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Monday, December 17, 2012

Schatzie Then and Now

The last few days have been a roller coaster ride with our dog. And not in a good way. Up, down, and then really down. Today we made the decision to end his suffering. As the veterinarian said, “he’s now in doggy heaven.” Actually, given some of Schatzie’s behavior over the years he may be spending a little time in doggy purgatory. But probably not too long. He had a good heart.
I thought I'd share part of an essay I wrote about Schatzie shortly after he joined our household. The full essay previously was published at

My Inheritance
Schatzie first entered our household as a Goth invades a village: plundering, devouring, and then pissing on anything still standing.  Mom had fallen and broken her hip, leaving me to care for Schatzie, her beautiful sheltie who ate only restaurant take-out meals, sprawled on the furniture, and nipped anyone he thought had overstepped the bounds.  Bringing this intruder into the home my husband and I share with Buddy, a full-size, sweet-tempered collie, was severely straining our marriage of over thirty years. 
Buddy in his unique herding style made peace.  Buddy never protested when Schatzie snatched food from Buddy’s dinner bowl.  Instead, Buddy gently shouldered Schatzie back to Schatzie’s own bowl.  When the invader shoved to be first at the door or yapped at dogly-imagined burglars, Buddy set the standard for quietly guarding his family and home. 
A truce was developing between the dogs and the people.  But each dog’s personality and temperament still shone through.  When I walked Buddy and Schatzie they stretched my arms as each headed off to where his own nose led; if all four of us walked, the dogs dragged us in opposite directions. 
Several months after Mom’s return home following the hip fracture, a routine CAT scan revealed a terminal cancer had invaded Mom’s pelvis.  She refused to go back to see the doctor, somehow anticipating the bad news.  Rather, she sent my brother and me to get the diagnosis. Mom then commanded we break the news to her.  After barely a pause, Mom focused all the intensity of her Newman-blue eyes on me:
 "Will you take Schatzie?”  
Of course I said, “Yes”.  
As late summer faded into autumn, Mom went through five weeks of “palliative” radiation.  In the bleak months of fall and winter, Mom declined and Schatzie again became my responsibility and full-time companion.  Despite Schatzie’s many bad habits, feeding, walking, and attempting to groom him provided welcome distraction from witnessing tiny drops of Mom’s life spirit drip from her daily.
In the dark of winter Mom entered her final days.  Schatzie slept quietly at my feet for the first time.  Meanwhile, our gentle Buddy abruptly went into heart failure from a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect.  My husband and the emergency veterinary care group nursed Buddy and he returned home. 
We were not able to nurse Mom back to health; she died quietly at home in her own bed with my brother, me, and Schatzie at her side.
 Schatzie again joined our family, this time permanently.  He now walks over and curls at my side, causing me to flashback to a scene from three years ago.  Schatzie was going to visit Mom for the first time after her hip fracture.  She had refused for months to let me bring Schatzie.
‘It would upset him too much.” she had said. 
Over the months, Mom fought to take a few steps with a walker.  Once she had regained enough mobility that a return home was plausible, she consented to a visit.  I put Schatzie on a leash, leading him from my car to Mom as she sat shaded by the overhang of the nursing home. 
But Schatzie would not go near Mom.  Instead, he curled up next to my chair and refused to budge.  
“Come on Schatzie…. Go to Mom,” I repeatedly coaxed him.  
Mom kept her eyes down.  I knew she was confused and hurt by his rejection.
Schatzie and I had gotten up to leave as I tried one last time to get him to approach Mom.  As I walked with him to Mom’s wheelchair, he leaned into her legs and moaned, a low, rumbling sound.  Schatzie moaned for several minutes before settling down next to her. 
Schatzie now follows me wherever I go in the house, curling by my side while I sit at the keyboard, in a near corner while I make dinner and next to my easy chair at night.  When I am with Schatzie I often am flooded with images of Mom, from recently and over the years.  Schatzie still scarfs his and Buddy’s food from both bowls; but, he has taken to first gently touching Buddy’s nose with his own. 
Four years have passed since Mom’s death. Schatzie, like Buddy before him, has left us. We wander an unnaturally quiet home and put away his bowls and toys, pick up the plush rugs and bedding. And moan the loss of the strong-willed intruder who stole our hearts.

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