I’ll never forget the day you were born. Gary, our next door neighbor owned your mother, Koko. I was a freshman in high school and out of town on a school trip in Mexico. My mom got to meet you at two hours old and I met you a few days later. There was a little drama at first because the litter expected to be seven puppies only ended up four. We were nervous that we wouldn’t get to take you home but things worked themselves out with time. We were on vacation (Italy – a whole different story) when you were ready to come home so Gary kept you for us until we got back. You had already grown so much and barely fit into my lap by the time we got home! Frisky, our then seven year old Australian Shepard, was less than thrilled about the addition to the family. He spent a few months teaching you he was the alpha dog – not that you ever objected or put up a fuss. After a few months, we saw him relax the “rules” he set for you. Where he initially drank water first, we soon found both your heads in the bowl together. You clearly trusted him so much. He was the only dog you’d really rough house with; all the other dogs made you nervous. Not him! Somehow you always ended up on the bottom of the pile but it never stopped you from going right back at him for more. Dad tried so hard to get you to play with people the way you played with him but it never really worked because all you really wanted from your people was to be pet. Getting pet, eating and swimming made your world go around. I do think swimming won over everything else because even with treats we had a hard time getting you out of the water!
You were always ready with a smile on your face to cheer everyone up. This was an especially helpful trait for a teenage girl going through high school which, even under the best of circumstances, is a roller coaster. As the years went by, life brought changes as I went away to college. You were happy to stay in Los Angeles and keep mom company, but also equally happy to join me in Davis during veterinary school for a few years. There too, you helped me remember what I was working so hard for. Finally, as I entered my clinical year of veterinary school we decided you would just be alone too much so you went home to live in Los Angeles and back to your favorite swimming pool.
I don’t remember when I first noticed you were showing signs of age because it seems to sneak up so suddenly. One day you were a tiny puppy sitting in my lap, the next day an old lady with the typical age-related arthritis and hearing loss. Despite this, you were happy as always. It wasn’t until this last trip to Los Angeles in February that we noticed a more sinister problem – your lymph nodes were ever so slightly enlarged. Being a young veterinarian working in oncology, I feared the worst. My family, of course, didn’t believe me because we’d been down that road before and every “cancer” scare had turned out to be nothing serious. (There was the lytic toe lesion which turned out to be an old fracture, the anal sac mass which turned out to be inflammation, the mast cell tumor that ended up being low grade with no spread, and of course your family history of hemangiosarcoma which you somehow managed to avoid). I wish they had been right this time too but tests (a LOT of tests because of course as a veterinarian’s animal we couldn’t get an answer simply) revealed that there was a big problem – Lymphoma. What are the odds I’d come home at just the right moment to catch a rapidly progressive, life threatening cancer before you were sick? I tried to reassure my family that chemotherapy in dogs generally goes pretty smoothly, but sadly as a veterinarian’s dog you had to be an exception there too. We fought for you my baby girl but it just wasn’t meant to be. The more we tried to fight the cancer the more everything else started going wrong. All your other little problems reared their ugly head again and then you got an infection that just made things worse. Even with all these problems, you were still your happy self but we could see things weren’t going to go well much longer and we wanted to make sure you didn’t suffer. So, with heavy hearts, we made the only decision left for us and decided to let you go. My parents spoiled you rotten this weekend as you deserved and then stayed with you until the very end. I wish more than anything I could have been there with you today as you crossed the rainbow bridge.
Goodbye my baby girl. I’m going to miss you so much. May you run (or should I say swim since running was never in your vocabulary?) and play pain free again.
What a lovely tribute to a much loved dog. She certainly spent her life with a devoted family. RIP Peaches. Hugs to you and her other connections. Saying "Goodbye" is never easy...even when it's "right".