Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Our Natalia.

There we were, a cute little married couple, living in our first house, expecting our first baby. What could be more perfect than adding a sweet puppy to the mix? 

Nothing, of course. We researched and researched and researched breeds. We wanted a dog that wouldn't bark much but would be a decent watchdog (our darling first house was in a less-than-safe area), that would be patient with children, loving with us, loyal, intelligent, not too small, but not overly big. We decided to take a look at Viszlas. The rest is history.

We found her on a spring afternoon. We had also researched (we did a lot of reading back then) how to choose the right temperament in a puppy, so we watched all the red puppies rolling around together and looked for just the right girl. And we fell in love with one: our Natalia, a Viszla puppy with a round belly, enormous ears, and a heart of gold.

We didn't know that she would be a house dog. We assumed she would live outside. But then we read books and more books and more books and trained her and trained her and trained her and by then we couldn't bear the idea of her being outside, away from us. We had Eric and Christina babysit when we had to be gone overnight. She was, I admit, quite spoiled.

Then of course you know what happened. Baby Josh arrived, and Natalia lost her privileged position. We (again) read and read and read about how to prepare her for the baby (sigh...I miss that surety that the answer to all my questions was somewhere in a book...I just had to read enough...) and she managed.

And she managed when Josh pulled her ears. And when he lay on her. And when he grabbed her face.

She managed when Sophie was born, too, and when Sophie pulled her ears, and when Sophie grabbed her face.

And, of course, she managed when Kate came along, and pulled her ears, and poked her eyes. She had learned by now that babies weren't so bad, especially when they'd feed you food from their highchairs. 

By the time Ben came along, she was 11 years old. She was patient with Mr. Ben, as she was with all the others. She loved eating off the high chair. But her face was now gray, and her hip was weak.

Little by little, she lost the constant energy that had been one of her trademarks. As I learned to love running, she had to stop running. Well, she had to stop running with me...she never stopped running away.

For fifteen and a half years, she kept us company. She put her head on our knees when we cried. She let our toddlers play with her ears when we took road trips. She howled and howled when David played the trumpet. And even when she was nearly deaf, over this last year, when I'd practice she would come and lay under my piano to feel the vibrations.

But over the last couple of years, she lost most of her sight, most of her hearing. She made messes of many many kinds, some more horrifically disgusting than others. She started honking this terrible donkey sound (she who never barked). She fell down the stairs over and over and over again. Her hip kept giving out on her. She would stare blankly at the wall.

It's been a long, hard path. We traveled it with her as long as we could. And then we couldn't keep her here anymore.

I knew letting her go would be hard. I did. I struggled and struggled and struggled to know what to do for her.

And finally, I knew what she needed.

So we let her go.

And the world feels emptier. There is no more clinking collar or clicking of toenails. There is no honking bark or messes to clean up. There is no friend to sit with me while I practice. There is no warm head to rest on my knee while I cry about the loss of our sweet girl.

Sweet girl, I hope you are running again. I hope you can forgive us for being human and for not being as strong and loyal and loving as you always always were. Put your head on Brent's knee for me and let him know just how much we miss him, too.