Rescued Dogs | Short Time, Long Love
And she remained playful. She would actually play ball–meaning that she’d nose the ball out eight or ten feet to whomever she was playing with, and then catch it, and nose it out again. She’d play three-cup monte, too–meaning that we’d hide a ball under one of three cups and move the cups around. She delighted in nosing over the correct cup.
In the beginning, Todd’s kids told us, “That Cheyenne, she’ll play ball all day long.” Not now, not all day anymore. But she’d play ball.
And then one day, Cheyenne began to hack. Not badly, and not all the time. But it reminded us of when she’d had heartworm, of when we used to have to keep her in a crate most of the time, so that the medicine itself wouldn’t kill her.
And so we took her to see Dr. Menard, who had been seeing her–and her puppies–for however many years it actually was. Ann listened to her heart, listened to her lungs, and finally recommended an x-ray.
It showed cancerous nodes on Cheyenne’s lungs. Dr. Menard said it was only going to get worse, and probably soon. We could take another x-ray in a month, but only if she lasted that long. The prognosis wasn’t good. It was four years to the day since we’d moved into our house.
The next two weeks were long, yet they somehow flew by as we tried to deal with losing someone so close to us. We couldn’t take long walks down the driveway anymore, because Cheyenne couldn’t endure it. She’d go partway, sit down, and bark at the other dogs within earshot. The other dogs would, after a respectful moment, bark back. They seemed to know. Cheyenne would turn around and walk home.
We finally set a day, a Saturday. And then, on the Wednesday before, she rallied. We sat in our living room with her and talked about it, and Ann said, “She’ll tell us when it’s time.” Cheyenne got up, walked into the other room to her bucket of toys, grabbed a ball, and walked triumphantly back with the ball in her mouth.
We postponed our Saturday trip. Donnie came by the next night to say goodbye, and was greeted by a girl who he pronounced had a good year ahead of her. We spent the next half hour telling Cheyenne stories. The evening ended with Chloe, Donnie’s enthusiastic Labrador, coming in and knocking over everything except Cheyenne. Then it was time to go.
As it turned out, it was time for Cheyenne to go, too. On Saturday, she ate hardly at all, and on Sunday, she ate even less. Ann called Dr. Menard, made a tentative date for Monday, and went to bed at 7:00. That wasn’t unusual. Ann is a nurse who works the overnight Sunday-to-Monday shift, and on the nights she works, she catches a few hours’ sleep first. I wake her up at 10:00.
When I woke her up that night, she said, “Why did you come in and wake me at 9:00?” I told her I’d done nothing of the sort; I’d been downstairs watching a basketball game. “That’s not true,” she said. “You came up and stood at the door and said, ‘It’s time.’ So I got up and started getting ready, and then I realized it was only 9:00, so I went back to bed. Why did you wake me up at 9:00?” I told her again that I hadn’t. “Well, somebody did, and if it wasn’t you, who was it?”
The only person I could think of was Todd, that his spirit had come by to tell Ann that it was time. It was time for Cheyenne.
We put Cheyenne down the next day at noon. Even Dr. Menard’s eyes were puffy, after all the years she’d known her.
I have nothing new to add to the death of a well-loved dog. If you’ve been through it, I don’t want to bring it back for you. If you haven’t, I can’t begin to help you understand. What it is, really, is putting an end to someone totally devoted to you, and who trusts you just as totally. You can only hope that you’re totally right. In Cheyenne’s case, I believed we were.
We have things we’ll try to do to take her place. There’s a monastery near here that’s famous for raising German shepherds. We’ll volunteer there, help with the puppies, and maybe one day take one home.
But there is such emptiness now. Even the cats don’t eat quite right. Even the birds on the feeders, beneath which Cheyenne used to sun herself, seem oddly silent. The house is quiet, the lake is quiet, the world is quiet.