There is now one dog dish where once there were two. The spaces in between the walls of our house seem more empty. A seventy pound German Shepherd, apparently, can take up a lot of space. I can still hear the jingle of her tags where she used to walk beside me, blocking my way to the laundry room door at the last minute so I am forced to stop and give her scritchings before moving on.
Husband and I acquired Rosy from the humane society in Phoenix in 1999, back when Husband was only Boyfriend. We quickly found out that Rosy, who was eight months old, was very protective of all things she considered to be hers, especially if it was edible. We worked with her, teaching her to sit and wait while her food was dished up. She sat like a perfect angel but once the food was in the dish and the “ok” command was given, you had better steer clear of that dish.
Rosy was strong willed and did not play well with other canines. We bought a choke chain, a short leather leash, lots of treats, and enrolled her in weekly obedience classes. The classes met in a large park in the early evening. If I remember correctly there were at least ten other dogs in Rosy and my class. Husband came to every class to watch and learn from the sidelines. Rosy was a handful, growling at the other dogs and sometimes lunging. At first we were always put at the end of the line of dogs and handlers and kept separated from the group. But Rosy wanted to be good and liked those tasty treats I kept in my pocket. With time (and a lot of practice and praise) she was doing the sit, wait, and stay commands off leash surrounded by the other dogs in her class.
I used to walk Rosy around our neighborhood every morning before heading off to my college classes and one day got the wild hair to teach her to sit and wait every time we came to a curb. It did not take long for her to start doing it all on her own without any sort of cue from me. It was on one of these walks that we found Dexter. He was a sickly, tick infested, runt of a puppy who needed a home. The day we brought Dexter home to live with us was the day that Rosy transformed from a puppy to a protective mother figure. She showed him the ropes; in no clear terms told him to stay away from her food dish but also taught him how to jump up on the bed, run laps around the house (living room, down the hall, sharp right into the dining room, skid through the kitchen, and around the corner, back to the living room again and again) and how to sit at every curb and wait for the “ok” command before walking on.
I remember Rosy jumping in our backyard pool after a long hot evening walk. She would swim a small circle and then rest her front feet on the second step and just let her body float. We would call this her alligator pose.
I remember taking a long desert hike down into a canyon near Strawberry, AZ to swim in a cool oasis of a creek and how the hot rocks burnt the pads on Rosy’s feet. We were young and stupid and we felt just awful. She allowed us to carry her hammock style in our oversize beach towel until our strength gave out. Husband hiked out and found a guy with a large tool box attached to the back of his ATV. Rosy, setting her dignity aside, allowed us to stand her up inside the toolbox and we all rode out to safety.
I remember how much Rosy liked to eat the remaining ice cubes from our margaritas.
I remember how Rosy would dance in the snow and catch snowballs in her mouth with a wild look in her eyes.
I remember how Rosy loved to fetch sticks of driftwood tossed into the surf but how reluctant she was to give those sticks back so they could be thrown again.
I remember the soft blond fur mixed with browns and black and how her bushy Akita-like tail would go into a full curl when she saw a squirrel in chasing range.
I remember how scared Husband and I were that she would not be good with children and how we feared she could never be trusted in the same room with them.
And how she proved us wrong.
I remember her beautiful toothy smile.
We had thirteen years with Rosy which I know is good for a dog her size but I selfishly want more time. The last several years of her life have been a slowing down and a struggle with various health problems including cancer. She was in obvious distress the night before we had to make that most difficult of decisions. She still found comfort in our being there with her and so Husband and I took turns staying up with her, watching and soothing. The boys woke up at their usual time, around six, and we told them Rosy had become very sick during the night. Things were complicated as Cody has been running a fever for several days and was staying home from school. We got ready as best we could to take Carter to the bus stop and Rosy to the vet. It was awful watching Carter give Rosy some last scritchings and a soft – goodbye, Rosy, I will miss you.
Cody and I met Husband and Rosy at the vet clinic. We explained to Cody that Rosy was not going to be coming home with us, that she was sick and in pain and we needed to help her die and take away that pain. I am not sure what upset Cody the most, seeing us crying and sad or realizing Rosy would no longer be with us. I settled Cody in the waiting room with some books and told him that papa and I needed some quiet time with Rosy. I just could not use the moment of Rosy’s death as a learning experience. It was Husband, myself, and the vet who were present when the drug was administered via an IV port. Her body was ready to go, sinking into that final goodbye with 80% of the dose still left in the syringe. We sat and stroked her soft fur for a couple minutes longer.
Dexter for the first time in his life is the only dog in the house. I think he is uncomfortable with his new role for he has always been an anxious dog, taking cues from Rosy on how to act and where to be. Who will tell him if the UPS man is friend or foe? Somehow he will bravely press on. And so will we.
Rosy you will be forever missed, sweet furry friend.