come to the front door and give one loud demand. Letting go of what seemed to never really be mine was not as hard as I thought it would be.
Good friends are hard to come by. Watching Tabitha “care” about Eva not feeling very good was sweet. Eva also succumbed to deafness this last winter and missed much of the calls to come. The last week she had her eyes glued on the house and never missed my comings or goings. So this winter I took her with me to the greenhouse every time I went down there. Most of the time Tabitha came with also for the warming session.
Knowing better next time will help me make the future dog choices. Eva was such a pack animal leaving her outside alone for hours on end was bound to end badly. She had never been in the house her whole life, so I knew having her in the house was not an option. I really had not expectHoney and Eva to become besties. Our hope was that an old dog would perhaps settle our kangaroo doodle down to a smaller hop. That has yet to be seen.
If Honey is thought of as sticky and messy, than Eva should be though of as the opposite of a bonding glue. We often called Eva a bulldozer. But maybe she was more like a wrecking ball. We just did not know where it would swing and what item would next disappear. I think I do her an injustice by saying that though. She simply did not have that sticky bonding nature that some dogs have. But then neither does Honey.
Though Honey does her job well (sometimes) she will not stick with me on the sofa. This last month while I have tried to get Honey to stay by me in the house, Eva proved she was almost my tail! There were days I had to look between my legs to see her. She got so good at reading my moves that I never knew if she was heeling. She would turn when I turned my head one way of the other and I never saw her behind me. She was the best ever at the game of “Shadow!”
Yellow ribbon of memory and gold threads of character do not make up the story of Eva. We did not get her good years. Our short little Eva has much too short of a tale to tell. We got the tail end. I knew how the story would finish when we brought her home. It just never comes when you expect it.
We told Eva she was a good girl. We told her we forgave her for all the things she stole. We told her we were sorry for the way things end. We wished that the story could be written differently. We enjoyed every thump of her tail that we got. We told her that she would be missed. We told her it was okay to go. We would not keep her for our own selfish reasons. Eva was sure to get the best pot of gold a little yellow Labrador retriever could get in the rainbow beyond. And if ever I see a golden thread in a rainbow I will think of her.