Vigil with a Beloved Pet
My Constant Companion
I begin this article in the thirteenth hour of a vigil to comfort my dearest companion as he copes with another facet of his advanced age. We have been like two lost souls who somehow crossed paths and were meant to find each other. I don’t believe in accidents. I have faith that all things happen for a reason and I know that we came into each others lives for a wonderful reason. We’ve both been through so much together. We both needed to know unconditional love without boundaries. No quarrels, no conflicts, just pure love and learning. You see, the past eleven years of my life have been quite the whirlwind…I’ve always been the adventurer and quite independent. I’ve been blessed with many people and opportunities in my life, but he is my longest constant companion.
He wasn’t always able to accompany me on every journey - but without fail, upon my return, has always greeted me upon my return with excitement, enthusiasm, and unconditional love. He trusted me to care for him even in my absence; trusted that I would be faithful; and when I did come home, wherever that was at the time, he greeted me with enthusiasm, excitement and would not leave my side for days! He never faltered; he always wanted to be with me, even when it seemed I was not fit for the company of another human being. There were times when I was sick, or laid up or days, weeks or even months. It was then he would be my comfort, my support, my faithful companion. He would lay by my side and just wait…with faith and hope that I could beat my own diagnoses, surgeries and therapy, so we could bounce back and continue our journeys.
We’ve traveled across the country together three times. Hiked many a mountain and explored beautiful trails. We’ve had some adventures with life, not always pleasant – but we grew through them. We learned to stop and smell the roses, and we learned when to keep on going and not make eye contact with them… We never spoke a word to each other, yet we had our own language – and to this day, when we look into each others eyes and really listen, we can understand.
Teddy's Life with Me and Everyone Else
I am a single woman. I am talking about my 110 lb Akita/Chow/Norwegian Elkhound mix that I rescued from the Colorado Springs Humane Society when he was just 5 months old. In the rows of kennels, he was the only dog who wasn’t jumping up and yelling, “Pick Me!”, “Pick Me!” He sat quietly off to the back of the kennel, the most beautiful dog I had ever seen, with such a radiant soul. His dark brown eyes would not even meet my gaze when we took him out to be introduced to him, I guessed that somehow he had been abandoned or abused, but he was only five months old! Something told me he needed me as much as I needed him. So, we took him home. I was married then. That was November of 1999. The Humane Society had named him Teddy and it fit him so well, we kept it.
It took Teddy a while to warm up to us and his new home in the mountains but soon he was chasing squirrels, trying to catch birds from the air, and sneaking out of the yard to take a dip in the pond down the street. He eventually wandered home soaking wet after satisfying his wanderlust, with all sorts of treasures: huge bones of some wild animal he’d come across in the forest; a deer skin some hunter had discarded; and birds he’d catch. (But not kill, just caught them – I thought that was pretty amazing) Teddy would present all of these to me like a gift. I had to laugh. “Mom, look what I brought home!” I guess it was somewhere in his breed. The bird was dazed, but once I got it out of his mouth, it would wobble off, a little confused, and then fly off again. Somehow these gifts to me always managed to find themselves back into his collection. All except for the birds.
After the terrorist attack on Sept 11th, I returned to Virginia to work, and left him with my husband thinking they would both soon follow. I didn’t know then that it would be the end of my marriage and that Teddy would be left and abandoned once more in that house in Colorado until my realtor called. I flew out immediately and was heartbroken to find my loving puppy once again left in the sunroom, with access to outside, and a huge supply of food and water. But once again he was afraid of people and barked at everyone, including me. It took about five minutes, I sat on the living room floor, and then he came in the house, stood in front of me, let me pet him, and then lay down and put his head in my lap as if to say “Mom, I want to go home”. I immediately took him out of there and back to Virginia. We couldn’t stay where I was living though, so we were separated but my aunt took him in and loved him dearly while I stayed with my Mom and Dad until I could buy a house for us in Maryland. Then we had our family again.
In 2004, I developed this habit of sleeping late into the day, because it was kind of a tough year and I was working shift work. Teddy always slept in my room with me. If I slept too long, I would feel this 120 lb dog jump onto my bed suddenly. The next thing I knew, he would have his nose in my face, sniffing me and my hair, just standing there. I would open my eyes and say, “Yes sir, may I help you?” and he would just lay down next to me then or jump back off the bed to lay on the floor and go back to sleep. I always thought it was his way of checking to make sure I was still alive. So I developed a habit of every now and then just saying in the morning, “Teddy, I’m alive, you don’t have to jump up here.” I’d just hear him groan, and sigh and roll over. I think he learned that from me. If I didn’t provide enough entertainment, sometimes he would go down and hang out with my friend and housemate, he loved her too.
He was always protective of the family – meaning anyone he was staying with – me, mom, dad, my aunt. He has a ferocious bark that would intimidate anyone. And if anyone new came inside the house, he always stood in between me and whoever came to call until he had a sense that they were no longer a threat. It was funny, if anyone tried to hug me, this huge loveable dog would edge his way in between us.
We spent a lot of time by ourselves, after the divorce. And Teddy saw me through all of my tears, writing, and horrible times. He walked with me when I needed to walk (but he loved that part) especially if it was around the lake or if I took him to the off-leash dog park. He so loved to run. He loved when I acted like I was chasing him too. When we came home, he would sleep like a baby for the rest of the night, and he’d dream those doggie dreams where he’d run and bark in his sleep. I thought it was hilarious.
A doorbell or knock set him off into alert mode. Most of the mailmen throughout the years caught onto that and would approach the house stealthily. The Jehovah’s Witnesses never wanted to come in and talk for a while. Door to door salesmen would come by and try to talk to me - with me holding Teddy back and him barking his head off - oblivious to the fact that I couldn’t hear a word they said. I’d always say no, I didn’t even know what I said no to but I’m sure it saved me money.
Teddy has touched so many lives since I brought him back to the East Coast. He's made a real difference to people in ways I can only guess. I can't write their story here, but this way too large imposing dog with the heart of gold and the soul of a mute prophet worked his way into the hearts of many. He continues to amaze me.
Now tonight, or this morning, my baby is finally asleep. He’s managed to pick himself up and relocate three times. But his legs wobble and he is so unsure of himself. After about 45 seconds of trying, his back legs give out and he falls, he ends up lying wherever he lands.
I feel my heart breaking every time he falls. I remember when he used to jump in the back of my truck when I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride. His ears perked up whenever he heard the word ride. Whether it was a three-day trip or around the block, he didn’t care. He liked the wind in his ears for the first fifteen minutes and then a nice luxurious nap for the next hour to the sound of the highway. My Colorado puppy used to love to play in the snow, now he’s afraid of it. He slips on ice and can’t handle the cold.
Neither one of us is doing so well now. My spine and legs give out on me. His hips and legs are failing him too. Both of us are here tonight on pain meds just waiting for the sweet sleep to give us some peace. He’s asleep now, I think I’ll take advantage and try to get some rest too.