Two weeks ago, during an otherwise typical Thursday night, my Mom called to tell me that my 16.5 year-old curly haired poodle, Rosie, was put to sleep that morning. I received no heads-up about that decision and consequently didn’t get to say goodbye.
I was a little shocked. Not because she was put to sleep (she was very old and had spiraling health issues) but because I always thought I would have a chance to say goodbye to the dog that I grew up with.
I vividly remember the day we picked her up a few months prior to my 11th birthday. I had been harassing my parents to get a dog for a year at that point but found myself receiving new fluffy stuffed animals instead. A small attempt to shut me up.
It didn’t work. I desperately wanted a real one.
Finally, fighting for my cause paid off and we ventured into rural Pennsylvania to pick out a poodle – one of the only breeds that my allergies could tolerate.
I can picture that day. It’s funny how your mind can remember certain moments from 17 years ago and forget 80% of the rest.
I remember walking into the breeder’s living room with my Dad and going over to a playpen full of little black curly-haired puppies. There were quite a few bouncing around, but only one that hadn’t been claimed. She was the runt of the liter and she would soon become our own.
I remember swooping up my new puppy as fast as I could and feeling like she weighed a ton. At that time, however, she was probably only 4 pounds. I carefully brought her to our car and sat with her in the back of our station wagon.
I couldn’t have been happier.
The entire ride home, as our new puppy was shaking, I was knee-deep in a brainstorming session with myself coming up with potential names. I had been waiting for this moment for years, so you can imagine how eager I was to name a real dog instead of a stuffed animal.
First there was Cutie…”because she is cute!” I proclaimed. Then there was Sweetie…yes, because I thought she was sweet. There was Pepsi – because of her hair color. And I’m sure there were many other horrible names.
Of course, my parents nixed all of those. We finally named her Rosie, after her mother, Rosa. It was perfect.
From there, the memories started to build.
I remember the first few months when I would run downstairs every morning as fast as I could to visit her in her crate. She was so little and I enjoyed my first opportunity to take care of an actual living thing.
I remember bringing her down the shore when she was still a puppy and accidently opening the front door onto a major 4-lane street. She darted into the oncoming traffic as my dad and uncles raced to catch her. I stood on the patio crying hysterically as she dodged the cars. Thankfully, they caught her. But my dad, still to this day, talks about how horrible that moment was when he thought that his 11 year-old daughter would have to witness her new puppy getting run over.
As the years passed, I remember teaching her everything from sit and stay to roll over, twirl…all sorts of fun tricks. She was a smart dog, as poodles often are.
I remember her haircuts. Years ago, Rosie would enjoy occasional grooming sessions courtesy of the Pooch Caboose – a large mobile styling van that would park outside our house for hours and later reveal a fluffed-up, coiffed, sweet-smelling dog with little bows in her hair and bandanas around her neck. Ok – I admit they definitely went overboard with the styling. But it was pretty damn cute.
I remember her in snowstorms, cautiously walking outside onto the mounds of ice and then disappearing as her tiny 10-pound body fell into the snow. We bought her a sweater. Thankfully, she hated it. Because let’s be serious – if she loved it, that dog would have seen endless amounts of little outfits.
I remember missing her when I went off to college and getting excited to see her during breaks. One such visit home from college included her accidently getting cut around her neck during a Pooch Caboose haircut. To help her cut heal, Rosie had to get a large plastic cone placed around her head that would remain there for a few weeks. During that time, Rosie bumped into every wall and sofa around the house. She had a tough time with spatial recognition.
Throughout the years, Rosie was a great dog. But she actually wasn’t the most affectionate pet. She was very serious and often liked to sit alone in the same spot on top of the sofa observing her surroundings. She gave kisses and cuddled, but it was much more sporadic than other dogs. If she was a person, you might say that she was often acting a little cold and distant.
That being said, I loved her. She was my first dog and she was there during every stage of my pre-teen, teen, college and post-college years. Family members – whether dog or human – don’t always possess a perfect, sweet personality at all times. But that doesn’t mean that your caring feelings disappear.
A few years ago, my brother brought home Colbie – our Pitbull. Contrary to popular belief, Colbie is extremely loving and gentle with people, but she would often get overly excited and a little pushy trying to befriend Rosie. At that time, however, Rosie was starting to show real signs of aging and didn’t have it in her to befriend a lively, energetic (and large) puppy.
First, Rosie couldn’t see (we figured that out when she had a hard time recognizing us from far away). Then she couldn’t hear (we figured that out when she stopped hearing the garage door open). She grew tired and lethargic – never wanting to move from her spot on the sofa. Occasionally she would have bursts of energy. She even had one of those puppy-like bursts of energy the last time I saw her, as she ran in circles around our living room, hopping as I chased her. She loved that game.
But her health problems continued. She lost weight from refusing to eat and lost control of her bladder, requiring her to wear doggie-diapers every day. She also had chronic rashes on her stomach leading her to whimper for hours on end, especially at night. I wasn’t around for most of those moments but heard about them from my parents who struggled to watch her health deteriorate.
I knew that Rosie was getting worse, and I promised myself to go home to Philadelphia to see her soon. But after one particularly bad week, my Dad knew that it was her time to go.
When my Mom told me what happened, I got angry. How could they make that decision without telling me? How could they not give me a heads up so that I could come home to say goodbye?
Their response was that they thought it would be easier for me this way, and most importantly, they didn’t want Rosie to be in pain any longer. Even though it was the right thing to do, I know that my dad had a really difficult time handing her over to the Vet and walking away. That definitely would have been heartbreaking for me as well.
It’s sad to think that the next time I walk through the door of my parents’ house, she won’t be sitting in her usual spot on the sofa, wagging her tiny tail. But the reality is that she lived a long and happy 17 years, a miraculous feat for any dog. She had a great life.
I do wish that I had the chance to see Rosie one last time, but I’m glad that she didn’t have to suffer any longer than she needed to. And as with everything in life, at some point, you have to say goodbye.