Roxie’s Final Gift — Part 1

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A very special 2-part post from my friend Michele PW:

This past Sunday was an end to an era.

I had to put my beloved 17-year-old-plus dog Roxie down.

For those of you who follow me, you know how much I love my dogs. So it probably isn’t much of a surprise I would write a tribute to one.

But this is more than a tribute. Roxie’s story is a story of triumph over tragedy, of the power of the mind, spirit, gratitude, hope, and most of all, love.

Her story is bigger than simply a story about a wonderful dog who made my life better just by the virtue of being in it. She changed me — she made me a better person. I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today without her.

Her story starts 15 years ago. At the time, I had one dog — a border collie named Amber.

Amber was my very first dog and I adored her. I had been desperate for a dog my entire life, actually any pet at all for that matter (note to all you parents out there — if your child makes pets out of a grasshopper and a crayfish — and keeps the crayfish alive for nearly 2 years and the grasshopper alive for an entire summer — perhaps you should take them seriously when they tell you they WILL take care of a dog — just saying).

So when I finally brought home my first puppy, I of course completely doted on her. She was my baby. And I wanted to do everything right by her — including bringing home a doggy friend for her.

You see, I believed all the rhetoric out there that says dogs are happier when they have other dogs around them. So, about a year after we moved from Wisconsin to Arizona, I began my quest to find Amber a companion dog.

Now during this time, someone very smart (who I wish I could remember her name) said to me “just because they’re dogs doesn’t mean they’ll get along. You don’t get along with all humans, all dogs don’t get along either.”

I of course ignored such sage advice because I was dead set on getting another dog.

(Another important note — dogma isn’t always true and sometimes smart advice comes from a tossed-off comment from someone you can’t even remember their name years later when you’re writing a blog post about it.)

My vet, who was also a friend of mine, called me one day and told me about a border collie who had been dropped off at the humane society. The couple who had dropped her off were heartbroken about it but they felt like they couldn’t keep her — they were elderly and she had jumped a 6-foot fence during a thunderstorm. They had adopted her a few months back from the humane society and had just returned her in hopes she would find the right family.

I went down to take a look at her. She was clearly high strung — pacing constantly plus had this awful high-pitched bark. I studied her. They told me her name was Foxy Lady.

Oh dear.

I started looking at the other dogs there. A different dog caught my eye. A filthy, skinny border collie puppy. I reached in to pet her and she sat up, balancing on her back legs and wrapped both her paws around my arm.

I asked the staff about this puppy. She was a stray — wandering around Sedona (this was in the middle of summer too, mind you) before they picked her up. By law she had to be kept 3 days so we had to wait another two days to adopt her.

But this high-pitched, high-strung dog named Foxy Lady was fine to take home right now. I went back to look at her.

She was very friendly. Full of kisses. Her face and eyes were desperate. Pleading. Take me home, she begged with her high-pitched barking, her pacing, her kisses.

Two border collies. Which one was the right one?

Maybe we could take both?

I brought Amber to meet Foxy Lady. We took them outside to a little “meet and greet” place. Both dogs ignored each other.

“Well, they appear to get along just fine,” the humane staff person said.

I had my doubts.

But I loaded her in the car and brought her home. Shortly after bringing her home, she started going after Amber — standing over her and growling even though Amber was being submissive.

This was not going well.

I was alone with the two dogs. They weren’t getting along. I didn’t know what to do. I had brought this dog home to be a companion for Amber, not attack her.

Finally I brought them both upstairs, got into the middle of my king sized bed, put one dog on each side of me and gave them both a rawhide to chew on.

Amber chewed on hers but didn’t look at all pleased with the situation. She was clearly waiting for this “other dog” to leave. Foxy Lady, on the other hand, couldn’t stop wagging her tail. She was thrilled to be a part of the family. She would stop chewing and give me kisses and look at me with these happy, anxious, desperate, grateful eyes.

And her tail never stopped wagging.