This week my best friend with four legs died.
Sadie came into our life by way of my father and stepmother. About a month before she came into our life, Shayne and I talked and talked about getting a dog, or not. We were pretty prolific travelers and our lives were not really that stable. Would it be fair to a dog to live on the road as much as we did? So many questions
We tabled it for a few weeks, then made a trip to Tennessee to visit with my dad. Dad has always had poodles and he was looking to get another one after his beloved Amber succumbed to lung disease.
His wife worked at a local bank, and one of her customers told her that they had a toy poodle but they just couldn’t take care of her properly. The couple was older and physically not in good shape. So, my stepmother decided to see if the dog might be a good fit for her and my father.
The weekend they picked her up was the weekend Shayne and I came in for the visit. I saw “Prissy” in her cage by the top of the staircase when I walked in the front door. Dad said she had been in the cage all day and hadn’t really ventured out.
As soon as I made eye contact with her, she came straight over to me and jumped in my lap. And she never left my side the entire weekend.
As Shayne and I were getting in our car to head back to Chattanooga, Dad came out with “Prissy” and the cage, and said she was our dog. And we took her home.
You see…she chose us. It was clear who was really in charge here.
We renamed her Sadie because Shayne just couldn’t stomach walking her and calling out “Prissy!” in public. Sadie Mae seemed to fit. I called her many names…Weirdo, SadieMaeLicious and Mutt.
But she was my heart, you know?
Those of us that have had intense personal relationships with an animal…know what it is to be chosen by their pet.
Anyway…for 10 years the three of us traveled, and lived together relatively easily. Sadie didn’t have any health issues other than being somewhat lazy when it came to outdoor activities. But she was in a cage for the first year of her life, basically.
When I got her, I immediately started taking her for walks. Wind was weird for her. If it was windy, she would just sit down, as if trying to figure out what it was and where it was coming from. Grass was foreign to her also. She had to learn to do her business outside. She had only ever used a pad.
One thing she loved above all else was fishing with me. In one of our many abodes, we lived in a lakehouse. Every morning we would walk down to the lake and Sadie would tiptoe across the rocks to watch the little fish. Her little body was so tense with excitement…like a ballerina on point she could do miraculous things in the water on rocks without every getting her little feet wet.
I had 12 years of intense moments and experiences with her. Too many to recount. So many memories. So much love.
About two years ago, she started losing weight and was insane about wanting to eat and drink.
A trip to her vet confirmed what we suspected—diabetes. On top of that, she also developed an endocrine disorder called Cushing’s Disease. For a few months we all had to adjust to a new normal. Shots in the morning and at night, 12 hours apart. Medicine for the Cushings.
Then, as if overnight, she went blind.
We all adjusted as you do when someone you love begins to decline. Shayne had his nights off of Sadie duty to ride his bike, I had my nights off to do my thing. But, the nagging realization that my friendship was about to end came a couple of weeks ago.
Sadie began licking the floor obsessively. If she had a mouth capable of eating my wood floors she would have consumed them. It woke her up in the middle of the night…and me too. I’d find her licking the bathroom floor, licking the kitchen floor…then she started licking the walls.
I looked up obsessive licking online and found some information that suggested there was a liver problem. Last Friday, I took her to the vet to get a Blood Glucose curve and a complete blood panel to check her liver function. When I talked to the vet on Monday about the results of her blood work, she wan’t too concerned about the numbers at all.
She was more concerned about Sadie’s kidney test. She suggested changing Sadie’s diet to a more kidney friendly one. I was going to pick up the new food Monday night after I left the studio.
I called Shayne to ask if we needed anything from the grocery because I was going to stop there too, but he said he had to go because Sadie was throwing up. By the time I got home, she had thrown up 4 times and had bad diarrhea. We packed her up and took her straight to the Pet Emergency Clinic.
She was initially diagnosed with acute Pancreatitis. They wanted to do an ultrasound on Tuesday, so we did. They found Liver cancer and it was pretty bad. The vet didn’t think she would make it for long, and they were already unable to get her to eat or drink water.
Shayne and I drove to the hospital and said our goodbyes. We were with her as she was euthanized all the way to the end. It was so fast. And we spent an hour with her before we used the call button to begin the process. She was easy in spirit…I could tell she was ready to leave us.
The vet asked us if we wanted them to take care of Sadie or if we wanted to bury her ourselves.
Shayne and I told them we wanted to take her home to bury her. I have a big, wild backyard and there was a favorite spot she liked and we buried her at sunrise yesterday morning. The digging is therapeutic.
We dug a hole a few feet down in hard clay and backfill. Sweat poured off of Shayne as he used a pick ax to prepare the ground to take Sadie’s body back.
I shoveled out what he loosened. There is something about how the hole must look before you lay a body in it that can only be discerned when it is right. We both knew it instantly…and Shayne carefully lifted Sadie’s rigid body out of the coffin box and gently laid her in the hole while I got her Suck toy and used it to pillow her head.
And then we covered her.
Your mind knows that the enlivening spirit is gone. But watching dirt cover a beloved member of your family is terribly difficult. Last night was hard. My heart wanted to bring her in…to keep her out of the night.
But there is no keeping her out of the night…she is now with the light.
She IS the light.
A collector of my jewelry ordered her first pair of longer-than-used-to earrings from me last weekend, a couple of days before Sadie passed. She has some fur-babies too, and we both have connected in a more personal way outside of jewelry through our beloved friends.
The earrings she ordered are called Beyond. She has been instrumental in getting me through this heart-sick process of the dying of my pet. Her kind inquires and emails have been little life preserver’s for me…as I have felt adrift in a sea of turbulent emotions regarding the transition of my pet.
When I designed the Beyond earrings, I was contemplating this experience of being connected to something bigger than what you are immediately aware of. The synchronicity of her order…that these earrings would be the first I fabricate after Sadie’s death is not lost on me.
I picked up a book yesterday in my husband’s office that I wasn’t even aware of that we owned. It is by Stuart Wilde, and it is called The Force.
In one of those serendipitous experiences, I opened up the book randomly and this sentence jumped out at me..
There is no shortcut to completing your earth experience. You will have to experience all of it for, metaphysically, you can only go beyond something by going through it. Your life builds upon a patten and, eventually, that pattern sets you free.
The last 72 hours of my experience is one that many, many of us travel through. For me, it was the first time that I consciously chose to be present for ALL of it.
My hand was on Sadie’s body as she drew her last breath. My hand was on her as we put the first shovel of dirt on her during the burying process.
The box she was in contained the urine her body excreted when she died, and I smelled it mingled with the earth as we lay her in her final resting place. I took it all in. I didn’t shy away from it as many of us have been conditioned to do in regards to the death of someone or pet that we love.
There are no shortcuts.
Last night…was hard. I looked around the house for something that still smelled like her. I haven’t cleaned the floor where her dog food bowl was and where she always left some food on the floor because her sense of smell and eyesight had failed her.
Every room has a memory of her…I see those memories when I walk around the house.
I’ve been deliberate and slow about every aspect of her death…and I’ve realized some things that otherwise might of eluded me if I would have turned away from the unpleasant aspects of dealing with death.
I’ll write about those things in my next post as I continue to process this but the thing that sticks out the most right now for me is the sanctity of life. The celebration of life that one finds in the end of it.
One other thing that stands out…in a strange way, her death has made this house my home. Her body in my backyard gives me insight into how hard it would be for people to ever leave their ancestral homes. The land takes back the bodies…holds the blood of those that have fought for it. Their essence and life-force becomes the eco-system of a place.
I look out my back porch and the sun hits Sadie’s resting place while I drink my coffee. She is there…becoming part of my magical backyard, still to teach me the value of life in the myriad ways only she could.
Shayne and I are blessed..to have had her for 12 years, and for these lessons she is still teaching us about being present and ALIVE.
For those of you on Social Media and in text messages and phone calls…thank you. Thank you for your concern, condolences and insights with your own experiences with death.