Sunday, August 28, 2016

Wagging Tales: Missing Gypsy – Even Before She Leaves

When I hoped we would be moving to Colorado in 2011, we stripped the household of life’s unnecessaries and packed up two-thirds of what remained. One other thing we did to expand overall house space, was to pack up the dog crates. Jasmine and Gypsy had been in sleeping in wire kennels since their panting presence entered our family. At bedtime, we always gave them a tiny treat after their final “bed-time potty” for the night. They would run into the house, head straight to my office, and sit in their designated kennels, waiting patiently. Once they munched the treat, they chose to stay in the crate, whose door always remained open, or lie by my side of the bed till morning. I had felt badly to pack up the kennels because they were also the dogs’ safe place. But, you know, realtors rule when selling homes.  Jasmine, the laid-back Boxer, adjusted immediately. Gypsy, however, ran in from outside the first night straight to the spot where her kennel had been since she joined us from Wayside Waifs at age 6 months. She sat patiently, as usual, and waited for her treat. Then she curled up, right there. It took about a week before she understood that the new routine was treats by their table in my office, then to sleep on their blankets by me.

It took about three times of seeing me pick up a laundry basket and head to the basement before Gypsy caught onto the routine. In fact, until about six weeks ago when this ugly cancer began to attack her, she continued this way: The minute I pick up a laundry basket, she runs to the basement door ahead of me.  When I open the door, she races ahead and stops in front of the washer for a quick moment to do her beagle nod/point to the washer. She wants to make sure I follow the routine, too. If she’s not nearby when I pick up the basket, I just ask, “Do you want to do laundry with me?” She runs to the basement door. I’ve missed my laundry companion lately.

Jasmine was as laid back as any Boxer until it came to guarding her food from other animals. In the last six months of her life, when the heart condition worsened, she became cranky to the point of mean toward them. We had to lift her bowl away immediately if she didn’t finish or some unsuspecting cat or dog, who happened to be living with us at the time, would be blamed for stealing even if they just walked into the room. Perhaps the reason for this was that Jasmine had always eaten in my office, alone. When she joined us at age five weeks, Nakima, Frodo, and Scruffy all lived here, too. Each doggie had their own dining spot, to make human monitoring of their food easier. Gypsy’s spot became the foyer. When Jasmine died of a heart attack last year, leaving Gypsy to be the only four legged family critter, Gypsy was lost. They had been sleeping side by side and wandering the backyard together for her entire life. In her fear of not knowing where her sister went, she instantly became the model dog (see my post about the transformation here*).  So when I attempted one more change in her life, she said, no.

I decided to feed her in my office, which is where we keep the cans of dry dog food and the little dog serving table (needed when we had multiple dogs, some of whom needed meds from time to time in their bowls). She waited by the office door, as usual, as I prepared her bowl. When I picked it up, she raced to her old spot in the foyer and sat quietly. I called to her. She came to the door, looked at the bowl on the floor, did her beagle head-wag-directing-follow-me nod in the direction of the foyer and ran back. I tried again. Same deal. “No, mom, I eat out here.” She still does.

Now that the left side of her face is swollen beyond recognition and rock hard with bloody tumors, I assume pain is the reason she stopped bringing us her red ball (and pointing to where our red ball is) for our game of hunt, stopped her voracious bone-chewing, and stopped chasing, then chewing, Frisbees. But the prednisone that slows down the rapid growth of these tumors keeps her hungry and no matter what pain, she still wants to eat. Since I’m certain that eating is painful, I bought baby food – mixed veggies and chicken with apples - to mix in with and soften the dog food. But when we set the new recipe on the floor the first time, she jumped back as though it would bite. “What’s that in my bowl?” She inched forward, sniffed, and chowed down the new flavors. Later she found the empty container in my office trash can and licked it cleaner than new.

Over these last few months, I am missing Gypsy in waves. When I sit upstairs to write or pray or read, Jasmine and Gypsy always rested together by my feet. At my desk, Jasmine claimed my feet under the desk, relegating her younger sister to the space beside me. After Jasmine died, Gypsy moved in under the desk. Puppies by my feet is so comforting while I work. But this cancer with the baseball size lymph node on her neck may also be attacking Gypsy’s lungs and she can no longer sleep curled up anywhere – not even by my feet.

Oh Gypsy, you are so fun and funny. You are by far the most intelligent dog I’ve ever known – I’m certain your vocabulary is in the hundreds of words. You are loving and loyal and want nothing more than to make us happy. I dread saying goodbye. I can’t express how I will miss every awesome moment with you.

* I see I haven't transcribed the model dog posts, yet.

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