In September, my beloved dog, Suzie, finally passed away. This was so emotional for my family. She was 18 years old! She was a beautiful little 18-lb. Beagle/Black & Tan Coondog mix. I remember the day Steve and I bought her from a pet store inside the mall in Newport News. We were going to see my parents for lunch after church and stopped to walk through the mall on the way. We were planning our wedding at the time and had no intentions of getting a pet. But when we saw her shivering in the back of her cage, we just had to rescue her! The other dogs from the litter were chewing and pawing on her and biting her ear, and she was just whining and shaking like a leaf! We took her out and played with her, and we immediately fell in love. When we showed up at my mom's with her in tow, she instantly fell in love with her, too. I walked her around the block in my arms, and she slept there like a baby. She was the cutest thing ever! As she got older, we discovered she was lightning fast and loved to explore, nose to the ground. She got out of our fence so many times and ended up at the pound. She even ran away on the eve of our wedding! We took a short honeymoon in town so we could look for her, and we found her at the pound just in time!
She was really spoiled and treated like our child. She slept in the foot of our bed under the covers. I sewed a Santa suit for her and had a professional pet portrait made for our Christmas cards. She wore costumes for Halloween and helped us pass our candy to the neighborhood kids. When we started looking to buy a house instead of our townhouse, I took her with me every evening after work as we drove past this house and daydreamed about all the space she'd have to run around if we bought it.
When our actual children came along, one at a time over a period of 8 years, she was already 5 when that process began. She protested from day one, soiling in the house wherever the baby was. She bit 2 of my 3 children at some point along the way. I considered getting rid of her but decided instead that she would have to live outside. It was hard having her become an outside dog, but my babies had to come first. She went with the flow, and the kids grew to love her. She eventually figured out they weren't so bad, but she never became housetrained again, so she continued to spend most of her time outside. We did, though, get another dog to keep her company. In her very long lifetime, she outlived 2 labs who were her best friends and then lived with a 3rd one who was her arch-enemy! When Lilly came along and they got along so horribly, Suzie again became an inside dog. In her old age, she returned to the comforts of our home, complete with kennel, fashion doggy diapers and Depends pads, and Martha Stewart dresses. I'm so thankful that we pampered her so much for her last stretch of life. We were able to again spend lots of time with her and show her how much she mattered to us.
I loved her so much. I loved her. Real, honest-to-goodness love. She was my companion and a part of my family for so many years. She had always been a part of "us." On her last night in this world, my oldest son and I cried and hugged and developed a plan to wrap her in a blanket and hold her in our arms, taking turns, through the night, so she would not be alone and would know that we loved her always. She'd been losing a lot of weight, and we knew the end was near. She cried that night until we held her. Then she was comforted enough to go to sleep in our arms. Her breathing was labored. My son laid her down beside him, and that is where she left this world at the break of dawn. We were so sad that she had finally gone, but as I saw her fighting that last night, I told her it was okay to let go and let the peace wash over her. It was okay. She had so much trouble just getting through the day to day those last few months. She could no longer get up on her own. Her eyes were frosted over with cataracts. She could barely hear. Even still, she wanted to fight like the spunky girl she had always been. But I told her it was okay this time...just relax and let go. And she did. May God bless her and keep her always. I pray she is in doggy heaven waiting for me to join her someday. I hope she is part of my reward, and I hope I earn a place to be with her again.
Rest in peace, Suzie girl!