Thursday, February 3, 2011

Our Fifteen Year Journey

We have had some sad news in our family recently. Our 15+ year old puppy, Liberty, passed away last Monday morning. Based on the pain we are all feeling, she was truly a member of our family. I know some people will say she was only a dog, but Lady Di recently heard a wise saying stating "Some people love their pets, some people have pets."

Lady Di has had dogs as pets her whole life. Liberty was my first dog. We got her from a farm in South Dakota just after we got married in 1995. She has lived with LD and I in each of our four homes together. We house trained her in our first rental home when she was a little ball of black fur. I can remember tiring her out before bedtime just by running with her to the end of the block and back.

She was always a smart dog. She learned her tricks quickly. She had a basket of her toys that she knew by name. If we told her to get her rope, she would sort through her basket until she found the rope. We tried a few times to give her squeaky toys, but she was always determined to work on that toy until the squeaker was removed.

There were also many Christmases where Liberty would sneak under the tree, remove only her present and start unwrapping it. This last Christmas was the first one that Liberty started unwrapping one of N1S's gifts. She must have had trouble reading the tag with her poor eyesight. In 1998 Number One Son arrived and Liberty needed to stay with Gramma and Grampa for a few months while Lady Di was on bed rest and N1S grew in the NICU. When N1S finally came home, Liberty would take her naps under his crib as if she was guarding her new brother. Shortly after, Liberty's walking on the leash time decreased due to a new baby in the house. But she quickly learned that her table scrap opportunities greatly increase beneath N1S's high chair.

In 2002 Liberty finally got a little sister, Sweet Pea. Liberty's play time took another hit as the kids tended to monopolize most of our time.

So this is the first time in the kids' life when they don't have a dog. News of Liberty's death affected each kid differently. N1S was quite matter of fact about the whole thing. He woke up Monday morning and saw her lifeless body and came to tell us without shedding a tear. We found out later that he broke down once in school but luckily he had some great support there.

Sweet Pea was quite emotional. I woke her up for school on Monday and told her I had some sad news. She guessed what happened and we both sobbed on her bed for a few minutes. Now SP goes around the house finding things that remind her of Liberty. She also wants to make a scrapbook for her puppy.

Both kids however are handling it well in their own ways.

Lady Di and I are having a more difficult time of it. When you have a dog you treat as a member of the family for 15 years everything reminds you of her. Having crumbs on our kitchen floor for the first time in a decade and a half is one thing you don't realize will trigger so many memories. Each room in the house has it's own special moments that make them seem incomplete now.

Included among the many things I will miss is having a lap warmer on cold Minnesota winter evenings. I will miss her whenever I do yard work in the summer. She won't be contentedly sitting in the shade keeping one eye on me and the other on the neighborhood. I will miss the merest whisper of the word 'popcorn' making her ears prick up instantly from the deepest of naps.

She was what I call a low maintenance dog. She didn't eat much, didn't poop much. She didn't shed, didn't chew and didn't run. She could ride in the car for five hours at a pop without a stop. I can't say that for anyone else in the family. Even when LD and I brought up, on Sunday night, how we would decide whether or not to put her down, Liberty seemed like she wanted to take the burden of deciding from us and passed on early Monday morning.

We can find some solace in that we were with her until the end. With tears flowing I was able to feel her last heart beat.

Our brother-in-law, a multiple dog owner of many years, believes that you get one really good dog in your life. We were lucky to hit the jackpot with our first.

We will place her collar and a few toys in a box and bury it next to Grampa's lake up north where she liked to swim and where she just about drowned one summer trying to swim out to our boat in the middle of the lake.

Hopefully, she is being a good girl where she is now and can wait patiently for her family to come home.

Liberty Bell

7-4-1995 to 1-24-2011

1 comment:

The Father of Five said...

Oh Stuff family... I am saddened to hear of your great loss.. (and you are right, pets can truly be a member of the family).

What a young man you are raising with N1S. He wanted to remain brave and stoic, eventually succumbing to his emotions... What a good thing to have a support network away from home, as well as at home.

And SP - what a great plan! Scrapbooking... She can journal her own memories, and spend a little time with each of you (one on one) and "interview" you all about your favorite memories with Liberty... What a wonderful way to help herself (and yourself) through the grieving process (and it IS a grieving process)

Your post honor's Liberty well.

Take care my friends. I will be thinking of you all often over the upcoming weeks.

Stuff About Me

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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.