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Tied to our Heartstrings


During the months that followed, one or two trainers called to encourage me to show Phoebe in “fun matches.” They kept telling me what a wonderful obedience dog she was.

As Phoebe grew older, I wondered if it had even been necessary to take her to class. She was devoted, humble, compliant, but also protective.

The techs at our veterinarian’s office teased and asked if we “polished” her. She was so shiny. Everyone there loved Phoebe. She was as good with them as with us. She was absolutely perfect.

Time began taking its toll. Phoebe’s muzzle grayed, her gait slowed, and she slept more. One day, we took her for her checkup. The vet discovered a huge mass under her ribcage. We had noticed she seemed a little heavier, which we contributed to age and inactivity. There was a large tumor was on her spleen. The doctor removed it, sent samples for biopsy, and later called with “good news.” It was benign. We were elated.

He had sent three large samples of the mass, but the biopsy was misleading. Though Phoebe recovered from surgery, she started breaking down. X-rays and an ultrasound revealed cancer in her liver, pancreas, lungs, intestines and kidneys. Death was imminent. We asked if we needed to make a final decision. Our vet assured us she wasn’t in pain and that we would know when it was time. He said, “Take her home and enjoy her while you can.”

It had been 13-and-a-half years since we had cared for Delilah. Phoebe was seventy-five pounds of dog. Caring for her was hard. However, we did it. She was with us, which was all she ever wanted.

One month passed, when I noticed Phoebe trembling for the first time. I said, “She’s in pain. I’m afraid it’s time. I can’t let her suffer. We have to do something.”

My husband’s face went pale and he turned away. “Maybe she’s just cold or something.” (It was July, that wasn’t likely.)

I said, “The doctor told us we would know ‘when.’ I’m afraid ‘when’ is now.”

He paced back and forth, and finally said, “I guess you’d better call and we’ll take her.”

I stayed with her until she was gone. My heart was broken and I sobbed uncontrollably. We had lost the finest pet and companion we had ever had.

Breeding isn’t everything. Phoebe proved that. To refer to her as “mixed breed” is mislabeling. More appropriately, she was a “special blend.” She inherited the best qualities of whatever breeds had contributed to her lineage.

From that dog pound in the pouring rain to unexplainably being drawn to her card on the bulletin board, it was meant to be. She will be forever tied to our heartstrings.

Did I learn my lesson? No, I didn’t. Two months after Phoebe died, we brought home a teacup Chihuahua, whom we adore.

Somehow, we just can’t seem to live without the “patter of little paws” around our house.




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