We had to put our dog down yesterday.
Billie was a 12-year-old Chessie (Cheasapeake Bay retriever). She had severe arthritis in her hips, and the Rimadil wasn’t working any more ~ she couldn’t hardly get up by herself, regularly fell down, and sometimes needed help getting up a stair. But also she had swallowed some socks that had balled up in her stomach and blocked her eating ~ surgery wasn’t an option and we couldn’t get her to throw it up. She’d developed allergies or a fungal infection recently, as she’d begun to chew on herself, and she’d begun to do that thing old dogs do, wander around the house as if they were looking for something.
Billie came to us when she was two years old. Well, the people we got her from said she was two years old ~ we think she was probably a skinny three or four. (So she was probably older than 12.) We paid $200 for her, and they promised to send her papers but never did. Interesting people. There had been two or three families living in a tiny mobile home in Nebraska, along with a whole passel of dogs, and the wind had blown the roof off, at least that’s what they said. So they’d moved to Laramie with the dogs to live with other family.
You could tell that Billie had had to compete for food. Bullet ~ her name had been Bullet but we renamed her. (Billie is a name in my family.) She was a bit haunted and very thin, and when fed she was very protective. She was also very obedient. She stayed very close to your heel when out walking, and it was only around other dogs that she would get a bit more aggressive, but not too much.
My husband would sometimes take her swimming in the river and then comb her out. Big tufts of white blonde hair would mound like snowdrifts in the back yard. She loved her treats, and so we would give her two biscuits and a pig’s ear every evening.
She was a quiet and introspective dog, and I think she worried about things. I don’t know if she ever felt sure of her place in the world, even though we always loved her and treated her well.
I think we’re good dog owners. We’re Cesar Millan-type people ~ dogs are happiest when they know their place in the pack. Our dogs aren’t spoiled but are treated consistently and kindly. We don’t feed them people food. Our pets, though, are not at the center of our lives like they are with some people, and so if anything I regret that Billie did not get more attention.
Writing is the industry of memory, and I wanted to take one small moment to use my gift to fix in time one lovely little piece of the world.
RIP, Billie the Chessie.