- Death & Loss of Life
Sandra's Little Angel
Sandra's Little Angel
Sandra’s Little Angel
We opened the car door and this little black, short-legged dog jumped in. We were at a horse farm in Pittsboro, North Carolina to pick up an orphaned dog Sandra saw on the Internet. Holly, a volunteer at the Cary Animal Rescue, was waiting for us so she could introduce us to the dog she was fostering.
There must have been 15 dogs at the farm; we saw two big yellow dogs laying in the sun, a black lab on the road as we approached the horse stables, three or four little ones running around and falling over each other like only puppies can--but it was Patsy who hopped into our car—the little black mutt we had an appointment to meet. How did she know we were there to take her home? Patsy was adorable. She had a white stripe that started right between her eyes, continued across the top of her little head, and proceeded down her back to a spot above her shoulders, then disappeared, like thread in a piece of fabric, and finally reappeared at the end of her tail. We immediately fell in love as she jumped on our daughter Samantha’s lap, ready to come home with us. Although Sandra, Samantha, and I knew it was already a done deal, we couldn’t just take Patsy home—we had to go through the formalities. First we had to prove that we would be acceptable parents to this abandoned, seven-year-old street dog who just gave birth to a litter of pups--whose son Otis was scampering around the farm waiting for his adopted family to pick him up. We had to fill out papers, show our driver’s licenses, answer a questionnaire, and swear up and down we never abused our nine-year-old daughter. The adoption went through.
Three months after we adopted Patsy, Sandra was diagnosed with breast cancer. This little 14 pound dog with the face of a border collie, the legs of a Corgi, and the temperament of a sweet child who wanted nothing more than to be loved-- became Sandra’s constant companion. People would ask what kind of dog Patsy was, and we would answer, “a Petit Border Corgi, of course”. When Sandra came home from radiation or chemotherapy treatment, Patsy was there waiting for her by the door. When Sandra wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t get out of bed, Patsy would lay right next to her—never leaving her side. When Sandra went back to work after her breast surgery, Patsy joined her every day. She jumped in the back seat of Sandra’s car, and laid on the foam cushion Sandra put down for her.
At our shoe store we set up a little bed next to Sandra’s desk, and there she would lay—that is, when she wasn’t walking around the store, greeting customers. If there was a store full of little kids, Patsy would be right in the middle of them, until she got tired of their shenanigans and raced back to her bed in the back of the store. This little abandoned dog, who was picked up by the dog catchers one too many times, and spent a night or two in the doggie jail, became something of a celebrity. We featured her in newspaper and TV advertisements, and customers often came to the store just to see her. At Christmastime, our customers would load her up with doggie biscuits and bones and other assorted goodies—which would help add an inch or two to her rather soft belly.
Sandra was fully convinced that Patsy was her little angel sent from heaven to see her through her tough times. It was nine years since Sandra was diagnosed with cancer, and Patsy was still there—at age 16 (we think) snuggled right up next to her. She developed this bad cough, and her heart was enlarged and her heartbeat irregular, and she had cancerous cysts that sometimes burst, but we all thought she wasn’t going anywhere--as long as Sandra was still around.
That would be in an ideal world. Two weeks before Sandra passed away, Patsy’s tumor on her leg got worse and would open up and let loose a gush of blood that streamed onto our off-white carpet. Her cough continued to get louder and huskier with moisture and come more often.
Laying in bed, not feeling well herself, Sandra told me one day that it was time. It was time for Patsy to go to heaven. She told me that she had a long talk with her, and they agreed that it was the right time—and that was OK with the both of them. Who was I to argue?
I bundled Patsy up in a blanket so if her tumor opened up, the blood wouldn’t get all over the car, and I laid her on the backseat. She tried to move but couldn’t. I carried the bundled little dog into the vet’s office and explained the situation. They told me they would examine her and call me later. I received the call two hours later that Patsy had fluid in her lungs; her cough wouldn’t be getting any better, and the tumor on her leg was so big, that that too was not going to heal—it was time to let her go.
When Samantha came home from high school that day, I asked her if she wanted to go with me to say goodbye to Patsy. She said she would. As we got to the vet, I realized I couldn’t see Patsy again—it would provoke such strong feelings inside me that I felt I wouldn’t be able to control, so I let Samantha say goodbye for the both of us, actually for all of us. And Samantha was strong—stronger than I thought she would be. And she was empathetic and handled the situation in such a poised, mature way that made me very proud. My little girl--though she was now already 18 years old, was growing up.
Sandra passed away 10 days later. Although she wasn’t there when Sandra passed away, there was no doubt that Patsy was with her in spirit. She really was Sandra’s little angel.