I’ve lost my shadow.
Wicket came into our lives almost exactly six years ago. Mr. Sandwich had finished up a bike ride and was buying soda at the corner store, and a tiny beige mop of a dog walked up and put its paw on his foot. He looked at it and said, “Okay, follow me.”
I was at home, taking one of the very few naps I got during my pregnancy. I heard him say, “Sweetheart? I need you to come look at something.” He was holding back the beige mop, who was trying to come into the house. I said, “Did it follow you home? Well, let’s put it in the back yard so it’s safe.”
He bathed the dog, and I made a trip to Target to buy food, a leash and collar, and a bed for a small dog. I had no idea what I was doing. I bought a cat bed.
We put up signs, and posted online, and eventually–because we were going out of town for Thanksgiving, and because you’re required to by law–we took her to the shelter. But we also put in for first rights, because we knew we weren’t going to leave her there any longer than we had to.
She cried when we left her there, and she was so happy when I picked her up. When she rolled on her back for tummy rubs–which was often–she looked just like an Ewok. That’s how she got her name.
At first, she was reluctant to overstep. She leaned rather than sit on my lap. She looked for permission to go through the doorway. But soon she was comfortable and secure enough to snuggle. She would lie on my lap as I sat on the back patio; I would pet her tummy, and we both would fall asleep. She kept my weight and my blood pressure down through most of my pregnancy, and when I had to leave early for maternity leave, spent hours curled up on the couch with me.
When Baguette came home from the hospital, Wicket instantly recognized her as one of the family. When Baguette would scream incessantly, Wicket would place tortilla strips–her very favorite treat, which we hadn’t meant to give her, at Baguette’s feet. When we set up Baguette’s crib, Wicket walked into the room, looked at what we were doing, and walked out. A minute later, she came back and gently laid a tortilla strip inside the doorway. She was giving Baguette a housewarming gift.
She almost never barked. For months, my father-in-law was convinced that she had been de-barked. But she had the ability–she was just too kind-natured to disturb anyone that way if it wasn’t absolutely necessary, like when she first came home from the shelter and announced to the neighborhood that she had a home, or the time she defended the house from Mr. Sandwich mowing the front lawn.
She was oblivious to earthquakes.
She let Baguette learn the word “gentle” on her, and never retaliated for the tugging and grabbing that a toddler can inflict, no matter how quick those toddler’s parents may try to be. She never scratched or snapped or bit, although we wouldn’t have blamed her if she had.
She sat with me through miscarriages 3 and 4, and kidney stones, and last month’s bout of pneumonia. She always gravitated toward the sick person in the room, knowing that they could use a little extra love.
She learned the word “walk,” and then she learned what “W-A-L-K” meant. We switched to code words, and she never did decipher “frisbee.”
When we went out of town, she went to Mr. Sandwich’s parents’ home. She loved visiting them so much that we called it “Wicket’s Disneyland.” She loved car rides (although when she arrived at the vet or the groomer, she was always disappointed). She loved walks, and other dogs, and every person in the world.
She had terrible teeth, and every year fewer of them. Until the past few months, she almost never had an accident overnight, no matter how late we opened the dog door the next morning. She was largely deaf, and very nearly blind, but she could still see me.
She followed me everywhere. I was almost never out of her sight. If I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, she came with me. If I went out back to hang up laundry, she joined me.
She’s been getting sicker for the past six weeks, even though for most of that time she was still dancing around me and scrambling onto the couch and rocketing out the door for walks. She had a cyst on the outside of her ear, and had a seizure or stroke, and developed pancreatitis. We’ve been adding milk thistle to her morning meal, and pumpkin and fiber to her evening meal. She loved bananas and strawberries and most of all asparagus, but she hadn’t gotten any of those recently because the pancreatitis meant she was on a prescription diet, and we wanted to be sure she had stabilized before we modified that on even the smallest scale.
This morning, she didn’t get up with me the way she usually did. When I set out her food, she walked away from it–twice. She threw up, and she trembled. I brought her bed out into the living room and tucked her under her blanket. She never stayed under that blanket, but she was under it for hours today.
I took her to the vet, who gave her more antibiotics and fluids and nausea medication, and told me to bring her back before closing for more fluids. I went to work. When Mr. Sandwich brought Baguette home, he called me to say that Wicket had fallen out of her bed and was having seizures. I raced home to find him cradling her in his arms. He handed her to me, and she relaxed and nestled a little. But her breathing was shallow and labored, and her legs kept going stiff.
We took her back to the vet, earlier and more urgently than we had planned. I held her on my lap in the car, and Baguette fell asleep in the back seat. Mr. Sandwich went in to tell them that we needed to go straight into a room, and they escorted us in. I cradled her head, and with Mr. Sandwich balancing a sleeping Baguette, we petted Wicket while they gave her a shot to help her relax.
She went within moments.
We were with her, which is what she wanted. And we were with a vet we trust absolutely, which is what we wanted. Except that of course we didn’t want this at all.
When we got her, everyone estimated that she was 12 years old. The average age of a toy poodle is 15 years. The best guess is that she made it to 18. That’s amazing, but it wasn’t enough.
Later this evening, I will mix pumpkin and fiber into no one’s food. No one will sit on the bathmat while I shower. At midnight, no one will follow me to the bathroom. Tomorrow, I will clean up no one’s soiled training pad.
We’ll have other dogs. She was our first, and right away she taught us that we wanted dogs in our life.
But I’ve lost my shadow.