My Essays and Turkey Tracks: August 7, 2016
Miss Reynolds Georgia’s Last Ride
She was born two days before my own birthday, March 15, 2002.
She was a gift to me from me.
I went alone to get her and brought her home in my lap covered with a towel since Rat Terriers are burrowers and some feel safer being under covers.
She was so tiny at eight weeks–hardly bigger than my two fists. She imprinted on me and followed my feet like a baby chick or hen follows its mother.
Here’s an early picture of her that I have always loved–taken by John Enright on the back porch of our Falls Church, Virginia, home.
For 14 1/2 years she was my shadow. Where I was, she was. There was a bed for her in every place where I spent any amount of time. When I left her, she hunkered down to wait for me to come home. And just a few days ago, she brought me a toy and wanted to play.
But health crashes can come suddenly. And hers started Friday night, after eating a good supper.
She’d had a rocky 18 months or so–there had been a stroke that robbed her of a lot of her balance. But there was much happiness too. There were some tumors that were fatty, but the tumor on her back right leg was hard and growing. She was beginning to have trouble walking for any distance, and she got tired easily. There were a few incontinent episodes at night off and on. As she slept under the covers and curled into my chest and belly, I layered the bed with pads and towels and made sure she had actually peed before we went to sleep.
Friday night, as she slept next to me on the couch, I realized she was having another stroke of some sort. I got towels and held her next to me. (She hated being in someone’s lap unless she was in the car.) She calmed, and then she threw up all her dinner. We got through the uneasy night with a little sleep. Things went from bad to worse the next day, and by late-afternoon I knew she wouldn’t be coming out of this health crisis. So, she took her last ride. And, you know, it calmed her. She settled right into her bed next to me in the car–riding shotgun as she always did–and zoned out. All the rest is history now, but a history that is still all too vivid for me.
Here’s a picture of her taken a few years ago. She was a neat, clean, pretty little dog who did, however, shed a lot. She came to Maine with a very thin coat and proceeded to grow a really lush one.
As you can see, there is hardly any grey on her face. But I noticed yesterday that she had gone quite grey almost overnight.
And here’s a picture of her enjoying a bone in the middle of last winter with snow outside. Mostly, Reynold’s ears flopped over (which is ok breed-wise), but when you spoke to her, she really listened.
She went on her last ride as the clean little lady she always was, horrified about peeing her bed and still trying to get up to go outside, though she could barely walk or keep her balance or know where she was exactly.
We got “No No Penny” after our first winter here–we got her for Reynolds, who was lonely and not used to a Maine winter. And Reynolds loved Penny with unconditional love too. She loved, as well, that she no longer had to be the “head dog,” that Penny could take that role. And Penny did, and Reynolds felt protected and safe.
Here’s a picture of both of them a year or so after Penny, who is a year younger than Reynolds, came to us in 2005 or 2006. It’s one of my favorite pictures and was taken by John. Reynolds is on the right.
Reynolds could be a picky eater. She would march up to her food, look it over, and if it did not come up to scratch that day, she would look at me over her shoulder with a look that plainly said “Not this today, Louisa. This is not what I expected.”
When she wanted something, she would come and stare at you–giving you “the look”–until you got up and followed her. In that way, she “talked” for Penny. Sometimes it was that Penny wanted to go out. Sometimes it was that Penny now wanted to come in. Or, both of them wanted their dinner. Or, they were tired of me sewing. Or, they wanted to go for a ride in the car.
I spent hours on the floor of the sewing room Saturday, holding Reynolds inside her soft bed, in the curve of my body. It gave us both some comfort. Occasionally she would “purr” deep in her throat which she did when I petted her and held her close. Penny came to check on us and to smell Reynolds on a regular basis.
And I did a lot of thinking and talking to her and saying good-bye. You know, she came to me in a time of personal chaos and turmoil. And she brought with her unconditional love, a sense of play, and a sense of being connected to me by an invisible cord of love. She was not my dog baby. She was something between a little sister and a bestest girlfriend. She gave as much as she got. And she did not leave me until she knew that I could go on alone, taking with me the lessons of love that she taught me. She was, is, and always will be one of the best “loves of my life.”
Last night Penny came up on the couch and slept next to me. And when we went to bed, she, who never likes being under the covers for long, slept for as long as she could next to me, curled into me like Reynolds used to do. Penny has “shadowed” me all day. She is, like me, more than a bit lost today.
This morning, before garden chores (watering, watering, dead-heading, weeding), I read a little on the porch and had breakfast out there. The flowers in the container next to me seemed unusually bright, and I realized I had been looking at their little faces all summer, but had not slowed down to really appreciate their exquisite details fully.
And I grew fascinated with the stark line between the sunny hillside and the dense darkness of the summer woods.
Yet, the dark coolness beckons, too. And at some point, we all enter it.
Miss Reynolds Georgia, also known as “The Beauty Queen”: March 15, 2002 to August 6, 2014.
Rest in Peace Beloved Creature.