|Our Friend Trixie--7/4/200 to 2/17/2011|
Today our family said "goodbye" to the oldest of our three dogs. Trixie had been a member of our pack since 2001.
If you are hoping this somehow digresses into a gold post, hate to disappoint but it will not.
In the summer of 2001 our family moved from Texas, across the Mason-Dixon line, to just outside Philadelphia. It was a 2,000+ mile move but the promotion I had received at work presented us with this opportunity to move a rung higher on the 'middle class' ladder. Despite leaving all our family and friends behind, we felt it was important to accept the challenge of a new home in a new place.
We have always been dog people. My father-in-law found little to like about me for many years but remarked before he passed that my being a dog person 'was the one thing I liked about you. Figured you couldn't be all bad'.
One family dog made the move with us. The elder dog did not. He was quite old and the vet did not think he would survive a plane trip. As saddened as everyone was about losing that pet, my children rallied around a promise to get a new dog when we moved.
We have always gotten shelter dogs but our kids wanted a Collie. We could not find a shelter Collie anywhere in New Jersey, Pennsylvania or New York. If one appeared it quickly was adopted. We therefore decided to bite the bullet and get one from a breeder. The decision was one of sheer desperation. The more time that passed with an unfulfilled promise of a new dog, the more the kids began to focus on why the whole move was a bad idea.
My wife took our two youngest daughters and visited a recommended breeder. We were cautious to avoid 'fly by night', garage-kennel breeders. This one lived on a ranch and had won many awards for different dogs, not just Collies. At $1,500 per dog they were obviously proud of the stock.
My wife and daughters decided on one tri-color who the breeder described as 'not showable' due to the way her colors were arranged. We got a discount too--I think we ended up paying $750. I also vaguely remember the name 'Trixie' as having had something to do with Pokemon, but it may have been another cartoon they liked at the time.
Trixie quickly became the favorite pet of our youngest daughter who had recently been diagnosed with Autism. She could climb on, pull on, poke at and otherwise harass Trixie and we never heard a peep from that gentle animal. When a visitor would come by, a ringing doorbell would set Trixie on alert: she would stand between a visitor and our youngest daughter. To the trained eye it was a sight to behold--the gradual repositioning Trixie would effect in response to the visitor's movements around the house.
With her thick fur coat to keep her warm, Trixie loved to lie outside in the snow. Our other dogs would run out, do their 'business' and return, shaking, to the warm house. Trixie would instead stay outside as long as we would let her. When the snow became too deep for the other dogs to 'visit' the yard, Trixie would leave the deck and plow a furrow in the snow for them. Trudging ever forward, she would move the snow with her 85 lb body and create the path our other dogs needed.
As much as she loved the snow Trixie was terrified of thunderstorms. Late in the summer of 2001 a large storm front moved in while we slept. My wife and I were awakened during the height of the storm, around 3am, by someone yelling for us in our foyer. I went downstairs to find two police officers and our neighbor. It seems we did not lock the door and the wind blew it open. Our neighbor thought we had been burgled and called the police. They were very nice.
No intruders, but we couldn't find Trixie. We thought she had gotten outside and was hiding due to her fear of storms. While the police searched the bushes in the howling wind and driving rain, my wife found Trixie cowering in our closet. For the next 10 years, anywhere we lived, thunder would send Trixie to the closet for the duration of the storm.
Not long after we had begun to feel comfortable in our new home the terrible events of 9/11 took place. My office in Philadelphia closed for two days amid fears of more attacks. Our family sat (like many others) glued to the TV, straining to learn any new fact to help make sense of the tragedy. Our 2nd youngest daughter, the one who had come up with the name 'Trixie', was shielded from much of the broadcast day--we tried to keep her occupied with videos or computer games rather than watch the scary news on TV.
One memory in particular remains vivid. We were watching an interview with the owner of a trading firm located in one of the Towers. He was crying, upset that all his employees had died that day in the collapse. He professed feeling guilty that he was not in the office on time. He said he felt he should have died too 'when all his friends and colleagues died'. He said again later that he missed all his 'colleagues who died that day'.
Our daughter began to cry. She was hysterical. Until that moment she had shown no remorse at all, no sign of sadness or even understanding of the events, other than saying 'the buildings fell down on TV'. Now, we could not get her to stop crying. After a long 10 minutes she calmed down enough for us to talk with her. She was crying, it turned out, 'because all the Collies died in those buildings'.
Not long after 9/11 our family moved back to our southern home. Although it was nice to be back with friends and family, Trixie was somewhat unhappy with the long, hot summers. She missed the snow. She seldom went outside other than when she had to go, preferring instead to lie on the cool tile floor in the den or kitchen.
Six years ago we moved again, due to my job, back to the north. This time New Jersey was only a pit stop on our way to Boston.
My wife and youngest daughter flew while my two middle children and all three dogs drove in a van--all 2,500+ miles--in only 45 hours. What a trip that was.
Trixie did not like the moving car and would sometimes get car sick. When we finally stopped in Indianapolis for the night, securing a room with twin beds. Trixie decided it would be awesome to sleep up on the bed.
And then she threw up. On my bed. After cleaning up that mess, while I walked one of the other dogs outside, Trixie took an impressive dump in the hotel room--the sort of poop pile that one might imagine came from a large dog, or a small horse. Then she threw up again on my bed for good measure.
The kids got some sleep that night but I sat up with Trixie. She never left my side as we watched bad motel cable all night. I finally got an hour's sleep or so before we hit the road the next day.
We first hit snow around Pittsburgh. It snowed all the way through New York and into Connecticut that night. Trixie seemed relieved to finally see snow again. She romped, frolicked and otherwise thoroughly enjoyed every pit stop. She also didn't get car sick again. Never mind that our Chihuahua was utterly terrified by what was I'm sure the first snow she had witnessed in her 9 years, Trixie would coax the Chihuahua through the snow, clear an area out and let her do her business. Every stop.
About three years ago Trixie was diagnosed with arthritic hips during a regular vet visit. It was something to monitor but not anything urgent at the time. About a year ago she began to lose some mobility. It became harder and harder for her to stand up after a nap. The vet suggested a medication and Trixie was better in short order.
Over the last six months, despite higher dosages of the meds, her deterioration continued.
Over the last six weeks, she stopped 'plowing' the snow for the other dogs.
Over the last six days, she took longer to get up and would whimper occasionally when walking.
Over the last six hours, she lost her bowels and bladder while valiantly struggling to get up for a walk.
After consulting with the vet, my wife and I made the decision that Trixie's quality of life was no longer adequate. She was in pain. Some may say dogs don't understand dignity but there was shame and remorse in her eyes after this morning's accident. After I cleaned up the mess, and her fur, she struggled to get up and actually strained at her leash to go outside as if to say 'See? I know where to go--let me try.'
My wife took her lunch hour to come home and help get Trixie into the car. Our vet is wonderful. This is the 3rd such visit we have made for one of our dogs. Each visit is difficult.
The vet's office has a private driveway that runs down the back of the building and a door that leads into the only visitation room accessible without having to traverse the busy lobby.
I gently carried Trixie out of the car and into the room. She did not struggle, but did whimper a bit when her leg was touched or moved. I know she was in pain.
Although we did not stay with Trixie as the medications were administered I have done so with other pets. The process is painless. The breathing slows, the eyes glass over, and then an audible sigh as one final breath is expelled from the lungs.
Our two other dogs seemed confused when I returned home without Trixie. That's when it hit me: they have never been apart before. Our remaining dogs were 'replacements' for our older dogs after each passed on. They have been with Trixie all day, every day they have lived here. They took vet trips together, they ate together, took grooming trips together, as well as walks and outside play time together. My sense is they know she will not return, yet they continue to sniff about the house looking for their sister.
Amid the chaos of life our pets are solid foundations to which we attach an emotional bond. They love us unconditionally. In return, we love and care for them. They are there for us when we are sad about losing a job, or happy about getting a new one. They celebrate with us when we have a baby and mourn with us when we lose someone dear.
Time will heal the family's pain. And our other two dogs will one day get a new sister.
Until then, we will miss you Trixie. You made our lives a little better every day.