I knew it was coming, but when it happened it was very sudden.
Today I lost a family member. My little dog.
Our dog Leena was 7 years old, and starting to show her age. We had lost another dog just before we got Leena, and we wanted to have a younger dog to help comfort us when Leena finally passed away.
The “pocket dog” craze was sweeping through Korea, and Won was in love with all things “pocket dog”. She wanted something tiny, 3-4 pounds when full grown.
I wanted a dog that was tough, easy to care for, and something that was big enough that it could get out of the way of my feet – I did NOT want to step on a micro-dog. I’m of the firm belief that something that small should live in a cage with a hamster wheel attached to the side. So after some research, I suggested that we get a Yorkshire Terrier.
Won wasn’t sure, so I found a Yorkshire Terrier show that was going on in Orange County. We took a weekend to drive down and catch the show. We saw hundreds of Yorkies in a range of sizes from “Teacup” to 8-10 pounds. I knew I could live with an 8 pound dog.
And the Yorkies we saw were gorgeous! Beautiful silky hair (“No, they don’t shed” we were told. I had my doubts – but they turned out to be unfounded.) They wore bows and ribbons, and little top-knots. They were happy, and calm, and eager to play. We watched one woman put her dog through a sort of obedience course, where she had the Yorkie off-leash, and commanded the obviously intelligent little fellow to perform a series of exercises. He jumped hurdles, climbed ramps, fetched, carried, put down and then picked up again a variety of toys.
I was enchanted. And as soon as we got home Won started scouring the local newspapers for Yorkie puppies.
Here’s the thing, a “Teacup” sized Yorkie easily cost $2,500 to $3,000. A “Pocket” sized Yorkie ran about $2,000. “Small” Yorkies were
easily $1,500. Tasha cost us $600. At her maximum ‘fat’ weight she weighed 10.2 pounds. Her healthy weight was right at 8 pounds.
We found a family in Fresno that had a litter. We went over and picked Tasha from the litter using our usual method, by disqualifying puppies that tried to chew on our hands.
From the very beginning, Tasha was amazing. She was absolutly fearless. She treated Leena like her own personal plush pillow, and would follow Leena around like a tugboat snugged against a cruiser. Leena, used to being the only fur child on the premises, took it with quiet exasperation.
When Tasha was a small puppy, I would worry that she might miss her litter mates. I got her a small stuffed bear to sleep with so she wouldn’t feel alone. But Tasha was fearless, and she soon found out that the stuffed bear could be played with. She would pounce on it with all the ferciousness of a 12 week old puppy and shake it so hard and so viciously that she would get dizzy and fall over.
Tasha was so fearless that she would take flying leaps from the back of the couch or the back of the recliner as a shortcut to get to her bear. And when she found out that we could throw the bear for her… well! The game was on! I would toss the bear, and she would race to catch it before it even hit the ground, then shake it until it came apart at the seams before racing back to give it to me to throw it again. How many times would she do this? I don’t know – easily over 200 times before I got tired and had to call it quits!
Won was returning to school that fall, and we didn’t want Tasha to have the run of the apartment while we were out, so I purchased a 4-foot high cage fence to go across the kitchen door. By this time Tasha was about 5 months old.
The first day that Won went to school, Tasha stayed in the Kitchen, unhappy, behind the fence. The second day I came home, opened the apartment front door, and found Tasha there at the door, outside of the Kitchen, waiting for me. She had apparently climbed up 4 feet of cage fencing, and then down the opposite side. And in doing so, she had somehow broken the first bone in big toe on her right front foot. It didn’t seem to bother her too much to have a broken toe. She limped a little, and curious, I felt her foot until she winced, then felt her toe flop in my hand.
We took her to the vet. It cost about $200 and a cast that she wore for several weeks. The cast didn’t slow her down one bit… she still wanted us to throw that bear!
This became a “thing” with Tasha – her fearlessness caused me to gasp in worry many times. She would tumble off the couch and land on her head, and yip in pain while I was sure that this was it – that she had finally brained herself. But she was tough! After a moment she’d shake it off, and off she would go again, running at high speed.
She once ran through a park so fast that she didn’t see a drainage grate, fell into it and flipped head over heels in a multiple summer salt, the stood up and seemed to shake as she whined. I went running to her, sure she would be in convulsions any moment, but she shook it off and ran around me, thinking I was playing.
Another time, she was walking quickly ahead of me on her leash in a park, over a little bridge. But Tasha didn’t realize she was on a bridge. There was a concrete curb on each side of the walk, and she had jumped up over the curb earlier to explore the grass. So when she was in the middle of the bridge, she must have thought this would be a great time to jump the curb again. She jumped off the bridge and dropped 2 feet into a little ditch filled with several inches of water! We were all very surprised! I still laugh thinking of this.
When Leena died, Tasha was so confused. We came home without Leena, and Tasha spent a long time searching for her. Sometimes she would go to the door and just whine for her friend.
Won and I had aquired a cat – Samuel Francisco, aka “Cisco”. Cisco was one of a litter of 7 kittens, from a stray cat that we had brought into our apartment. After the kittens had grown a little, I let them roam around the living room. Each kitten was a little smaller than Tasha’s “bear”, and so I watched Tasha closely, waiting for the moment that she decided these fuzzy kittens were “toys”. Yes, I was worried! By this time she had literally distroyed several “bears”, with most of them requiring minor surgery with a thread and needle.
But it went much better than I thought. Tasha’s mother instinct kicked in, and she started hearding the kittens like a sheepdog, keeping them from running out of sight. Tasha was a small dog, but these kittens could walk completely under her like a bridge, and she would freeze there and let the kitten pass.
We kept Cisco and he and Tasha would play. They would chase each other around, or Cisco would sneak up on and pounce on Tasha suddenly. Tasha would push Cisco down and sort of sit on him, until he squirmed away and went somewhere safe. I used to tease Tasha that Cisco wouldn’t always be so small – but even when he outweighed her by 4 pounds, they would wrestle and play like puppy and kitten.
Won spoiled Tasha rotten. She would feed Tasha fruit, or tidbits from her plate, until I started calling Tasha a “little sausage dog”, and the vet started warning us about the dangers of being overweight. Still Tasha had Won figured out, and would beg for more.
When Won died, Tasha was my comfort. She had always slept on the bed, and after Won died Tasha started sleeping curled up close to me. We cuddled, she gave me something to take care of on those nights where all I could do was watch Stargate and grieve. Over the months I went from numb to interested in life again, and I credit Tasha a great deal for that transition. In return, I put Tasha on a diet, and worked to get her down to a healthy weight.
And then I met Wendy.
Over the last year Wendy and I have grown close. I proposed to Wendy on Christmas eve, and we will be married in April – just two months from now.
Tasha and Wendy adopted each other. And Wendy learned to accept that there was a little dog that insisted on the privilege of sleeping between us. Tasha doted on Wendy and Wendy would take her on walks around the block. Wendy’s two dogs were jealous of Tasha at first, but they later worked things out. Tasha again started acting like a little tug boat up against Wendy’s big dogs, steering them in whatever direction that Tasha pleased.
And then something scary happened.
Last October Tasha started breathing weird, like she was gasping for air. You could hear her little lungs make “gurgling” noises when she breathed. I took her to see the Veterinarian, who diagnosed Tasha with Congestive Heart Failure. This was the same disease that Won had, the same disease that ultimately killed Won. I feared the worst.
The Vet said that she didn’t know why Tasha’s heart was failing, but that she could put Tasha on medications that would allow her heart to function better. I immediately started comparing Tasha’s treatments to Won’s treatments. Won had CHF due to a blown Mitral Valve, that was later replaced with an artificial valve. In order to find out that Won’s mitral valve was bad required a lot of equipment and testing, including an echocardiogram and a PET scan.
The vet had an x-ray machine. If I wanted anything else, it would have bankrupt me.
The initial medication, a diuretic, helped. But Tasha’s symptoms got worse, and the worried vet added additional medications to support her heart.
Tasha, being fearless, soon got used to having to pant heavily when she ran and attacked her bear (by this time her “bear” was only a distant relation, replaced numerous times). She would run and pant, and once she actually fainted – only to wake up surprised. She shook it off and again ran after her bear.
We learned that she was water loading, that her heart couldn’t always clear her lungs of fluid. Tasha would start coughing, deep chesty coughs, which was an indication of too much fluid buildup. Wendy or I would then take Tasha outside to pee, to clear some of the fluid loading.
This behavior increased. Over the last month, Tasha started needing frequent pee breaks outside, even several times in the middle of the night.
Yesterday, Tasha ran around the back yard with the big dogs. She fell asleep in my lap as I read a book. She chased her bear. Last night she slept between us again. I got up four times during the night to take her outside to pee.
This morning, she took her morning medications, and went outside with me to pee and do other doggie things in the front yard. As I left, she settled onto the couch to await the coming of the mailman (that mail slot HAD to be guarded!).
When Wendy came home at 3pm, she noticed that Tasha was breathing strange, that she seemed to be in pain, that her stomach was distended a little. She called me, and we met at the Vet.
Tasha didn’t make it. Her heart gave out. The Vet gave her something for the pain, and Tasha passed away.
I caressed her one last time, and cried my eyes out as I held her lifeless body to me. I took her collar, and it is here with me now as I write this.
I hate loss. Hate is too tame a word for what I’m feeling – rage like you wouldn’t believe at the unfairness of it all, and sorrow, and sadness. I’ll never see my little dog again.
Tasha was fearless, incredibly happy, full of a joy for life literally until her last day.
I miss her terribly.