I was clear that I wanted an adult dog -- puppies are much more likely to find homes, so adopting an adult is much more likely to be literally saving a life -- and preferred a mixed breed. After a few weeks, on the web site of the New Hampshire SPCA, I saw this listing:
That amazing, regal, ursine face looked out of the web page, right into my soul, and I knew I had to go meet that dog, and that, unless there were real problems, she was going to be mine.
The following weekend, I took the two-hour drive, and discovered that, while Mandy (already her name: Changing the name of a dog who already has one seems to me to be disrespectful) had been there for weeks, nobody had even asked to meet her. The young ladies were very excited that I had.
She was shy, but very sweet-natured, and I ponied up some bucks and brought her home. Even on the drive back, it was clear we were bonding. When I'd stop to go to the restroom, according to my friend Toni, who waited in the minivan with her, Mandy would be focused entirely on me. She'd watch me walk, and stare at any door I disappeared through until I was back in sight.
She was an amazing, beautiful, sweet, affectionate, quiet, happy dog:
From then until now, she's been my best friend, my baby, my companion and my joy.
She had several years of terrible problems with allergies, but in the last couple of years, the right dietary balance was struck, and, having lost much of her hair and being miserable, she reclaimed her Bear-Shaped mojo in all its Bear-Shaped glory.
In recent months, she lost her hearing, which made me sad. I was concerned that she didn't realize she was deaf, and thought I was no longer talking to her. Her joints began to pain her more and more, and she ate less and less. I knew that the end was coming, and that every moment with her was fleeting and precious. About three weeks ago, when I wasn't feeling well, she came to visit me, and I lifted her up on the bed -- she could no longer make it on her own -- and we had a historically epic cuddle:
That memory will have to sustain me, because last night, a little after midnight, she suddenly began barking in alarm. I found her in pain, and looking up symptoms, discovered that she was almost certainly experiencing something called "Canine Bloat." In a young, healthy dog, this is fatal unless immediate veterinary care is received. But Mandy was neither young nor healthy, and, on a Saturday night, her veterinarian was unavailable. (There is, relatively local, a veterinary emergency room, but the cost of even a casual visit there is hundreds of dollars. Any care received brings us easily into thousands. I can say, and it's true, that Mandy was worth more to us than any amount of money, but that doesn't give us that money, and so she had to go without care.)
I stayed with her, and being petted seemed to comfort her, and eventually, she seemed to go to sleep, and so did I, setting an alarm to call my vet's office at seven AM, in hopes of catching someone in feeding the animals. At seven, she was still with us, but very weak, and I was unable to reach the vet. I brought Mandy back to the bedroom, laid her on the bed, and Cindy and I stroked and loved on her as she passed away.
We are, of course, heartbroken. She was my pal, my baby, my darling, my sweetest Bear, and my life will seem so empty without her.
Goodbye, Mandy, the Bear-Shaped Dog. Thank you for making the last 8 years of my life so much more wonderful. I don't know what I'll do without you.