I can remember the very first time I saw her…in a kennel at the Carson Shelter. She was depressed, sick and when I offered her a treat wouldn’t even lift her head. She must have been distraught because she loved to eat. Loved it! Until the very end food was her very favorite thing. Just yesterday she had a few pieces of watermelon. Yes she adored watermelon. I will miss the mess she made devouring it.
I didn’t think I was going to bring her home. She was, after all, 16 and in poor health. And who in their right mind would want to open their heart just to get it broken in such a short time. My heart couldn’t take it. Or so I thought. And so I passed by her kennel.
But her face never left my mind. She would pop up every so often and I would push it away. Until I saw her again. She was in the same position on the kennel floor. That’s when I learned she was an owner surrender. I knew in that moment that I couldn’t let her die alone in that place. I knew she deserved to die with dignity and surrounded by love.
And just like that, my heart opened and Sunny slipped inside.
In those first days I wasn’t sure how long she would live. She was so sick. A trip to the vet confirmed she was ancient. Her teeth were worn down and many of them rotten. She had a tennis ball sized tumor on her leg. X-rays revealed 3 more inside her body. Her eyes were swollen and red. She had arthritis in her back legs. But she was happy. Her smile brightened my day…and her kisses were pure love…even though her breath could knock over a prizefighter.
We decided that we wouldn’t do anything invasive or heroic to stop the cancer. No biopsies, no chemo, no operations. We would just love her and let her live a few weeks surround by joy. A few weeks turned into two and a half years.
And what an amazing few years it was.
Turns out Granny was a fighter. Darrell and I would often joke that she was the energizer bunny powered by love. Or that if she were human, she’d be a 90-year-old woman with dyed red hair and a cigarette hanging from her mouth. A tough old broad.
She absolutely loved life. Car rides. Trips to the park. Stealing bones from Petco. Eating…everything. I’m not sure how we found out she loved all kinds of food. Broccoli, carrots, watermelon, just about anything…except mushrooms. She’d spit those out lickedy-split and then look at me like, “Really? You’re going to give me that crap?”
One thing about Sunny that was unusual…her tail never wagged. It just hung there. Her head did the same. She rarely lifted it and her posture was like a sad sack. It earned her the nickname Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh. It made me a little sad that she never wagged her tail, but I figured she probably had arthritis in it and it hurt her to move it too much.
And then she met the first neighborhood dog. And wow! That tail wagged a mile a minute. It was the only time it every wagged…when meeting new doggie friends. Until the very end, even when she could hardly walk, if she saw a dog she’d get a bounce in her step and speed up, tail wagging to greet them. Last week she met 3 new dogs on her morning pee and it brought me such joy to see her perk up so much.
She loved Gabby too. So much. And Gabby loved her. Wherever Sunny was, Gabby was right by her side. They shared a bed, even though each one had their own. It’s one of the things I will miss most…seeing my girls together. I know Gabby misses her already. When I got home yesterday I had to move the trashcans and I pulled into the driveway. My car door was open and Darrell was bringing Gabby back from a walk. She was happy to see me, but made a GirlsBikePath006beeline for the car, put her paws on the seat and looked inside. She sniffed and looked around some more. I have no doubt she was looking for her sister.
Later that night, our neighbor came by to tell us how much she loved Sunny…and that during the day, Gabby was crying. God, how sad. Mourning her loss just like we are.
This morning was the first in a long time I didn’t wake up to a Chew Baca like alarm clock. Well…that’s not true. Yesterday there was no alarm either…which is one of the reasons I knew Sunny wasn’t feeling well. Every morning at 6:30 or 7 she would wake us up for breakfast. And she wouldn’t stop until she got her way. When she was younger and still very mobile she would even use her teeth to pull my covers off. “Get up! I’m hungry!”
It’s so hard to believe she’s gone. Neither one of us really thought she would die. She had been on death’s doorstep so many times. The first Christmas with her she had a stroke. It was horrible. She collapsed and was immobile, unresponsive. She lay on the floor, her eyes glassy and starring. I was sure it was the end. We picked her up and put her on her bed while we called the vet. By the time we got off the phone she was looking at us, as if she was saying, “Hey? What’s up? Why the long faces?”
She had a heart attack too. And another stroke. And 3 vestibular incidents. And in the summer she was prone to heat stroke. So many times we thought it was the end and each time she bounced back. The energizer bunny. Powered by love.
It’s been a while since she could climb on the couch by herself. Goodness. I remember how sad I was when I realized that she hadn’t been on her favorite chair in months. It was red velvet brocade and much too small for her. But she loved it and would force herself into it. It made me laugh every time I came home and saw her in it.
So many memories. So much love.
When she first came home to live with us, she wanted to eat our cats. I was so disappointed about that. And scared that she actually would. We worked with her for months and finally she was able to be around them. They would sleep on the couch together. All four of them, my perfect little family.
Until one day, Enzo decided to groom Sunny.
(Enzo grooms Gabby every morning. It’s amazing to see him clean her ears, eyes, back. And Gabby loves it.) Sunny did not! was fine with the ears and face, but Enzo decided to lick her nose. His rough tongue must have scared the crap out of her! She let out a yelp/bark that was so loud, Enzo ran way fast as lightening, scared to death! That was the last time he groomed Sunny.
Each memory is so precious to me. I hope I never forget any of them. It’s amazing how they touch us. How they worm their way into our hearts and make themselves right at home. How much they become a part of our lives. And how empty it feels when they are no longer here.
Oh Sunny. You will be missed. You took a piece of my heart with you. You changed me to very core. You made me realize that I do have room in my heart to love an old dog even though our time would be short. You made me open my eyes to all the seniors…to give them a voice…to show everyone that they are worthy of love. You made me complete and I will be forever grateful that I had you in my life. You were so loved…but I know you know that.
All photos from Lori Fusaro Photography