Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Diva takes the stage

Diva Dog came to me as a puppy after her half-sister, Smartest Dog, died of chocolate poisoning in the Fall of 1995, when she was only 2. I also had Smartest Dog from a puppy, and she had gone with me everywhere and did everything with me. Her death was so shocking that I couldn't catch up with her absence. I did everything I could to avoid walking through my door. To a dog owner, opening a door and finding no dog to greet you is one of the loneliest things there is. When I was out, I stayed out, haunting campus and coffee houses. And when I was in, I stayed in. I watched a lot of television and knit a lot of sweaters.

Diva Dog's litter was already on its way when I called the breeder. She was born three weeks after Smartest Dog died, and came home eight weeks after that. When I collected her, she fit in a shoebox. When I walked her in Stately Victorian Park, she would fall into the edges that kept the mulch neat, and then need to scramble her way back up. Like a newborn person, she had green eyes that turned brown. When, a couple of weeks later, the semester ended and I went home for winter break, my grandfather in Omaha died of a massive heart attack the first night I was home. Having a puppy in the house then was a good thing.

Even though I was mourning my grandpa, with a dog to walk again, I came out of my depression. I started teaching high school in a tutoring program twice a week, an involvement that eventually gave me the resume I needed to find a full-time high school teaching job. I started engaging with people outside of class, something I hadn't managed to do Fall semester. I began planning again for the trail, joining a gym and starting to run. Diva Dog was as much a hindrance as a help on the sidewalk, since she literally stopped traffic. Several times a week, people would pull their cars over to ask me her breed. (Australian Shepherd, of course.)

And Diva Dog made friends of her own! One couple who stopped me on the street got a puppy of their own, and we became friends, walking the puppies together in Judy Garland Park. Diva Dog loved their dog, and if I said a word that rhymed with his name she would run to the window to look for him. She even went on vacation with him once, going up to Vermont with his owners while I stayed home to do something or other. Those old dog park connections resurfaced this Winter when Z. met Digger Boy. That was, of course, months after Diva Dog died--and she had survived all her playmates.

To own a dog is to anticipate bereavement.

Next: Hiking with the Diva


niobe said...

I googled some pictures of Australian Shepherds and they really are beautiful dogs.

But chocolate poisoning? I didn't realize the dogs could die from eating chocolate.

S. said...

Chocolate contains theobromine, a drug in the caffeine family that dogs can overdose on. Most commercial chocolate doesn't contain enough actual chocolate to be toxic to most dogs (small dogs are more susceptible) unless they eat really large amounts, but Smartest Dog got into baking cocoa that was on a shelf in the kitchen--this is the same dog who I would climb over the pass-through to get into the kitchen, something I discovered when she left muddy paw prints on the stove.

Baking cocoa is 100% chocolate, of course. And she still might have been okay if I'd understood the implications of that because what actually killed her was a heart attack when some idiot rang my doorbell looking for my neighbor.

If I'd understood how much danger she was in I would have already had her in a cab to the veterinary emergency room.

Now we have a designated high shelf in the pantry where all chocolate must stay.

Magpie said...

"To own a dog is to anticipate bereavement." Cats too.

S. said...

Yes, cats, too, of course.