Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. I made the difficult decision to have my beloved Tasha- a gorgeous German shepherd/ Collie mix to sleep. She had been vomiting for the last couple of days and they had done all the tests on her. The results came back with about the worst possible news- her kidneys had failed. This meant that she was slowly- and painfully- being poisoned. I was told that they could flush out her system and she would live for a little while- but she would be in discomfort and we would soon be back to where we were now. I was gutted. However staring into her eyes I knew what decision I needed to make the kindest- albeit hardest- decision of all. To have her euthanized. I spent fifteen minutes saying my goodbyes- as did my wife and son. I did not have the strength to be there as they did it. I was already fighting back the tears. I did not want Tasha to see me cry. I don’t know why.
It was as my wife drove me home that the tears- and complete and total anguish began. And as I write this tears are streaming down my face. First off it is hard to write anything without Tasha lying directly on my feet. That has been her spot for the last six years- and the times she has acted as my muse I could never figure. But when I found myself stuck in a middle of a story- I would read it to her. She would listen, with her ears cocked gazing up at me- and invariably the answer came- and I could continue writing.
Well today I feel that her story should be told. It is what she would have wanted.
When Tasha unexpectedly entered our life we already were owned by two dogs: Eddie and Chester whom I written so very much about. We were at a pet expo in nearby Costa Mesa. One of the building just happened to be where all the local rescues were displaying the dogs up for adoption. Naturally I wanted to go inside- but first I had to assure my wife that I just wanted to look. Besides we had travel plans to England in a couple of weeks- and getting a third dog would be sheer madness.
Now anyone who has been to a dog shelter knows what a heart breaking ordeal it can be- dozens upon dozens of dogs assembled- each one desperately vying for your attention. We made the rounds and with all the faces gazing up at us trying to get our attention. The first time we laid eyes on Tasha my heart began to beat a little faster. And my wife and son seemed equally enthralled by her. She had on a little cowboy hat- and one of the volunteers was rubbing her belly. I could not tell you why I was so drawn to her. I am not sure if it is a tangible thing. I nodded at the chap scratching her tummy- and relieved him of his duties. She simply stared at me and my heart melted. Soon my wife and son joined me. Somehow the rational part of my thinking returned- and the logistics and expense of owning three dogs returned. I forced myself to walk away from her- as I felt her gaze burning into my back. We looked at the other dogs many were adorable, but none compared to Tasha. Ten minutes later I glanced at my wife.
“We have to go back and get her,” I stated nervously.
“I agree,” she said much to my surprise, “and this one is going to be mine- you already have two dogs.”
I can’t tell you the rush of excitement we all felt as we hurried back to her. Tasha saw us heading back and her tail began to wag. I knelt down beside her and gave her a big hug as the volunteer looked on knowingly.
“We will take her,” my wife told him assertively.
As she spoke the two dozen or so folks about us began to applaud and congratulate us on our decision. It was a surreal and extremely rewarding moment.
As we filled out the paperwork we explained that we would not be able to pick her up from the rescue for three weeks. This was not a problem. We also were told that Tasha was about four years old- and had been abandoned. She had been living on the streets fending for herself. I noticed she was a, little underweight and showed evidence of a tough life. Her ear was bloodied and she had a scratch over her right eye. I swear Tasha comprehended that she had been adopted as she appeared to be smiling at us. After we completed the paperwork and paid the dues we walked away- both bewildered and overwhelmed at our decision.
It was a great visit as always being back in my native England. We arrived back on a Saturday evening- first thing Sunday morning we were in the truck heading to the dog rescue. The owner of the facility turned out to be a fellow Englishman- and his home nestled in the local cavern was over run with dogs of every description. We informed him we were there to retrieve Tasha. He nodded, “She is a grand dog and we are going to miss her.” With that he vanished to return moments later with her. As soon as she saw us she began to run our way. The three of us knew in an instant that we had made the right decision. We thanked the gentleman and took Tasha’s lead. On the way to our car she never hesitated, or even looked back. We opened up the back and she jumped in. Our life together had begun…
A lot of things happened over the following few months. Most of whish is either not relevant or I have told else where. Despite my wife’s assertion Tasha came to by my dog. She followed me everywhere. She got on extremely well with Eddie- and they slept back to back. Chester and Tasha never did quite see eye to eye, he was always a little too rambunctious. I will relay that two dramatic events in my life occurred- the first was losing Eddie. Eddie had defeated the odds by making it to eighteen- and I have written much about him. These words aren’t for him- these words are for Tasha. With Eddie gone the bond between Tasha and I was kicked up yet another notch. Don’t get me wrong I adore Chester but with Tasha there was something deeper.
The other major shift in my life was quitting the restaurant business. After seventeen years of working so many crazy hours- including weekends and holidays- I simply had had enough. I began to follow my dream of writing and be a stay at home dad- and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. All of our lives were happier. I, after taking Jonathan to school and during the house chores, began to write every day- and sure enough every day Tasha would rest on my feet. I alternated on my school runs taking Chester or Tasha- having both in the vehicle at the same time was just too much. When it was Tasha’s turn I would park and walk up to the school to greet him. I have owned several dogs in my life- but not one of them got as much attention as Tasha and she reveled in it.
A few more months went by and we decided to buy a larger house- in a more rural location. Tasha was nervous at moving. She is- or rather was- an extremely insecure dog. Our current home is right by the creek- and coincidentally only a couple of miles from where she was rescued from. Each day I took each dog for a brisk walk. When we were off the beaten track One day I decided to let Chester of his leash and he ran around like crazy, getting his nose into everything. He came straight back to me when I called him. That afternoon I thought I would do the same with Tasha. Not only would she not run, she stayed as close as possible to me and began to tremble. Upon returning the leash she relaxed and would joyfully walk- or trot- directly at my side. Every few moments she would look up at me affectionately. I understood she had loved before- and been abandoned and was making sure that would never happen again.
As I now worked from home I spent most of my time with Tasha. Chester seemed more than content to hang out by himself. It is funny how dogs all have different and distinct personalities.
Whenever I left the house without her she would lie directly by the front door- even if I was just checking the mailbox. Her bed was next to mine, and often during the night if my arm happened to dangle from the bed, I would awaken to feel her gently licking it.
There are many more stories I could share about her- and perhaps I will. She brought joy to all that met her.
Recently I had to travel to a convention in Nashville- and whereas when we all travel we dropped her off at my sister-0in-laws home this time my wife and son took care of her. The mere notion of having her boarded gave me shivers. Even getting her groomed was an ordeal- her tail would drop and she would tremble- and I had to walk her into the back. When I returned to get her she was reminiscent of a charging bull…
So for Tasha being in the house without me was a new experience. She slept by the front door each and every night- and barely ate whilst I was gone.
It was about ten days ago when I noticed she wasn’t eating as much as normal. I put it down to the heat. A few days later I discovered that she had vomited.
You know the rest. We discovered that her kidneys were failing, and she was poisoning herself. She must have been in discomfort for weeks-if not months- but she never showed it.
She still eagerly went on her daily walks- and lay on my feet as I typed. As I type now it is strange not having her here. I find comfort that she is out of pain- and I know I made the right decision. It was made from love. For that is what Tasha is-was…Pure love. She did not have a mean bone in her entire body. Quite remarkable when you consider the life she had before we adopted her. I also realized that she wasn’t four when we added her to our family- but closer to nine. But most of all I realize just how much she enriched my life. It is funny how you don’t truly appreciate how much someone means to you until they are gone. And that all the little things that you took for granted- seem so much larger and profoundly significant.
I believe that she, just like Eddie and Chester, were all sent to guide me along life’s road. Each one has a different lesson to teach. Tasha’s lesson was obvious- the power of love.
So what about Chester you ask? His lesson is to enjoy each moment of life. As I type this he is busy chasing a butterfly in the back garden…I think I will join him.