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.


Youngberg! said...

Great, now I'm going to be crying all night.

Sarah said...

You officially made me cry. This post is so touching, and I never even met her.

Danielle said...

Oh Kerri! I know what a hard choice that is. It's amazing how those little furry friends become such an integral part of life. Take care. I'm sending you a hug! One day I will see you and give you all of these hugs I send.

Katie said...

So heartbreaking. I didn't know you had her that long.

My parents are going through the same tough time with Scout, our lab. His vision is going, his hip is all but gone... it's really rough.

Karin Webb said...

This is as bad as when I watched "Marley and Me"! And I'm NOT a dog person. But here I am crying again about someone else's dog. I'm so sorry about your loss. Those photos are so tender and sweet, and your words are truly poetic.

Liz said...

Amen to your other friends' comments! I am in tears! I will come lay on your lap while you play or even lay under the piano!!! I would NOT be a good dog, but maybe the thought of me laying there would bring a smile to your face! Love you my friend!!!

Kurt and Ash said...

Wow, I didn't think I would cry about Tally, but this post got me. She was so sweet. Love her and love you guys.

Michelle said...

I'm not even adog lover and you've got me all teary. Your photos are priceless-- esp the one walking with Ben. I'm so very sorry. Cry it out; it helps.

Sarah said...

Sorry, I am going to leave another comment. I was looking at the pictures of Tally, and the look on her (Tally's) face, looks so sad in each picture. I think she was just as sad to leave your family, but I am sure she is happy now too! You made a good choice for her.

Amber said...

Your last sentence left me crying. On a happier note, that dog was well loved, and obviously loved you all back. What a wonderful experience for you all to have that for 15 years!

Malisa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Malisa said...

I haven't been able to leave comments for a bit on people's blogs, hence my previous one that you don't have to publish. Anyhow, this is a very sweet post about a very sweet dog.

Janae said...

So I've been a horrible blog follower and blogger for that matter for a few months and WHOA! NOT a good post to pop in on! You are seriously gifted with words Kerri. I am NOT a dog fan, ask ours, and you made me teary eyed with this post. I loved my dog growing up like your kids will always love & remember tali. I think the biggest difference is being the mom and having to be the one to clean up the messes, listen to the barking/whining etc. etc. etc. Oh and the dog hair! Ick! But I do it because of the memories for these kids. They need those. Like I needed those with my childhood dog. You made the right choice in letting her go. It sounds like it was time. Those pics are too sweet by the way. I love that you were able to do that before she died. Love & miss you!!