The gray puppy with the steel-blue eyes was what I wanted. She was small and cute and cuddly with a round belly. However, the rescue organization, Start II, made us fill out a questionnaire to see if we’d be a good family for the tyke. As it turned out, with our busy schedules, we weren’t deemed the right fit.
“How about an older dog?”, the volunteer asked. “They’re already house-broken and you can see their temperament.” I wasn’t thrilled but she led us to where some dogs were waiting in kennels. “This one is Spice.” She was a lovely dog of indeterminate breed (we figured out the German Shepard part but the other half could be anything from Chow to Shiba Inu), about 3 years old, the color of ginger with big brown eyes… the name certainly fit. The volunteer opened the kennel and my ex-husband squatted down beside her… “hey girl!” She licked his face and pretty much sealed the deal… and our lives were forever changed.
Spice had a rough start in life. She was found wandering the streets… starving, dehydrated and pregnant. She had her litter and was a good mother to the pups who were found homes. Now she was coming to our home, arriving on March 17th, 2000. She fit into our family as though it were meant to be. Calm, loving and klutzy… you’d never see a bigger kid at Christmas. We’d put her presents in gift bags so she could retrieve them but she was excited over every package under the tree as if they were all for her.
I can fill countless pages with stories of Spice… how she’d love to play with her stuffed toys, especially if they squeaked or made animal sounds. How she won over my divorce lawyer with her sweet disposition so I never had to go to his office… he’d come over to my home just to pet and play with Spice while I signed paperwork. How we’d call her a “hootchie” because she’d pretty much fawn over every male friend my kids brought home. How almost every time we went for a walk, someone would invariably pay her a compliment…. some comparing her to a fox. How few bare legs in our home escaped her tongue, earning Spice the title of “the best knee licker in all of New Jersey”. I’ll cherish the memories.
This morning I’m sitting, feeling numb, having made one of the most difficult decisions ever. Last fall, Spice was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. It wasn’t going to get any better, all we could do was put her on a special diet and make her as comfortable as possible. Lately, despite our best efforts, it’s become obvious that she’s in pain. As much as we want her around, it’s a kindness to let her pass in a dignified, painless manner, surrounded by the people who love her and were loved by her. This wasn’t a decision I came to lightly… my kids and I have talked about it endlessly and just came back around to the same conclusion.
In a few hours, my Spice girl will be gone. It hasn’t really hit me yet but I’m sure it will soon. Right now I’m just numb.