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Remembering Hallie Borda-Smith
Hallie came into Alley's life in June of 2010. I came into Alley's life in July of 2010. We were only a month apart, so I was there almost from the beginning with Hallie (in Alley's life, at least).
Hallie was 10 years old (they guessed) at the time of her adoption to Alley. She had three remaining teeth and looked utterly adorable and ridiculous at the same time. A miniature Dachshund, she was as stubborn as any dog I've ever known (and I've known quite a few!).
Hallie loved anything with calories. If it was food, Hallie was interested in it. "Will Hallie eat this?" was generally rhetorical, but if it was followed up with anything, it was usually, "Does it have calories?" And you'd be right to say that! This little monster ate everything from green beans to romaine lettuce to crumbs you'd drop on the ground- not that we didn't feed her an extremely strict specialty diet, especially once Alley found out about her elevated liver values.
The values were actually "off the charts" high, and medication was immediately proposed by the vet. Fortunately, Alley did some research online and found that other people were able to modify their dog's diet and decrease the same liver values we were facing with Hallie.
Sure enough, a within just a few months of switching Hallie over to Primal raw food, she tested completely within the normal range, which was a stunning turnaround. We wanted to share this story with you, so I wrote about it discussing how we'd feed her green beans and the like for treats (or baby food, which is extremely pure, as you can imagine), and raw food as the staple. We also supplemented her diet with fish oil for her joints.
Another saying about Hallie that was extremely appropriate and accurate was, "Hallie eats better than we do" (or simply, "My dog eats better than I do", depending on the company). To say that Hallie was spoiled really doesn't do justice to the treatment that Alley- and, to a lesser degree, I- gave to her.
Surgeries at Helping Hands
There's a very good surgery vet in Richmond called Helping Hands. They took care of Hallie's much needed final tooth extraction (all three of her teeth needed to be removed badly) and took good care of her in the process. Although they did sew up the patch where her upper canines were removed, like many senior Dachshunds, they opened up anyway and Hallie developed an oronasal fistula.
While somewhat annoying, we both agreed that this wasn't worth putting Hallie under anesthesia and the trauma of surgery one more time in order to deal with it. However, we did have to bring her in to deal with a skin infection that wouldn't go away on its own (or with medication). It looked like staph on her skin, with one very large, disconcerting area on her chest, and a smaller one on the top of her head. We brought her in to Helping Hands in 2012 and they took care of both of these, sewing her up really well (we were both impressed). Over the next few weeks, Hallie recovered and the lesions never returned.
Hallie's skin issues continued throughout her senior life with us, though, and Alley was constantly obsessing over her skin, frequently finding new "hot spots" to clean and then medicate with first aid cream. Over time, most of these would heal, but it always seemed like there was a new one right around the corner. As soon as one healed, another one popped up.
Hallie's nicknames evolved over time, with "Boogertina", "Chickenweena", and "Halliehumps" being among some of the favorites. When Hallie finally passed away earlier this week (on August 4th, 2014), we wrote our favorite nicknames on her coffin, and Alley did a cartoon drawing of Hallie on the side. The funeral felt very appropriate, and the artwork was cathartic. So was digging the hole, which took at least 3 hours in total, 2 shovels, and one late night trip to Walmart.
Alley and I developed code words for when Hallie had done her business outside, to help us determine exactly what business had been done. It was really important to monitor her bathroom habits as a senior dog, but also in general, and it provided us with a great deal of entertainment. If Hallie only peed outside, she was "Peepina." If she peed and pooped, she was "Poopina", and if she only pooped, she was "Poopertina."
Sometimes she was "Pooperella." Another favorite along these lines was "Creeperella", because she'd creep up on you if you were eating... anything. We may have called her Creepertina once or twice. If we didn't, we should have.
One time, I bought Hallie a little pineapple house for her to sleep in (at Alley's begging/insistence). It was adorable. The ensuing nickname was "Pineappleita." We were really ridiculous with the nicknames.
Hallie barking in her sleep
We took an awful lot of pictures of Hallie. After a while of taking video as well, I started uploading some Hallie videos up to youtube as well for posterity. Here's an animated gif Alley made from one of the videos.
I've included a few of the youtube videos, but if you'd like to see more, just let me know in the comments below, or find me and message me (I'm not very hard to find). I also have literally hundreds of photos of Hallie!
Hallie's last year with us saw a decline in her "spring in her step", although there were many moments when she would play or go crazy trying to get food. She would still occasionally do her "dance" (as I called it), where she would scratch her long back on the floor (I read somewhere that this was a scent thing, but I'm pretty sure it just felt good for her to scratch her back on the rug). It probably shouldn't have been a huge surprise when she was finally diagnosed with acute pancreatitis after a very rough day of vomiting and not being responsive to food (very, very much unlike her).
Hallie died on a Monday afternoon, on August 4th, 2014. The details surrounding her death are less important to remember than the day that followed, but I do know that Alley was able to visit with her just 30 seconds before she passed away. I think Hallie knew it was time to go, and in her own way, Alley understood and accepted this decision (thanks to some insightful advice from "Grandma Borda"). I was on my way back from teaching in Tennessee when I got the call from Alley. I knew it wasn't going to be good news, because she asked me to pull over first. There was still no real way to prepare myself for the news, and we shared a tough few minutes on the phone. I was angry at myself for not being there for this, but glad that Alley's parents had made the trip down to be with Alley and Hallie.
That night, "Grandpa" went out to buy supplies for a little coffin for Hallie. When we were done with it, though, it was more like a sarcophagus- we wrote all of Hallie's nicknames we could think of on there, and Alley did a little drawing of Hallie's face in a beautiful cartoon style. When all the artwork was done, we knew it was time to dig the hole.
Digging a hole, even for a small grave like this one, involved a great deal of work. Alley joked that Hallie was even being a pain in the butt from beyond the grave, and she was! We dug for hours and finally got the grave deep, wide, and long enough for the little sarcophagus. It was the best tomb we could make for her. For me, it was important and appropriate that the work be physically tough. It was part of the very beginnings of a cathartic period, as is writing this article about Hallie. Healing is going to take time, and I know that there's never going to be a replacement for Hallie, nor should there ever be; but it's important to walk away learning from every experience, which brings me to my conclusion (see below).
Making a difference
Alley and I were able to give Hallie four great years of life. There isn't a doubt in my mind that Hallie's time with us was fantastic, and the only way for us to ensure that was to spoil her rotten. Well, we did. As mentioned, Hallie ate better than we did, got to get up on the bed just about every time she cried to get on the bed, and generally dictated our behavior based on her whims. Alley spared no time and expense with ensuring she was as healthy as possible at all times, and I did my best to support her in all of this (even though a few "cray dog lady" remarks may have come out, but only in good fun).
We made a huge difference in the life of Hallie. If reading Hallie's story inspires you to make a difference as well, please consider adopting a senior dog. If Dachshunds are your thing, we recommend the Dachshund Rescue of North America, or DRNA for short. If another breed is what you're after, there are rescue organizations for virtually every breed of dog, even including mutt-specific ones!
If the commitment of adoption seems daunting, consider fostering. We had many "brothers" and "sisters" for Hallie over the last couple of years, including our current foster, Perrin (who has been with us for nearly a year now). You can foster a dog and nurse them to good health until they can find a great "forever home." You could also consider volunteering on "dog transports", a process by which dogs are brought from one state to another in order to get them from their "kill shelter" (or wherever the origin of their rescue is) to their foster or forever home. All of these things play their role, and you can make an enormous difference in the quality of these dogs' lives, and greatly enrich your own life in the process, making a best friend!