Saying Goodbye to Dixie
The first dog I really got to know well was Hadji, Deb’s family pet; a golden retriever that was friendly and lovable. He made an impression on me so, many years later, when Dakota, a shepherd/lab mix, was about seven, I casually mentioned that I thought a golden would make a good “next” dog.
Somehow, Deb and the kids decided that meant I wanted a second dog now. With spring break upon us, Deb found a dog show in Springfield, Massachusetts and decided we should explore breeds.
On a dreary day, we drove up and as we left the car, Robbie produced four pads and pens so we could take notes. We spent several hours going around in singles or pairs and jotted down breeds that might make a good second pet. The kids were particularly taken with the bear-sized Great Pyrenees but the parents decided it was too much dog with way too much fur. Deb found herself drawn to tri-color breeds, thinking them Border Collies but they all were Australian Shepherds.
Before we knew it, it had been decided that our second pet, not the one to follow Dakota, would be an Aussie. Deb made some calls, found a breeder in the northernmost part of Connecticut and we spent Mother’s Day driving up to meet Gotham’s Nor’easter, then known as Nora. This four month old came bounding over to us and her owners explained she was bred to show but had a slight tooth misalignment that kept her from the catwalk, as it well. We liked her, they liked our application, and a few days later, Nora, now renamed Dixie, came home.
Dixie was young, enthusiastic and easily fit into our family life. She kept trying to herd things as was her nature and loved taking walks around the neighborhood. She would come over and put her head on your leg or under your hand, insisting on being petted, often followed by place a paw on your arm to keep you in place.
When Dakota developed cancer seven years ago, and had to be put to sleep, Dixie spent the next several days looking for her. She then began her solitary patrol of our property, particularly enjoying sitting on the top step of the path down the hill to the backyard, surveying all she could see.
Ginger joined us the following January and we carefully spent several days getting them acclimated to one another’s presence before letting them actually interact. We worried over nothing much at all as they walked side by side without a snap or bark. While they didn’t necessarily play together, they got along just fine.
Dixie hasn’t always had it easy. A few years back, she developed doggie vertigo while we were at Shore Leave which lasted for a few weeks. The following winter, she suffered a stroke and has been a little “off” in her gait ever since.
In the last year, Dixie was losing weight and slowing down, some days refusing her usual long walks. She was growing progressively deaf and arthritis robbed her of mobility.
At 14, I knew in my heart this was likely her final year with us but I found myself completely unprepared for the reality when she wobbled to her feet for Thursday’s final walk. Deb took her to the vet on Friday and the x-rays showed a mass. She was put on a painkiller and we were given several options but it was clear she was still in pain so the time had come.
We told Kate, who came over Saturday bearing rawhide and treats. They sat together for a few hours and she made her farewells. This afternoon, we took her to the vet and with as much affection as possible, we said goodbye. No doubt, Ginger will be looking for her companion and the house will feel emptier