If you don’t want to cry, you may want to skip the last two paragraphs. You’ve been warned.
It’s been three days now since our beloved Dixie Dog went to doggie heaven. I still find myself looking for her when I wake up in the middle of the night, or when I get home I expect her to be standing in the mud room waiting for me. But she’s not there. Taylor, our black lab, will frequently go from room to room looking for her companion of the last 6 years. Teri still cries for Dixie. I do too, but usually in private. I don’t know why. My grieving is always personal for me and I don’t let it show much on the outside. (Other than Facebook and Blog Posts of course).
Dixie came to us almost exactly 6 years ago. Late in 2009, I contacted our breeder (Taylor’s Creator), Shelley, and told her than now that Taylor was 4 years old, we wanted another puppy. So please let us know when another litter is due and I think we’d like a yellow lab this time. (I’ve always been partial to yellow labs, but wouldn’t trade Taylor Jane for anything in the world) She replied, you’re not getting a puppy, you’re getting Dixie. What? What do you mean we’re getting Dixie? Dixie . . . aka ShaRay’s Dixie at Tristar had been a show dog from the day she was born. Winning countless awards and championships. By all accounts, she was a B-E-A-utiful (do that in Jim Carey’s voice) dog. Dixie was six and was being retired from breeding and being shown. Shelley told me that she couldn’t think of a better place for Dixie to retire than with Teri and I. We didn’t know much about Dixie, but by all accounts she was a mild mannered, gentle dog and we agreed.
On January 12th, 2010, Shelley sent me a message on Facebook to tell me she was heading down to a dog show at the Puyallup fairgrounds that weekend and after the show, Teri and I would head home with Dixie. So that Saturday, Teri and I connected with Shelley at the dog show, and afterwards, she and her new Sister hopped into the back of Teri’s MDX and we headed home.
Dixie immediately settled into life with Taylor and our three cats, Nicholas, Turkish and Mr. Kitty (aka Bowser). From day one she seemed to be “my” dog. Every night when Teri went to bed, Taylor would head upstairs with her, but Dixie would stay by my side until I went up. I’d look at her and say “Dixie, are you ready for bed?” and she’d hop up and head up the stairs. Teri and I with two 60+ pound labradors and three cats in a King Size bed was often a little much. Dixie, being the polite one would often hop down in the middle of the night and sleep on her pillow.
When I was cooking in the kitchen, Dixie would lie down right behind me and I would trip over her often. Yell at her to get out of the kitchen, and she dutifully would, lying just outside my zone, but always keeping a watchful eye for the scrap that hit the floor. When I’d work from home, both Taylor and Dixie could often be found lying behind my chair, snoring, helping me be more productive. Neither was a stranger to the smells of bacon and you could almost get Dixie to do anything for a cookie with some prodding. Hand to Snout coordination was not Dixie’s strong suit however as I’m pretty sure she never once caught a bite of food tossed her way. She never missed it on the rebound though! We called her the snapping turtle because when you flung food at her, you’d hear her teeth snap together with a loud “Click!” just before the food got there.
Owing to her show dog roots, Dixie was a joy to take on a walk. She never once pulled on a leash and never got too far ahead or behind you. Occasionally holding up the whole procession just to get a sniff of some grand smell or another. Dixie, I wish we could walk again and I’m sorry I didn’t take you walking more.
Dixie had a dark side though. She definitely wasn’t all pretty princess! We used to feed our cats on the dining room table. Until we got Dixie. Teri would always get up before me, feed the dogs and the cats, then leave for work. While Labs are GREAT at finishing anything you put in front of them, no matter how much they’ve already eaten, cats like to take their time. With Dixie around, it’s surprising our cats didn’t lose much weight. Most of the time as I was getting out of bed, I’d hear a strange noise downstairs only to come out of the bedroom to find 60+ pounds of blonde dog on the dining room table chowing on the cat’s left over breakfast. “Dixie! Get off the Table!” I’d shout and she’d get startled (Labs have a singular focus when they’re eating and pretty much nothing interrupts them) scramble on the table and hop down. It didn’t matter how many chairs we put around that table, she’d find the opening and hop up. We finally put the cat food up on the kitchen counter where she thankfully didn’t try for it. To this day, our dining room table has deep gouges from startled Labrador. Teri wanted to get rid of that table, now I’m pretty sure I won’t let her.
Dixie’s other dark streak came from her days as a momma dog. Momma dogs often will eat the poop of the puppies to keep the pen clean. Apparently Dixie developed a taste for it, because it wasn’t uncommon to see dixie out in the back yard with her head down munching away. Our back yard was clean of poop one way or another. Either the humans picked it up or Dixie did. I’ll never forget the night (You may want to skip the rest of this paragraph) that we learned how bad Dixie’s dark streak was. Apparently we hadn’t paid that close of attention to what Dixie was doing in the back yard. Remember I said Labs will eat until it’s all gone. Well Dixie did just that. And apparently a stomach FULL of dog poop doesn’t settle very well. So we heard Dixie start to make those retching sounds and ran upstairs to see the LARGEST pile of dog vomit, mixed with dog poop and dog food, I ever have seen in my life. I almost threw up from the smell. Teri started to clean it up and finally just said “Please go get me a shovel”. About 2 and a half shovel full and it was time for the steam cleaner…
Despite her dining room table surfing and penchant for Taylor Poo . . . Dixie was absolutely the kindest most gentle dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around. I never once heard her bark in anger. If she ever barked at all, it’s because Taylor tore off after something in the back yard and it must have sounded fun because Dixie would let out 2 or 3 barks just to let the neighborhood know she was there. She traveled like a champ on our trips to Leavenworth and other destinations. She was as happy in the snow as she was in the sun or the rain. She was just plain happy.
The last year with Dixie you could tell that she was slowing down. You never want to admit when one of your pets is in the twilight of their life, but unless you raise Turtles or Parrots, you’re probably going to have to go through it a few times. Its never easy to admit. We took Dixie into the vet this summer because she was just slowing down so much, we wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything seriously wrong with her. She went through a couple of bladder infections and had a low thyroid, but thyroid medicine and antibiotics seemed to clear it up. She seemed to get back some of her energy. By late November she was having a hard time getting up the stairs and she and I would play Wheelbarrow when it was time to go to bed. I’d pick up her back legs and she’d use her front legs to get up the stairs. We just couldn’t let her sleep outside our room all alone. It had been years since she’d want to jump on the bed, but she would always sleep right next to us on her pillow or in front of the fan.
We knew last week that it was probably time to make the hardest, but kindest decision for Dixie. Teri and I chatted briefly about it on Monday and Tuesday, neither of us wanting to admit what we knew was coming. We decided we should at least get Dixie into the Vet to see if there was anything we could do. And if not, probably have to make that decision there and then. Teri called me Wednesday morning to say that Dixie had an appointment that afternoon at 4:45. I was bummed all day long and moved and cancelled some appointments so I could spend some time at home with my dog before the appointment. I got home around 3:00 and hung around with Dixie feeding her Beef Jerkey and cookies before we had to head off to the vets office.
When we arrived at the vet’s office, we carried Dixie in on a stretcher. She was too weak to walk. I thought it was the most fitting conveyance for a princess. The vet came in and told us what we knew in our hearts had to be. We both cried. A lot. We loved on Dixie, fed her LOTS of cookies, and hugged her. The doc prepared everything and Teri said her last good byes and left the room. The vet handed me a form to sign “Authorization for Euthanasia” and I lost it. It was all I could do to sign it. I could hear Teri outside sobbing. The doc shaved a little spot on Dixie’s hind leg. I pet her the whole time and told her what a good girl she was and how much I loved her. I knew I was doing the right thing, but fuck it was hard. When the doctor stuck Dixie with the needle, she sat up. (Of course she did, you would too) As soon as the injection started, she laid her head down on her front paws as she had done 10’s of thousands of times before. As the doc finished the injection, My Dixie Dog did the sweetest thing she could have ever done. She wagged her tail twice. The rational side of my brain says that she just got a massive dose of drugs and was euphoric. She hadn’t wagged her tail in weeks. But the non-rational side of my brain told me that was Dixie saying “Hey guys, it’s OK. I would have hung out with you until the end of time if I could have, but thank you for this . . . really. I love you and it’s going to be OK”
Tonight, when Taylor went out to go to the bathroom, I almost got up and grabbed the flashlight to shine on Dixie as she scanned the yard for her next treat. Some of these habits are going to take a long time to break. Dixie, if you’re out there somewhere, have taught yourself how to read and use the internet and find this blog, just know that we love you so very much. You touched our lives in so many ways that I don’t think even we can count them. Your legacy will live on through all your puppies and all their puppies. You are the kindest, most gentle, loving dog I ever could have hoped for. Godspeed Dixie Dog . . . Aka Blonde Dog . . . Aka ShaRay’s Dixie at Tristar. We will miss and love you always.