Friday, February 12, 2010

The Noble Dog

A few weeks ago I overheard Alondra's veterinarian, Marianna, having a conversation about Alondra. In trying to jog the memory of the vet with whom she was talking, Marianna described Alondra as "noble." At the time, it struck me as a perfect description of Alondra, although I wasn't sure that the word "noble" had the same connotations in Spanish as it does in English. So tonight I looked it up and, sure enough, it's the same word with the same meanings.

Today Alondra had surgery to remove her broken leg. We have been looking forward to the surgery as an opportunity for Alondra to be free from the dead weight that she had been dragging around for the last five months as we hoped for her broken leg to heal. Unfortunately, as the surgeon began to remove the leg, he found many small tumors in her pelvic bone. He finished the surgery and closed her up. This morning, she awoke seeming active and healthy but as she began to walk around and to play, she started to have trouble breathing. Her lungs were also riddled with small tumors and, although the vet gave her oxygen, it was not enough to keep her alive.

Alondra passed away this morning.

The vet said that without the surgery, she probably would have lived only another week or two before her lungs would have quit working. He said that she has been sick for a long time but nobody would have known.

I could write a record-long blog post about everything that makes it difficult for me to think about Alondra and how she died, but I'd rather tell you what I loved about Alondra.

And to think...she wasn't even my dog.

When Marianna said that Alondra was noble, I think she chose the perfect description. Noble. Here are some synonyms: queenly, dignified, refined, tolerant. Here are some other words I would use to describe Alondra: stubborn, hard-headed, determined, affectionate, loyal, trusting, curious, independent.

She was a dog who saw herself as top dog, but she didn't show it the way that most dogs do. She didn't bark at other dogs and push them around, she just ignored them. She tolerated them and concentrated instead on the humans she adored. But, she never over-adored a human -- no, that would take away her power. She wasn't some goofy retriever, slobbering all over the ones she loved. She showed us just enough affection to let us know that she loved us and then she spent her time doing what she wanted to do -- usually lounging on the kitchen floor or watching the world go by from her perch outside near the street. She was a little like a cat that way. She didn't need us, but she loved us.

In the mornings she would go find a spot of sun in front of the house but she would always drop by to say "hello" in the afternoons. At night while we were watching tv or reading, we would hear a thump on the front door and then hear the door begin to open -- that is how we knew when she wanted dinner or a soft bed to sleep on. She would push her way through the front door (which only latches when it is locked), eat a bit for dinner, and then curl up outside on the dog bed.

Alondra believed that she had a right to know what was going on in the house and she would stick her nose anywhere she thought it belonged. She was curious and interested and engaged in what was going on around her, always taking everything in. Despite her curiosity, she was never, ever destructive and always treated everything in and around our house with respect.

Recently, I began letting Alondra follow me when I would walk to the beach or to the girls' school. She was terrible at walking with us, but even that was endearing. She would walk next to me or behind me for a few steps, then she would scoot in front of me and stop, standing sideways across my shins and smiling up at me. More than once I nearly tripped on her and squashed her, but her smile made me smile every time it happened. The first time she went with me to the beach she became exhausted quickly -- I'm probably lucky she didn't die right then and there. She walked up and down the beach with me and every time I slowed down or stopped, she took the opportunity to sit in the sand and rest. She wasn't afraid of the water...

wait, check that.

She wasn't afraid of ANYTHING.

She definitely wasn't afraid of the water. Even after I'd picked her up and carried her into the water to swim with me in order to strengthen the muscles in her broken leg, and she made it clear that she would like to swim back to shore, she continued to follow me out into the water as I got back in to go for a swim by myself.

Firecrackers didn't scare her, either. In fact, the smell of firecrackers burning in the street outside our house would grab her attention. She would hop up from the dog bed and scoot to the front door as fast as she could. I would open the door for her and she'd sprint to the firecrackers, ears perked up and forehead wrinkled. Every time a kid would light a firecracker and throw it, Alondra would chase it down and try to put it out with her mouth. Afterward, she would run back to our house and gulp water as if her mouth were on fire. I wonder why? The booms, the bangs, the snaps, the cracks -- none of those sounds bothered her. Putting out those fires was much too fun!

In fact, the only time I ever noticed Alondra looking scared was when there was yelling in our house. Whether it was Callie screaming at me or me yelling back at her, any raised voices in our house sent Alondra heading for the street. No, she was too regal, too dignified to endure that kind of noise.

Knowing that Alondra is gone, this kind, sweet, gentle dog into whom I poured so much of myself over these past five months, leaves my heart feeling heavy and sad. But as much as I gave to her and for her, I felt loved many more times over. And losing one who loves you that way, well, that is probably the hardest thing of all.


Bri!!! said...

I'm so sorry. Losing a dog (even if she is not yours) is SO HARD. At least she had a loving family the last 5 months of her life.

Laureen said...

Oh, Hill, I am so sorry. I have tears in my eyes right now. Having met Alondra, she was a gentle dog and she knew you loved her. I agree with Bri, you gave her the best 5 months of her life. She is at peace now in doggie heaven.

Lisa Sharp said...

I'm very sorry but you are awesome for all you did for her, she got to know a special love before she passed away.

Nick Foy said...

Wow, I am so sorry. I know how much you and the girls loved her. Nick and I talk often about the way Callie would perfectly roll her "r" when saying Alondra.

Cristin said...

I'm so sorry - she sounds like she was a really great dog. It's so difficult to lose a pet because they become a such a great part of our family.