My schnauzer, Mandy, died 3 days ago. It feels like she’s been gone for months, yet there are little things that remind me of her so many times during the day- I expect to see her. She had her little quirks and eerie understanding of what I told her. I expect to look up and see her on her ‘TV bed’ (large dog pillow under the TV), watching me. Every time I moved, she looked up. If I left the room and didn’t say “I’m coming back”, she’d follow me. It was a relationship with a dog unlike others I’ve had. Each was special and very loved (as I know the next one will be), but Mandy was smart in the way she understood what I said. When I got up in the morning, she waited to see if I was getting my slippers on before she got up- she knew that if I was still barefoot, I was coming back- but if she saw the slippers hit my feet, she’d walk down her little dog stairs and be up for the day.
When I sneeze, there’s no little head popping up as she immediately got up and left the room. I couldn’t even say the word ‘sneeze’ or she’d leave the room! But after I sneezed, she’d come back to see if I was still there! When I was doing her laundry the other day, there was no little nose checking out the dryer. She especially loved the lint trap. I have no idea why- it’s not like she ever saw what I pulled off of that thing. But she knew the sound of the dryer stopping, and would get up and look at me like “well, are you going to get the lint?”. When I loaded the dishwasher, there’s no little face watching, or wildly bouncing around as I shut the dishwasher door.
At night, before bed, I’d tell her to ‘go potty’, and she would! She would walk over to her pads, and pee. IF she had ‘gone’ recently, she’d still walk over there, but sit down on the carpet and look at me. I’d go check the pads, and sure enough- there was a ‘fresh’ pee on the pads. She knew what I was asking her to do- and letting me know it was already done.
When she was a puppy, I took her to work with me (I had a ‘desk job’ as an RN at a nursing home, doing assessments for care plans). As she got older, I’d leave her in the kitchen with a baby gate, and when she was really consistent with using the pee pads, I let her have the run of the apartment when I was gone. The first time I left her ‘loose’, I had some concerns about what she’d do to my realistic vinyl baby doll collection. They were seated along the bottom shelves of some book cases. I dreaded coming home to chewed toes. Instead, I came home to a pile of baby socks by the back door, and a half-grown dog looking very proud of herself for getting about 20 baby socks off of the dolls and having them neatly piled up. It was like some sort of offering- LOL.
When I moved from Texas to Illinois, Mandy rode in her travel crate for safety. She was always a good car-rider, lying down on the seat and being content to just be along for the ride (until she got where she was going- usually the vet or groomer). Because I was driving a 17-foot U-haul for more than 1250 miles, she had to be in her crate, so before leaving Texas, I spent a few months incorporating the crate into her playing. I’d toss her toys or a dog treat into the crate, and get her used to walking into it on her own. I didn’t want to have battles on the road stuffing her back into it after stopping to let her walk around and go potty. She did well- and would walk right back into the crate after being out of it at a rest stop. BUT, she did not like when I got out to pump gas and she couldn’t see me. The crying was horrific. I was convinced that animal welfare people from many counties near where we were could hear her. I had to pop the gas pump into the tank and set it on ‘auto’, then move back to the truck door so she could see me. Instant quiet. When I had the nerve to go get some breakfast at a truck stop- and leave her for about 15 minutes to get a TO-GO container (I didn’t even stay inside to eat !), I could hear her ‘screaming’ for me from about 20 yards away from the truck. She was a ‘mama’s girl’. I miss that.
At night, if she was ready for bed and I wasn’t, she would get up and sit in front of the hallway, and stare at the bedroom door. Sometimes she’d go to the bedroom and just wait in the dark for me to find her. She always had access to the bedroom and bed (and her full half of the double bed), but she wouldn’t go to bed without me.
When she got sicker, and would get cold from losing a fair amount of weight, she’d come over to where I was sitting, and shiver. I’d get her sweater out, and she’d put her head down so I could slip it over her head. She also knew to pick up her paws to have them put through the little sleeves. When I’d take it off, she knew to pick her feet up only after I’d get the sleeve pulled down far enough for her to step out of it. But she knew that the sweater did something to make her feel better- I’m not sure she understood the concept that a sweater equals ‘warmer’, but she knew enough to come over to me when she wanted it- and then go lie back down once I put it on her.
I cry many times a day when I think about her not being here any longer. She was with me for eleven years and seven months- I got her when she was almost 2 months old. She would have turned twelve at the end of March. I hope she knew how much I loved her. I hope she knew that she was my equivalent of a child, and I honestly can’t imagine loving an actual kid any more than I loved that dog. I hope she knew how much I wanted the best for her- and while I hated watching her die in my arms, I would never want her to die alone and scared.
After the initial whimper that began the end, she was alert enough to look at me (and at that point was motionless, just standing on the floor looking at me with a ‘different’ look- sort of a confused inability to move) and know that I picked her up. She lifted her head a few times before just collapsing on my lap- but knew I’d put her on her comforter (and a disposable bed pad), and let me shift it to get the ‘lumps’ out. Then she just wilted and her breathing changed to an agonal pattern associated with imminent death. I kept stroking her back and scratching her ears, and telling her how much I loved her, and how amazing she’d been as my best friend. I let her know that it was OK to stop fighting (like I’d do as an RN to humans- I doubt Mandy had a clue what that meant, but I had to say those words as my way of letting her go). I told her that I’d miss her, but knew she’d hung on as long as she could (and she’d done fairly well – it had been a rocky couple of weeks, but she’d been alert, eating- though more picky, and wanted to be near me).
That morning, she’d wanted Swedish meatballs, and her Charlee Bear treats. It was a ‘normal’ day- until 2:30 p.m. when I heard the whimper. By 2:45 p.m., she was gone. My only form of living companionship was gone. I know that my next dog won’t replace Mandy (just like she hadn’t replaced her predecessor), but that she will steal my heart in her own way. And yet, Mandy was special. Maybe it was the amount of time I’m home, and she just got used to my routines- but her understanding of what I’d say was uncanny. Dad could ask her to do the same things, and she’d just stare at him. She was my baby.
I miss her deeply… and yet I know the only way through this is to move forward and look at how much I’ll love a new puppy. Mandy will never be gone from my heart, but it is a deep pain knowing she’s not here ‘in person’. RIP, my sweet little girl. I hope you know how much you were loved ❤