I thought that my life was complete, a new home, hubby had a good job, 3 beautiful children what more could one dream of. However, I felt that there was something lacking.
I was a Boy Scout leader for my son’s troop and had invited the president of the local animal rescue shelter to speak at one of our meetings. He spoke of the overpopulation of cats and dogs at the shelter and of how many of these beautiful animals were euthanized daily to make room for more. The situation was dire.
This prompted me to visit the shelter with my 3 children. The staff did not want us to physically enter the shelter as the dogs would bark incessantly and the whole situation would be disturbing to both our family and the animals.
So they brought the prospective dogs out to us. The first was a cute little white fluffy small baby, but I could envision us all tripping over her, not a good match for 3 small children. The second was a large happy boy, so friendly but a little too jumpy. Then they brought out Lady, a lovely, quiet, mid-sized dog. She didn’t jump on us but licked out hands and faces. We took her for a walk that day and for the following 2 days in a row.We knew that she was the dog for us. Her owner didn’t want her anymore; she had just had puppies and was again in heat. They thought that she was about 3 years old. The shelter did not want us to take her in this condition but we promised to have her spayed as soon as she was physically ready. We brought her home and fitted her with a diaper. We hadn’t been forthcoming to hubby about our forays to the shelter. We thought that we would surprise him. He came in the door after work to see our 2 year old daughter on the sofa looking at a book and next to her on that same sofa sat Lady, both wearing diapers. He was surprised to say the least.
We changed Lady’s name to Kathryn Elizabeth, Katie for short. I researched Katie’s ancestry and she seemed to be part Basenji, a bark less dog originating from Africa. She didn’t run but rather leapt over the grasses in the fields, such a joy to watch.
I seldom leashed her as she followed close by me on my mountain bike as we explored the deep woods behind our home.
Katie was such a perfect dog for our family that I wanted to promote the local SPCA. I asked my son’s grade1 teacher if I could bring her into the classroom to talk about the SPCA. Hence started 13 years of Katie and I going to elementary schools, middle schools and Head start programs promoting the importance of spaying and neutering your pets and how to properly care for them. I would speak of the 7 things necessary for a healthy pet: food, water, veterinarian visits, shelter, toys, exercise, but most importantly love. Katie lay on the floor encircled by the children who patted her and talked to her. Some of the children in the head start program didn’t know if they would have supper that night. But they understood that as long as they were loved and they gave love, all was good.
Katie never growled or barked at anyone. She was a lousy watchdog because she loved all people, dogs and cats. However, one day we had to have our furnace serviced. As soon as the service technician came to the door, Katie began barking at him. I pulled her aside so he could go down the stairs to the basement. She stood at the top of the stairs, looking down, growling with her hackles raise. It was such unheard of behavior for her and I couldn’t understand what was going on. When the service tech was finished I again had to pull Katie aside so that he could leave. She stood at the side window of the door, watching him drive away, growling until he was out of sight. Two weeks later, that same technician was arrested for stabbing his wife. Somebody once said, “I seldom trust someone who doesn’t like dogs but I always trust a dog who doesn’t like a person”.
Katie was diagnosed with cancer when she was 15 but we continued to visit the schools for the next year until she started to show signs of discomfort.
Meanwhile my teenage daughter came home one night with a puppy. There were 5 of these puppies found in a cardboard box on the side of the road in subzero temperatures. So we decided to keep him and called him Marley. He was quite aggressive as a puppy but I took him along with Katie to a school on one of her last visits. I had visions of Marley taking over Katie’s spot in the Humane Education classes. As usual, Katie lay quietly at the children’s feet while Marley was having nothing to do with them. His temperament didn’t improve as he got older so I abandoned the idea of him being any kind of goodwill ambassador for the Humane Society.
Katie began slowing down when she was 16. One night, she stood in our living room panting heavily, staring into space. She wouldn’t lie down and I knew she was in pain. I called the vet the next day knowing the time had come for the inevitable. I took her for her final walk and she immediately started leaping over branches, bright eyed and smiling with her tongue happily hanging out the side of her mouth. I cancelled the vet appointment. That night however was a repeat of the night before. She seemed to be in even more distress, I couldn’t put it off again. Our 3 children, now teenagers, accompanied me and Katie for her last car ride. She quietly allowed the vet to put her on the table. As she lay there, we all hugged and kissed her and she in turn, licked our tears away much as she had done when we first met her all of those years ago. She died just as she had lived, with grace, dignity and calm.